Monday, August 28, 2017

Slow Rolling with Adele - Sherbrooke Bound

Crowd pleasers during an outdoor festival in Sherbrooke.
On Adele's and my annual Canadian bike adventure, I suggested we explore east of Lake Memphremagaog, a region we hadn't visited together, and in my case, not in 10 years. In addition, we'd planned to investigate Sherbrooke, a new place for both of us and the major city for that part of Canada.

Adele took fabulous circus pictures!
With torrential rain forecast for the first day of our 3 day sojourn, due early afternoon, we drove directly to Sherbrooke, plus there was also a hiccup in our reservation. W'ed be staying further outside Sherbrooke than we'd originally thought, so it made sense to have the car available during our stay.

Taking advantage of help at the information center, we spent a rainy afternoon at the historical museum, but learned of Sherbrooke's early English settlement, it's mill based roots, county seat growth and eventual exploding French population. The history explains why Sherbrooke is primarily a French speaking area, though we didn't have any trouble communicating in English.

When the rains cleared, we enjoyed an outdoor festival, and especially the modern circus acrobats!

The two bed dorm room was spacious and easily accommodated our bikes.
We stayed in a Bishop's University dorm, and though not as nice as Adele would've liked (Sherbrooke hotels were either full or too expensive) the rooms were clean and the campus was quiet in early August. I would stay there again. I didn't mind the 4 mile separation between Lennoxville and downtown Sherbrooke, easily accessed by bike path, and, as it turns out, right on the 51k Sherbrooke to North Hatley bike loop that I suggested we ride!

Past North Hatley the trail followed a series of low traffic, rolling dirt roads.
With snacks as back up, we rolled out the door the following morning, and cycled 12k on a smooth, dirt packed rail trail to North Hatley, a beautiful community on Lake Massawipppi. The Eastern Townships are full of lovely back roads and marked cycling routes, one of the primary reasons Adele and I return again and again to Canada. We breakfasted at a chocolate shop/restaurant, a yummy hot breakfast that included a sample pot of warm chocolate to dip our spoons into.

Afterwards, knowing we had the whole day to complete 30 miles, in typical Annie/Adele fashion, we followed a garage sale sign along the opposite side of the lake than our map indicated we needed  to go! As often is the case with these diversions, our encounters provide more insight into the region: the sale was in a two-story boathouse where proceeds benefited the community's young population who attended sailing classes. I rummaged and found a pair of blue fleece socks while Adele picked out a scarf - two easy items to stow in our panniers.

Photo credit: Adele
Continuing on, dirt roads morphed into a fun, roller coaster-type stone dust packed trail, reminding us of a favorite cycling loop around Yamaska Park.

I would love to also ride this circuit someday with my husband, so I took mental notes (and photos) of nearby campgrounds. I was intrigued by the tee-pee set-ups.

Alter at OMG restuarant.
Adele and I eventually cruised back into Sherbrooke along the Magog River. Like many of the Eastern Township's routes, the route is well signed, and free maps provide back up. We had to stop at OMG, recommended by a friendly cafe attendant (who made the best cappuccino) as a great place for burgers. We weren't hungry, however, we were intrigued by the former church turned into restaurant and investigated the interior, plus drank a pick-me-up (but not as stellar) cappuccino.

There was lots of chrome and wood with alcoves of comfy chairs, a bar, and dining sections segregated by wall panels. I loved the interior, but the devil logo seemed a little weird to me, opposite of any religion, but that was possibly intentional. It certainly is a hip place though and set up for special occasions - a place to check out in the future.

Food photos credit: Adele
Later that evening, after a shower and rest in our dorm room, we ventured back to Sherbrooke for dinner at Resto L'Empreinte. Adele had a few possible restaurants in her quiver, and this quiet, quaint, fabulous, foody place certainly expanded my gastronomic horizons! I will try most anything and we shared many dishes (7 or 8?), the likes of raw venison, pork medallions, fish, lots of interesting sauces, with numerous herbs and fresh vegetables, and finished with a plate of chocolaty panna cotta. Adele called it molecular cuisine: using ingredients in a new form. It was an experience I will never forget.

After dinner we noticed that downtown Sherbrooke is pretty quiet. I guess it's like many other cities, but I've become used to lively Burlington and Montreal, where something is always going on and people walk around in the evening.

Riding through the Narrows of Fitch Bay.
The third morning we drove to Ayer's Cliff, breakfasted at a local diner, and set off on a hilly but spectacular loop by Lac Lovering, Fitch Bay, and pedaled an undulating road before climbing a hill and discovering Blue Lavande lavender farm.
The covered bridge at The Narrows.

At Blue Lavande, we first enjoyed the aromatic gift shop because we weren't sure we wanted to pay 10.00 for the tour or spend another hour walking the grounds. However, Adele talked with someone in the entrance booth who gave us free passes because we cycled there!

What a beautiful spot!

The fields reminded me of southern France. The owners have experimented and developed a system to protect plants during harsh Quebec winters, and are continually planting and trying out new varieties.

Near the start of the Tomifobia trail, Adele investigates the town of Stanstead for future eating establishments and possible places to stay.
Near the Canadian border we hopped on the Tomifobia rail trail and pedaled 19 kilometers back to Ayer's Cliff.

The Tomifobia spur line once hauled granite and passengers between Stanstead, Ayer's Cliff and Lennoxville (where we bunked for two nights), a rather fitting historical tidbit to learn about our journey in Canada. Quebec, we'll be back!

PS. The Clementine handled the hills quite well, though because of our itinerary change, I didn't carry more than 10 lbs. during any part of the hilly day. I have, however, found a more comfortable seat (more on that) and the front bag is a gem. Rock on, Clementine!


  1. I always enjoy reading about your cycling adventures. This was no exception. You both seemed to have captured some great photos during this adventure!

    Looks like this trip gave you an opportunity to get more testing of the Clementine as well. I'm sure you'll write about it at some point, but I'm interested to hear how you got along with it as a riding partner on this trip.

    We seem to have a great deal of English Lavender growing in Colorado. I've been told it does well in rocky soil and that it handles drought nicely, so perhaps that is the reason so much of it has popped up in gardens and local farms over the last several years. I always call them "bee plants" because they are consistently plants that are covered with busy bees. :) Seeing fields of it growing in your photos is interesting and seems to be a crop local farmers are taking on in recent years as well. I suppose if it grows well, it makes sense.

    1. Hi GE. I added an addendum to the post, regarding Miss Clementine. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Wow, what a trip. Thanks for sharing it with us. Beautiful photos.

  3. Super cool! I've seen very little of Quebec myself... always a pleasure to see people enjoying my awesome country!

  4. Are the rolled veggies cucumbers or zucchinis ?

  5. Your accommodation looks very nice! Having just a couple of days of 35 miles or so each day, I've realized that the nice thing about that sort of distance is that you can easily afford to take notice of things you didn't plan to - like your garage sale!

    1. This trip was a bit different than our usual point to point schlep all the gear journeys. As I said, we had intended to ride to Sherbrooke, which still would've been 25-miles, but it turned out well despite the rainy first day. We are not comfortable riding big miles without training (in my case I ride 10-16 miles daily) so what we did seemed perfect - not having a huge goal made the miles pleasant with lots time to explore.

  6. Oh - and I look forward to hearing about your new seat!

  7. Sounds like a wonderful trip. That's a great photo of you.

  8. What a great adventure! Love the pictures.

  9. I am glad to hear Miss Clem is doing so well for you and congrats on getting into Canada on their 150th anniversary.


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