On to Mont Tremblant
Mont Tremblant Village, Quebec, Quebec - Sunday, January 19th, 2014
After spending the night in the Auberge des Jardins just outside Edmunston I decided to leave early and drive to Mont Tremblant which had, with a night to sleep on it, become my destination for this foray into Quebec. On the road by 7:30 we immediately gained an hour after crossing into Quebec. There was little traffic and we were able to pass the spot where the day before in Degelis there was a monumental traffic jam that we could only escape by going back to New Brunswick. There were no signs of what had caused the tie up, but there was construction in places. It continues to amaze me that the section of Trans-Canada between Riviere du Loup and New Brunswick is still not double laned. When Jean Chretien was Prime Minister he was always looking for a legacy project. Well what could be more obvious than making the Trans-Canada Highway a true national link from coast to coast on a standard at least equal to the U.S. Interstates. I guess thinking this big was too much for ‘da little guy from Shawinigan”.
Despite the highway conditions the scenery in the Lake Temiscuata area is always beautiful as is the stretch through the Kamouraska region where the St. Lawrence s first comes in to view. Today was no exception, with huge chunks of ice being swept out to sea on the one side and the prosperous farms with there huge silos on the other. Every village has the silver spired church that was a symbol of Quebec before the Quiet Revolution turned most Quebecois almost virulently away from the Catholic church. I had to wonder what use they now make of the many seminaries and other religious buildings that dominate many of the towns in the Bas St. Laurent area, especially the huge ones in La Pocatiere.
On the way toward Quebec City we saw Le Massif and Mont St. Anne ski hills across the river and all told that day we passed no less than nine of them, all of which were well populated with little ant like figures heading down the slopes. We didn’t cross the river at Quebec, but continued on Route 20 until Route 55 where we crossed over at Trois Riviere. From here we headed toward Quebec on Route 40. I had no intention of going anywhere near Montreal with its crumbling highways and resulting congestion. Looking at the map I could see that we could get to Mont Tremblant via a series of back roads and little towns that I had never visited before. We left Route 40 at Louiseville and headed toward St. Gabriel on Route 348.
There were a lot of really old farms in an area of gently rolling hills that were blanketed with clean white snow. Every town we visited seemed to have as many people on snowmobiles and ATVs as regular cars. Unlike Nova Scotia where people who want to cross country or snowshoe have to share the trails with OHVs, in Quebec there a thousands of kilometres or dedicated snowmobile trails, ATV trails and cross-country trails. Everybody gets to do their own thing on their own trail without interference from those interested in another way of enjoying winter. Maybe that’s why Quebecers spend a lot more time outdoors than Nova Scotians and why they seem much fitter as a whole.
Almost every village and town we passed looked very prosperous with signs of recent building. The architectural styles of many were quite modern with lots of glass and wood. Unlike rural Nova Scotia these places were not dying and in fact were vibrant. One of the reasons might be that they all still had many businesses located in the middle of town and people could walk to the stores or services they needed. In other words, WalMart had not gutted them and I pray it does not in the future. The towns of St. Come, where they were hosting a World Cup moguls events that very day and St. Donat were particularly outstanding examples of what a small town can still be.
By now we were well into the Laurentians and the Canadian Shield. After St. Donat the signs pointed to Mont Tremblant about fifty kilometres away. This was a breathtaking drive with virtually no traffic – all of the trees were covered in a silvery rime that glistened in the mid-afternoon sun. The hills were gently rounded and completely covered with hardwoods and conifers – not a clearcut to be seen. There were a number of places where cars were parked as people took advantage of cross country or snowshoeing opportunities on a near perfect winter day – minus one, no wind and fresh snow. Now this was winter the way it is supposed to be.
We joined the Mont Tremblant Autoroute not far from the resort. I had deliberately not booked a room because I had not been to Tremblant in many years and wanted to do a reconnoiter first before booking on line. I knew that Intrawest had built a village similar in concept to the one they built in Whistler and wanted to make sure we stayed there rather than some place that we needed to use the car to get anywhere. I had checked Trip Advisor to the extent to confirm there were places in the village available. We did a cruise of the village which was absolutely packed as hundreds of skiers were just coming off the hill. I was immediately struck by what a good job Intrawest had done – this was very much a European style village where walking was the way to get around and cars were just used to get you to the village.
After identifying several places in the village I drove up to the Casino so we could use the wifi and book a spot. The casino is architecturally interesting and completely separate from the village, which I think was a good idea. People were pouring in by way of shuttle buses. I expect it would be really hopping in the evening. After logging on to Trip Advisor and zeroing in on the places in the village I almost gagged on the prices. The Residence Inn and Homewood Suites, both of which are among my favourite chains, were both over $400 a night and the Fairmont just a bit cheaper. However, for reasons that elude me I was able to book three nights at the Westin for less than $200 a night. I knew we would not be getting accommodations anywhere near the size of what the Residence or Homewood would offer, but at half the price I didn’t care.
The Westin has a great location mid way up the village. It is an short walk to the lifts and pretty well anywhere else in the village. On checking in I did what I always do at a Starwood property and that is ask for an upgrade. As a long tome SPG member with lots of points this often works and it did in this case. Although the place was completely booked this night, we would be upgraded to a bigger room for the next two. Bingo!
The room we were assigned surprised me with the amenities it had. Besides the expected king bed there was a mini kitchen with a sink, small fridge, microwave, coffee maker with coffee and tea and dishes and cutlery. This would allow us to prepare our own breakfasts which is always expensive at resorts like Mont Tremblant. There was also a gas fireplace with faux logs. Obviously the competition from the all suites chains is making the traditional hotels with smaller rooms, up their game. Goodbye ripoff mini bar, hello useful mini fridge.
After settling in I took a stroll around to pick up some supplies for the fridge – milk, yogurt and wine. All were easily procure – there is actually an SAQ attached to the Westin. The village really is impressive. We have skied at most of the large resorts in the east and nothing approaches the ambiance of the village. Yes it is all artificial, and that usually turns me off, but it works at Mont Tremblant. Looking down from the top of Rue de Remparts, the principal street in the village you could easily think you were looking down Petit Champlain in Quebec. The fact there are no motor vehicles is probably the major reason it has the attraction it does.
For dinner we walked the very short distance to Pizzateria and had a good meal for less than sixty dollars. I had the Mexican pizza which I loved. It was big enough that I ate only half and took the rest back to store in the converted mini bar.
The day ended on a perfect note when the Leafs beat the Canadiens 5-3. Looks like coming to Mont Tremblant is turning out to be a great decision.
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