I get weirdly excited about staying in hotels. Waking up in a comfortable room, watching all of the TV I want and relaxing in a new place is like Christmas morning for me. I don't understand people who find staying in hotels stressful or even boring. When my husband had a conference day at Mont Tremblant a few weeks ago, I suggested we stay overnight and turn his work day into an excuse for a mini getaway. The whole week leading up to it I was so excited to go and stay in a hotel overnight because somehow that's exciting to me. Maybe it's a sign I need a real vacation? I don't know. It was another destination near Ottawa to check off the road trip list.
Mont Tremblant is a village in Quebec about an hour or so from Montreal and an hour and a half from Ottawa. Well, Mont Tremblant is the village and Mont Tremblant ski resort is at the foot of Mont Tremblant mountain. The only other time I had heard about Mont Tremblant was from stories I heard about wild ski trips there in high school and University. I guess I never went on any of those crazy bus trips because this was my first time going.
I dropped my husband off at the conference centre he was going to in the morning and was ready for a day of exploring. After a coffee and croissant in the village at Au Grain de Cafe I was all set to take a hike, practice my putting or going up the gondola. Then it started pouring rain. After layering up to stay warm, I thought "Great. Now what am I supposed to do all day? Do I sit in my car all morning listening to the radio (which I did for awhile) or find something entertaining indoors?" Any tourist attraction worth their weight in gold has a rainy day alternative to keep people happy when the weather doesn't cooperate. For me, it was painting pottery at Le Studio Creatif. I picked out a mini trailer piggy bank out of the shelves of possible mugs, plates, bowls and keepsakes.
You are allowed to pick out 5 colours to paint on your chosen piece. Then you pay $10 each hour you sit and paint, on top of the cost of the pottery itself. After you're finished painting, you leave the piece there overnight so they can fire and gloss it and it is ready the next morning for pick up. Even though I picked out one of the pricier pieces, for a few hours of entertainment and something to keep at the end, I didn't mind spending a little more money. I enjoyed the time I spent concentrating on something creative and painting layer after layer to create a smooth, even coloured finish. The finished product:
By the time I finished painting to avoid the rain and grabbed a bite of lunch, it was almost time to check in to our hotel. We stayed in a deluxe room at the Holiday Inn Express. Before you go hating on the Holiday Inn, it was one of the cheaper options at Mont Tremblant where prices can skyrocket depending on the season. I didn't only pick it because of the price. It seemed to have one of the most central locations in the village to everything. You take three steps out of the door and you are at the base of the gondola and a two minute walk to coffee and restaurants.
The room itself was spacious with a nice view overlooking the pool. Included in the price was a free gondola pass, a round of mini golf and a decent breakfast. When I book hotels I look for prime location, good bed, clean room and some breakfast, and this one checked all of those boxes for under $200 a night. The only thing I would caution is that it is a busy hotel with many families and tour groups, even in September, so the crowds and noise levels in the lobby, hallways and breakfast area are something you can't avoid.
Going to Quebec means watching television in French, like tuning into some "Parts Unknown" dubbed in French over Anthony Bourdain's voice. I relaxed for a little while and then picked my husband up at the end of his day. Then it was time to decide where to go for dinner. We walked around the village to check out the options and ended up splitting a pitcher of sangria on one of the outdoor patios overlooking the main square.
To be honest, I wasn't overly impressed with the restaurant selection. The advertisements claim there are more than 40 restaurants of different cuisines in the village from sushi to classic French to steakhouses. I can see the appeal if you have been skiing all day and want a quick bite. For a romantic night, there are not that many fancy options or anything different than a resto-pub. We ended up settling on Pizzateria for dinner, which was exactly how it sounds.
When it comes to things to do at Mont Tremblant, the list is never ending. With some resorts, you run out of activities after a day. Although it was fall in Tremblant--and not ski season--there were still plenty of things to do for all ages. There are 11 hiking trains ranging from 1 km to 11 kms, bike rentals to bike cross country and for mountain biking, ziplining above the forest on a 5 line trail, river cruising on Lac Tremblant and of course shopping and the casino. For kids there is luging, mini golf, climbing towers, horseback riding and more.
What I didn't know was that there is a mini gondola that goes from the bottom of the village to the top near the base of the panoramic gondola. So you basically take a gondola to get to another gondola. We saved our tickets for the panoramic gondola for the Saturday we were there. Someone who is afraid of heights like me can still enjoy the thrill of zipping up a mountain in a glass bubble with 360 degree views of the scenery. You can look down and see the trees, fall colours and all of the those hikers who decided hiking the mountain was a good idea and are regretting their decision half way up.
The Laurentian Mountains are one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world. As you look out on the spectacular vistas, you see about 100 million years of history. The elevation is about 3,862 ft. It is obvious why Mont Tremblant rivals Whistler as one of the best skiing destinations in Canada. The surrounding lakes, such as Lac Mercier and Lac Tremblant are also picture perfect dots along the vista. Sitting and enjoying the view is an activity in itself, as well as taking selfies.
I would love to go back in the winter and try out some of the easier ski hills. Seeing the steepness of the mountain in the summer, I wonder what some of the more difficult ski hills are like in the winter. After the gondola ride, we figured we should use the free mini golf passes from the hotel and played 18 holes of mini golf along with almost every other kid there that day. I still love playing mini golf any chance I get. Then we headed back to Ottawa in the afternoon and our mini getaway was over. Don't underestimate fall as a good time to book a getaway. The rooms were cheaper and although there were still crowds, there probably weren't as many people as there were in the prime summer or winter months.
I thought I would get bored exploring the village by myself on the first day. Exploring alone can be fun sometimes too and it takes you down unexpected paths, like painting pottery. You never regret traveling. No one is ever like "I wish I didn't take that vacation" (unless your credit card says otherwise). So take some time to see some different scenery, get outside, carve out some alone time and also spend time with a loved one.