I’m a big fan of getting together with friends. Whether it’s around the kitchen table or squeezed into a booth at our favourite restaurant, nothing compares to the great conversations and laughs we share when we’re with our favourite people. As a nightlife lover I often socialize in restaurants and bars but every now and then it’s fun to shake things up. A few weeks ago, when autumn was in its prime, I hopped in a car with David, Caroline and Véronique and we headed south for the day. With the help of Tourisme Montérégie we had a delightful experience with plenty of laughs had along the way.
Early in the morning David and I met Véro near a metro station where we left the labyrinth of construction disasters behind for the open fields of Montreal’s South Shore. We picked up Caroline at Dix30 and headed to our first stop. We were all dressed from head to toe for winter, all except Caro – she looked like she had just finished her last walk for Paris fashion week and was set to sit cozily by the fire and sip on champagne. That wouldn’t be the case.
The drive to get to our first destination was beautiful. The fall leaves had changed to their darkest reds, oranges and yellows and a grey cloudy sky held the promise of fall’s first snowflakes. Our escapade would take us to the reaches of Quebec’s apple picking country where we would spend most of the day outside, all warmly dressed for the coldest day of the year so far, except for Caroline.
The first stop along the way was at Frommagerie au gré des champs, a well known cheesemaker here in Quebec. They specialize in artisanal cheeses that are certified organic and can amp up your dinner party with an impressive selection of cheese for all tastes. The shop is located at the farm where the cheese is produced and after sampling some of the delicious cheese we headed out back to where the cattle roamed free, grazing on the remaining grass that had been so plentiful all summer long. The cows were as curious about us as we were about them. Following our bonding session with the cows, it was time to head back to the car and hit the road again.
Caro had found one of the hundred blanket scarves that keep Véro warm during the winter and she wrapped herself in it as soon as we got back to the car. It matched her grey sweater dress and cream coloured hat which was a plus. After about a 20 minute drive we arrived at our second destination of the day, Verger et cidrerie Denis Charbonneau. Here we would experience a number of different activities. We would spend some time apple picking before having a lunch inside the restaurant and followed by a lesson in cider.
I LOVE apple picking. I know that it might seem like a tedious activity (especially when you can get bags of apples in the grocery store) but it’s a blend of different things that makes it so special. First, it can be a great laugh, especially if you’re with the right people. A combination of good company and temperatures that hover just above zero and the delight in seeing your bag full of apples feels like an accomplishment. A small accomplishment but success nonetheless.
Following the apple picking/photo shoot on a ladder in an orchard (featuring 28,000 apple trees) we headed inside for lunch. A rep from the company came to our table were we slowly thawed and handed over two boxes of piping hot apple donuts and three more bags to be filled with apples. I was delighted, others were horrified by the thought of heading back out for more fruit. I convinced Véro to come with me. For lunch we tried crepes stuffed with savoury ham, gooey cheese and warm veggies that were the perfect antidote to the cold outdoors. We also tried a delicious osso bucco and a braised, bbq ham sandwich – gratiné (of course!)
After our meal we headed to another building on the farm where we would learn about the company’s different ciders. I’m not the biggest cider fan in the world but they have an impressive selection of ciders and sparkling wine that impressed the hell out of me. Once this was done, Véro and I headed out for more apples and when we returned we found David and Caro in their happy place – sitting cozily by the window, sipping on a bottle of sparkling wine. When we finished the bottle, it was time to go. The Verger et cidrerie Denis Charbonneau is an excellent destination for groups of friends and families alike. There’s so much to do and see, you can easily spend the afternoon eating, drinking and apple picking to your heart’s delight.
We were all very full as we got in the car but our next stop was a wine vineyard and as you can imagine, we were all very excited. Domaine de Lavoie is a well known wine producer with acres of land covered with miles of grape laden vines. We may have been a bit too late in the year to see the vines in full capacity but their operations vast scope was an impressive sight to see. They produce several types of red and white wine, all in a state of the art facility in Montérégie. There’s a large space that’s perfect for weddings and corporate events with views looking out over the majestic property. We tasted the wines and then were on our way once again.
Our last stop on our day of fun was at Potager Mont-Rouge Halte Gourmande, a market and meeting space that featured a vast selection of products and produce made in the region. There were more donuts, a petting zoo for kids (read the four of us) and a pumpkin patch where you can go pick your own pumpkin. Here is where we broke into teams. Caro and I stayed behind to do a little shopping while David and Véro took the tractor out to get a pumpkin. The temperature had dropped significantly and by the time they got back they were frozen solid. Caro and I were sipping on coffee and eating warm cookies by the fire. No pumpkin was worth that. However, we are still talking about the experience today which is why it was worth it.
Getting out and enjoying a day like this is very special. We are so wrapped up in our day to day lives that its rare we take day to explore the regions around our city. If you and your friends are gathered around the table for dinner and you start thinking about something fun to do the next time you’re together, think about an adventure like this. Although the plan featured a solid lineup of stops, it was the laughs we had in between that will last a lifetime.
Image credit: David Major-Lapierre