Story and photos by Constance Cherise
A work assignment happened to send me to Colebrook in August. Opposed to taking the ride back in the opposite direction on the same day, I decided on spending the evening. Upon researching the area, I found the impressive La Maison Bleue du Lac Wallace. The trip along route 89 is the perfect precursor to any destination of serenity regardless of season. Mountainous terrain and forest-laden highways on the verge of their technicolor splendor echo the majesty and sheer beauty of the Northeast, arresting me in awe, once again, as it does each year reminding me of my good fortune to reside in an area of the country with ever-changing landscapes.
Upon first approaching La Maison Bleue, along route 141, instead of turning into the driveway I continued past, engrossed in the calming view of the Lac Wallace pond and surrounding panorama, ignoring the GPS announcement of my arrival. When finally turning into the entrance and making my way up the hill, I felt a delicate wave of calmness settle over me. I was greeted, as if meeting an old friend, with a warm hug and a bright smile by the outgoing, bubbly, adorable Monique Guindon, who insisted on immediately giving me a tour of the villa by first inviting me into its private portion. We walk through a large, tin-roofed front room area as Monique explains the home was built by Richard Routhier.
We enter Guindon’s bedroom, an octagonal room complete with 22-foot-high marble slab walls, monochromatic furnishings, a commanding four-poster bed, wrought iron detail, delicate touches of elegance and an unmatched view of the pond that leaves me speechless, feeling as if I have just walked into a fantasy Disney set of Beauty and the Beast. As if the bedroom wasn’t thrill enough, the master bath gleams with two translucent vessel sinks that float on top of a granite countertop, along with a computerized shower/jacuzzi system and a sauna for two.
I think I’m going to like it here, I state to myself, in immediate regret of my one-night reservation.
Guindon continues the tour, first taking me to the lower level, inviting me into the areas awaiting their next arrival, each room interesting in its own character. She leads me to the lower deck where the hot tub is located. Plenty of relaxing nooks are inside and outside where parties or couples can enjoy a cup of coffee while watching the rising or setting sun, in complete tranquility surrounded by soft pristine floral landscaping.
When finally Monique brings me to my room for the evening, one distinct word comes to mind, as the famous Vincente Minelli movie flashes across my eyes.
My room, clearly styled with French influence, is perfection.
After settling my belongings, I decide to relax on the upper-level deck, as it gently coaxes laptop in tow, with the hope of drawing inspiration. I am alone in complete stillness as the sun’s reflections sparkle, glisten and dance on the water. This is where you sit, silently with a glass of your favorite wine and watch the sunset, where you sip coffee, absorbing the incandescent brilliance of the sunrise. Natural beauty in excess surrounds me. Looking past the lake at the lush forestry, I think, how glorious this must look in the fall. I decide to silently chant against the guest taking my spot tomorrow, in the hope of a cancellation, already jealous of their arrival and of my imminent departure.
As I begin to pull inspiration, two amiable women I briefly met earlier join me on the porch. They are sisters, traveling together, enjoying La Maison Bleue as directed by a daughter and son-in–law. An amusing conversation is struck between us and we learn of each other’s backgrounds in life. Only I, who am a ’70s genre connoisseur, would have the unexpected good fortune of meeting a woman who owned Disco nightclubs in Quebec during its heyday, I delightedly think to myself.
La Maison Bleue’s design is exquisite charm. However, it is its operators’ elegant touches that bring its sophisticated warmth to life. Upon standing on the front lawn, and taking in the chalet in its grandeur, a discerning eye realizes the purposeful color scheme. Monique, the chief designer, places window boxes with white petunias on each railing creating a palette that accentuates the white trim. Small unexpected elegant detailed touches appear around each corner, and co-operator Celine Ducharme’s whimsical paintings can be found throughout the home.
As the sun begins to set, I feel it’s time to further explore and find a spot for dinner. In driving towards town, I find myself instinctively slowing the normal speed of my “New England” pace. I pass expansive open fields, coming upon two Palomino horses, where a couple have stopped, impressed with their beauty, of which the horses seem quite used too, as they willingly approach and pause, while affection between parties is exchanged.
Upon speaking to locals I am directed to Resto-Bar Ailleurs, a small, lively, eclectic restaurant. My table is a vintage Singer foot pedal sewing table, and while waiting for my meal to be served, in observing every nook and cranny, I notice a Disco ball on the ceiling, an affirmation that nothing is ever as random as it seems, in my world.
This is where I am to discover for the first time exactly the dish I came for.
A Quebecois traditional cuisine of crispy French fries topped with cheese curd, smothered in gravy (worth all of your judgement.) The Poutine at Ailleurs is served with red onion, thinly sliced and smoked ham. How was it you ask? #youwontlikeitgiveittome
Arriving back to La Maison Bleue, white Christmas lights illuminate the second floor as a beacon, adding an additional layer of glowing enchantment. I am finally able to meet Ducharme.
Ducharme and I first met over the phone while placing my reservation. Being ever inquisitive, during our conversation the idea for a travel article was sparked. Ducharme explained to me the origin of such an undertaking. A group of female friends decided that life would be more enjoyed growing older, together rather than apart, why not invest in a home where they could all attend to each other?
Guindon and Ducharme were the first to move forward. Guindon describes purchasing the home, complete with most of its furnishings, well below cost as the home was motionless on the market for close to five years, as if it were “waiting for them.” With so few occupants, while friends were not in the position yet to move, the thought of a Bed and Breakfast became evident. Guindon explains local residents’ shock at the home finally being purchased, as they excitedly invited neighbors in for impromptu tours.
Ducharme and I enjoyed some time in the kitchen sitting together and talking openly. She explained the origin of her longtime friendship with Guindon, and how they both worked together, traveling in a motor home as trainers for Finelle Cosmetics. Ducharme goes on to explain Guindon is the glue that keeps all friendships thriving, how much they enjoy hosting guests and the drop in defenses that seem to happen upon crossing the threshold of La Maison Bleue.
As we continue our conversation, a couple – husband and wife from England – arrive. Ducharme, greeting them with a natural affection for guests, leads them to their room. Upon her return we commence our conversation. A short time later the newly-arrive couple joined us in the kitchen. Coffee and cake were served, and within 20 minutes, that vulnerable magic entered the room. A conversation, between strangers that started off regarding our love of cake turned into a deep account of the adoration we had for our grandmothers, detailing the final days of their lives, prompting a misty-eyed sincere heartfelt connection.
The following day I dreaded, knowing I had to leave as my silent chanting for a stay of exodus clearly did not work. Breakfast was served. Cherry and caramel toppings for bagels, fruit salad, molasses cake and cretons, a cold, chunky surprisingly tasty Canadian pork spread, along with exuberant conversation. In talking more with the English guests, we found our common ground.
Geminis, all three of us … an astrological duality which makes six of us.
Monique invites the English couple to view the private area. Upon re-entering the kitchen, the same dumbfounded expression appears on their faces as I had the day prior.
When breakfast was over, it innately marked the propulsion to end my visit. The English couple was leaving this day as well, toward their new destination, but there was a lagging, a feeling of not wanting to go, that was apparent in their posture and shuffle.
“You don’t want to leave – do you,” I stated.
“No, we don’t,” the husband said, as his gaze turned from me out to the magnificent scenery.
“Neither do I,” I confess, with sincere sadness in my voice
When finally the car was packed and final photographs were taken, Guindon, Ducharme and I parted ways with affectionate hugs and the underlying understanding of connecting with each other once again soon.