A Great First Step Back Into the World of Travel
It was Linda’s first time travelling since the start of the pandemic, and The Divine Destination Collection’s trip to Montebello was the perfect place to start her journey out into the world again.
“The trip was full of pleasant surprises,” says Linda. “Upon completing three kilometres of shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, there was a ‘divine’ picnic lunch awaiting us in a clearing at the end of our hiking trail, followed by a chocolate-tasting session presided over by a local chocolatier. After having trudged through the COVID desert for the past year and a half, it was a sight to behold and something to be extremely grateful for.”
Linda also appreciated the fact that The Divine Destination Collection co-founders Allison Frame and Deb Niven can quickly create a ‘Plan B’ on the spot.
“I used to plan big events, so I know things don’t always go as intended. After a crisp, sunny day to start the trip, it was pouring rain by the evening. We were supposed to have had a big outdoor bonfire by the river after dinner, but Deb and Allison were ready with an alternative, rather than let our fireside chat get rained out. We were seated indoors by the iconic six-sided fireplace when in rolls a trolley of mulled wine & apple cider along with maple syrup treats like caramelized popcorn and maple cotton candy. It was a feast for the senses!
“Allison and Deb are very fine hosts. They pay attention to detail and provide all the creature comforts, and then some, to elevate the experience to something like ‘champagne wishes and caviar dreams.’ On our last evening dining together as a group, each one of us was gifted with a beautiful red pashmina shawl, carefully draped over the back of each of our chairs.
They also ensured the group was safe. “I wouldn’t have gone if COVID protocols weren’t being followed,” says Linda. “All participants had been double vaccinated, and of course we all had to present our vaccination certificates upon registration at the Fairmont Le Château Montebello. While inside and walking through the hotel, everyone was required to wear a mask, except when seated at a designated dining table.”
The lure of a relaxing yoga retreat
The trip to Montebello was Linda’s first time travelling with The Divine Destination Collection, although she had been going to their yoga studio for years, so it was the yoga aspect of the trip that first caught her interest.
“I tried doing some yoga online during the pandemic, but it’s just not the same as going to a yoga studio,” says Linda. “Active feedback from the instructor is missing.”
Although they maintained social distancing during the yoga sessions, Allie Chisholm-Smith, who led the classes, was able to walk around and offer that individual nuance and detail that cannot be replicated in a Zoom class.
“Allie was great. You didn’t need to be a hard-core yoga veteran to participate. Her classes were basic and beneficial,” says Linda. “I came to Montebello with a sore back and left it there!”
Although she’s not ready to travel outside of the country yet, Linda is interested in travelling with The Divine Destination Collection again. “After seeing the lengths that they go to in order to make sure their guests are fully engaged and entertained, I would certainly consider going on another organized trip with them in Canada.”
Nicole, Linda’s cousin, who joined her at Montebello, was also on her first trip with Allison and Deb. “They really exceeded my expectations. It was fantastic – their attention to detail is exceptional,” she says.
Nicole says she felt comfortable and safe during the four-day retreat. “Having the hotel at 60% capacity helped, along with being in a smaller group. Even during the yoga sessions, we weren’t packed in. There was lots of space.”
Nicole had visited In The Spirit Yoga Studio with Linda, so the yoga retreat was what had appealed to her about the trip. “Allie was extraordinary. She works with everyone at their own level. I really felt relaxed and rejuvenated after her classes.”
Like Linda, Nicole appreciated how Allison and Deb could quickly rejig events. When the weather got in the way of a garden party they had planned for the last night, the party moved to a beautifully decorated room complete with flowers, candles, and live musicians.
“I think the pandemic has taught us that we all have to be flexible,” says Nicole. “Allison and Deb made sure Plan B would be as amazing as Plan A. The weather didn’t ruin any events, and we were still able to go on our forest walk and get outside by a bonfire in the end.
“I wouldn’t hesitate going on a longer trip with them.”
Getting back on the bike
“I think a lot of our guests were chomping at the bit to get travelling again,” laughs Allison. “A few people didn’t even go to the yoga sessions or workshops. They just wanted to get away, meet new people, and have some new experiences.”
Although Allison and Deb had been busy during the pandemic delivering two series of Divine Live and Online virtual travel adventures, Revive… A Return to Joy, Substance & Resilience at the Fairmont Le Château Montebello was the first physical, on-site trip they have organized in two years.
“I have to admit we felt a bit out of shape at the beginning, or like a photocopier warming up, but it all came back naturally, like riding a bike.”
There was also a lot of pivoting to be done, and not all due to the rainy weather. “With COVID restrictions we couldn’t do things like cocktail receptions, or buffets. Everyone had to be seated,” says Allison.
And like most of the hospitality industry in Canada, the hotel had some staffing struggles. “On top of the COVID restrictions, the staff shortages made the job of fast-paced event planning more hectic. But the staff were really lovely and very open to taking on the challenge of finding new ways to do things.”
Even though the weather and the pivoting kept Allison and Deb on their feet, they ultimately were pleased with the trip. “Allie is such a gifted yoga instructor. I think she helped everyone relax and feel better after all the isolation and worry we’ve experienced over the past months,” says Allison.
“It was also wonderful to finally be able to get away with our fabulous Divine Destination Collection travellers again.”
Unique travel experiences... where luxury, adventure and spirituality meet! Re-imagine the way you travel. #traveltddc #luxurytravel
Unique travel experiences... where luxury, adventure and spirituality meet!
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