They call them leafers, the thousands of tourists and locals who drive through Gatineau Park from the end of September to mid October every year. They come up in bus and car loads, holding their cameras tightly, ready to take pictures of the plentiful views of stunning multicoloured autumn leaves.
I am back in Ottawa often, but I realized this is the first time in many many years that I am here for the changing of the leaves. We got here probably on the best weekend too. (Again I know I am posting this a bit late, I had so many fantastic hot chocolates this fall in Canada.) While you can see the leaves changing everywhere around you in Ottawa, Gatineau Park, just 10 minutes drive from Ottawa, is the best place to go. Over 2.7 million visitors annually enjoy over 36 hectares of trees, lakes and valleys. In order to avoid most of these visitors, we chose to drive around in the morning on a weekday when things were a lot quieter.
A good place to start, or end, your journey is charming Old Chelsea, more specifically that cute little pink house along the main road called Les Saisons (Seasons in English). The name fits perfectly as this is a great little spot to stop before crosscountry or downhill skiing in the winter, cycling in the spring, hiking in the summer or leafing in the fall. Inside the walls were covered with stunning photos from Gatineau Park by photographer Jim Roditis, part of a constantly changing in house art show. Upstairs they have a bunch of big comfy sofas to linger on. We chose to rug up and sit on the chairs set up on the porch outside. From there we had a great view not only of the beautiful fall colours.
My hot chocolate was very sweet. But sitting on the Les Saisons beautiful porche on a chilly morning watching the leaves elevated it. Although it was way too sweet for my tastes, I could see this mug of hot chocolate topped with whip cream would be the perfect way to begin or end a day in Gatineau Park. Plus the porche at Les Saisons is so nice it is worth the visit just for that.
Verdict: Beautiful way to start a trip through Gatineau Park. Les Saisons, 232 Chemin Old Chelsea, Old Chelsea, Canada