Tea with Madame Papineau at Manoir Papineau: How Stylish!
New programming at Parks Canada’s National Historic Site serves us tea and more foodie delights
Manoir Papineau is a stunning heritage architectural gem overlooking the Ottawa River in Montebello village, just less than an hour’s drive east of Gatineau/Ottawa in Outaouais’ picturesque la Petite-Nation region. It’s a Parks Canada National Historic Site because the heritage manor built between 1848-1850 was home to Louis-Joseph Papineau. He was an important political figure in Québec’s history, being the leader of Les Patriotes reformist movement as well as the rebellion of 1837.
Plus, Papineau was the seigneur (lord) of the seigneurie de la Petite-Nation, named after the Algonquin peoples’ name for this area. Seigneuries were a system of land ownership and settlement started by Cardinal Richelieu in 1627, where land was given to people designated as “seigneurs” who were loyal to the King of France. Typically, seigneural lands extended as narrow strips from a riverfront (such as Ottawa and St. Lawrence rivers) so that settlers could have access to river transportation systems, plus farm and log the land.
As we wander the estate, explore its outbuildings, and investigate its ornate interior, it’s fascinating to reflect how magnificent a prospect the home claims on this river’s embankment. Papineau was deservedly proud of his home, and today’s Parks Canada Manoir guides explain how this talented, scholarly international traveller designed both the interior and exterior of the mansion himself. And although trees and shrubbery have grown up since Papineau’s day, we can cast our mind back in time to imagine boating past on the Ottawa, watching out for and then gazing at Papineau’s prestigious, famous landmark.
This summer, Parks Canada introduced exciting new programming. We can take Tea at the Manor with “Madame Papineau” who invites us on Wednesdays and Sundays in August at 2:30 p.m. to join her for tea in the Manor’s highly decorated Salon Amédée.
This blue-and gold extravaganza of a room makes the perfect ambiance for taking an elegant tea. An animateur dressed in a period gown plays the role of Madame, where she offers tea and goodies from adjacent Fairmont Le Château Montebello's renowned kitchen.
Be prepared! All in good fun, chère Madame may counsel you on your tea-drinking etiquette. (After all: how should we hold our pinkie?) Best behaviour plus traditions of preparing and drinking tea are discussed as everyone becomes a time traveller.
When visiting, I was intrigued to discover the “tea brick” of compressed ground tea leaves on the mantelpiece in Salon Amédée. Just as was sugar, tea was an expensive luxury, and challenging to transport (think time-consuming international water routes, not planes). Like most households back then, tea was so precious that straight tea leaves were added to it, often by the lady of the house who prided herself on special recipes. Here at the Manoir, you’ll be served tea mimicking what Madame Papineau would have served her guests, where fragrant raspberry and monardia (bee balm) leaves may be used. (Tip: you can purchase Manoir tea at the giftshop).
Other programming includes High-Class Fare: Culinary themed Talks. On Sunday, September 13: Papineau’s gardens will be the topic; on Sunday, October 4 Gaëtan Tessier, chocolatier of adjacent Chocomotive Economusée will talk about chocolate.
Another interesting autumn program, VIP Tours, (until October) gives unusual behind-the-scenes tours of the second floor of the mansion, plus some of the estate’s outbuildings, including the granery. Don’t miss it if you’re as keen about art as I am, because here’s where you can see frescoes painted by Napoléon Bourassa, Louis-Joseph Papineau’s son-in-law.
So come! Explore Manoir Papineau and enjoy tea and chocolate... while learning about one of our architectural gems and famous Canadian historical figures. Afterwards ? Why not consider staying at Le Château Montebello, the world’s largest log cabin.
Come to think of it, want another tip? Visit Montebello again during 2-4 October to catch LogFest, the International festival of Log Buildings. Why not celebrate the diversity of our Outaouais region and our pioneer, log-building heritage!
Katharine Fletcher is a freelance writer and author. Visit her at katharinefletcher.com. For more #outaouaisfun activities and ideas, visit www.outaouaistourism.com!