A Great First Step Back Into the World of Travel

A Great First Step Back Into the World of Travel

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.”

Fairmont Le Château Montebello - Aux-Chantignoles
vaccination

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.”

panoramic view of montreal-GEHKRZ5
panoramic view of montreal-GEHKRZ5

Exceeding expectations

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.”

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Fall Forest Bathing

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.”

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Looking forward to Montebello

Looking forward to Montebello

Looking forward to Montebello

Linda hasn’t travelled since the start of the pandemic.

“I don’t like to live that dangerously,” she laughs. “You don’t need to tell me twice to wear a mask or stay at home. But as soon as I read about Montebello in The Divine Destination Collection newsletter back in May, I knew I wanted to go. I was probably the first person to sign up.”

After a tough three years, which included the death of two family members, and injuring her wrist and shoulder, a yoga retreat that concentrated on stress management and rest and relaxation was the perfect getaway for Linda.

“It was in Canada, so I didn’t have to travel far. I have lots of family in Quebec, so I was familiar with the area. It wasn’t going to be a large group of people, and I knew the Fairmont Le Château Montebello had high standards and would take extra special precautions to keep guests safe.”

Linda had also been looking for a yoga retreat for a long time that spoke equally to the mind, body, and soul.

“Although I haven’t travelled with Allison and Deb before, I’ve been going to their yoga studio  for 10 years – ever since it opened. I knew they had high values and ethics,” she says. “And they know how to throw a great party!

“I’m looking forward to new ideas and new techniques. I can’t wait!”

Fairmont Le Château Montebello - Aux-Chantignoles
vaccination

Time to get on with life

Although there was some pandemonium going through security at the Vancouver airport and no social distancing, Rose was glad she made the decision to recently travel to Ontario to visit her sister.

“I was anxious about travelling – but it turned out to be okay. I’m double-vaxxed, so I thought I just needed to get on with my life,” she says.

Like Linda, Rose’s life had been quite hectic over the past few years as she dealt with some personal challenges. In fact, she didn’t mind the isolation of COVID-19 at first. “When I couldn’t go anywhere, I was relieved,” she said. “But now I’m an empty nester and I work from home. I need to be around people again.”

Rose had started going to yoga retreats before the pandemic and knew Allie Chisholm-Smith. “Allie is so authentic. I always loved her yoga classes.”

So when Rose received Allie’s newsletter and read about the trip to Montebello, she decided to sign up. “I thought it looked interesting, and I love Allie. But after I signed up I thought, ‘Oh no – what have I done?’ But now that I’ve travelled to Ontario, I’m excited.”

Rose is also going to add on a few days to visit Montreal as well as to experience the changing leaves in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. “This is something I am doing for myself. I need to get going and be out in the world again.”

panoramic view of montreal-GEHKRZ5
allie chisholm-smith
ayurveda-aromatherapy-massage-pouring-aromatic-oil

Revive… A Return to Joy, Substance and Resilience

Allie Chisholm-Smith, who has taught yoga for more than 25 years and studied Ayurveda for two of those decades – a natural approach to health which originated in India more than 5,000 years ago – will be at Montebello to help the group let go of the stress and fear of the last two years and develop strategies for creating balance in their lives.

“We need to build our resilience back up and get grounded,” explains Allie. “We need to figure out who we are, and how we are. A big reason we get sick is because we lose our connection to our spirit. We forget who we are.”

Each day Allie will lead the group through a combination of yoga, conversation, and the opportunity to reconnect with nature to help ease the anxiety they may be feeling and find ways to get back to who they are supposed to be.

“It’s about getting the toxicity out, but also getting the joy out. After all, there may have been good things that happened during the pandemic,” she says.

Mornings will start off with an all-levels yoga session, followed by a restorative session in the afternoon – “like a lullaby for the nervous system,” says Allie.

When we are stressed our systems don’t work properly, as we are focused on the fear or worry that is consuming us. “We need to calm down our nervous system,” she says.

yoga
Fall Forest Bathing
Fall Forest Bathing

Strategies to create balance and feel better

The group will also discuss the Ayurvedic approach to health and learn about some of the simple things they can do to feel better – such as understanding how what they eat affects how they feel. “If you are feeling angry or irritable, don’t eat that chili pepper,” laughs Allie.

Since the leaves will be beginning to change colour at Montebello, it will be a great time to do some forest bathing – which can be described as meditating in nature and really being aware of your surroundings. “Nature helps us connect with ourselves,” says Allie.

“It’s also important to have intentions behind our actions. To be outside and think about the stars. To be present in the moment.”

Besides providing a first step out into the world after almost 20 months of isolation and physical distancing, and a soothing break to help revive bodies, minds, and spirits, Allie hopes the group will come away with strategies to do on their own to create balance in their lives.

“This is about self-knowledge. It’s an ongoing process of finding the right balance of Ayurvedic elements or doshas – earth and water, fire and water, and air and ether – to be who you are supposed to be.”

Revive… A Return to Joy, Substance and Resilience takes place from Thursday, September 30 to Sunday, October 3 at the beautiful Fairmount Le Château Montebello in the Outaouais region of Western Quebec.

It will be three days of relaxation, reflection, and rejuvenation – as well as amazing food, great wine, and a few surprises along the way!

NOTE: The official policy of The Divine Destination Collection is that all travellers must have received both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine in order to travel with us to Montebello.

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On The Road Again – Well Actually There Is No Road To Churchill

On The Road Again – Well Actually There Is No Road To Churchill

On The Road Again – Well Actually There Is No Road To Churchill

After 18 months of not being able to travel, Allison Frame, co-founder of The Divine Destination Collection, found she had forgotten what to do when she arrived for her recent flight at Toronto Pearson International Airport.

“I forgot how to put on my baggage tag,” she laughs. “And even though I was at the airport an hour and half beforehand, I just made it to my plane. International and domestic flights were all going through one gate and there was no NEXUS pre-clearance for domestic flights and everyone had to have a temperature check before heading through security.”

Allison was glad her trip to Winnipeg – where she was going to scout out locations and activities for a possible Divine Destination Collection trip to Churchill, Manitoba – was a short flight, so she only had to wear a mask for two and a half hours.

“Even though Manitoba requires non-vaccinated travellers from other parts of Canada to quarantine no one at either the Toronto or Winnipeg airports asked me if I was vaccinated.”

Winnipeg

A transformed Winnipeg

When Allison touched down in Winnipeg it was suffering from drought conditions since there had been no rain. It was also smoky from the forest fires burning in Northwest Ontario. “It wasn’t the greatest time to visit Winnipeg, but at least there weren’t any mosquitos!”

Allison had gone to university in Winnipeg but hadn’t been back for several years, so she was amazed to find it had transformed into a “really hip kind of place.”

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the bustling Forks marketplace at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, and a revitalized Exchange District full of cool boutiques, coffee shops, and great restaurants are just a few of the reasons Time magazine named Winnipeg one of the best places in the world to visit in 2021.

In addition, the Winnipeg Art Gallery has also gone through an exciting renovation and has added a new gallery, called Qaumajuq which now houses the largest public collection of contemporary Inuit art in the world.

“There will be lots to see and do if we spend a day in Winnipeg before and after visiting Churchill, including a must-see appointment with the polar bears at the Winnipeg Zoo’s amazing Journey to Churchill exhibit,” says Allison.

WAG
Fusihimi Inari, Kyoto
Churchill Polar Bears

Visiting the Polar Bear Capital of the World

There is no road access to Churchill, and it is a two-day train ride from Winnipeg. Many Winnipeggers drive up to Thompson and then take a 10-hour train ride to Churchill, but Allison took the two-and-a-half-hour flight from Winnipeg on CalmAir.

Right after touch down in Churchill, Allison took a culture and heritage tour, giving her a great introduction to the history of the area, a visit to the polar bear jail, where bears who wander into town are kept until they can be safely relocated, and a glimpse into some dynamic local art, including Sea Walls Churchill, a series of 18 incredible murals painted on buildings throughout the area.

Divine Destination Collection fans who participated in the Divine Live and Online virtual adventure to Churchill last year, Lions and Tigers and Bears… Oh My!, will be familiar with The Lazy Bear Lodge a beautiful log cabin hotel located right on the main drag, as well as owner Wally Daudrich, who is an expert on things polar bear and tundra related.

Besides offering delicious local food such as Arctic char, elk, bison, and wild rice, Lazy Bear Lodge would be home base for the group in between adventures, such as a tour of the Prince of Wales Fort, built 250 years ago on the coast of Hudson Bay as a fur trading outpost, and various trips on land and water to see the local wildlife.

Although Allison enjoyed her trip out on the tundra in a massive all-terrain vehicle and on a large boat cruising the coast for polar bears, the real surprise was meeting the hundreds of curious beluga whales. Wanting to play, they would circle her zodiac boat, and with the help of a hydrophone, she could hear them chattering away to each other. Another time, while she was kayaking on the Churchill River, one popped up right beside her as if to say hello. “It was so beautiful to be in the Churchill River surrounded by these almost mystical “smiling” whales. I was so grateful to have this moment,” says Allison.

Lazy Bear Expeditions also organizes a unique adventure called Beluga AquaGliding where you glide along on a mat with snorkelling gear to watch belugas in their natural habitat. “It was spectacular! All of a sudden a beluga would rise up from the depths and swim around you,” says Allison.

Winnipeg
Fairmont Le Château Montebello

The surprising colours of the tundra

Another surprise was the beauty of the tundra. Since it is above the treeline you wouldn’t expect much plant life. But instead of being cold and stark, it was covered in an explosion of colour with orange lichen and purple fireweed blanketing the surface.

“The trip to Churchill was truly an unexpected delight,” says Allison. “We’re excited to look into the possibility of travelling there for our next adventure, so stay tuned for more details.”

Until then, if you are aching to get away and start travelling again, make sure you sign up for Revive… A Return to Joy, Substance and Resilience – at the beautiful Fairmont Le Château Montebello from September 30 to October 3 for three nights of relaxation, reflection, and rejuvenation – as well as amazing food and great wine.

Only one room remains…so Register Now as we will sell out!

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