Having spent much of my adolescence in Canada, I’m particularly attached to the Canadian ritual of “going to the cottage”, up north in Cottage Country.
“When we go on vacation,” says my better half on the way up to our vacation spot, “we (the French) go south… Cote d’Azur, Provence, Biarritz… When Canadians go on vacation, they go north! C’est drôle!”
His surprise was real. Who would go north on vacation? But he had no idea what was in store for him. A former boy scout and an avid hiker, he loves nature almost as much as I do. I’d been telling him for years about my childhood summers at sleep-away camp, canoeing trips, camping in the Great Canadian North.
“I want to see those trees and the rivers and the sunsets and… a moose!” he said.
So I took him to the cottage. (But we didn’t see a moose.)
About 3 hours north of Toronto (up the 400 and Highway 11), you eventually hit an area of Ontario known as Cottage Country: Muskoka. Cottage Country is actually a larger area than just Muskoka; people have cottages in Georgian Bay, along the Great Lakes, the St Laurence, in the lakes of Algonquin Park up and around Huntsville. Many Canadian families have cottages passed down their family for generations. It’s much like family chateaux here in France. These Canadians are real cottagers – they go up on long weekends, holidays, for Thanksgiving, and summer breaks. The cottage is in their blood.
There is nothing quite as relaxing – that I’ve come across anyway – as a week in a Muskoka chair, canoeing through the silent lakes of Northern Ontario, hearing your paddle dip ever so gently into the waters’ depth as the sun shimmers over the liquid ripples. Peace, my friends, by my definition.
Since we, in my family, are not cottage people in the proper sense of the phrase – we don’t own a cottage of our own – we had to find an experience that would encapsulate all my memories as a guest or renter of others’ cottages throughout the years to share with my new family… a real authentic Canadian cottage experience.
Bartlett Lodge in Algonquin Park is just that. Owned by a dedicated couple, Kim and Marilyn Smith, for the last 30 years (anniversary in 2017), and run with the help of a wonderful lady named Anna, this Lodge is a real authentic Canadian cottage experience.
A boat ride off the main land to an island sprouted with small wooden cottages, long docks, racks of canoes and paddle boats, a club house, and a dining hall, when you get off the boat you feel like you’ve gone back to camp. Except this time you have the counsellor’s cabin. Rather than 6 or 8 other girls in bunk beds, you have a king size bed, full ensuite, fire place, and gorgeous view of the lake and surrounding nature from a private porch.
Best of all, the dining hall is now a gourmet restaurant. As a Frenchman, my partner is particular about eating out. He doesn’t want to go to Kelsey’s or Red Lobster when we are back home visiting my family. He wants to find some little unique place off the beaten path, or he’d rather just stay home and cook for us himself.
Excellent service accompanies a variety of all-inclusive packages available for your stay at Bartlett. Comparable to any fine-dining experience in Paris, we discovered the chef’s 4 course menu each night with anticipation and pleasure. A boudin noir with sautéed cabbage and spring onions tossed over a bed of linguini and drizzled with olive oil is an example of an appetizer recipe we have taken back to France with compliments to the Bartlett chef.
After a sit down breakfast served by a fabulous teams of young professionals, your day is open in front of you. Canoes, kayaks, paddle boats are at your disposal. Hiking trails and activities throughout the larger Algonquin Park are only a short boat ride away. Or if you prefer, as we found ourselves enjoying a drink and a book on the deck overlooking the undeniable beauty that is uniquely Canadian.
Bartlett Lodge the best of both worlds: the perfect cottage experience with the necessities of a fine hotel.