17 OCT 2018: It was so quiet we could hear the leaves falling. Where were we? In Knowlton, a little town in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. We belong to Trusted Housesitters International who connect people who need their pets cared for with people who want to see the world and are happy to take care of their animals, in return for free accommodation.

Everyone pays a yearly membership of $130. And then sitters just have to get there. Everybody wins.

We're sitting Frotto and Fluffy, litter mates who are part lab and part schnauzer, and Thor and Zeus the tabbies. These lucky pets live at the end of a dead-end lane on 3 1/2acres, over an acre of which has an invisible fence. The felines have their own cat door in the bathroom, where they bring in gifts of dead mice every couple of days.

The leaves are at their peak, a perfect time to be here. It reminds me of Muskoka with fewer rocks, until you drive north towards Madoc. Each road leads to beautiful views this time of year, but all year long anyone who loves houses will adore this area. It is, after all, the fourth highest income area in Canada and this shows. Homes are stunning, and very varied. There are cottage types, and Victorian mansions and everything in-between. And almost all of them are well kept. They also have beautifully sculpted lawns around them.

We're staying with the fur family close to Knowlton on the shores of Brome Lake. It has a very British flavour probably because of its Loyalist history. The buildings are an interesting mix of architectural styles. You'll see Colonial, Gothic, Second Empire, Arts and Crafts, Queen Anne and Federal.

It makes for a fascinating place, with the main street full of restaurants, boutiques, galleries, and yes, antique stores. It was originally settled in 1802, and then amalgamated with six nearby villages to become the ‘Town of Brome Lake’ with ‘Knowlton’ in brackets underneath. It has won awards over and over again for "one of the prettiest villages in Quebec". These days it is a year-round destination and attracts thousands of skiers when the snow falls.

In the Veteran's Park of nearby Sutton, and unique in Quebec, the Canvas Village of Sutton Christmas Market will welcome guests in their tents, wigwams, and igloos. There are 70 exhibitors, most of them from Brome-Missisquoi, who offer their agro food products and their creations. There will be animation, and the little electric train. For the tots. Santa will visit. It's a party in the village.

Nov 24,25 and December 1,2. There seems to be one festival or event all year long.

One day we piled the dogs in the car and drove to the Abey de Saint-Benoit-du-Lac, to see this landmark destination. The building was built in 1939 and has a unique architecture. We didn't stay for the service and the Gregorian chants because of the dogs, but people rave about them. They also rave about the cheeses the monks handcraft: Bleu Benedictin, Ermite, Frere Jacques and Saint Augustin, and lots of other treats. People were picking apples in the orchards.

And the dogs loved the people enjoying themselves at the picnic tables. Bundled up of course.

We also had the dogs at the park in front of The Museum in Knowlton. There are treasures in the six buildings, including a rare First World War Fokker DVII biplane. I've seen the museum, Tom hadn't, so he went to see it, and the dogs had a sniff fest. A couple stopped to admire the pooches and asked all kinds of questions I couldn't answer. "Do you mean, you're here for two weeks, enjoying these great dogs, and living free?"

“Let me tell you what it has cost us for the three days."

We get that a lot, when we're out with pooches.

Thanksgiving was busy with tourists and weekenders.

There were lots of rallies: We watched 11 Porsches, one day and 7 or 8 Citroens the next.

The bikers and hikers were out too. And every restaurant, bistro and wine bar was packed. There are more than 15 microbreweries across the region, and they are certainly winning awards. There are lots of "Routes" and yes there is the Route des bieres, a tour leaving from Montreal that will take you through four towns and four microbreweries, giving a glimpse of the local brewers.

In 1980 two pioneers Christian Bathomeuf and Jacques Breault went to Ontario for cuttings to plant the first vines. And so, it began. Today there are now 29 wine producers, who produce white, red, rose, late harvest ice and sparkling wines. And lots of wine tours are on offer.

Restaurants, there are lots. One of our favourites was Resto d' L'estrie in Cowansville. We had amazing breakfasts, joining what seemed like every local in town.

And speaking of locals, we stopped in at a garage sale one Saturday morning, and Lorie, the woman having the sale made a point of running into her house to find us some maps of the area.

Today she emailed us to see if we had a good time. The locals were certainly friendly.

And yes, we had poutine.

We were sad to leave our furry friends. Apparently, they miss us too, I'm told.

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Sam Ion

The expert on All Inclusives, Sam delivers up-to-date info on alternate Wednesdays in her column Not Just All Inclusives.

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