The small town of MONTEBELLO, 135km west of Montréal on the scenic Hwy-148, in the lush Outaouais region, has a distinctive claim to fame: the world’s largest log building – the Fairmont Le Château Montebello. The town was named after the grand estate of seigneur, politician and Rebellion leader Louis-Joseph Papineau, which abuts the Château. Montebello also draws plenty of holiday-makers, thanks to a resort-friendly atmosphere that includes horseriding and boating. The largely wilderness stretch of the Outaouais region begins around 130km west of Montréal and extending along the north side of the Rivière Outaouais (Ottawa River). Once the domain of Algonquin tribes, the region was not developed until the 1800s, when it became an important centre for the lumber industry. The bulk of the activities here are of an outdoorsy nature – hiking, snowmobiling, cycling and cross-country skiing.
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The Battle of St-Eustache
The Battle of St-Eustache
In the early 1800s, British immigrants to Lower Canada were offered townships (cantons), while francophones were not allowed to expand their holdings, exacerbating the resentment caused by the favouritism extended to English-speaking businesses in Montréal. The situation was worsened by high taxes on British imports and a savage economic depression in 1837. Wearing Canadian-made garments of étoffe du pays as a protest against British imports, the leaders of Lower Canada reform – known as the Patriotes – rallied francophones to rebel in Montréal. As Louis-Joseph Papineau, the Outaouais region seigneur whose speeches in the Assembly had encouraged the rebellions, fled the city, fearful that his presence would incite more rioting, the government sent military detachments to the countryside, the hotbed of the Patriotes. Two hundred Patriotes took refuge in the church of St-Eustache, a town that lies about 35km west of Montréal. Eighty of them were killed by British troops, who went on to raze much of the town. The bloody rebellion became known as the Battle of St-Eustache, and the town’s riverside historic centre, Vieux St-Eustache, still holds the scars of this tragic past. The church, Église St-Eustache (123 rue St-Louis t 450 974 5170), restored in 1841 after the battle, offers free guided tours (mid-June to mid-August: hours vary, but generally Tues–Fri 9.30am–4.30pm, Sun noon–4.30pm). St-Eustache can be reached by driving through the suburbs northwest of Montréal by Hwy-13 or 15, then southwest on Hwy-640.