Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Canada Travelogue, Part III of III

At one time, it seems like Mont-Tremblant might have been three separate towns, a commercial strip along the highway with your standard gas stations and chain restaurants, an old town full of B&Bs and affordable local restaurants, and a bizarre ski resort town where a burger is $20.

Nowadays, all three sections are renamed "Mont-Tremblant", resulting in an array of unhelpful, identical highway exit signs which anxiously hope to direct lost souls towards the priciest portion. This devious Canadian trap might work if the locals at the numerous information offices weren't so friendly, disdainful of the resort, and careful to point you to the more charming areas where "the food and the prices are honest".

For the final leg of our trip, we stayed at the Refuge B&B, where the innkeeper, Robert, had anticipated our every need. In a hospitality fight to the death, Robert of Refuge B&B would barely eke out a victory over Jean-Francois of the Inn of the Two Lions. It also helped that Robert made delicious breakfasts for free: the first morning was crepes and fruit, and the second was a hearty meal of pancakes, toast, sausage, bacon, hash browns with bacon, kiwi, oranges, and granola yogurt. I'm not sure how I lost an additional five pounds on this trip, but you'll see photographic proof when I post all of the pictures on Friday as my Levis slowly inch meter their way lower and lower in the absence of a belt.

For dinner both nights, we went to a local restaurant, Au Coin -- a choice which was validated by the presence of our innkeeper sitting at the bar chatting with old friends.

On our first trip to the old town, we bought sandwiches and ate in a gazebo with a Florida woman who was up for her yearly three-month trip and was more than happy to identify the winners and losers for good restaurants. We then headed to the resort to see if it was as yuppy as our mental picture would imply. We were greeted at the gates by a banner advertising the International Blues Festival, but thankfully it had ended the day before. We were so festival'd out by this point that a little quiet felt just right.

The resort was a veritable theme park in its own rights. Perfectly manicured lawns surrounded shops and buildings so vividly painted that you might imagine yourself lost in a Langley High production of Heidi. The skyride across the middle bisected an endless row of hotels, jacuzzis, and swimming pools to dump us in an activity zone full of go-karts, bungee trampolines, and the aforementioned restaurants of wallet doom.

About six years ago, I wrote this post about skiing, and I still hold the same opinion:

I simply hate being cold, and feel like the effort you make to buy all the sharp, pointy gear, bundle up, trudge out to a hill, and stand around like an Eskimo is not worth the five seconds you're going down a hill. Cold apathy first grew on me as a kid, when the nearest sleddable hill was at Polk School, half a mile away (Heaven forbid they ever block off our street and let kids sled down that hill). Sure sledding was tons o' fun, especially when there was enough snow to build ramps that induced panic in all the mothers at the top, but what happens after your five seconds of fun? You get off and walk back up a hill. Then when you can't feel your feet and you want to go home, you still have to walk the half mile back.

For this reason, I greatly enjoyed the Mont-Tremblant ski resort at the height of the summertime because it transformed into an endless array of free hiking trails that crisscrossed the various ski runs. We did some warm-up hiking on our first evening, since it takes different muscles to walk up a hill than it does to walk through a city, and we are SERIOUS about our muscle groups. Mont-Tremblant is one of the tallest peaks in this mountain range (2800 feet), and on our second day we went all of the way up to the top. We then paid to take a skyride back down because downhill walking is bad for the knees of the old.

The tenth day of our trip was, once again, a travel day. I dropped Rebecca off for a five-day stay at some famous yoga camp (which I imagine was more of a substance abuse detox after our endless days of gelato and sausage), and then drove back to the airport on my own. Travel back was delayed by storms in New York which cancelled many flights and delayed my second leg by an hour. As we were about to board in LaGuardia, we were informed that the flight would be delayed another 20 minutes to "fix a broken tray table". Since I am a lucky guy, I ended up in the seat with the broken tray table, and learned that it takes union laborers twenty minutes to fix a tray by slapping on a sticker says "BROKEN DO NOT USE".

All in all, this was one of our more successful vacations, despite getting charged for bumper scratches on the rental car. If you are looking for a comparatively inexpensive foreign trip full of friendly people and a minimal language barrier, I would highly recommend Quebec.

In the summer.

Miscellaneous Statistics

  • Nights Stayed: 2
  • Cost: $100 per day, per person ($90 stone sober)
  • Churches seen: 0
  • High Point: The summit (GET IT?)
  • Low Point: Observing people eating at the $50 steak restaurant without any irony

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