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Springtime in the Laurentians

Take a Canadian road trip through Montreal to the Laurentians.

Traversing the trail to Tremblant from Qu?c's largest city can be a trip into old time values and even prices, it would seem, at least in the often pretty villages along the way. At the end of the route, entering the ski resort of Tremblant itself, you find yourself back in the present in a hurry. It's a shock, after the quaint restaurants, cozy inns and rustic simplicity to stumble into the main square of the resort. Suddenly, you think you're in Disney World, and the charm of the trail is gone. But concentrate on the trip, not the destination, and you'll have fun and feel relaxed.

Driving Directions

From Montr? or its Dorval airport, take Autoroute 15 to Sainte-Agathe, then 117 to Saint-Jovite, and 327 to Mont Tremblant (it's about 75 miles to Mont Tremblant itself, only 90 minutes nonstop).


The Laurentian Mountain Range, a very old grouping and not so tall, is the star of this road trip, and deservedly so. In spring, the hillsides are covered with wild flowers, in summer, with greenery, and in fall, the ever-present maples begin to show their brilliant hues. If you get out of your car and hit the trails, go fishing or just amble through the villages and along the splendid old train route that is now a 120-mile-long hiking and bicycling park (Le P'tit Train du Nord Linear Park), you'll be doing what's best in this part of the world.

There are tons of things for children, one of the best of which is the Mont Saint-Sauveur Parc Aquatique (Aquatic Park), where you can play all day for CDN $26 (US $18.20), less for seniors and kids. It's open from May 29 through September 4 only. Among the facilities are water rafting, tubing, water slides on routes such as the Colorado River, the Turbos, the Spirals, the Tandem River and more, 15 sites in all. 350 Rue Saint-Denis, Saint-Sauveur-des-Monts, Qu?c, Canada J0R 1R3, phone 800/363-2426 or 450/227-4671, e-mail, Web site

In addition, you can find horseback riding, tennis and bicycles for rent in nearly all the towns along the route.

There are dozens of villages in the Lower and Middle Laurentians between Montr? and Tremblant, some pretty, some not. I liked especially Saint-Sauveur and Saint-Jovite, though the old Mont Tremblant Village at the foot of the mountain itself is also attractive. Sainte-Agathe, though crammed with lodgings, shops and restaurants, is not easy on the eyes, and the new Mont Tremblant is a horror of too-big hotels, crowds wandering aimlessly (waiting for the next street performance, mostly), expensive boutiques and higher prices. (The locals blame the latter on Americans, who have bought many condos in the area during the 90s, but Canadian companies such as IntraWest sparked the development of the mountain into what it is today, and own a majority interest in it.) For more information on the prettiest villages, check out the Web site (in French) for info on Saint-Jovite. Call 877/LAVALLE for St.-Sauveur or 819/425-8441 for Saint-Jovite.


If you plan carefully, you can be in this part of the world for the park-organized Tremblant Spring Festival (May 15 to June 20), the Summer Festival (June 21 to September 9) or the "Symphony of Colours," from September 10 through October 31. A highlight of the spring period is Saint-Jovite's Country Festival from May 25 to 28. July alone boasts Canada Day celebrations (July 1), Molson Dry Rock Concerts (July 7 and 8), and the International Blues Festival (July 14-16). From September 30 to October 15 is their Wine & Game Festival. They sell an Outdoor Passport for only CDN $19 (US $13.30), giving you a panoramic gondola ride to and from the summit, plus two other activities of your choice among these: 3-hours' access to La Source Aquaclub, 1 descent on a mountain bike (including bike rental), 1 sunset evening at the summit, 1 round of mini-golf, 2 hours of regular bike rental, 1 hour of in-line skate rental (including protective equipment).

The Tremblant Park is ideal for hiking along nature trails, for swimming, camping (349 sites with facilities, 279 without), canoeing (or kayaking, pedal boating, row boating), fishing (20 lakes), and mountain biking. In the park are the following, all at risk from a conservationist's point of view: wolf, beaver, black bear, white-tailed deer, moose, and a wide variety of birds, especially the Bicknell's Thrush. More information at 88TREMBLANT or 819/681-3000 (Ext. 46642) or at the Web site


If it's a modern hotel you want, with indoor pool and whirlpool, try the Comfort Inn at 860 rue Lalonde, Saint-Jovite, phone 888/429-6006 or 819/429-6000, fax 819/429-6001, Web site From April 16, rooms start at just CDN $66 (US $46.20), including continental breakfast and access to the pool. Children 18 and under share the parents' room free. They have some good packages, too, including spa options, so be sure to ask about them.

Also modern, and a good bet, is the Club de Vacances Tremblant Condos & Hotel at 330 Route 117 in Saint-Jovite, Qu?c, Canada J0T 2H0, phone 800/667-8936 or 819/425-8677, fax 819/425-5547, Web site There are 14 studios here (max. four persons) and 15 duplexes (max. six persons), ranging from CDN $68 (US $47.60) for a studio sleeping two, each with private full bath, kitchenette, fireplace, queen-sized bed, sofa bed, color cable TV and phone. Other facilities include a laundry room, parking, swings, slide, picnic table and grill, indoor pool, sauna, whirlpool, three restaurants (Italian, French and International), and more. Children under 17 stay free with an adult.

Summer rates start at CDN $80 (US $56) per room at the Auberge la Petite Cachee, a bed & breakfast inn, on the main road just near Tremblant. (2681 Chemin Principal, Mont-Tremblant, Qu?c, Canada, JOT 1Z0, phone 866/425-2654 , fax 819/425-6892, e-mail, Web site There are 10 big rooms in this Scandinavian-style inn, each with private complete bathroom. Facilities include an outdoor pool, and some rooms have TV and a balcony with a great view of the mountain.

There are 23 cozy rooms and suites in the little-bit-older Auberge du Lac des Sables, at 230 Rue Saint-Venant, Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Qu?c, Canada J8C 2Z7, phone 800/567-8329 or 819/326-3994, fax 819/326-9159, e-mail, Web site Each is equipped with a private bathroom with whirlpool, and color TV. Some units include a fireplace and a mini kitchen. Rates through June 20 and from September 3 through December 20 for a classic room are CDN $80 (US $56) for a double, breakfast included. Between June 21 and September 2, the rate for the same room goes up to CDN $92 (US $64.40) for a double. The classic rooms include a queen bed or two single beds, a single whirlpool, and most of the rooms have a view on the lake. The auberge is within walking distance of the village and the famous "P'tit Train du Nord" park, the latter a marvelous venue for hiking and cycling.

At the bigger (four floors) and more traditional Auberge Comte de Vatel Inn in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, prices for a regular double room range between CDN $78 and $98 (US $54.60 and $68.60), no breakfast included in off-season (November and early December) and mid-season (March through early July, exception weekends from May onward; and mid-August through October, exception weekends from August through early October). Each room has color TV, private bathroom, double whirlpool, phone and view on the lake. In summer, facilities include a heated swimming pool. There is a year-round restaurant. Activities on the site or nearby include three beaches, four theaters, marina and sailing school, hiking trails, cruises, kayaks, canoes, golf courses (discount), biking trail, and more. Your hosts here are Lise and Claude Fleurent. Phone the inn at 800/363-6478 or 819/326-7016, fax 819/326-7556, e-mail, and Web site

The charming Auberge du Vieux Foyer, halfway between Tremblant and Saint-Sauveur (the latter the prettiest village in the area), charges CDN $83 and up (US $58.10) for its 20 rooms, some with a whirlpool bath. In addition, there are three cottages for hire, and one studio apartment with a fireplace. Rowboats, canoes, pedal boats and 20 courtesy mountain bikes are available, or you can just jump into the outdoor pool and relax. They have a decent restaurant, too. Contact them at 3167, 1er rang Doncaster, Val-David, Qu?c, Canada J0T 2N0, phone 800/567-8327 or 819/322-2686, e-mail, Web site

Near the top of our list is La Roche des Brises, where there are seven beautiful rooms, the price for two people, including a full hot breakfast and a sumptuous three-course dinner, costing CDN $195 (US $136.50). Making that dinner seven courses costs an additional CDN $20 (US $14) for two persons. On the property you can go hiking, putt some golf, visit the orchard, or take in their vineyard across the street. (The wines are very good, too.) Contact Gina Pratt or Jean-Pierre Beslise at 450/472-2722, fax 450/473-5878, Web site The address is 2007 Rue Principale, St-Joseph-du-Lac, Qu?c, Canada J0N 1M0.

Through May (and perhaps through the summer, see below), it's still economical to stay at the fabulous L'Est?l, a year-round resort with 135 rooms. Doubles until then run for only CDN $198 (US $138.60) and up, including a big buffet breakfast and a sumptuous table d'hote dinner. The complex sits on its own 5,000 acres, with three lakes. Indoor facilities include a pool, but outdoors you will find tennis courts, an 18-hole golf course and school, horseback riding, sailing, bicycle rentals, parasailing and water-skiing. There is also a very good restaurant on the premises. Bd. Fridolin-Simard, Est?l, Qu?c, Canada J0T 1E0, phone 888/378-3735 or 514/228-2571, fax 514/228-4977, e-mail, Web site (A note on the rates: since the hotel, like most resorts these days, uses a "yield management" pricing system, there may be rooms available at the same CDN $99 per person rate throughout the high-season summer months, so be sure to ask.)

If you want to rent a fully furnished condo, chalet or cottage, contact Reservations Laurentides, phone 450/227-3535. You can get a two-bedroom apartment for CDN $700 (US $490) a week, sleeping four persons. Since there are four good supermarkets in St.-Sauveur alone, you can shop there and save restaurant costs during your stay.


If you begin or end your trip in Montr? and want a really cheap lunch, try Chinatown, where restaurants on the narrow Rue de la Gauchetierie offer specials from as low as CDN $3.25 (US $2.28, at the Beijing or Chao-Kee), CDN $4.95 (US $3.47, at Le Pavillon Navpic), and up. The CDN $4.95 special at Banh Mi Loang Oanh includes spring roll, main course (choice of 12) and salad or rice, for instance. At Ming Do, 1050 Clark Street, two persons can dine on lobster for CDN $16.95 (US $11.87).

On the trail to Tremblant, dozens of spots in the villages of St.-Sauveur, Val David, Ste.-Agathe and St.-Joviet offer lunches from CDN $6.95, US $4.83 (for pasta dishes), CDN $8.95, US $6.26 (souvlaki) and up, including soup or salad, tea or coffee and dessert. In Val David, La Petite Patate offers breakfast all day from CDN $2.25 (US $1.58) up, sandwiches from CDN $1.70 (US $1.19). They're at 1134 Chemin de la Riviere, phone 819/322-5016, just by the Linear Park.

For marvelous breakfast or lunch pastries, try Boulangerie Page in St.-Sauveur, in business since 1902 (all but the first ten years in the same family), making it the oldest bakery in the region. Fresh-from-the-oven Danishes, croissants and brioche pastries cost just 90 CDN cents apiece (US 56 cents), six for CDN $4.80 (US $3.36). Oatmeal cookies cost CDN $2.37 (US $1.66) for six or 12, depending on size. Just off Chemin Principale, phone 450/227-2632. Closed Mondays.

A highlight lunch or dinner can be had at L'Armorique, a lovely old house on the main street of St.-Sauveur. They're famous for their cr?s and raclette. A ham cr? costs only CDN $3.50 (US $2.45), a small raclette (potatoes, mushrooms, beef, prosciutto, sausages, small onions, pickles, green salad and Swiss raclette cheese) is CDN $8 (US $5.60). Breakfast, including a cr?, yogurt, fresh fruit and choice of coffee or tea, costs just CDN $6.50 (US $4.55). The address is 231 Rue Principale, St.-Sauveur, phone 450/227-0080.

In the new Mont Tremblant is La Grappe a Vin, a cozy spot for lunch or dinner, the latter featuring specials as low as CDN $9 (US $5.60) at lunch (linguini Mediterranean style) or dinner from CDN $18, US $11.20 (linguini with Hungarian chicken). They always offer at least two local (among many) cheeses and have a good selection of wines. The atmosphere is Alpine, the service friendly and the food marvelous. If you're feeling flush, ask for the salmon Kyoto style at CDN $21 (US $14.70), a sensational dish. Contact Claude, Jean or Sylvie at 3005 Chemin Principal, Mont-Tremblant, Qu?c J0T 1Z0, phone 819/681-4727, and e-mail

It's touristy and hokey, but you'll get a taste of how maple syrup is obtained from the trees if you visit La Cabane A Sucre (The Sugar Shack) at 1357 Rue Saint-Faustin, Saint-Faustin-Lac-Carre, Qu?c, Canada J0T 1J3. It's right off Route 117 at the Saint-Faustin exit, and is open year round. If you visit in April, you pay only CDN $14 (US $9.80) for an all-you-can-eat menu, including soup, omelets, ham, beans, potatoes, bread, sausages, pancakes, and more. From May through February, there's a more traditional menu or a special table d'h?te meal costing CDN $25 (US $17.50), that includes a show and a tour. Their phone is 877/688-2101 or 819/688-2101, e-mail, Web site

At the upper limit of our budget dining is La Roche des Brises (see hotels, above), where the Sunday brunch is CDN $19 (US $13.30). Dinners are more expensive, a three-course table d'hote costing from CDN $23.95 (US $16.77) and up.

Final Words

The Canadian dollar remains low when compared to that of the US, making it worth about 70 US cents (the rate we have used here), but subject to fluctuations daily.

Advice for rental car drivers: if you're flying into Montr? to pick up a car, you should note that Air Canada, which has been named "the world's safest airline," has service from 54 different US cities (from corner to corner in the contiguous 48 states, from Seattle to Miami, from San Diego to Portland ME) and connections with United from nearly 100 additional gateways. They have frequent seasonal sales, too, lowering prices considerably from the usual fares. Reservations can be made at 888/247-2262, or go to their Web site,

If you want to get some of your money back, remember that Qu?c is the only province in Canada that permits you to apply for a full refund of both the national and provincial taxes on lodgings when you return home, meaning the 7% GST (federal General Sales Tax) and 7.5% provincial tax. Look for pamphlets describing the refund mechanism when you go through Customs and Immigration on entering Canada.

A bit more on procedures: To get into Canada and return without hassle to the USA, take one of the following as proof of US citizenship: a valid US passport, an original birth certificate or a certified copy of one, or a naturalization certificate.