Elegance With a French Accent at Château la Motte - Michele Sponagle, Ontario
December 18, 2017
In southwest Ontario, there’s a town called Woodstock that had nothing to do with the summer of love or hippies. This Woodstock has just 40,000 people, but it’s the heart of Oxford County, an area known for its picturesque farmland, dairies and cheese makers and cute-as-a-button small communities. It’s a perfect area for a weekend getaway, less than a two-hour drive from Toronto.
Smack dab in the middle is Woodstock, founded by United Empire Loyalists circa 1800. Along Vansittart Avenue, there are elegant, stately homes lining both sides of the street. One of them was built in 1895 by inventor and businessman Thomas “Carbide” Willson.
No expense was spared in the building of this 10,000 square-foot mansion with its red slate roof, ruby volcanic stone, grand porches, a multitude of fireplaces and soaring high ceilings. The home has had many incarnations through its life, but the latest one has found it operating as a luxurious bed and breakfast called Château la Motte.
A South African couple, Alida and Francois Joubert, bought the property less than two years ago and have turned it into the area’s highest-rated accommodations with just six rooms. Past guests have raved about the generous breakfast, the silky soft sheets made from bamboo, the grand library and B&B’s easy access to downtown Woodstock and local area attractions. I had to check it out for myself.
Pulling into the driveway, it’s hard not to marvel at the sheer size of the house. It has three full floors and an attic, giving the house of a commanding presence on one of Woodstock’s most scenic streets. Upon entering the house, there’s a homey feeling with well-decorated rooms full of antiques and cozy spots to sit, read and sip a glass of wine.
Owner Alida Joubert took me on a tour of the house and, while it’s historic, it is updated in all the ways that make sense with a lovely open kitchen – available for use by guests and stocked with water, tea, coffee and snacks – and modern bathrooms. The dining room is a beautiful space, accented by a large fireplace and expansive windows that allow sunlight to pour into the space making the glassware and silver sitting on the table, ready for breakfast guests, sparkle brightly. Outside, flags representing the countries of current guests fly high.
I stayed in the French-inspired Louw executive room with a king-sized wrought iron bed, Jacuzzi tub, sitting area, charming antique furniture and plenty of natural night. Located on the second floor (note: no elevators), it was roomy at 350 square feet and faced the main street. If you are bothered by traffic noise, ask for a room at the back of the house. I have to agree with past guests about the sheets. They were buttery soft and lovely to sleep on. I will be asking my hosts how I can snag a set of my own.
Breakfast was every bit as good as I expected, judging from other posted reviews I read. It was way beyond the usual B&B fare of hard-boiled eggs, mini boxes of cereal and a bowl of fruit. What I enjoyed at Château la Motte was impressive, featuring freshly made omelettes, homemade pastries, including a type of South African rusk, similar to biscotti, ideal for dipping in tea, fruit, yogurt and cheese.
Guests have been so impressed by the food that they’ve asked for recipes for many of the dishes served. Though I didn’t have a chance to sample the spinach mushroom and feta crustless quiche, I saw the recipe online and will be making it soon.
Michele stayed as a guest of Château la Motte and Tourism Oxford. As always, her thoughts and opinions are her own. Photos: courtesy of Michele Sponagle and Château la Motte.