Auberge Le Relais has a new owner. Founded in 1849, the oldest hotel in the Eastern Townships has changed hands at least six times, and its name almost as often.

This time though, it will keep its name, and its spirit to an extent, since the former owner Michel Gabereau, and the new one, Gabriel Aubertin, have known each other almost 30 years. It was no surprise the passing of the torch went smoothly. For Mr. Gabereau the transition was infused with a dash of nostalgia: “The place was in ruins when my wife and I bought it 22 years ago. We put a lot of work into it! We did a complete overhaul: the foundations, the flooring, and redecorated top to bottom. Only the walls were saved.”

Mr. Gabereau and his wife Signy, now deceased, decided to rekindle the interest of the locals in ‘their’ inn, so it would again become a landmark stop for residents and travellers alike. Mission accomplished. Even Louise Penny’s famous hero, Inspector Gamache, cannot resist dropping by regularly for a meal.

What about the future? Gabriel Aubertin replies instantly: “No major changes are ahead, except for a colour change in keeping with the style of my wife Johanne, who had a career in the hotel business.” Gabriel knows his way around the kitchen and heads up a large refrigeration business. Some changes to the menu are already in the works. What kind? “You’ll see”, says he. “One thing for sure, you’ll not see any fried food!” But Gabriel immediately reassures us: “Regular customers have nothing to fear. Thursday evenings at the Relais will remain very special. I have no intention to end that tradition.”

Translation: Tam Davis