Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Ici On Parle Français

Bonjour, mes amis. Hello from sunny Quebec. Hubby and I are spending a quiet week at a resort in the Laurentians. Not the glitzy, newer than new, kind of resort. L'Auberge du Lac Morency was originally built in the 1930s, and although the log lodge has been renovated, it still feels vintage. The condos retain that flavour as well, lots of wood beams, and floors. Kind of homey, and not too startlingly modern. We don't generally do "startlingly modern" at home or away. So, Lac Morency is our kind of place.  

An old "Ski the Laurentians" poster
Vintage "Ski the Laurentians" poster


There's a long history of outdoor fun in these parts.The shot below is from a "Ski in the Laurentians" poster used by CN Rail back in the day. In one establishment we saw lots of old photos of skiers on trains in the thirties and forties, their skis and poles bristling from racks behind the seats. Or shots of people removing their skies at the platform in Morin Heights, getting ready to catch the ski train back to Montreal. There are, of course, other winter sports besides skiing. Our resort organizes snowmobile treks and dogsled rides, but we'd rather ski. 

Skiing in the Laurentians back in the day
Vintage photo in the Café De La Gare. Once used to advertise CN Rail.
There are several downhill facilities near by, but Hubby and I gave up downhill skiing years ago. It's an expensive sport, with expensive equipment and long drives from home to ski hills. And when we finally arrive, the hills are usually crowded, and often too fast for me. I was a late starter; I took lessons in my thirties, and finally after a couple of years had a certain amount of confidence on the hills. But only on good days. Give me an icy run, with better and faster skiers whooshing around me, and I totally lose my nerve and have all I can do to get down the hill. We had some fun downhill ski trips to Vermont, or Quebec City... back in the day. But I don't miss it.

These days we prefer cross-country skiing. We can ski practically out our back door at home, for one thing. So skiing can be a two hour endeavour instead of gobbling up one's whole day. Plus we prefer quiet trails with no ski-lifts and few people. And you can't get better exercise than cross-country skiing. It's a good cardio workout, and it works all the major muscle groups, legs and arms.  This trip we've been skiing the trails in the linear park called "Le P'tit Train du Nord." Part of the Trans-Canada Trail, fashioned along abandoned railway beds with over 40 kilometres of groomed trials, this is a great facility. Perfect for us. 

ski trail at Piedmont, on Le P'tit Train du Nord
Perfect snow, perfect -8 C temps, and a mostly sunny day.
Skiers can access the trail in several villages or towns along the route. We've been sampling the trail from a different village each day. In some, the old rail station has been reborn as a shop, or a restaurant. One day, we stopped for coffee after our ski at the Café de la Gare, below, in Sainte-Adèle. Inside is all old wood and vintage pictures of skiers from long ago. Lovely. 

coffee shop at Sainte-Adele, on Le P'tit Train du Nord
Café De La Gare, trailside in Sainte- Adele
After three days of skiing, my knees needed a rest. Not to mention my arms. So, since we'd brought our skates, we drove to the little village of Sainte-Marguerite-du-Lac-Masson to try their outdoor rink. We'd spied it on the way to the ski trail the day before. What a great place. Heated warm-up hut, washrooms, and rubber matting all the way down to the rink. The ice had been recently flooded, so it was smooth and glassy and practically empty. We skated for a while, then I sat on the side-lines, and filmed Hubby as he made a few more circuits. He cringed at the video I posted on Instagram: "Look how slow I'm going, Suz." He looked pretty good to me. But I guess playing hockey all those years gives him a different benchmark than me. Ha. 

Skating at the municipal rink on the lake at Sainte-Marguerite-du-Lac-Masson
Skating in Sainte- Margeurite-du-Lac-Masson

the big chair on Lac Masson
Stu waving from the big, big chair on the rink on Lac Masson
Looks like Sainte-Marguerite-du-Lac-Masson had its own mini-winter carnival the weekend before. They had ice sculptures, an ice castle, and a great ice slide for the kids. It's wonderful that small communities can still put on these events, and that families participate, instead of sitting at home watching netflicks. As kids we skated mostly on outdoor rinks. I remember clearly my first time skating at an indoor facility. The York Arena in Fredericton. It was so darned cold, the term "indoor" must have referred to the fact that it had a roof. But, we thought it was wonderful. There were change rooms (instead of a snow bank), and washrooms, and even a canteen. I still remember the smell of the hotdogs they sold, the taste of the hot chocolate, and the feel of burnt tongue after the first sip. So after our skating the other day, in the spirit of nostalgia, we ate lunch at the local casse croute, or take-out. Casse-Croute Arc-en-Ciel in Piedmont must be a local institution because it was packed. And the hot dog and French fries were worth the extra hour of skiing I'll have to do to burn them off. Ha. I passed on the hot chocolate, though.

Ice sculptures at Sainte-Marguerite-du-Lac-Masson
The ice castle at Sainte-Margeurite-du-Lac-Masson
And just because Hubby and I are burning a lot of calories this week what with all that exercise, don't be fooled, we're not suffering. We're eating well. Very well. We brought provisions from home. Dinner on our first night was my homemade tourtière, with a green salad, my homemade dressing (really simple, just Sicilian lemon balsamic vinegar, and basil olive oil), and Hubby's homemade mustard pickles. You can't have tourtière without pickles. Hubby makes his from an old recipe of my Mum's called "Lady Ashburnham pickles." I love them. And so do many New Brunswickers. Apparently Lady Ashburnham was a Fredericton telephone operator when she met and fell in love with the fifth son of an English earl who'd been banished to the colonies and wasn't supposed to inherit the title, but did. You can read the story yourself, here, if you're interested. 
Homemade Tourtière and fixings
Our dinner brought from home for our first night in our cosy condo
And tonight we're dining in style at the lodge. They have a wonderful table d'hôte. Lots of local favourites, presented in creative ways. The lodge smokes its own salmon, for instance. Yum. So I'll actually be putting on make-up tonight for the first time since we arrived. And appearing in public without my toque. No joke... I have had a serious case of hat head for five straight days. 

Besides all the skiing and skating and eating, we've been reading, and binge watching season two of the Australian television series Rake. Oh my goodness. This is the best series we've seen in years. The "rake" is Cleaver Greene, played by Richard Roxburgh, a dissipated but brilliant Sydney lawyer, and the plots involve the scrapes he and his friends and enemies get into. Lots of government corruption, and bad guys getting their just desserts, eventually, most of the time. So funny, such clever writing. Sometimes we pause the video just to make sure the other person has caught the funny line. We saw season one years ago, but it wasn't until a blog reader mentioned it in a comment that I thought to see if I could find season two. If you don't mind the odd profanity, sometimes lots of profanity, and the occasional glimpse of nudity, you should try it. We roared laughing when at the end of one episode when things did not go his way, Cleaver tossed off the line: "Such is life" with a cheeky grin. Legend has it that "Such is life" were the dying words of the much beloved Aussie bandit Ned Kelly. Now that really is clever. And I felt really smart because I caught the reference. Ha. But only because we immersed ourselves in Aussie culture and history before we visited the first time in 2003. So we know a fair bit about Ned Kelly.  I'll tell you about our Ned Kelly adventure one day. It's pretty funny. 

skier passing us on the trail near Piedmont
More perfect snow, perfect temperatures, and perfect skiing
Now, I must go and get ready for dinner. Hope I can get my eye-liner on straight. I'm kind of out of practice. And what with the wine and the three course meal tonight.... I mean... smoked salmon candies marinated in maple syrup, with horseradish crème fraîche, and watercress... and that's just for starters ... sigh... we'll have to hit the ski trail hard tomorrow. 

Really hard. 

You should see the dessert menu.




So, while we've been skiing and eating and practicing our very bad French here in "La Belle Province" ... what have you been up to my friends?




Two Traveling Texans


Linking up with Thursday Favourites at Katherine's Corner  and Saturday Share at Not Dressed as Lamb

43 comments:

  1. I'm making a note of this. Years ago, I decided we had to get to Le Petit Train du Nord country to do some biking on easy trails with lots of places to stop for good food. But I'd love to cross-country ski there instead/as well. We haven't got our skis out for years, but it's such good exercise and good for the spirits as well, the crisp outdoors, the beautiful landscapes. . . Decades ago, we spent a few days, just after New Year's, at Montebello -- have you ever been to that gorgeous CN resort -- the huge, four-sided fireplace that I remember sitting beside with my knitting when I took a break from skiing (we could put the skis on in our room and head right out the door. . . plus there's a splendid heated swimming pool in a huge atrium, so you're surrounded by snow and stars when swimming in it at night. I loved it! And not so far from where you are. . .

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    1. You and Paul would love Le P'tit Train du Nord as a ski facility. There also had those "fat bikes" to rent at one village. Our dinner at the restaurant here at Auberge Lac Morency was fabulous. And everyone who has sold us ski tickets, or served us a beer has been super friendly.
      I've never been to Montebello, but Stu attended a Phys Ed P.D. Day there years ago. He also says it's really lovely.

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  2. It sounds like a wonderful vacation! We're getting ready to go to the Colorado Rockies for a week of downhill skiing. How many more years of this we have in us, I'm not sure. But we take it easy, and I stick to mostly the green runs. Hope you enjoy that yummy-sounding dinner!

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    1. Our dinner was wonderful. Very French Canadian. Hope you enjoy your ski holiday as well. I was such a late starter at down-hill skiing that it never became natural to me. So by mid-afternoon I'd always find myself on a run that was a notch or two above my comfort level. Once I was tired my legs seemed to forget what to do.

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  3. Sounds so beautiful and so clearing of the heart.

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    1. It was, Lisa, Clearing of the head and the heart.

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  4. What a wonderful week you are having. The Laurentians are really beautiful at any time of the year. I think the fall is my favourite because of the colours of the leaves. Cross country skiing is something that I sometimes miss. I love the quiet of the trails. Francis mentioned Montebello. That many sided fireplace in that gorgeous lodge is truly something to behold. All really good memories.
    Ali

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    1. I find cross-country skiing as good for the head as canoeing. And it's such great exercise. Now I really must go to Montebello to see what I've been missing. It's very close to Ottawa, too.

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  5. This looks such fun. I bet it's good for abdominals too, the skiing not the eating. Fascinating place. I wonder whether skiing was a make dominated hobby in the 30s.

    http://www.muttonstyle.com

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    1. No... The eating is definitely NOT good for the abdominals. Especially those French fries. Lots of the vintage photos had both men and women in them, so I think it was not a male dominated sport. At least at the recreational level.

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  6. Leslie in Oregon1 February 2018 at 04:19

    Your winter holiday sounds absolutely wonderful to me! Looking forward to more stories about it, Leslie

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  7. Such an interesting post . I love to learn about new places I’ve not heard of before & that looks perfect to me . Lovely scenery , pure white snow , no crowds & a touch of thirties glamour . Your Instagram of Stu skating was pretty impressive , especially to someone like me who only tried skating once many years ago & spent the hour clinging to the barrier of the indoor rink . Not much skating done here & the nearest skiing is northern Scotland but many of our abandoned railway tracks are now cycle & foot paths . I was hoping for a photo of Stu skating at four years old ? Enjoy the rest of your trip
    Wendy in York

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    1. We love it here because it's not at all "high profile." Not too far away there are big down-hill ski areas which are very impressive, with Eurpoean-style "villages" with condos and high end shops. Not our style. Too Disney-fied for us. Maybe if we had teenage kids and that's what they wanted, we'd be there. But I doubt it. Now who's sounding like a curmudgeon???
      P.S. I do have a shot of Stu at age 5 or 6 with all his hockey gear on.

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  8. Hi Sue
    Sounds like a great trip! Homemade tourtière ... so delish!
    I've not tried cross country skiing and it's been years since I've put on ice skates. It's so nice when you can ski from your back door.
    I can remember my father teaching me how to skate at the school rink. Then spending many a Fridays nights at the Arena skating. Young teen entertainment. Those were the days when your parents allowed you to walk at night with a group of friends. Ha!
    Robin

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    1. We always had an outdoor school rink too. We'd skate at recess and noon hour and sometimes our teachers would bring their classes out to skate for a period. And we'd get on crowded school buses with our lunch buckets, our book bags and skates tied together by their laces slung over our shoulders. Today we'd be a health hazard. The bad/good old days, eh?

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  9. Quebec! What fun! (You guys are such adventurers...)

    Now... How about the poutine?

    ��

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    1. Ha. Poutine was definitely in evidence at the casse croute. But we demurred... French fries and hot dogs are bad enough when you're trying to eat a heart healthy diet. Poutine is a few ounces of fat too far. Ha.

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  10. We too gave up downhill skiing and have started cross country skiing since moving to Prince George a couple of years ago. Our Nordic Centre is 15 minutes from home and provides Monday afternoon lessons and tours for the 55+ demographic. What a wonderful way to be introduced to this healthy outdoor activity. They have dog trails too!
    Now, if I could only find a half decent tortiere to finish off our afternoon of skiing.

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    1. Cross-country skiing is so accessible, and so good for us. I remember my students would perk up their ears if they heard that I'd gone skiing on the weekend, and moan if I said it was cross-country... "So boring, Miss." "Well.... Until you try to go downhill on a narrow trail, with a turn at the bottom and no edges on your skis," I'd always say. Not that I do that anymore either!

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  11. Your get-away sounds perfect. We haven't crossed country skied for quite a few years, last time up at Mount Washington and it was great. We have had a lot of rain here (and that is saying something for Vancouver) so an escape to snow country is wonderful! And yum-yum to your dinners, enjoy!
    Thanks for letting us vicariously join in! Suz from Vancouver

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    1. Thanks, Suz. Lovely snow this time of year is so much cheerier than rain. At least we have the bright sunny days. Although the process of spring is much more messy.

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  12. This seems perfect to me!
    And your Hubby's skating looks so natural,like breathing
    Enjoy
    Dottoressa

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    1. Hubby says he's much more sure-footed on skates than in boots. Comes from a lifetime of skating.

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  13. Oh, Susan -- I SO hope I was the one who brought "Rake" (and the astonishing Cleaver Greene) to your attention! I have been recommending that Netflix bombshell to everyone I know IRL and online.

    And your cross-skiing holiday has put this destination on my bucket list. I, too, am a much better cross-country skier than a downhill one. Although that's not saying much.

    So happy to learn about this new (to me) locale. Makes me happy just to imagine being there. Enjoy!

    Ann in Missouri

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    1. It was you, Ann, who reminded me of Rake. We watched the first season a while ago, and when I tried to find the second season it didn't seem to be on anyone's radar. Then when you mentioned it, I looked to see if our library had it and it did! Wonders never cease. So we've watched season 2 and I'm on the list for season 3.
      Stu and I tried to pinpoint why we like it so much. The clever writing, of course. The actors, of course. But the deft hand of the writers and directors at presenting material that could be really offensive and yet isn't, is just brilliant. At least in my humble opinion.
      Happy that you enjoyed the post. You've been on my mind lately.

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  14. I stopped skiing after my second trip to the emergency room. 1. for a concussion ( I was too aggressive of a skier and tried to do some fast downhilling in the fog) 2. I tore my ACL on a blck line run. It had been groomed the day before so I thought it would be perfect. Nope. I did not want a third trip to the emergency room. Rake, I loved it. I ordered more seasons from Austrailia and of course discovered that it would not play on American machines. Rats. As you said. Charming writing and directing. You might try Gorilla. Thats a good series.

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    1. You sound like a very brave skier, Sandra. I managed to ski black runs the last couple of years we skied. But only sometime after I'd warmed up and before I was tired. I lost my confidence easily in the afternoon.
      P.S. We got our season 2 and 3 of Rake from our library. I was surprised to find
      they had it.
      P.P.S. Almost made that mistake when we were in the UK in 2005, until a friendly shop owner told me that UK DVD's would not play in North American machines. Most kind of her I thought.

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  15. I have never skied, mostly because I dislike speed, sliding, heights and ice so have realised it would never be for me. Tobogganing, yes. And I suspect I might enjoy the cross-country version. Neither have I tried tourtiere but have a hunch it might be up my black run, so to speak. Pie Night chez nous ce soir. Bon weekend!

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  16. Hi Sue, thanks for sharing your trip here and on Instagram ... great to see Stu skating. I used to love ice skating ... I guess I first went to a rink when I was about 8 or 9. Haven’t been for years though. I think the last time was about sixteen years ago, when we took the family to a rink in Sweden. My son was about 4 and had a really cute push along penguin to help steady him! I must add, that although I can stay upright, I’m no where near in Stu’s league!! :) I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being out and about vicariously with you in the snow, definitely my sort of place! I’ve enjoyed all the great food too! You’ve obviously had a wonderful time there ... I guess it’s a place that’s hard to leave when it’s time to come home.
    Enjoy the rest of your time there.
    I’m on my phone and having problems again, so in the end decided to comment as anonymous!
    Rosie

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    1. It's fun to see the little ones as they wobble around the rink... only very slightly more wobbly than me. But I'm getting a bit better each season. It seemed silly to me not to take up skating again. What with the canal here in Ottawa and all the public skating at arenas near us.

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  17. Having never done a snowy holiday until this year, I have to say I'm a convert. So much activity!

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    1. A snow holiday is a lot of fun. And the exercise in the fresh air feels wonderful.

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  18. WOW, you guys are definitely burning all the calories in all the best possible ways. (Is it bad that the food + wine looks the most appealing to me right now?? lol) My sister has just recently taken up cross-country skiing, so I'll be interested to hear more about how she likes it. I feel like I would be terrible at it based on my previous experience with skies on my feet, lol! I love the snow sculptures at the entrance to the ice rink - people are so creative! #TheWeeklyPostcard

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    1. Ha. Not at all. Exercise is the best way to guilt free tourtiere and red wine:)

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  19. Glad to hear you had a good time. All the snow is beautiful but it looks so cold. I just got back from a quick trip to Scotland. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

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    1. Loved Scotland when we were there a few years ago. Hope you had a great time. I enjoyed your Holyrood post.

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  20. Looks beautiful and sounds like a lovely break. I have never been skiing. What do you put inside a tourtiere? Very educational post for me! Iris

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    1. Tourtiere has a mix of ground beef and pork, onions, grated potatoes, and lots of spices, sage, thyme, garlic, etc. We drain the fat from our cooked meat and add salt free beef broth to make it healthier but keep the savoury taste.

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  21. I would love to hear how you dress for cross country skiing. I know you have to layer and don't want to have too much puffiness so you can move easily. I am wanting to buy some things but I'm not sure what to take if my husband and I go (we're from the South). Thanks for your great articles!

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    1. Layering is key for cross-country skiing. I always wear several layers depending on temperatures. On the bottom, I start with a thin base-layer consisting of long underwear bottoms. My ski pants have a shiny interior and break the wind so I only wear the two layers on the bottom. On the top I wear a base-layer light turtleneck, and over that another turtleneck with a loose neck that is smooth on the outside and fleecy on the inside. It's made by Columbia and is really great. Lightweight and very warm. Then I wear a light Gortex jacket. If it's below -10 C I usually wear another light zippered fleece under my jacket. Base layers, by the way are lightweight but should help to wick perspiration away from the body. My sweaters always feel lighter than they perform. The other thing that's become important for me in the past few years are hand-warmers. My hands always get cold in the first 30 minutes without them, even with two layers of gloves/mitts. So I stick a hand-warmer in each exterior mitten and that really helps. After a half hour or so I don't need them so just stick them in my pocket. You can buy them at any outfitter store for a buck or so. They are worth it!

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  22. That was very helpful. I definitely need to buy some good lightweight pants and jacket. Maybe There will be some good sales soon too! Thank you. -Alice



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All comments, ideas, commiserations, questions, complaints... are most welcome.