Magic belongs in fairy tales and children’s imagination. At least, that’s what we are taught as we grow up. Our belief in magic, however, never fully goes away, and at no time this yearning is more apparent than around Christmas and New Year’s. We don’t even celebrate Christmas on December 25, and yet, I get swept up into the whole Christmas lights powered bonanza and half expect Santa to show up. Or continue to make a wish the moment the clock strikes 12 on New Year’s convinced it will definitely come true this time, even if results so far have been patchy at best.
This yearning for holiday magic drove our decision to swap the years-long tradition of ringing in the new year with overeating and watching TV in the comfort of our home for a celebration in a cabin in the woods around a meal that usually consists of left-overs found at the bottom of our food barrel. A fairy-tale looking cabin amidst snow-covered woods or a celebration among the stars is way more memorable and magical.
This year, we took our magic pursuit one step further and headed for a place that came straight out of fantasy – the Hobbit House. No, we didn’t need to transport ourselves into Tolkien’s universe. Didn’t even have to go to New Zealand (although I wouldn’t mind that). The Shire was found not in Middle-earth but rather Upper Laurentians in Quebec at the place called Les Toits du Monde (Roofs of the World).
Happy New Year from the Hobbit House!
“We are going on an adventure!”
That’s what we said after a few beers and a video by Chris Prouse about Les Toits du Monde. Seemed like a perfect place to ring in 2020 even if January 1 was more than nine months away. We headed straight to their website, read about all the accommodations, debated between the Enchanted Chalet and Hobbit House for a while, finally settled on the latter, and five minutes later clicked on the “reserve” button.
The only downside was that we now had to wait nine whole months till we could get there. Turns out it was enough time to produce some interesting ideas, for instance making our own Lord of the Rings/Hobbit movie. Did we do it? You’ll have to keep reading to find out.
Now let’s fast-forward nine month into the future – as you would in a fantasy universe where you can bend laws of space and time – and there we were packed into our car, minus one family member who decided to stay in the real world of Toronto and celebrate with his friends, on our way to Les Toits du Monde.
Les Toits du Monde is located in Quebec just north of Mont Tremblant.
Home is behind, the world ahead
Les Toits du Monde is located in Quebec, just north of Mont Tremblant, about a seven-hour drive from Toronto. There, nestled among trees are five different accommodations: some seem to have stepped right out of a fairy tale; others, like a teepee and Mongolian yurt, are modelled after actual dwellings that have been used by Indigenous People in North America and the steppes of Asia.
Every dwelling at Les Toits du Monde is unique.
All buildings are walk-ins (anywhere between 300 and 900 metres from the parking lot) and located far enough from each other so we only occasionally ran into our neighbours on the trail.
Registration is in this prospector tent near the parking lot. After that, you have to transport all your gear to your dwelling.
The Hobbit House was the farthest: about 900 metres from the parking lot. You can get a sled near the registration but we brought our own.
The thought and love that the owners, Sylvain and Dion, have put into creating a unique world in each dwelling were hard to miss. The Hobbit House where we stayed was a round structure with round windows and doors just like in the movie and a round table in the middle set between four wooden columns.
The round Hobbit House looked very authentic.
And, of course, it featured a round door and window.
The Hobbit House is not only beautiful but also spacious and ecofriendly.
The sleeping quarters are fun for kids of all ages. Mattresses and pillows are provided, you have to bring the rest.
I couldn’t help but marvel at every detail: an iron door latch just like my grandparents had in their house, tree trunks built into the walls, antlers used as a coat hanger, the jute rope trim around windows, the carving on the table.
Loved all the little details in the House; my grandparents had the exact same door latch in their house.
When we were looking at the Hobbit House pictures online, we assumed the carving was in Elvish. Turned out it was in French. (That just tells you how well we speak French or Elvish). It says: “It is by looking up you will see the skies,” or if you prefer to rhyme it to match the French: “It is by raising your eyes you will see the skies.”
Conveniently, there is a skylight right above the table so you can raise your eyes and see the skies.
A cup of coffee, a book and a view – all you need for a perfect break.
We loved the reading nook with a map of Middle-earth right above it. My favourite spot was a window seat where I spent lots of time with a book and a cup of coffee.
A cute and comfy reading nook with a map of Middle-earth
Everyone loved the window seat.
Mornings were spent there with coffee and a book.
Even Gandalf enjoyed it when he stopped for a visit.
The cabin isn’t just an opportunity to become a hobbit for a few days. It’s also ecofriendly. The furniture is built of local wood, the roof is made of sod, and straw is used for insulation in extra thick walls. That last feature kept the house warm and cozy without us having to use much wood. Our past experience with a wood stove was waking up several times a night to feed the fire. This time we just added a couple of logs before going to bed and could sleep comfortably till morning.
The Hobbit House also came with a few more luxuries than we are used to, which makes sense considering hobbits value their comfort. There was a propane stove, a sink, lights powered by a solar panel and a compost toilet. And while I don’t really mind an outhouse, even in the winter, I have to admit that having a washroom inside was a nice touch. The owners came every day to change the toilet and bring more water and fire wood if necessary.
The kitchen area in the Hobbit House with a propane stove and a make-shift sink; water is provided so no need to lug our own like we did in the past.
We visited the other dwellings and while I’d love to stay in all of them, I was particularly enchanted by the Enchanted Chalet. A hanging bridge that led to the house and its whimsical crookedness delighted my inner child while an adult in me was excited about a small balcony right in front with a view of snow-capped trees – a perfect spot for my morning coffee.
The Enchanted Chalet looked very enchanting.
This is the Enchanted Chalet inside: if it looks a bit warped, it is only partially distorted by my wide-angle lens. It is indeed whimsically crooked.
Anybody home? We will definitely be coming back to stay here.
The Perched Chalet looks like it came right out of a fairy tale.
What kid, big or small, wouldn’t love this tree house with a hanging bridge?
The Perched Chalet is smaller but has the same amenities as the Hobbit House and the Enchanted Chalet: a propane stove, a sink and a washroom. The sleeping quarters are upstairs but don’t worry, no pole jumping or climbing skills are required: there is a ladder to get up there.
The Mongolian Yurt is bright and colourful inside and out.
The yurt features beautiful furniture and is quite spacious.
That whimsical flight of imagination was visible not only in the accommodations. As we walked through the forest, we kept discovering little fantasy worlds along the trails, nestled between tree branches and adorning tree trunks. It felt like fairy tale creatures would burst out of them at any moment.
At Les Toits du Monde, tiny fantasy worlds are everywhere.
Fairy tale creatures definitely live in these woods.
There was a short adventure trail with a labyrinth, rope courses and walking beams enjoyed by all members of our family.
Lost and found in the labyrinth
Learning the ropes
A balancing act
Fun for kids 0 to 99
We also hiked the Rocher Capitaine trail that took us to a beautiful lookout over Petit Lac Nominingue and then down to the lake.
Regardless of what the sign says, the beach doesn’t have palm trees – we checked.
Take a break or enjoy the view of Petit Lac Nominingue? Why not do both?
Petit Lac Nominingue – as you can see, no palm trees.
And while there are other activities, including dog-sledding, snowshoeing and skiing trails within a twenty-minute drive, we decided to forgo them and found plenty to do in and around our Hobbit House: playing games, reading, creating some math magic and, most importantly, working on our movie.
The setting was perfect for multiple rounds of Seven Wonders.
My mathemagician of a husband untangling the mysteries of eliptic curves; according to him, the Hobbit House will go down in the eliptic curves history because of all the discoveries that were made there.
Lots of magic was found between book covers.
Sometimes you just create your own magic.
You can’t expect to stay in the Hobbit House and not run into a real hobbit. The story of his adventure is at the end of this post.
Now that we were in a fairy tale setting we needed a winter wonderland to complete the picture. The run-up to our trip wasn’t very promising. The streets of Toronto were grey to match the sky and even Ottawa, where we stopped on our way to Les Toits du Monde, was uncharacteristically snow-free. It wasn’t until we got closer to the Mont Tremblant area that the first patches of snow made an appearance.
When we arrived at Les Toits du Monde, the forest featured a bit of a snow cover but there was definitely room for improvement. So we looked forward to the fifteen centimetres of snow promised in the forecast for the next day. Plus our movie script called for a snow storm, and our production budget was too small to fake it.
There was a bit of snow when we arrived but we were hoping for more.
I went to bed hoping to wake up to snow mounds outside our window. Instead, I was brought out of my slumber by a steady drum roll of drizzle and ice pellets against the skylight. That kind of uncertain, between-seasons precipitation pattern continued on-and-off throughout the day, eventually outfitting the forest with a shiny armour of ice.
We didn’t lose hope. In the late afternoon, the skies obliged and finally released the first cottony clumps. By next day, the forest turned into an illustration from a fairy tale, a live Christmas postcard, right in time for our New Year celebration.
Winter created a real wonderland straight out of a Christmas postcard.
A web of snow
Snowflakes sticking to leaves in a gravity defying act
A tiny snow cap for a tiny fir-tree
Moebius strips of snow
The forest all dressed up for New Year celebration
In the evening, after a nice meal, we headed outside, started a campfire and did our traditional light painting, almost missed the new year’s arrival fiddling with a champagne bottle and trying to figure out the exact time. But I did manage to make my wish. What is it? Can’t tell you or it won’t come true.
Waiting for the new year; the bat signal in the window is completely accidental.
To make up for our older son not being there, my husband with his long Gandalf arms and a bit of magic took on the two zeroes while we each got a two.
2020 is here! Hope it brings you clarity, exciting adventures and unexpected journeys, reliable travel partners and, of course, lots of magic.
And the Oscar goes to…
No , I didn’t forget about the video. Just in time for Oscars, we present a new installment of The Hobbit: Home for the Holidays. It’s far from a cinematographic masterpiece but that was never the goal. For the most part, it was about embracing silliness, another thing we leave in our childhoods along with belief in magic, and having fun as a family.
It all started shortly after we booked our stay. We were going to stay in this magical house. Our older son graduated from his engineering program and as part of that got his engineer’s ring. I was finishing my video making course. We put all these seemingly unrelated events together and the answer was so obvious: we needed to make our own movie. I was surprised how quickly the whole family got on board. I honestly thought there would be more resistance. On one of our walks, we threw together a script, raided our closets for old curtains and Halloween wigs to make costumes, and we were ready to go.
Here is the final result. If you enjoy watching adults making complete fools of themselves, then this is for you. Happy viewing and hope you always find your way home!