As a Brit who's lived in Montreal for 26 years, no season separates me from the herd like summer.
I first came here as a city-bred teen in January '89. When I came out of my hypothermic coma in April, the city was agog with talk of "the chalet." At first, I thought there was just one. A giant timeshare log cabin somewhere in central Canada, but it turns out that nobody knows where that is. No, seriously, that's true. And anyway, as my neurons thawed, I realized that Canadians just drop the possessive when talking about their summer homes. I still don't know why.
And so it was that I spent some 20 odd years trying to fit in during chalet, or elsewhere in Canada, cottage season; although, I would invent a script deadline or a family death whenever someone said: "there might not be enough room inside, so bring a tent just in case."
I would gamely participate in the planning; "A what? A kayak? Like a boat thing? No I don't have one sorry. Oh sure, certainly I can bring a jigsaw puzzle, that sounds fun." The meals; "Corn for 120 people? No problem. I'll just stick the jigsaw on the roof" The route; "Ok, if we leave Friday at 4 a.m. and take the 15N, we should get there by dawn Saturday. Oh yeah, we should have enough time to finish the jigsaw." The sleeping arrangements; "Of course I don't mind sharing the jigsaw table with your cousin. Yes, I'll bring sheets, pillows, a box spring and a sleeping bag." The excitement; "I know, it's gonna be great! No electricity or running water or Wi-Fi for a week! I am going to own that 1,655,000 piece puzzle!"
But to be honest, I never really got into the type of vacation spot that had the word "septic tank" and what and when I was allowed to flush down the toilet in a handwritten welcome note pinned to the fridge.
Until last year. After spending most of my adult life faking the joy, I finally understood the appeal of the chalet. The reasons were manifold I think. It was a particularly spectacular summer, I wasn't working very much (except for that time when I might have had to camp). I was desperate to get my boy off the screen as much as I could. I chalet hopped in some of the best company ever, and lastly but certainly not least, a very generous friend offered me what might be the most peaceful spot I'd set foot on since coming to Canada -- and I was desperately in need of some peace. Suddenly I got it.
And it wasn't just a one-off. We've packed up the car with bedding, bug spray, corn and UNO several times this summer too (I left the jigsaw puzzle somewhere years ago) and I'm developing what I think might be the beginnings of a love affair with The Chalet.
But while my newfound enthusiasm is as genuine as any Canadian's, there are still a few things that give me away as an amateur. Here they are in no particular order:
- I am pretty much the only one not swimming in 24 degrees
- I still can't find a decent marshmallow roasting stick after dark
- The only difference I can see between a kayak and a canoe is in the spelling
- Yes, really, honestly despite the billowing smoke from the campfire I am still getting bitten. But good for you that you're not! Yep, still biting...
- I sometimes scare myself right out of the lake because sharks, leeches, water snakes, frogs and an episode I made on other lake monsters.
- Hummingbirds still freak the f*&k out of me. They are bird/bug hybrids and you cannot convince me otherwise.
- I nod sagely when discussing the difference between the Laurentians and the Eastern Townships but really, I don't f^&cking know.
- I enjoy wandering the premises but have no heart at all for a "trail." I have never read a tragic wilderness news story where someone wasn't on a trail.
- I don't know any of the words to Gordon Lightfoot
- I really, really, really hate jigsaw puzzles.
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Halle Berry used to own a 2,500 square-foot cabin in Saint-Hippolyte, Quebec with her former beau, Montreal-born model Gabriel Aubry. However, the pair split in 2010 and their cottage was sold in 2013.Despite this, Narcity reports that Saint-Hippolyte is still a vacation spot for the Hollywood star. Berry has an eight-year-old daughter named Nahla with Aubry. She is also a mom to two-year-old Maceo, who she had with Olivier Martinez.
Cindy Crawford is probably the most well-known celebrity to cottage in Canada. The famous model often posts Instagram photos of her family enjoying cottage life in Muskoka. Last year, Crawford opened up to Vogue about her summer go-to getaway, revealing that she, her husband Rande Gerber, and their two kids – Presley, 17, and Kaia, 14 – usually spend about a month there each summer. Not only does the 50-year-old mom love the area for its privacy, but also because she can be herself. “You’re the real you up here,” she told Vogue. “You never have your game face on, your party face. When you’re getting dragged behind a boat on an inner tube, it’s hard to have much of a facade.”
Jim Carrey owns a cottage on Baptiste Lake, near Bancroft, Ont. He is often spotted flying into Peterborough Airport before heading to his summer oasis. The Canadian comedian has one daughter, Jane, with first wife Melissa Womer. He is also a grandfather to Jane’s son, who is now six years old.
Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell have owned a cottage in Muskoka for years. It’s located at the edge of Lake Rosseau and the couple is known to spend a lot of time there. The couple has a 30-year-old son named Wyatt. Hawn is also a mom to famous siblings Kate and Oliver Hudson, while Russell also has a son named Boston.
Like mother, like daughter. Kate Hudson also loves to cottage in Canada! The 37-year-old actress has been spotted in Muskoka a number of times. In 2007, for instance, she was famously photographed with then-boyfriend Dax Shepard soaking up the sun. Hudson is a mom-of-two. She had her first son, 11-year-old Ryder, with ex-husband Chris Robinson, and her second son, five-year-old Bingham, with ex-fiancé Matt Bellamy.
Funnyman Martin Short has a cottage on Lake Rosseau in Muskoka. The Hamilton, Ont.-native loves his summer getaway so much that he designed a $3 silver collector coin for the Royal Canadian Mint. “I am lucky enough to own a cottage on a lake roughly three hours north of Toronto in a staggeringly beautiful part of Canada, which I'm thrilled to share on this coin I had the privilege to help design,” he said. Short has three grown kids with late wife Nancy Dolman: Katherine, 32, Oliver, 30 and Henry, 26.
Who knew Tom Hanks and wife Rita Wilson vacationed in Canada? According to Cottage Life, the Hollywood couple purchased a cottage in Muskoka after their friends Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell bought their cabin. The couple has two kids: Chet, 25 and Truman, 20. Hanks also has two kids, 38-year-old Colin and 34-year-old Elizabeth, who he had with first wife Samantha Lewes, who sadly passed away in 2002.
It’s pretty cool that one of Hollywood’s greatest directors loves to vacation in Canada. Steven Spielberg built a waterfront home in Muskoka and is known to frequently visit in the summer. Spielberg is a father to seven kids: Max, 31, Theo, 27, Sasha, 26, Sawyer, 24, Mikaela, 20, and Destry, 19.
The Vancouver-born actor is also drawn to cottage life. Jason Priestley owns a cottage Ucluelet, British Columbia on Vancouver Island. Considering its location, we bet the views are stunning! The “Beverly Hills 90210” star has two kids with his wife Naomi Lowde-Priestley. Ava is nine and Dashiell is seven.
Although Donald Sutherland is from New Brunswick, he owns a cottage in Georgeville, Quebec. The 81-year-old actor is the famous father of “24” star Kiefer Sutherland. According to Narcity, the father and son are often spotted together in town.
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