Postcard from Quebec’s enchanting Eastern Townships

Quebec’s Eastern Townships
Sutton, a charming village in Quebec’s Eastern Townships near the U.S. border and Vermont. |

When you think of Canada’s French-speaking Quebec province you probably think of Montreal or its namesake, Quebec City.

You don’t think of the Eastern Townships, located about 90 minutes by car from Montreal. Upon visiting it quickly becomes obvious that it was originally settled by Quebec’s largely overlooked English-speaking minority.

This explains why so many of the towns and villages have streetscapes reminiscent of small-town New England. Not only is the architecture similar, but the place names are decidedly English. This is also true for churches, which explains the large number of Anglican parishes.

The Eastern Townships — originally organized into 90 named townships — was first populated in the immediate aftermath of the American Revolution by Americans who remained loyal to the British crown. Other English-speaking settlers came in the subsequent decades.

I stayed two nights in Sutton, a charming village less than 9 miles from the U.S. border and Vermont. Two architectural gems include the circa 1840s Olivet Baptist Church and a former Methodist church-turned-art gallery.

If it wasn’t for the Canadian flag, the cypher of King George VI on the Post Office and the French-named main street (literally Rue Principale), you would be forgiven for thinking Sutton was across the border in Vermont or New Hampshire.

A short drive away is Durham and the heart of Quebec’s wine industry, which is best discovered through a day trip on the Brome–Missisquoi Wine Route.

Eastern Townships
The heart of Quebec’s wine industry is in the Eastern Townships. |

Winemakers here use mostly hybrid grapes. Think vidal or seyval for whites and frontenac for reds. If you don’t like hybrids try the chardonnay from Vignoble de l’Orpailleur, which was the first Eastern Townships vineyard in the early 1980s.

Beyond the wine you will also find microbreweries, cheesemakers and even cidermakers. This is very much a foodie’s destination.

If you go

I stayed two nights at Auberge des Appalaches, a three-star inn on the outskirts of Sutton. The inn’s restaurant, which I highly recommend, has a menu that changes about every two weeks, based on whatever is fresh.

Montreal’s airport is serviced by all the usual airlines with nonstop flights to and from major U.S. hubs. When renting a car, you should also include a GPS device, as daily roaming charges can become quite expensive if you’re using your phone for navigation. I also changed my car’s settings from kilometers to miles.

Spires and Crosses, a weekly travel column exclusive to The Christian Post, covers old churches, history and heritage, architecture, culture and art. Follow @dennislennox on Twitter and Instagram.

Dennis Lennox writes about travel, politics and religious affairs. He has been published in the Financial Times, Independent, The Detroit News, Toronto Sun and other publications. Follow @dennislennox on Twitter.

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