a peek inside the fishbowl

11 Jun, 2023

Summer bucket list 2023: There’s no place like HOM

Posted by andrea tomkins in: travel talk

Last summer Mark and I had fun around town guided by an “Ottawa summer bucket list” of our own design and I’m keen to do it again. I have learned that I need to make lists of ideas and places to go as they come up, otherwise they get forgotten and we revert to things we enjoy but aren’t necessarily new, e.g. woodland rambles along familiar trails and cocktails on patios. (See also: a framework for a perfect weekend.)

A few ideas for this summer’s list are already in my back pocket, a.k.a. a note on my phone. My plan is to show as I go! That being said, I am already behind because we’ve done some nice stuff already including a visit to the Ottawa Tulip Festival (with bonus BeaverTail) which is a bit too late to write about so I will simply summarize here by saying: Tulips! Gorgeous! People! Next time, go! 

Today I want to share with you something fun we did to kick off the official start to our summer bucket list. (This all went down in May … technically NOT summer, nor Ottawa-based like the rest of the list, but I am including it nonetheless.) We booked a HOM mini-chalet for a weekend getaway in Vals-des-Monts and, friends, it did not disappoint. In fact, a few IRL friends have already had to put up with my gushing about it. (Sorry everyone.)

So on a sunny Friday afternoon we packed our bags, grabbed a few groceries and beverages, and left the hustle and bustle of Ottawa. Destination: our HOM away from HOME. :D

HOM is a cottage neighbourhood of sorts, set on a hill overlooking Lake McGregor. It’s a private location within proximity of other mini-chalets. There are eight of them (weirdly, I kinda remembered five and had to look that up on the website to double check – that has to tell you how unobtrusive they are). They are all modern cottage design, no A-frames or gingerbread trim or wood panelling here, and set into the woods with enough distance (and trees) between them to afford some great privacy. (We stayed at Le Grand Pic by the way.)

Here’s an exterior view from the front:

Our HOM mini-chalet

… and the interior:

Woke up to this at our HOM mini-chalet

Another kitchen view at our HOM mini-chalet

Cozy seating at our HOM mini-chalet

view of kitchen area at our HOM mini-chalet

Bedroom at HOM

Bathroom at our HOM mini-chalet

It was honestly love at first sight.

There is also a hanging chair! It’s a novel addition but it unfortunately makes a clanging sound if/when you move it along the rail or get in and out (do not attempt if someone else is sleeping).

Indoor swing chair at HOM mini-chalet

(I personally would have preferred a second comfy chair but that’s neither here nor there.)

I think you can tell by the photos that the HOM mini-chalets lean towards a more minimalist aesthetic. I want to describe them as “nordic” but that observation is based entirely on Ikea catalogues and Netflix crime dramas set in Scandinavian countries in the dead of winter, so maybe don’t quote me on that. ;)

Most of the living space is open concept (minus the bedroom and bathroom) and bathed in natural light, thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows and sliding doors at the back of the unit overlooking the woods with the lake in the distance. It is a cozy, luxurious place, an uncluttered place to rest a weary and cluttered brain.

View from the swing chair at our HOM mini-chalet

Friday evening we enjoyed a nice dinner, started a fire in the charming wood stove, and tried out the hot tub on the back deck. There were multiple dips in the hot tub over the weekend, some to the point of pruney fingers and near heat exhaustion. Beware!

Hot tub view

The back deck at our HOM mini-chalet

Each chalet is equipped with a little BBQ, which was great, but our propane tank ran out as we grilled our dinner! Eep! It was easy to replace but it delayed things. Oh well, at least the view was good while I waited:

Cider with a view

Saturday morning, Mark caught up on some zzz’s while I enjoyed a tranquil espresso on the cozy couch, wrapped in a soft blanket, nestled among pillows, just staring into the trees. (Do you see a theme here?) My mind, just … let go into a state of bliss.

This was is the view from the couch:

The view from the couch at our HOM mini-chalet Espresso with a view at HOM

After breakfast we checked out the waterfront, which is about a 10-minute walk from the HOM compound.

This is what it looked like along the way there:

Trail down to (and from) the lake at HOM

Flora along the path to the lake

Nature stuffMark climbing the hill back to HOM (from the lakeside)< watercraft to borrow at HOM

We loved that guests of HOM have free use of a canoe, which we took for a spin around the lake.

Canoe for two

A peaceful canoe on Lac MacGregor

There were naps later, of course, and lunch, but I also took the opportunity for a solo on the SUP on Saturday. Friends, I was on cloud nine – seriously living the dream! I soaked up the sun (while standing, sitting, kneeling, I did all the moves!), and I even got a bit of distance in without falling into the water.

I counted dragonflies, clouds, my blessings.

Stand up paddle boarding

peaceful views on the SUP

Finding my zen!

That day’s agenda was packed with noshing, relaxing, reading, and hot tubbing. Same goes for Sunday, albeit in a condensed manner as we had to check out by 11 a.m. HOWEVER, I did manage to squeeze in one more solo SUP session on the lake before it was time to depart. Ah, bliss.

Some final kinda random points and thoughts in case you’re wondering:

– I wish we could have brought Piper with us but this place doesn’t allow pets.

– Ordering and obtaining firewood was easy and the wood shed was well-organized and easy to access. I should also note that Mark was impressed with the “proper” size of the kindling. (IMMA LOOKIN’ AT YOU ONTARIO PARKS!)

Behold the shed:

HOM wood shed!

– There are other things you can order ahead of time besides wood, such as use of some fluffy robes or having fresh croissants delivered to your door. We may go this route next time! (I think there was more on offer but I’m forgetting and this info doesn’t seem to be on their website.)

– There are restaurants in the area but we didn’t want to leave! :D

– The kitchen had everything we needed. Related: I wish I had planned ahead better and made use of the fondue pot!

– Coffee = Four pods of Nespresso provided by the hosts. There’s also green tea available, with water boiled in a very cool kettle. I was smitten by this design:

I loved this tea kettle at our HOM mini-chalet

Fun fun, I shot a wee video of the walk back up to our mini-chalet after my Sunday paddleboarding. I think this will give you a good idea of the privacy and the general setting of all the properties:

Ultimately, what I liked about HOM was that I felt like we were cottaging in a peaceful and remote place, with small luxuries and indulgences at hand, all while being in close proximity to Le Dep, groceries, etc. It’s the perfect place to wind down and clear away those metaphorical cobwebs – to restore, relax, refresh.

The HOM mini-chalets are a 45-minute drive from Ottawa. As someone who lives and works in Ottawa, I could technically organize a Monday morning checkout and go straight to work! The question is, would I want to put a dent in my relaxed vibe so quickly? I’ll need to think about that before we book again. :)

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3 Responses to "Summer bucket list 2023: There’s no place like HOM"

1 | Sally Dowe Marchand

June 11th, 2023 at 7:00 pm


Wow. Okay inspired to try HOM!!

2 | andrea tomkins

June 11th, 2023 at 7:13 pm


My issue now is figuring out what time of year to go back! It’s an all-seasons kind of destination and I bet it’s a pretty nice spot to be spring, summer, fall, and winter! :)

3 | Jennifer Jilks

June 12th, 2023 at 8:58 am


That looks like a great spot. No wonder you raved about it!

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (24) and Sarah (22). During the day I work as a writer at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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