Canada, Days 6–8: Skiing Mount Tremblant
LogDate: 20th — 22nd January 2017, Top Ski, Bad Boots, Great Time!
Got back from Mont Tremblant via Montreal this evening. Great great trip! I got to test out my new boots and break them in above what I’d done back home. However, they were horrifically tight and got worse throughout the days so I think a trip back to the Snow + Rock is in order.
We only did half-days yet the Mont Tremblant’s ski resort is very intuitive. It’s laid out nothing like French resorts in Europe. There are no countdown markers just signposts at each junction, which did their job to be fair. You know exactly where you are going and what you are doing and given the altitude was only 875 metres, all roads led to home. So it was as good as impossible to get lost. Hence, the French countdown style markers are somewhat unnecessary.
I was quite surprised our hotel didn’t have breakfast and I learned a hard lesson about skiing without packing in the food the day after. Being a heavy skiier, calories burn off incredibly quickly and as someone who normally eats half a hotel buffet single-handed, the fact the hotel didn’t serve any became a concern after my body simple gave up after just one run on the second day.
The skis I rented were spot on! Really did the job. Made up for a horrendous pair I had in Morzine last year. If I had enough energy and my boots were properly fitted, I’d have been comfortable taking on the double black Flying Mile, which was steep, but the whole hill is visible all the way down. You know exactly where you are going and your only challenge is stopping at the very end. I’ll prep and post the skiing vlogs on my YouTube channel when I get back.
Montreal (pr. french Mon-Rayaal)
We took a 1 hour trip to Montreal, further into the province of Quebec. The city is a purely French city as far as signposts and navigating your way around is concerned.
Like the journey into Wales from England, as you move into French Canadian cities, they signpost both in English, then French. As you go further, it then becomes Frnech and English and the finally only French in cities like Montreal. Yet, everyone speaks English as the second language.
There are some interesting differences between cities, not least on roadsigns and even street lights, which very much cover a more European look than the American “overhead” style.
We drove through Old Montreal. The houses looked like something out of the 1940’s, with an odd mix of dainty staircases bolted on to the front of two-up, two-down properties.
Montreal is one of the top “gaycities” in Canada. Yet, it’s also got one of the highest rates of crime in country. Up there with the US surprisingly! This came as a shock to me, since I was under the impression it’s crime rates were lower everywhere but in reality it was a case of crime is bad everywhere.
Yet, Montreal is also a very much more corporate, cosmopolitan city than Ottawa. Many global tech companies have offices there above and beyond their Ottawa locations and even more, simply skipped Ottawa altogether. Google is present in Montreal for example.
Montreal is a more corporate environment than Ottawa. It has a number of large corporates based there and is much more heavily geared to professional work.
However, look below the surface and Montreal suffered from crumbling infrastructure and alleged government corruption even as late as 2015. The city was once the economic capital of Canada and as an observer, there are signs that this may again be the case. Yet, studies have shown that Montreal had more than it’s fair share of problems between ’99 and 2012.
Montreal lost nearly 30 per cent of its head offices, according to an estimate by the Institut du Québec. Toronto suffered a five-per-cent loss as economic weight shifted to Western Canada, but the impact on Montreal was far more painful.
This is made worse by the fact that you have to speak French fully before being able to take work in the city. If you can’t speak French, even if everyone speaks English, you cannot get a job. Pure and simple.
What was really interesting as I was researching the city, is that Boston Consulting were asked to look at improvements the city could make. One of the cities they looked at as part of a beacon of a handful of cities around the world to turn their fortunes around, was Manchester! A pleasant surprise, but as someone who’s lived in the city from the late 80’s to 2016, I can definitely concur that Manchester’s turnaround has been phenomenal and in only a few recent years too.
Montreal malls are fairly new, but maintain unique character traits for the city. They certainly don’t appear to be the sprawling UK style shopping malls of the Westfield, Trafford and Arndale Centres nor Sheffield’s Meadowhall.
Takeaway: With one hand it gives, the other it taketh away. Must do your research when looking at Montreal. The somewhat dichotomous nature of thr city may make choosing an appropriate business location troublesome, if only for the potential loss of talent and lack of investment. Any alleged government corruption also adds a significant risk to business proceedings.
In Montreal’s mall, we found ourselves wondering around a Barbie store. I didn’t even realise it was one and what’s worse, is it had a water feature in it. In the UK our water features are in the mall’s walkways and rarely in the stores. There was also no obvious entrance. So you walked in and were accosted by Barbie dolls without even realising. Seriously what the…
Dunn’s Poutine (pr. poot-in)
There are two famous Canadian dishes to be tried when you pop round. Poutine and the lemon covered pastry known as Beaver Tail.
Pountine is basically chips, gravy and cheese [curds] optionally topped with a meat of your choice. We stopped off at Dunn’s, a 1950’s greasy spoon deli located in little Italy, underneath a XXX massage parlour of all places. Yet, given the location and the surrounding businesses, the parlour appeared to be the thing out of place, not Dunn’s.
We ordered the drinks and food and it arrived in pretty good time. That’s one thing I’ve noticed about Canada as a whole. It never seems to take along time to get your food. The dish was served in a large contemporary salad bowl containing the poutine. I had a smoked poutine and an orange juice. It was quite a filling dish. The right sort of size for me I’d argue and it was quite filling. I finished the meal off with an obligatory sundae.
Montreal certainly reminded me a little of Brussels or perhaps the way Manchester’s Northern Quarter intersects the rest of the city. The contrast between the old and new styles also seemed to infer a cross between the two analogues. Manchester’s Norther Quarter establishments look dowdy form the outside, but inside it is very often a very different game.
The Long Straight Road Back
We hopped on the freeway back to Ottawa. Freeways in Canada, like the US are long. Service stations are basically gas [petrol] stations located at the side of the freeway and almost always off the main freeway. Unlike our own large British, service complexes, which contain food, food, RAC recruiter, food and WH Smiths, here you had a guy behind a petrol station counter and if you’re lucky a toilet, which most have.
Takeaway: Toilet locks look like this from 1970’s Scottish blocks of flats in Cumbernauld. Push the button in, or push it and twist it. It locks the door handle on the other side, but not your own.
Mount Royale Viewpoint
Overlooking the city from the mountains on the east of the city is Mount Royale. From there you can see the whole city, including the iconic bridge and the Olympic stadium.
It’s been a busy weekend. Lots and lots to see and do. There was also lots to get my head around. It was fun! I really enjoyed it. Though Montreal is probably not a place I’m likely to immediately migrate for work or business if the particular insistence on red tape and language requirements. That said, having an office there is certainly an option, should that work be outsourced.