All birthday days are not happy. On Sunday there will be exactly ten years the Auberge Hatley, a facility enjoyed an international reputation in smoke. Years passed, but several players in the field continue to regret this place, where people like former French President Jacques Chirac and actress Nicole Kidman have already stopped. Back on a painful event.
Director General of the organization Tourism Eastern Townships, Alain Larouche recalls easily fire that razed Auberge Hatley March 27, 2006. How could it be otherwise, since he knew Robert Gagnon , its former owner, and the institution acted as a beacon within the tourism industry in the Eastern Townships and Quebec?
“This fire did live national mourning for the tourism industry, says Mr. Larouche. an industry leader we lost with this fire and it left a major void. ”
Practicing aerial photography for a while, Yves Tremblay went to North Hatley on board a helicopter to sketch pictures of the fire from the air. He had managed to take vivid pictures of the blaze.
“I still remember it well, he says. I was drinking coffee with my driver and suddenly someone Tribune had informed me of what had happened and asked if I could go aerial photos of the scene. In 30 minutes we were there. The weather was good. ”
Yves Tremblay says the fire smoke was visible “very, very far. When we arrived, the flames had spread to both floors. The column of fire stretched over a distance of 70 feet. Even with the noise of the helicopter, I could hear the crackling of the fire. You could see the walls crumble one by one. ”
In the years before the fire, Mr. Tremblay had made some pictures for hostel guests at weddings and other. “I was seized because of the magnitude of the fire, but I was also saddened by looking at all because I knew the value of the place,” he explains.
Today owner of the restaurant La Table du chef in Sherbrooke, Alain Labrie held the chief position at the Auberge Hatley when fire destroyed the five-star.
“I was not working the day of the fire, he said. I was still promptly notified of what was going on and I came there. It was not fun to watch. At first, I did not expect that any flames. It was thought that the fire would save a part of the place. ”
Prefect of the MRC Memphremagog in 2006, Roger Nicolet believes the “whole Quebec lost a jewel” on the day of the fire. “Those who knew the inn at the time the always regret. It is an institution that has marked the distinction image of Lake Massawippi. All political parties in Quebec have visited the place, “he says.
Mr. Nicolet would have liked Auberge Hatley reborn in the months after the disaster. Groupe Germain, which became owner in 2002, however, the opposite choice. “His interests were elsewhere,” says the former Prefect of the MRC Memphremagog.
An important legacy for the region
The Director General of Eastern Townships Tourism, Alain Larouche, becomes particularly talkative when he speaks of Auberge Hatley and one that gave him acclaim, the hotel late Robert Gagnon.
“Robert had the vision and shrank from nothing says Larouche. His story is exceptional. He worked to establish a culture of international tourism to the time he had the inn. He constantly sought to advance the quality. ”
Mr. Gagnon had acquired the hotel establishment in 1980, but there was no question of a luxury inn at the time. “Let’s say he had a big upgrade at the point at the time of purchase,” says the Director General of Tourism Eastern Townships.
Four years after the purchase, the hotelier had obtained the Auberge Hatley is admitted to the prestigious Relais et Châteaux international network, which includes several top institutions across the world. The businessman later became Relais & Chateaux Vice President.
Alain Larouche recalls in particular the quality of the food that was served in the dining room of the Auberge Hatley. “As part of the Tourism Awards, she won first prize three times for restoration. It was difficult for others to compare. ”
The wine cellar that had included the establishment also among the most impressive in Québec. The total value of lost bottles in the fire, probably exceeded the $ million.
A still unmatched kitchen
According to Mr. Larouche, Robert Gagnon has left an important legacy in the region despite the disappearance of the Auberge Hatley in 2006 due to a fire caused by renovation work.
“Our region is a foodie tourist destination and it’s partly because of him. He inspired a lot of people. In addition, he helped the elders of the inn to go into business, “he explains.
Former head of the Auberge Hatley, Alain Labrie believes its 17années spent working with Robert Gagnon served him well. “It was an institution and a great school, he says. It is also thanks to this hotel if I am known today. ”
According to Mr. Labrie, none of the restaurants currently Estrie offers an equivalent to what came out of the kitchen of the Auberge Hatley. “There was more food then this region. Even I do not have the means to, in my restaurant, and I do not think my competitors are more capable, “he says.
Note however that the Manoir Hovey, also located in North Hatley, joined the network Relais et Chateau in the years that followed the demise of the Hatley Inn. The place attracts many American and European tourists.