LOMA-sur-le-Lac: Our Lanaudiere “Premium” Cottage Experience

A Chertsey, Quebec Airbnb cottage review


A light sprinkle of rain fell over us as we lounged, a smoky mist forming like a cloud above the hot tub. To the left and right, little snowy hills leading into woods. Directly behind me, just a few yards away, a frozen lake encircled with trees and three wooden chairs facing the water. It wasn’t obvious that the sun was setting because it had been grey all day. The grey somehow turned darker, and before we knew it, the freezing rain was falling in larger snow-like ice droplets, pouring now, like a sheet of chunky glitter against the darkness.

This moment of relaxation and the image of “refuge in nature” against the backdrop of the snowy, peaky forest was what our weekend getaway to Lanaudiere was supposed to be all about. While there were some moments like this, other details of the cottage left a more sour taste, and the worst part was the seeming lack of care that came from the owners when we expressed our dissatisfaction during and after our stay.

When we rented the LOMA-sur-le-lac cottage in Chertsey, Quebec, we had plans for a luxury weekend experience to share with our friends, M and S, another couple we had not seen in a while. We had spent time previously in more rustic, simple cabins in the past, but were set on the word “premium” in the Airbnb listing. My husband and I had been living 2,000 kilometres apart for the last year since his employer has kept him working in the Arctic a few years longer than he wanted to due to the pandemic.

We figured that since we had seen each other just three times in 18 months for six weeks in total, we ought to make our rare time together during our long-distance-marriage period as beautiful as can be. For the first time ever, for both of us, we wanted to see what a “luxury” cottage experience could be like.

If we paid nearly $1,400 for two nights in a chalet, would we find a near-perfect weekend, a romantic getaway without much of a glitch? Nope. There were several glitches, some much more glitchier than others. Unfortunately, we discovered that even premium cottages have some undisclosed problems and even when you pay a relatively large price tag, Airbnb renters can still leave out important details in their listings that seem a bit scammy looking back.

To be fair, it was not all bad. In fact, it was quite a good time, like that beautiful evening in the hot tub as the freezing rain fell over us. The architecture and design of LOMA-sur-le-lac were both just stunning. Huge windows everywhere. Open concept living spaces. Artful fixtures, optimal lighting, cute furnishings, and some pretty special features like a super deep spa-like tub, patio doors in the two main bedrooms that open up to the hot tub in the back yard, and a fireplace corner where you can recline in a nearby beanbag chair to read or play trivia games, like we did Sunday morning.

But there were a few major deal breakers we wish we would have known in advance of booking and/or arriving, so we could have had the proper information to be able to choose instead a different chalet that better aligned with our plans. And in the end, that lack of transparency in advance, nor support afterward, weighed much heavier than the aesthetic details.

ACCESSIBILITY 

As soon as we arrived at the LOMA-sur-le-lac cottage, we learned that the information that was provided to us on how to enter was incomplete. The front door has a lock that requires you swipe your hand over the pad in unique ways while dialing the lock code, and this was never explained to us in advance.

Had we not happened upon the housekeeper who was still at the cottage more than half an hour after our check-in time and was able to explain how to use the very specific dial pad, we would have not been able to enter the cottage right away, while it was snowing outside and the sun was setting. We would have had to spend more time trying to contact the owner to tell us about the unique hand swipe feature or try different approaches for a while to work our way to opening the door.

If others rent this cottage and they don’t happen upon the late-to-leave housekeeper or get a response immediately from the owner when they cannot unlock the door, they could be locked outside in the middle of the woods for a while. Imagine someone arriving very late, at a time when the owner is not available and a housekeeper isn’t there. Wouldn’t the best solution be to simply describe in detail precisely how to use a very specific lock in advance?

This one was just a minor annoyance but you’ll soon see some of the bigger issues we found at LOMA-sur-le-lac sort of pile up, and how most of these issues can be improved so much with just a little clear communication and transparency.

Still on the topic of access, we had also noticed that the Airbnb listing only mentioned that the forest roads leading up to the cottage required four-wheel-drive during the winter and spring, but it failed to mention that it was also very snowy, slushy and icy, with a lot of curving, steep hills just by the driveway if you are coming in from the left. So four-wheel-drive isn’t really enough.

Our car almost got stuck on the steep hill upon attempting to enter the driveway when we came in from the left. It took about ten minutes to try to get up the hill in order to dislodge from an icy slush ridge at the base of the steeply hilled driveway, which is at the top of another steep, curvy hill of a road. If we knew this information in advance, we would have rented an SUV or truck like our friends did, rather than rely on our little hatchback. The listing only said “four-wheel-drive” so we thought we would be fine.

The Airbnb listing could be improved again by adding a few words about this. Four-wheel-drive is not the main concern. Having an SUV or truck is what should really be recommended. Add to that the directions that you should turn right at the fork in the road when the address drops off from the GPS as you approach the woodsy cottage neighbourhood, instead of left where all the steep, winding hills are before you reach the cottage. That info would have saved us a lot of time and the risks of getting stuck in the ice and slush at the bottom of the driveway (at the left).

As well, this chalet will not be very well suited for someone who has difficulty climbing a lot of stairs to the front door, or might require mobility devices. We were fortunate, again, because mobility was not an issue with our party of four, but it is worth mentioning for others who might be considering the LOMA-sur-le-lac. The main entrance is up a dozen or so wooden stairs that can be slippery during the winter. Since they flank the length of the front of the building, the slanted roof drops its pile of snow along them. This makes for a lot of snow-covered and icy stairs which has clearly led to some getting soggy and loose. Some of the wood steps feel like they may collapse beneath you.

Selfie upon arrival at the LOMA-sur-le-lac chalet in Chertsey, Quebec.

When we stayed at the LOMA-sur-le-lac, in mid-March, the snow pile on the slanted roof was hanging a good foot off the edge of the roof over the lengthy line of stairs and the entrance way. We could see the hunk of snow and ice threatening to fall on us when we arrived. We could see some parts actively fall. And we continued to see more large chunks of ice and snow fall every time we went out and returned, as well as when we left at the end of the weekend.

Like clockwork, a new sheet of snow and ice would re-form, sliding down the slanted roof to teeter off the edge over the front stairs. Each time we had to be out there near the entry way, we ran as quickly as possible to avoid the next snow and ice pile drop from landing on us, but also had to be careful because the stairs were slippery and some of the wooden steps were loose.

Again, we were quite lucky because there were numerous times when we either heard or saw a massive snow and ice pile crash down loudly from the roof – either just before or just after we had just been on those stairs. It quickly became a joke to us. Were we staying in a cottage that was trying to kill us? The next night, over dinner, after some other dangerous situations, we joked about haunted houses and horror movies that featured buildings that wanted its inhabitants dead.

For those with limited mobility, the front entrance of the LOMA may be particularly dangerous in winter and spring. There is a secondary and tertiary entrance at ground-level, from the backyard but these are patio doors that open up to the bedrooms, which may or may not be appropriate or reasonable to access at any given time. You may find it not a suitable place to stay for those requiring additional degrees of accessibility. There is also a very narrow staircase between the main floor and the lower floor with the bedrooms so it might not be the best place to bring grandma or someone needing mobility aids.

WATER

This one was much more of a problem for us. Once we entered the cottage, we found the laminated notes in a basket on the dining table, which included a welcome note, the LOMA rules, and a surprising note that was not at all mentioned on the listing.

This is where the annoyances immediately started leaning toward “dealbreakers,” and we felt slightly scammed into spending nearly $1,400 on a weekend that we never would have chosen if we had seen these details on the Airbnb website before booking.

“We prefer to suggest you not drink the water, as it is not clear that it is safe to drink and has an odour,” the note said.

This was both surprising to us, and quite frankly, triggering to me. It reminded me of other manipulative and scammy situations I had been in where I felt tricked into making a decision based on misleading information, only to find out later, once stuck there, that it was not the criteria I would have chosen if I had known all the information upfront.

Then, because you are already “stuck there” you start to rationalize your disappointment and talk yourself out of it. “Ugh, well we are already here… it would be such a long drive to leave… we already spent so much money… maybe drinkable water doesn’t matter.” That is how scams function.

Even the wording of the note seems worded manipulatively. That they “prefer to tell us,” like it is a choice, and they chose to tell us about the water situation, so we should be grateful we were told at all – even though we were only told after we had chosen this cottage instead of all the others, had booked it, paid for it, planned for it, travelled all the way here, and arrived.

We had not packed any bottled water for our weekend since we assumed if water was not potable, that essential detail would have been included in the Airbnb listing. We had also purchased an enormous grocery for the weekend, and had chosen mostly meals that require water to make – pasta, which needs to cook in water; salad, which needs the veggies to be washed in water; coffee, which needs water to brew in; etc.

Again, if the Airbnb listing for the LOMA-sur-le-lac chalet had included the detail that the water was not potable and that it had a known unappealing odour, we would have chosen the seven or eight other “premium” chalets in the region that had been on our shortlist before booking.

Most of our purposes and plans for this trip included water in some capacity. We wanted to share meals, have spa-like experiences, and take advantage of that good-looking tall bath tub in the washroom downstairs. In fact, we chose this one in particular because of the hot tub. Would that also smell bad? (We were pleased to discover that the hot tub’s chlorine did make the water’s odour vanish in that circumstance, but on the other hand, the baths and showers were pretty stinky.)

Still, if we had rented this cottage with that information in advance, we would have had the proper information to be able to bring large jugs of water for cooking and washing. We would have chosen other groceries, meals, and activities.

In short, this felt like a manipulative tactic, scam-like, sketchy. Of course more people will rent a cottage that doesn’t disclose it has smelly water and may not be safe to drink than if they were upfront about it in the website listing.

I understand the utility of sales psychology tactics (haven’t we all worked retail or telemarketing at some point?) but there are some that are more wholesome than others. Leaving out details regarding an essential service like water when someone is spending that much money on a supposedly “luxury” stay, and will be isolated in the woods for a few days? Pretty icky and unethical compared to fragrances in stores that put people at ease or music in shops that inspire people to spend more.

Fortunately, we had come to this chalet with another couple, and since they were arriving about an hour after us, we still had time to text our pals M and S to let them know that there would be no potable water, so they should stop to pick up a few gallons of water while they were still near stores that would sell them.

When we texted the owner of the Airbnb, Ariane, to ask them about the water situation, they told us that the water “might not be safe to drink” but that the odour is due to the well which still needs to be tested. They told us we could probably wash our fruits and vegetables in it, but the odour is unappealing so we probably wouldn’t want to. It was – like sulfur and eggs.

We were lucky that M and S were able to stop at a market to buy water. For others who rent the LOMA, they could have a rougher time if they aren’t arriving in two cars at different times. Especially if they arrive late at night when grocery stores an hour or so away are closed, or if they or their party have a sick person or a baby requiring formula that needs water, or they just happened to arrive already very thirsty.

The first night was mostly good otherwise. We adapted. Encouraged by the “might be safe to drink” and the advice to wash our veggies in it from the Airbnb owner, we started making our pasta and salad even before our friends arrived. We shared a lovely meal (although the veggies were smellier than we would have liked) and then played some board games, started a fire in the fireplace, and caught up with our friends.

The people you are with can really make or break a getaway, so despite the annoyances we had found on our first night, we still had a good time, and admired the beautiful-looking environment we were in that weekend.

When I felt nauseated and vomited later the next morning, it was unclear if it was directly related to having cooked our meals with the water that first evening. But I felt a bit sick upon waking and well before we started driving on the very bumpy road to get to a sugar shack, which was what finally prompted my vomit to come up on the side of the road.

Looking back, there could very well be a correlation between feeling queasy Saturday morning and consuming some of that non-potable water through washing our vegetables.

UPSTAIRS SHOWER


Even before the queasy Saturday morning, I took a shower that first night. This was again more of an annoyance than one of the major problems, but it is worth mentioning because it leads into the next major event at LOMA-sur-le-lac, which is also related to showering.

As the first one to shower, Friday night instead of Saturday, I started the ball rolling in the unpleasant shower experiences (although mine was relatively minor compared to M’s particularly dangerous shower on the second night.)

First, I will explain that there are two washrooms at LOMA. One is on the main floor with the open concept living space, and the other is on the downstairs level with the bedrooms. Both washrooms are quite good-looking with artsy and minimal décor accessories. While the downstairs washroom is larger, with a double sink and that luxurious-seeming tall bath tub I mentioned earlier, they both have glass shower stalls with modern-looking metal shower fixtures that include a rain shower head on one side and a second smaller, removable shower head on a hose at its side, a bit lower.

I chose to try the upstairs shower that first night, and told myself I would see how it compared to the downstairs one the next day. As it turned out, I didn’t get to try the downstairs shower, but knowing what I know now, I definitely wouldn’t want to.

Since the water smells like omelettes at LOMA-sur-le-lac, you can probably picture the smell of the shower experience being a bit less than “premium.” But beyond that, the shower heads need to be replaced. Like the other flaws we found at the cottage, the shower fixtures are very pretty to look at, but functionally problematic, to the point of being downright dangerous.

On the first floor, the rain shower head appears to be either blocked up with mineral deposits or has low water pressure, so if you choose to use this one instead of the lower, smaller, hose shower head beside it, the water shoots out in a limp and tangled, wonky, horizontal sheet, splashing awkwardly to the side (the wall), rather than down (to the human).

You can adapt to this by choosing to use the smaller shower head on a hose, like I did, but even then, it doesn’t get as tall as the rain shower head. You cannot actually stand under it unless you are pretty short or crouching.

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So during my shower on the upper main floor, not only did the water smell like sulfur, but it also spurted out awkwardly, mainly horizontally, toward the side wall, with only a few rare specks tinkling and spurting arrhythmically/chaotically downward from the rain shower head.

Then, if you instead rely on the smaller, hosed shower head, which is affixed lower to the modern, metal piping, you have to hunch over and squat short enough to fit under a shower head that is a more suitable height for a child than an adult, or you must forego the hope of a real shower experience, and settle for the water to skip your head and shoulders, only really wetting your chest and belly.

DOWNSTAIRS SHOWER

This one was much more dangerous than annoying. After our long day at a sugar shack and then a few hours out in the hot tub on Saturday evening, the rest of us were upstairs watching the Mrs. Doubtfire DVD, when M opted to take her first shower at the cottage.

Since I had told everyone the upstairs shower was a pretty unpleasant experience, she opted to be the first to try the downstairs shower. My husband had already taken a bath in the tall tub down there, which he said was OK but obviously smelled a lot like the eggy water and wasn’t the dreamy luxurious experience we had hoped for, but no one else had yet tried the downstairs shower.

After my own uncomfortable experience in the upstairs shower the night before, I had already chosen I was just not going to bother showering again at LOMA-sur-le-lac. M’s experience really solidified that for me.

When we were all talking about how problematic the Robin Williams film is from a 2022 perspective, we suddenly heard a loud crash, bang, and a scream. The three of us hurried down to see what happened. S popped his head into the washroom to see if his fiancée was OK, and to ask what had happened. She was in a bit of a shock and said the whole three- or four-foot long double shower with all its long, esthetic piping had just collapsed on her out of nowhere. M was washing her hair and, without any prompting, it all just crashed down, hitting her in the shoulder and arm.

She was “fine” – as in not severely injured – but M was clearly shaken, surprised, hurt, confused, and had had her shower interrupted in the least luxurious way. Hurting her arm, interrupting her shampooing, giving her anxiety, worrying about her nudity and what to do, and having others come downstairs to see if M was alright – not very pleasant. She had to go upstairs in her towel with soapy hair, to use the other flawed shower upstairs (crouching, of course) to rinse out the shampoo and finish her shower. 

When my husband took a picture of the collapsed shower fixture, lying on the stall of the floor, still with M’s fallen hair strands from her interrupted shampooing, and sent it in a text to the Loma-sur-le-lac owner, she simply replied (in French), “Yes, thank you for letting me know.” The Airbnb chalet owner indicated no surprise, no apology, no explanation, no empathy.

ELECTRICAL

Once again, our luck shone through for us on this front, and we happened to not get injured, mainly out of privilege and sheer chance. But the light fixture in the bedroom that M and S were staying in startled S when he went to turn it on. The light bulb had seemingly been screwed on so tightly that the wiring had come apart inside the lamp. He saw this when he went down to their bedroom shortly after arriving, and went to turn on the lamp. He came back upstairs annoyed, saying he could have been electrocuted if he hadn’t noticed the bare wiring showing from the light bulb in the lamp.

Of course he was not actually electrocuted, nor was he shocked, because he did not end up turning the light on, since he noticed the problem just as he was about to, so stopped himself. But the point is that he could have been hurt if he didn’t pause to look at it first, and then they had to do without using a lamp all weekend. And since this occurred during one of his first moments inside the bedroom he was staying in for the weekend, it tarnished his image of the place so shortly after we arrived, thereby adding to the list of issues we noticed with the LOMA-sur-le-lac cottage that took away from its “premium” image.

It added to the list we were keeping throughout our stay at LOMA-sur-le-lac that made us wonder why they were charging so much for a night, and prompting us to question if we had made the wrong choice selecting this one rather than the other several “premium” and “luxury” chalets within the region that we had considered within the same (or even lower!) price range.

And when I say list, I don’t mean figuratively. It was a literal list we collaborated on in a little pocket-sized notebook my husband keeps on his person at all time. We opted to keep that little notebook open on the dining table throughout the stay because so many irritating issues kept arriving almost immediately, so we knew we would need to list them out and document them.

Little did we know, the owner wouldn’t actually care to respond to our documenting them anyway.

COMMUNICATION

While the owner of the LOMA cottage was quick to reply to our messages as we were arriving for our stay that late Friday afternoon, as soon as we left the premises, that communication stopped. When we told her, Ariane, about these major issues a few days later, once we finally had time to write it all out in detail after a busy few days of moving and working, we just never got a reply.

I had sent a very clear and concise summary of just the more extreme issues that had not been told to us in advance and had thus made the stay feel unsafe, not luxurious, and overpriced. The reply we got was only crickets.

It has now been two weeks since we made our feedback known to the owner, and gave them sufficient time to respond, but they simply never replied to us once our stay was over. Today is actually the last day that Airbnb would allow us to leave a review, so we figured this blog would be the best way to share our experience, warn others, and help others plan their stay if they do choose to rent LOMA-sur-le-lac.

TAKEAWAYS FROM THE GETAWAY

As a professional journalist and travel writer, I originally chose to rent the LOMA-sur-le-lac specifically because I wanted to write a beautiful story, article, or review for this chalet at some of the magazines I pitch to. It looked pretty so I thought a pretty story must be likely to come from it. I was really excited to write a happy story. I used to work as a social issues journalist and news reporter, covering difficult, dark, depressing topics, and two years ago I chose to focus more on lifestyle and travel writing in order to have a more positive subject matter that didn’t bum me out.

Still, my journalistic instincts for integrity, transparency, and honesty, outweigh my desire to write positive content. I pride myself in being more honest than most in my writing about these travel, wellness, beauty, and leisure topics, so I just wouldn’t feel well if I didn’t share these negatives with the public.

Despite the LOMA-sur-le-lac’s aesthetic vibes and its Airbnb listing that leaves out so many negatives, almost as soon as we arrived we uncovered some flaws, ones we were willing to ignore at first, but soon there were more and more and more flaws that just grew and grew in level of health, safety, and risk of injury.

Not recommendable, as it stands

In short, the LOMA-sur-le-lac in Chertsey, Quebec (Canada) is pretty and Instagrammable, but I don’t recommend this chalet to others – until these issues are solved. Hopefully, this review might help encourage that, or at least help others considering this chalet to prepare for the specific flaws that come up.

This isn’t to say the place doesn’t look amazing (it is very Instagrammable – but it is certainly not a luxury stay, and it leaves out essential details in its Airbnb listing). And yes, it is over-all cozyish. I don’t mean to say that it can’t be a perfect weekend for a very rare few who just happen to not care about being surprised to have no drinking water for a few days, not being told they need to bring water, the eggy smell of the water, fixtures occasionally falling down on them, dangerous stairs, and risking injury or harm on the owners not updating failing furnishings and decorative pieces.

Yes, it looks dope and yes, we managed to have a great time otherwise – mostly because we made it a good time. But at the price you are paying for that “premium” experience, the owner can likely afford to install a new max $150 shower head that does not fall off on people, and replace the damaged lightbulbs or lamps with their profits. They can prioritize fixing the non-potable water situation, or, at the very least, be more transparent about it on the LOMA-sur-le-lac’s Airbnb listing even if it means risking losing out on some renters. At the very, very least… they could provide guests with some free jugs of water during their stay. Or at the very, very, very least indicate some empathy and/or an apology when guests text them about the four-foot long metal shower feature crashing down and hurting a guest.

Anything less than that is, quite frankly, false advertising and horrible customer service. Underneath the veneer of trendy design elements, the essential, the practical, and the functionality are certainly not luxurious at LOMA. It is almost anti-luxury to shower and bathe in sulfur-scented water in washrooms that are likely to also fall apart on you, bruise your arms, or simply scare you while you are at your most vulnerable.

Besides being anti-luxury, what other adjective do you use to describe choosing to not tell renters before they rent it that the water might not be potable and could cause vomiting if you wash your produce in it?

And responding so briefly to a photo of a four-foot-long metallic piping double shower head that fell on someone?

And not replying to guests who make a private complaint a couple days after the visit?

The TL;DR:

LOMA-sur-le-lac may work for some people who are looking for a luxurious-looking experience and don’t mind paying such a high price for a less-than-“premium” practical experience. I hope that anyone considering the LOMA-sur-le-lac now has the information they need to be able to choose, plan, and prepare properly.

Bring lots of water jugs, plan waterless meals, don’t make bathing a top priority activity, be cautious near the shower fixtures and the ice falling off the roof, expect some things to fall on you, avoid showering, bring the correct vehicle, turn right instead of left when entering the cottage neighbourhood, etc.

I want others to know in advance the practical flaws of the chalet despite its superficial veneer of luxury and its image of luxury refuge in the midst of lakeside woods and nature. There will be glitches, several of which are pretty major.

I had three favourite moments at LOMA-sur-le-lac. The first was the evening in the misty hot tub as the freezing rain sprinkled over, sparkling up the night sky. But really what made it awesome was nature and the people I was with.

The second was sitting at the breakfast counter that overlooked a foggy lake view, obscuring the pine peaks in the backyard. Again, nature and people.

The third was lying in the beanbag and reading by the fireplace. Fire is not exactly nature, but an element.

Beautiful moments, yes. But all of these details can easily be found at other less expensive chalets in the area, all across both Quebec and Ontario, and more importantly with less risk, injury, annoyance, features breaking and falling on you, and bad water.

Hopefully, those other “premium” chalets might also have owners who show more care for their guests when something goes wrong, and might reply to complaints before receiving a very public negative review.

While we definitely had fun, found joy, enjoyed each other’s company, and lounged well in the aesthetics of the cottage, we would have preferred spending half the price we did for this cottage for the problems we found once we arrived, or at the very least to have been told in advance transparently about these issues so we would have had the proper information to choose one of the many other options we had in line to book for our luxury weekend getaway.