Winter a la carte at Montebello /L’hiver à la carte à Montebello

doglsed Montebello

Dog-sledding at Montebello. Photo: Patricia Maunder

It’s been quite the dud winter so far, with little sign of improvement on the horizon. No snow to speak of until just after Christmas, and generally much warmer than usual so what snow there is keeps melting and, even worse, it sometimes rains! My plans for lots of winter fun, including skating, snowshoeing and tubing down snow slides, has been badly impacted. Fortunately, one keenly anticipated weekend of winter activities worked out perfectly, as a generous 40cm of snow fell in one day shortly before my beau and I checked into Le Château Montebello.

Fairmont’s luxurious, giant log cabin of a hotel set on extensive resort grounds has got to be one of the best places for travellers looking to tick off a bunch of Canadian winter pleasures: snow-and-ice-based sports, crackling fires, a huge Christmas tree, rustic-meets-luxurious vintage decor that’s the epitome of Canadiana (in my mind, but it might seem old-fashioned to locals?). After driving about 90 minutes’ west of Montreal, I was enchanted the moment we drove under the property’s big log entrance arch, across the snow-covered grounds, then checked in in the grand central foyer. Continue reading

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How cool is that?! / Comment cool c’est ça?!

Me making friends with a sled dog of the future in Abitibi-Témiscamingue. Photo: Marouan Belfakir

Me making friends with a sled dog of the future in Abitibi-Témiscamingue. Photo: Marouan Belfakir

Winter officially ends here tomorrow. Unlike last winter, my first in Québec, I haven’t waxed lyrical, post after post, about the wonders of the season. Am I bored of snow and ice? Was it a mild winter? Au contraire! According to locals, it’s been an exceptionally long, cold winter – and according to me, it’s been fantastic! I haven’t written about it in case my sub-zero enthusiasm became tedious reading, but I can’t resist some edited highlights …

Even as a newcomer to Montreal, I knew something was up when top temperatures started to dip below zero in November. By mid-December, the tops were double-digit-below and overnight lows in the -20s (that’s Celsius, American readers!). Then, just after Christmas, that ‘polar vortex’ you might have heard about blasted through, and this part of the world was colder than Mars. Continue reading

Sub-zero speed / Vitesse sous-zéro

Could snowmobiling in Saguenay cure my driving phobia? Photo: Patricia Maunder

Could snowmobiling in Saguenay cure my driving phobia? Photo: Patricia Maunder

I’m not a fan of getting behind the wheel. I didn’t get my driver’s licence until I was nearly 30, and even then not because I needed it but because I thought I should just in case. From the age I could have got a licence, I lived in inner-city Melbourne so didn’t need a car. I could easily get everywhere by tram, train, taxi or on foot, and that didn’t change when I got the licence and a car (mostly so I could practice). So I did very little driving, and when I did I hated it. Perhaps almost to the point of phobia, the way some people worry about what might go wrong every time they board a plane. Planes don’t bother me, because the pilot knows what s/he’s doing. Me behind the wheel I’m not so confident about. In Montreal, the excellent Metro train system and my feet get me everywhere I need to go, and I’m in no hurry to test my driving skills on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, on icy, snowy surfaces, in a hire car.

So last week, when I suddenly found myself behind the wheel of an ice kart, I was mildly perturbed. Continue reading