BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
When former Chicagoan Addie Webster married Brendan Fitzgerald high on a Vermont hill, with fiery foliage as backdrop, guests caught the miracle of a season I once thought as just the poignant end to summer.
Under a canopy of cabbage roses and heather, Addie evoked the 1930s glamour of Carole Lombard. While the bride delivered the elegance, the atmosphere was fun and casual—beloved lab Ruby could participate, too.
The reception followed with dancing in a barn at the 1824 House in Waitsfield with farm-to-table fare. A brunch at Sugar Bush the following day, paired with tram rides up the ski lift for foliage feasting, gave an opportunity to bid bride and groom—off to an Azores honeymoon—goodbye.
The daughter of retired St. Chrysostom’s Church Rector Ray Webster, and his wife, Eve, Addie knew the magic Stowe and Sugar Bush could conjure on an October day.
In Murray Bay, Québec, we began our celebration of the petite saison, the name given by master gardener Frank Cabot to sun-drenched October days.
The founders of this historic respite from city life jumped right off the pages of the Social Register to create a summer colony in the Gilded Age like none other. These summer residents, including President William Taft, came early in the season and didn’t leave until a late fall chill swept across the Laurentians.
The quietness of autumn allowed us explore, meaning hikes at the nearby Baie-des-Rochers (with its surprise finale of a St. Lawrence beach) and other similarly spectacular destinations.
The distinctive summer houses from Taft’s era were closed for the winter, with their wide verandas empty of cocktail party guests. One could almost imagine these historic homes longing for their owners and for summer to return. As the famous fisherman and author William Hume Blake wrote about the villas as residents departed: “The very door-handles seem loth to leave your grasp.”
In nearby Saint-Irénée, we visited our favorite antiques store, L’antiquaire. This stop had a dual purpose: to purchase Boise pottery, made mid-century in Levis, Quebec, and to catch up with friends Marc-André and Christine Roy who own this bright blue shop filled with treasures.
While in Saint-Irénée, driving along the coast of the St. Lawrence, visit the sculpture garden at the Domaine Forget, as we often do. It is filled with monumental sculptures, all in a magnificent setting. Be sure stay for a concert at this renowned music academy.
Equidistant from Murray Bay and Québec City lies the Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area. In early October, it welcomes daily about 30,000 snow geese. Migrating with their youngsters who were born near the Arctic Circle, the geese stop to rest and feed on the bulrushes before flying to the mid-Atlantic sea coast. Visitors get close-up views of these poetic birds, smaller than our Lincoln Park winter residents, the Canada geese.
In sharp contrast to the great distances these snow geese travel, Québec City is only a short hour away.
A fall foliage trip along the St. Lawrence River in the Charlevoix region pairs well with a visit to Québec City, recently named the top cultural destination of the year.
You don’t have to wait until warmer months to visit this historic city. Its winters offer many diversions from the cold, such as the Winter Carnival, which takes place from January 27 through February 12. During these weeks, you can stay in a hotel made entirely of ice, watch sculptors carve snow statues on the historic Plains of Abraham, cheer on participants in an ice canoe race, and take sleigh rides fortified by ice bars all over the city.
Ice canoes aside, visiting Québec City, the first UNESCO World Heritage City in North America, is like going to Europe without having to cross the Atlantic.
Perched on a cliff overlooking the St. Lawrence River, the historic city of Québec is the only city on the continent, north of Mexico, that is still surrounded by fortification walls.
We spoke with David Mendel, author of the highly rated Mendel Guides, about some of his suggestions for a getaway weekend there.
“With long, winding streets and a wealth of French and English architecture spanning four centuries, Québec is unlike any other city in North America. The language spoken here is French and there are superb French restaurants and bistros to satisfy the most sophisticated palates. There are excellent centrally-located hotels, including the world famous Fairmont le Château Frontenac and a fascinating hotel-museum, the Auberge Saint-Aintoine. Or stay in a beautifully restored old convent, founded in 1639, the Monastère des Augustines, recently declared the world’s number one Wellness Destination by National Geographic.”
David shared a little bit of the city’s fascinating history:
“Founded by French explorer Samuel de Champlain in 1608, Québec City became capital of New France in 1663, a French colonial empire that stretched south to the Gulf of Mexico and west, across the prairies to the foot of the Rocky Mountains. Fought over by the French, the British, and the Americans, this natural fortress was conquered by the British in 1759 and later became Capital of British North America, after the American Revolution. The city also served as the capital of Canada for a number of years before becoming the capital of the province of Québec.”
Because we had only a short time in Québec City, we decided to visit the new Pierre Lassonde Pavillion at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, located on the Grande Allée, overlooking the St. Lawrence and the Plains of Abraham. Designed by the Dutch firm OMA, it resembles stacked glass blocks filled with light, and offers a stunning exhibition of Inuit art.
We visited friends Ed Stretch and Garth Bulmer in the once-gritty St. Roch neighborhood, in the lower town. Now, chic restaurants, boutiques, bakeries, and great theater abound on St. Joseph Street. We loved the cozy Le Clocher Penché, which could rival any top Parisian bistro.
We loved visiting the Episcopal Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, the first Anglican church built outside the British Isles, where visitors can view and say hello to the church’s mascots, Aldo the donkey and Holly the goat.
I also recommend the dramatic Plains of Abraham, where British General James Wolfe defeated the Marquis de Montcalm. From the river side, you marvel at the step bluffs that the British climbed in darkness to meet the French on the battlefield, once Abraham’s farm, in 1759. No matter how short your time is in Québec City, visiting this site is a must.
Wedding photo credits:
Jesse Schloff Photography