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FLORENCE     Florence –  the capital of the Tuscany region and the cradle of Renaissance   We opted for Flix Bus while traveling from Venice to Florence. The road journey takes about three and a half-hour. In Florence, it terminates at the rear end of Santa Maria Novella (SMN) train station. One of Italy’s busiest stations, it got its name from Santa Maria Novella Church just across the plaza from the main entrance. We debarked at the station and refreshed ourselves at McDonald's before hiring a cab for our hotel. Florence, popularly known as ‘Firenze’ by the Italians, is located in central Italy. This dreamy city with a romantic name is the regional capital of the lovely Tuscany region.   Columbus Hotel, where we stayed, is located in Lugarno District. We always prefer to book our hotels through Booking.com as we always land up getting good hotels at good locations. Despite being a little away from the heart of the city and Santa Maria Novella station

A Drop of Calm

L'Oasis De L'ile at Quebec

by Madhumita Chakola


We were weary, we were tired. Long hours at work hunched at the desk with minimal social interaction was taking a heavy toll on us. We needed a vacation oh so badly. Earlier in the year with the lockdowns and stay-at-home restrictions, we had thought a ‘staycation’ would be the ideal answer to all our yearnings. We would relax at home, pursue our hobbies and excel in doing absolutely nothing.

At the onset of spring, just as the world exploded into different hues of green, we decided to book a whole week off for our vacation at home. In the itinerary were long walks in the trail, singing with the birds, connecting with friends and family across the globe, bingeing on Netflix, firing up the barbeque season, and of course, napping here and there. No routine, no restrictions, no structured life. On the first day of our ‘staycation’, all our dreams were blown away and scattered amidst the sprouting grass. My husband was drawn into fixing the leaky kitchen faucet, the washing machine demanded some attention, the windows had to be cleaned after the onslaught of months of snow, the IKEA desk had to be assembled. The list went on and on. I was adamant at lazing around, reading, and daydreaming. But life has its twists and unknowingly I got entangled in domestic work. My ever pragmatic partner tried to comfort me. After all, he said, we should be happy for having completed so many chores instead of dealing with a pile of incomplete domestic tasks. Yes, I do get it, but why fool ourselves with the notion of ‘staycation’ when it should be nothing other than ‘workcation’!

Come the end of July and we were planning a small getaway during the long weekend. With the pandemic restrictions being somewhat relaxed, I made sure that we were going far from home. No more staycation for me! We’d booked two nights at L’Oasis De L’ile in Quebec. The drive from Toronto was not too bad- less than 6 hours. We sang our hearts out with John Denver, Andrea Boccelli, Engelbert, and Elvis. The weather was perfect- although there was a slight bite in the air, the sun did not disappoint us. Perhaps our out-of-tune rendering of 'Sunshine on my shoulders' was heard in the blue skies!

We made a detour at Montreal to grab lunch. Also because the Tokyo Olympics brought back memories of the Montreal Olympics of 1976 and we felt it would be just right to drive around the Olympic stadium. At Montreal, I cannot think beyond poutine. It’s a French-Canadian dish born in Quebec in the 1950s. Poutine is made of French fries and fresh cheese curds, covered with gravy. It’s crispy as well as gooey and something to die for! Since we were no longer watching our calories, we decided that a Beaver Tail for dessert would not be categorized as sinful. It is Canada’s most iconic food through its connection to the national animal. Disclaimer: It’s loaded with calories!

The city of Montreal occupies three-fourths of the Montreal Islands- the largest of the 234 islands off the Hochelaga Archipelago at the confluence of Ottawa and St Lawrence River. Due to its location, Montreal was colonized by the French back in the 16th century. It is the 2nd largest French-speaking city in the world. (No guesses for the 1st French-speaking city!).

Montreal with its imposing cathedrals and grand monuments attracts tourists from near and far. The Notre-Dame Basilica, St Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal, Jacques Cartier Bridge, Biosphere draw a lot many people from all around the world. But what tugs my heart is Old Montreal (Vieux Montreal) with its cobblestone streets, lively plazas, Parisian-style quaint cafes, and patios with live music. I love strolling through the streets of Old Montreal and refreshing my rusted French. Canadians are the most friendly and polite people in the world. It’s so easy to strike a conversation. In Montreal, almost everyone speaks French. Even the road signs are in French. In no time my husband picked up Nord (North), Sud (South), Rue (Road), Arret (Stop). That’s a big achievement for him.

Our resort stay at L’Oasis De L’ile was about a half-hour drive away from Montreal downtown. It’s an urban refuge on an island in the Milles-Iles River. The river is 42 kilometers but is shallow with an average depth of 1.5 meters and the water flows lazily. At times, peering into the river makes one feel that the water is at a standstill. Light penetrates down to the bottom of the river bed, which is why aquatic plant communities are found in 53% of the river area. We had to cross over a narrow bridge to the island. The bridge was so narrow that just one car would fit in. As we drove over the calm green water, dusk was settling in and the entire area was bathed in a hushed light with the chirping of thousands of birds as they made their way home. That ethereal moment all the worldly baggage that we unnecessarily carry along with us slid away as we felt a deep connection with the Creator. We stopped the car on crossing the bridge, ecstatic and euphoric, and, drank in the beauty and serenity which no camera could ever capture. It was indeed an oasis- calm and serene, far away from the entangles of life.


The property was sprawling- the hotel had a European aura with a wrap-around porch and rustic look to it which softly merged with the environment. There was also a chalet which was mainly booked for weddings. The water lapped quietly all around and the tranquil environment tricked my mind to weave images of Tennyson’s Lady of Shallot who lived in an island castle flowing to Camelot. I could almost see her weaving her charmed web!

L’Oasis de L’ile is open only to adults looking for rest, recuperation, and health. The Nordic spa in the midst of the resort was a gem set in a picturesque location- a blue sparkling swimming pool with a waterfall, plunge pools for wading and just lounging, hot tubs, wet and dry sauna, and massage. When the lights came out at night, the area was transformed into a surreal beauty. Guests were encouraged to follow a cycle that consists of hot and cold immersions, followed by rest, and then repeat. The ground was scattered with several saunas and pools of various temperatures. We started at the hot tub, jumped to the steam sauna, and then braved for a quick plunge in the cold pool. I did not dare to stand under the chilly fountain. By this time, I was bleating like a sheep and headed right back to the hot pool.

We spent our days exploring the tiny island and the neighborhood. There were large homes with manicured lawns, but we hardly met any residents on the road. Appeared to be country homes where people would come in to breathe in the richness of the environment and head out to the city only to gather frown lines. All that we heard was the sound of our voices and the twitter of birds. As we sat at the river bank munching on apples and peaches, we kept wondering whether this is the Garden of Eden. The peace made us feel guilty as we remembered our brethren across the world living in war-ravaged countries. We hope that this peace pervades all over the world and touches each heart.


 Soon the weekend vacation had evaporated and it was time to hand over the keys at the reception. We set home with our hearts brimming with tranquility and feeling so relaxed that we were ready to face all the curveballs that life would spin at us.

Merci beaucoup L’Oasis De L’ile.







Ron Thomas said…
What a fascinating account of your trip to Montreal! Thanks for sharing.
Paul said…
Wow , very nice
Madhu ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘
Unknown said…
Awesome account!!! Vivid description
Ananya Chakraberty said…
Amazing write up, Madhumita. I definitely know where to plan my next trip. Thank you for sharing your experience with everyone!
KRN said…
Very nicely written. Keep going.
Majid said…
Well written Madhu. I know where our next trip is going to be.
Alka Srivastava said…

Lala Shyamal Dey said…

Very Well Written.Easy to Understand & Imagine
Twinkle Chackola said…

Ck Liu said…
Wow, glad to know the talents she possesses. Denny's a lucky man to have such an amazing wife.
Lakh Jos Chackola said…

Warren Julian said…
It was interesting.

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