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Manoir Hovey: A Place to Celebrate Your Love

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Manoir Hovey: A Place to Celebrate Your Love

Airy and modern bedroom with a view that extends across the lake.

© Susan Breslow Sardone.

What to Expect at Manoir Hovey:

Originally built in 1898 by a wealthy southerner who arrived each summer on his private railway car, Manoir Hovey in Canada's Eastern Townships resembles George Washington's Mount Vernon home — complete with a former coach house, stables, and servants' quarters.

It was converted to an inn in 1950 and has been a member of the Relais & Chateaux group since 2006. Its lakeside setting, superb gourmet cuisine, and gorgeously updated rooms and bathrooms make it a desirable destination for those who appreciate a relaxing romantic getaway in the countryside.

Guest Rooms at Manoir Hovey:

All 37 guest rooms at Manoir Hovey have been recently renovated in a sophisticated style, and they seem made for couples. Upon booking, guests may choose from the contemporary or rustic style of décor; we favor the modern. All accommodations have free wi-fi and (except for standard rooms) private balconies that overlook Lake Massawippi.

Our room in the Coach House is steps from the main building as well as the Tap Room. There were many things to love about it: a terrifically comfortable king size bed with a white leather headboard, white matelassé bedspread and pillow shams, wall of windows with that lake view, the spacious terrace, and a propane fireplace that makes the room cozy.

Bathrooms can become entertainment centers for couples, and this marble-sheathed one invites co-ed cleansing. There's a giant free-standing bathtub and similarly sized shower for the two of you along with twin sinks, a lighted magnifying makeup mirror, and a blue glass pendant lamp over the commode that serves as a nightlight. And you won't get chilled even when the snows come; bathrooms all have heated marble floors.

If you prefer a honeymoon cottage away from it all, reserve the lakeside Cartier Suite, which has a private dock from where you can launch a a kayak or canoe.

Dining at Manoir Hovey:

Every Relais & Chateaux property prides itself on the cuisine it presents, and Manoir Hovey is no exception. The care, taste, and quality of everything that arrives on its plates is nothing short of superlative.

Our dinner began with an amuse bouche, a fusion with scallops and grapefruit that looked as if it could hang in a modern art museum and whet our appetite for what came next. One scrumptious entree was pan-fried halibut with butternut squash, roasted cippollini onions, and white wine cream sauce; the other was a perfectly cooked filet mignon that my husband pronounced the most succulent he'd ever eaten.

Next came not just a dessert but a pre-dessert, a sweet confection of foam and chocolate crunch. When dessert itself arrived, our companion exclaimed, "This looks like sin on a plate!" — and her chocolate tarte with a jigger of basil milk on the side didn't disappoint.

The sommelier can guide diners to the best vintages to complement their meal. There's also a choice of some dozen teas, ranging from rare jade leaf to licorice spice to organic peppermint.

Breakfast comes with its own delights. In addition to fresh croissants and mini muffins, a "pre-breakfast" tray of morning delicacies may arrive bearing a multi-fruit smoothie, a small ramekin of fruit, a few slices of cheese, a bit of prosciutto, and perhaps a tiny slice of quiche. After that, a full-size breakfast, such as a made-to-order omelette or a morning special like poached eggs in maple syrup nourishes you for a day of activity. And if you haven't had hot chocolate since you were a child, this is the place to return to lost youth.

The inn also maintains the most extensive selection of cheeses in the province; some 20-25 types are available at all times and many are rare and artisanal. At some point during your stay, be sure to order a cheese plate to savor.

Destination Weddings at Manoir Hovey:

Weddings at the resort bring together the services of the inn's private events manager, chef, and sommelier. Depending on the weather, a ceremony can be held indoors or outside. Both opposite- and same-sex marriages are legal in Canada. One popular plan in warmer months begins with cocktails in the English Garden overlooking the lake, and that's followed by dinner in Le Hatley restaurant.

Vista Suites, at 1600 square feet the largest on site, feature a private pool and Jacuzzi and provide a hilltop setting for a wedding. With enough notice, the entire inn can be bought out for the wedding party and guests. Overflow guests or those who need to spend less on lodging can be accommodated at nearby B&Bs.

Practicing Catholics may arrange to have their ceremony in a village church and continue the celebration at the inn.

Off-site wedding venues include wineries and L'Estrimont Suites & Spa in Orford, which has two event spaces as well as a garden (and also offers several romance packages). Even the Granby Zoo can be considered; it has a dedicated pavilion amidst exotic surroundings. Neither the giraffes nor the gorillas are available as witnesses, however.

Romance at Manoir Hovey:

Like weddings, honeymoons are customized affairs at Manoir Hovey. For couples who book a three-night stay or longer, a complimentary bottle of Champagne and rose turndown are offered.

Gourmet couples can request the restaurant manager plan a tasting menu with wine flight in advance. Guided tours of area vineyards and culinary attractions can be arranged.

A wellness package, offered in collaboration with the Nordic Station spa, includes dinners, full breakfasts, tips, use of the spa facilities for a day, and a one-hour couples massage. View other packages.

What to Do at Manoir Hovey:

Activities at Manoir Hovey change with the season. From mid-May to October, the heated outdoor swimming pool is open. Two small beach areas are located beside the Lake Mississippi, which is warm enough to swim in by mid-June. Couples who like to be on as well as in the lake can take out a canoe or kayak or paddleboat. Anglers fish at the end of the dock or hire a local fishing guide.

Beautiful English gardens are in bloom summer and fall. Couples who don proper shoes and tennis attire are welcome to use a lighted Har-Tru clay tennis court. Tennis rackets are available at no charge, but you'll have to buy balls.

Bike trails rim the lake, and bicycles and helmets are free of charge to use.

Winter, when a blanket of snow covers the property, is one of the most beautiful -- and active -- seasons. There's ice skating on a homemade rink in front of the inn; skates and snowshoes are available at reception. On the lake, the hearty can ice fish. Dog sledding and cross country skiing can be arranged.

Many pleasures of the inn can be found indoors. For moments of repose and camaraderie, there is the wood-paneled library, warmed with a fireplace in winter.

The Tap Room pub appears frozen in time circa 1950; whether its décor is quaint or kitsch is in the eye of the beholder. A birch bark canoe made in 1920 by a tribe from a single birch tree is suspended from the ceiling. Iroquois masks to ward off disease, and vintage Molson promotions are mounted on the walls. There's a cozy Ocean Queen nook for groups in the pub, and in warmer months guests can lunch on the terrace.

The exercise room in the Coach House has an elliptical trainer, treadmill, stationary bike, weight machine, and free weights. A massage therapist is on call.

Nearby Manoir Hovey in Canada's Eastern Townships:

Montreal's neighbor to the east, the the Eastern Townships borders Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Located in a rural area of the Eastern Townships, Manoir Hovey is closest to tiny North Hatley, population 800. The largest town nearby is Magog, which has a population of about 25,000 and a main street with bakeries, restaurants, and shops. Montreal is only about an hour and a half away by car.

Do bone up on your French before visiting the Eastern Townships; traffic signs ("arret" = Stop) are all in the dominant language. Aside from the inn's staff, locals have limited English language skills although they gamely try to communicate. So should you.

In the cold months, couples can make use of a local spa or or devote a day to skiing. Mount Orford is the nearest ski hill, and there are four larger ski areas within an hour's drive: Bromont (which also has Carrefour Champêtre Bromont, the Townships' largest outlet mall), Owl's Head, Sherbrooke, and Sutton. Jay Peak is across the border in Vermont.

Foodies can savor the Eastern Townships' gourmet offerings. Whether you visit during the annual duck festival at the end of September or another time, you can acquire products from the century-old Lake Brome Ducks farm. Tastings take place in its boutique on Saturday.

More than a dozen wineries are within the township's picturesque wine trail. You may have heard of ice wine, the sweet nectar made from frozen grapes. The Eastern Townships also produces a variation on that: ice cider, made from frozen apples and with 12 percent alcohol content. One a day may not keep the doctor away, but it may help you forget you need one.

What Could be Improved at Manoir Hovey?:

Staying at the inn is truly a five-star experience, so quibbles are minor. As the property is primarily organized for adults, there are no rooms other than the high-end suites that have more than one bed. We did wish for a minibar to have a beverage when we wanted, but room service is quick and affordable.

Last — and this applies to all Canadian hostelries — we would like a choice of more English speaking stations on TV. Our room did have a DVD player, and when we went to the front desk to ask to see the library, we were presented with a choice of... two movies. Fortunately, we hadn't seen one of them, and watching it curled up on our king-size bed after dinner made for a cozy night in.

Is Manoir Hovey Right for You?:

Despite the fact that Manoir Hovey allows children, it's much more of a couples hideaway. In fact, the inn recommends that parents traveling with their offspring book a suite or cottage separate from the main building, but you still may encounter children in the dining room. Babysitting can be arranged.

This is the place to go to celebrate a birthday, a honeymoon, an anniversary, or other special occasion. As it's a Relais & Chateaux inn, it's comparatively expensive. But if you believe that you can't put a price on a loving memory, this is the place to make some.

Where to Find More Information About Manoir Hovey:

Manoir Hovey
575 Chemin Hovey
North Hatley, QC J0B 2C0, Canada
819-842-2421
Hotel Web Site

Check Rates Now

, 90 minutes away by car.

As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary accommodation and meals for the purpose of reviewing those services. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our ethics policy.

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