Open Jaw Quebec's Isabelle Chagnon recently stayed at the StoneHaven Le Manoir Relais & Châteaux hotel following its two years of renovations, and she shares her experience of the newly-reopened property in Quebec's Laurentians with Open Jaw readers:
My president told me: “You are going to enjoy yourself Isabelle! " My 24-hour stay starts today Thursday. So I decided to stop eating last Tuesday.
As soon as my car is parked in front of the entrance to this hotel, located in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts in the Laurentians, I was already being greeted. "Hello! Welcome to StoneHaven Le Manoir!" Maxime, the Ambassador of the house, said to me with a radiant smile.
He helps me get my luggage out and offers me to go and park my car himself in the parking lot.
I enter the hotel. The reception desk is on the right. I go there to register.
"Your room is 111 Madame Chagnon," the lady told me.
"Ah!! Number 111 was the room of the first governess of Mr. McGibbons, the man who had this mansion built from 1904 to 1908 to treat tuberculosis. He wanted to live here, in an environment of clean air," Maxime informs me. "Come, I'll take you there."
I turn around and go around a brick column that comes out of the floor in the middle of the room.
“This is an original fireplace. It is intact. It's not the only one here. You will see more."
On these words of Maxime, I end up on the other side of this chimney made up of four walls of red bricks, and I freeze. In front of me, a corridor stretches as far as the eye can see, and at the very end of it, far over there, right in the center, flames are stirring. The visual effect is striking.
“This is another fireplace dating from 1912, in the ballroom. It is in this room that Mr. McGibbons held many evenings and large parties. The last years of his life he spent lavishly. He had recovered from tuberculosis but years later he had a secret, that of another disease. He hadn't told anyone. Not even his wife. He told himself that he was going to enjoy life until the end of his life, by organizing lots of parties. At that time, all the inhabitants of the Sainte-Agathe region knew him. He was recognized for his great generosity."
I see that here, Maxime is the man to know for his knowledge of the history of StoneHaven Le Manoir.
Maxime must certainly feel that I can't wait to go see this ballroom. Before going to my room, he invites me to visit it immediately.
We cross the long corridor. On the way, I quickly see, from left and right, a bar, dining room and several lounges, but the famous ballroom is my immediate goal.
There, I am plunged into a large room where the original wood floor, woodwork, colored stained glass windows and wooden balustrade upstairs invite me to travel back in time.
“After having belonged to Mr. McGibbons, the manor was the property of the Congregation of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. The sick retirees of the Congregation were cared for there. The ballroom became their chapel, and the mezzanine at the time was covered in 8-foot-high glass. Sick men had access only to this mezzanine, to attend the religious service which took place downstairs, and the windows were used to isolate them to prevent the spread of disease," he explained to me.
I spy a sublime fresco which hugs the ceiling, presenting a verdant landscape of nature.
“An artist from here painted it. It was important for Monsieur Coulombe that it be done by a local artist."
"Who is Monsieur Coulombe?" I ask.
“The current owner. Since 2015. A businessman and above all a collector."
"What does he collect?"
“Objects and works of art that date from the 1930s or earlier. Exclusively. You will see, here, they are everywhere! He travels the world to pick them up. It's his trademark."
We are now heading for my room 111, located upstairs. I open the door and wow! I discover a very large room with very large windows overlooking the garden and the forest, a gas fireplace, a very large bed covered in white, period wooden furniture, old canvases on the walls and animal sculptures on the fireplace mantle.
I could throw myself in an Olympic-style figure skating flip without danger of hitting anything.
“Rooms vary in size. To preserve the historic character of the building, no modification in this direction has been made,” explains Maxime.
I push on the bathroom door. Surprise: it's an igloo! Everything is white. Immaculately white! Barely a discreet wooden table. Every detail has been whitewashed: ceramics, wood, accessories, everything. The glass walls surrounding the bathtub multiply the effect by allowing light to travel through the room. The environment is refreshing!
In all this space of my room, one detail also caught my attention: the heating equipment. Authentic heaters. Those along the windows have been lightly camouflaged in a wooden casing. Safer no doubt, delicate dressing in any case.
I thank Maxime and dive into a relaxing hot bath, then I put on my evening clothes. It's the call of the aperitif.
I go downstairs and head to the hotel bar. I ask the bartender for a beer. “We offer craft beers from the Camp de Base microbrewery in St-Adolphe d’Howard, in the Laurentians. We favor local products,” he explains to me.
I detail my preferences in terms of aroma, color and flavor, and ask him if I can go and sip this beer he will choose for me in the ballroom. “You can enjoy your aperitif wherever you want, dear madam! " I'm told.
I then cross the long corridor again. This time, I take my time. And my eyes discover the surrounding decor. Outside, night begins to fall. So inside, the night is coming alive...
The interiors are intriguing. There are lounges everywhere. Discussion corners here, admiration spaces there. The works of art are bronze horses, century-old statuettes, wooden secretaries, a globe on a pedestal.
I go on my inspection. Here a chess game, there a chest and books with period bindings. The furniture is plush, mostly classic brown leather. Padded impeccable and in several versions. The set quickly plunges us into memories of the 1920s, where whiskey was consumed with a smoking cigar in hand. It's very club-style and masculine.
The bartender joins me and offers me a dark red beer, the microbrewer's V7. Delightful!
It's 6:30 p.m. Time for my dinner but I still have so much more to see!
I present myself at the reception of the dining room. The hostess joins me. I'm dripping with apologies: “Please would you be kind enough to allow me, sorry, to give me a little more aperitif time before I sit down? Please?"
" But of course!" she replies.
I immediately return to my living room journey.
Outside, the night has now settled in. Inside, then, it's time when all the light and ambient potential is deployed.
Then a real... striptease comes alive around me! The beauties of the night become explosive! They are dressed in green, blue. Hot yellows embrace burning reds. Their silhouettes are seductive. Sometimes rounded, sometimes embodying the rain...
These marvelous dancers are very bright, and are called by the same first name: Tiffany. They are perched on a stand, installed on chests of drawers at eye level and dangling in places from the ceiling. They are seductive, refined and radiant with beauty…
I go looking for Maxime. I meet him at the corner of the library where bricks and padded leather meet.
He explained that the Congregation left the property in the '90's, and the spa that followed wasn't a success. Then, "Mr. Coulombe acquired it. He opened the StoneHaven Le Manoir in 2019, after 4 years of renovation,” Maxime tells me.
Finally I go to the dining room. I am assigned a table in the Veranda.
I grab the menu signed Éric Gonzalez, a Michelin star from the age of 27: foie gras and pomegranate macaroon, beetroot with fresh goat cheese and caramelized pecan, pork in a crunchy-melting croquette, roast partridge supreme with apple & red cabbage, homemade cavatelli with ricotta morel cream... Impossible choices even with the greatest will of the hungry.
I suddenly have a flash: I write this short message, which I give to the waiter so that he brings it to the kitchen: “Good evening chef! I am hungry! Prepare for me what you are most proud of."
And the culinary parade begins.
The chef offers me an Oceanwise-certified salmon starter in lime carpaccio, espelette, herbs and deviled egg. Obviously, here, works of art are not just about furniture. The salmon is a lace and the egg sparkles, but with what?
I call the server. "24 carat gold is the only metal that is edible" he explains to me.
Then Arctic char. Each time the service is delivered, the staff sumptuously describes each dish. My brain picks up the words black rice and maple syrup here…
For dessert, we switch to sweet indulgence: a podium with five chocolate pillars, with matching sweet lace. On one of the chocolate pillars, there are golden pearls. “They are made of salt caramel” explains the waiter.
After the meal, just to aid my digestion, I decide to continue my museum tour in the hotel. I head to the bar. The armchairs here are also in brown leather, the counter in wood, and Tiffany glass punctuates it all.
I continue my journey and go upstairs. In silence, I pace all the corridors and passages. Small and large-format old paintings are also on display here, including Tiffanys, bronzes and woodwork.
The next morning, breakfast treats me to a daytime perspective. Outside, the spectacle is fabulous: during the night, Mother Nature has redone the paintings. A late spring snow covers everything in white. The StoneHaven Le Manoir property, from where we have a view of the famous Lac Des Sables de Ste-Agathe, is magical.