It’s easy to become lost in the charms of Quebec’s Cantons de l’Est, an idyllic lake-filled region renowned for its year-round sports activities, small historic towns and architecture, boutique wineries, regional duck cuisine, abbey cheeses and exquisite chocolates. But it was even more fun to break from the daily touring and lose myself for a few hours in the township’s amazing Labyrinthe Memphrémagog.
Easily found from the adjacent highway, with convenient parking right outside the entrance, the Labyrinthe rests on the shore of Lake Memphrémagog. One of few public open-air labyrinths in the world, it is open only five months a year, from mid-May to mid-October, when the sunshine and the lake breezes are warm enough to naturally ventilate it. No lines, crowds, body fragrances or recycled air here.
Multi-tasking owner Jean Paul Blanchard attentively helped and encouraged all his visitors. He vigilantly checked on our progress, offered hints and clues to the perplexed, answered questions and fitted newcomers with blades.
Unlike the tall, protective hedge mazes of historic Europe, this Labyrinthe allowed me a non-claustrophobic, insider’s view of the outside world of gliding sailboats, sunbathers, a cruise ship that in summer leisurely plies passengers along its 30-mile waterway from the town of Magog, across the Canada-U.S. border to Newport, Vermont, and the terrace bar/restaurant.
Labyrinths usually have one distinct, though intricately complex, winding and lengthy path leading to the center and back out. Less challenging than a maze? Not this one. Eight increasingly larger circles of open, chain link fencing, each surrounding the other, enclose about a mile of paved terrain that everyone maneuvered at their own pace, on foot, by wheelchair or on rollerblades which you can bring or rent onsite for a modest fee.
In addition, correctly answering illustrated cartoon riddles on science, history, literature and contemporary topics that are posted throughout in English and French win you tasty prizes.
I was also amused with the various tracking techniques people used to reach the center: hand-drawn maps, chalk, ribbons, digital photos. I reached it in 90 minutes, then sat on a bench to dine al fresco on my store-bought bread, cheese and wine. For CAD $7, For CAD $7 (CAD $21 for a family of four; seasonal passes available), I had found my own space and pace for a while. And if anyone needed me, they’d just have to come get me.
To enjoy a little refresher from your vacation, I’d highly recommend deliberately walking around in circles at the amazing Labyrinthe Memphrémagog.
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