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In & Around /Volume 1 /Issue 42

October 20, 2016
This Week:
The Great Pumpkin Ball in Montréal’s Botanical Garden
Aquarium du Québec in Québec City

IN: Botanical Garden’s Great Pumpkin Ball

With this weekend’s less-than-awesome weather, I thought I’d send you into the outdoors… indoors. Once again, the Botanical Garden is putting on their Great Pumpkin Ball featuring unique pumpkin creations created by Montrealers of all ages. You can begin your visit experiencing the regular indoor garden (which takes you through myriad environments so it really does feel like you’re outside), and continue on through to the pumpkin design showcases, Esmerelda the Witch’s storytelling and a 1,300 pound behemoth of a pumpkin. The feeling of being outdoors during a “weather-challenged” weekend coupled with the cute and awesome pumpkin designs is a great way to spend an afternoon. 

Great Pumpkin Ball

The Good: 

  1. As always, getting to the Botanical Garden without a car is a breeze. Since biking anywhere this weekend doesn’t look like it will be too much fun, grab the metro and you’ll pop out right there.
  2. They’ve got a Little Monsters Courtyard set up to entertain the wee ones under the age of ten with mazes, shaky bridge, tunnels and other fun things. 
  3. Pépo will be putting on his final show after a 23 year run. Heads up – the show is intended for kids aged 4-8, is free, and in French only.

The Bad:

  1. Tickets for a family of four will set you back $27.00. That’s not horrible, but I put it here because, if you’re like me, you may get sucked into their gift shop and spend an equal amount on a plant afterwards.
  2. This sounds silly, but keep a handle on your wee ones in the cactus room. Danger, danger. For real.
  3. If you do drive, parking is $12.00. That is less than great.

The Useful:

  1. The Great Pumpkin Ball, 4101 Sherbrooke St East, 514-872-1400.
  2. Official Website (and more info on the Little Monsters Courtyard)
  3. Another nice little video from the Botanical Garden’s people summarizing this cool event.

Pro Tip:

  • Your ticket also grants you access to the grounds outside (in case the rain holds off) and the Gardens of Light. I suggest heading to The Great Pumpkin Ball a little later in the day if you want to take advantage of the Gardens of Light (they really shine after sundown).

AROUND: Québec City’s Aquarium du Québec

Again, with Mother Nature planning what she’s planning this weekend, the Aquarium du Québec is a great way to experience the nature & the outdoors… indoors. Focusing on the water life of the St Lawrence River and coastal eastern Canada, the outdoor installations include some amazing swimming polar bears, walruses, seals, arctic foxes, while the indoor space allows you to touch starfish, sea urchins and rays! And not to be outdone, the jellyfish light show is a total jaw dropper. The movement of these wonderful creatures within their enclosures, to the eye-popping ever changing colour display, is truly something to see. 

Aquarium du Québec

The Good:

  1. If you don’t pack yourself a lunch, the food here is surprisingly not exorbitant. 
  2. There are a few good pricing options depending on your group/family make up. 
  3. Nemo and Dory are here. You can’t touch them, but you CAN touch the rays.

The Bad:

  1. The underwater tunnel is pretty disappointing for something that can be so cool. It’s short, shallow and doesn’t have the WOW factor I was expecting.
  2. If it’s still there, don’t pay the money to try out their “special wind machine”. Better to just toss your $2 in the sewer.
  3. Driving to Québec City is boring. Very boring. There’s no way around it… 

The Useful:

Pro Tip:

  • Although Québec City is an easy day-trip from Montréal, if you end up staying the night, and the weather remains wet & cold, do yourself the favour of visiting their Musée de Civilization. You will not be disappointed.

“Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.”
– May Sarton | b. 1912 | American Poet & Novelist

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In & Around /Volume 1 /Issue 41

October 13, 2016
This Week:
Parc-nature de l’Île-de-la-Visitation in Montréal
Parc Régional des Chutes Monte-à-Peine-et-des-Dalles in Saint-Jean-de-Matha

IN: Montréal’s Parc-nature de l’Île-de-la-Visitation

It’s been said many times before, but this really is one of Montréal’s hidden gems. Birds galore, a hydro dam waterfall and historical buildings complement the natural beauty of this park. If you want to get back in touch with our surrounding waterways, take a nice stroll along the river and relax with a packed-in picnic lunch, then the Parc-nature de l’Île-de-la-Visitation is perfect for you. While activities & beauty abound all year round, at this time of year you’ll find lots of space, beautiful colours and calming nature enveloping you as you meander along the 9km of walking trails. One spot you absolutely cannot miss is the viewpoint over the hydro dam. You are (almost) literally standing over the waterfalls of the dam and it’s pretty awesome. Also, feel free to bring a frisbee while you’re at it for a little mid-walk break – trust me, you’ll be glad you did! 

Île de la Visitation

The Good: 

  1. Since you’re still on the island, public transit is a breeze.
  2. Everywhere in the park, you are always “oh-so-close” to the water and, well, that’s cool.
  3. There are a couple of footbridges to connect you from the mainland to the island and vice versa – kind of nice to see the river from different viewpoints.

The Bad:

  1. When in the eastern reaches of the park, it can feel a little less “wild”.
  2. Heads up for rollerbladers and cyclists – the park is part of a much larger network and you can get some speedsters in there.
  3. Perhaps it’s unrealistic with the dam so close by but I’d love to rent, and then drop a kayak in the water here. 

The Useful:

  1. Parc-nature de l’Île-de-la-Visitation, 2425 boul. Gouin Est, 514-280-6733.
  2. Official Website (and a direct link to the very good trailmap).
  3. The nearby Paroisse La Visitation-de-la-Bienheureuse-Vierge-Marie is the oldest Catholic church in Montréal (built of fieldstone circa 1750).

Pro Tip:

  • Avoid paying for parking and just poke around the neighbourhood to find a free spot to park on the street.

AROUND: Saint-Jean-de-Matha’s Parc Régional des Chutes Monte-à-Peine-et-des-Dalles

This is your last weekend to visit the (very long windedly named) Parc Régional des Chutes Monte-à-Peine-et-des-Dalles as it will close up until next Spring this coming Sunday at 6:00pm. With the fall colours hitting their peak right about now, this should be a stellar weekend to visit the park as well. Saturday looks downright glorious (temps in the teens with nothin’ but sun!), while Sunday looks alright in the AM, turning a little nasty in the PM so I would suggest getting out here Saturday, bright and early for the crisp autumn glory. We chose the St-Jean-de-Matha entrance (the park is managed by the 3 municipalities that its 300 hectares cover) and I’d recommend it without hesitation. The trail combo we chose (blend of trails 1, 2 & 8) brought us right out onto a beautiful bridge that spans the Rivière l’Assomption to give you a glorious panoramic of the very impressive Chute Monte-à-Peine. What a great way to start your hike! We then continued up river along the path for more glorious views, rushing river sounds, wonderful forests and finally to the next waterfall, Chute Desjardins. This second waterfall is smaller, calmer and and a wonderful spot to hop onto trail #2. There are 18km of trails here so you have your choice when it comes to what trail combo you choose. Although trail #8 is short, I recommend it for its outlet that plops you right into the river (if you so choose). As well, for you francophone television buffs out there, this area was used for the filming of «Les Belles Histoires des pays d’en haut» in the 1960’s… so keep your eye out for Pit Caribou!

Chute Mont-à-Peine

The Good:

  1. The park is close to Montréal and its trails are very well maintained – two things that make it great for kids I’d say!
  2. Since there are three entry points, each with a bathroom & ample parking, you won’t find any aggravation when it comes to parking and setting out quickly. 
  3. Toe-dipping opportunities are endless as you will find yourself riverside more often than not.

The Bad:

  1. The trail we chose was, for the most part, pretty flat, along the river, so we didn’t get much leg burn (some might see that as a Good actually 🙂
  2. You’ll find a few risky approaches to some riverside rapids – heads up with kids!
  3. At $7.50/adults, a car full of boundless adults will set you back ~ $30.00.

The Useful:

  • Parc Régional des Chutes Monte-à-Peine-et-des-Dalles, 440 Rang Sainte Louise O, 1-450-883-6060.
  • Official Website (and direct link to the trailmap).
  • Although you might be chilly, there are a plethora of places to take a dip. If not this weekend, then make a mental note of the ones you love for when you return next summer.

Pro Tip:

  • If you’re into it, the park also has 6 geocaching locations throughout. So head to your favourite Geocaching website, or maybe this one, and search away!

“It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.”
– Robert Louis Stevenson | b. 1850 | Scottish Novelist

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In & Around /Volume 1 /Issue 40

October 6, 2016
This Week:
Food Truck Friday at Parc olympique de Montréal
Fall Foliage in St-Donat

IN: Parc olympique de Montréal’s Food Truck Friday

The first Friday of every month (warm-ish weather months that is) is Food Truck Friday at the Esplanade Sun Life, on the grounds of the Big O. With Thanksgiving around the corner, and with our eyes set on stuffing ourselves silly, what better way to kick off the long weekend than to eat your way through a plethora of food trucks? This event has grown considerably over the years and pretty much every food truck in Montréal is now taking part. There are more than 30 trucks to visit, and literally every type of food for every type of palette. You can also enjoy some fine imported wines, craft beer and a multitude of child-friendly beverages. As well, you’ll have local DJs spinning your favourite Friday night music, and street performers entertaining your children whilst you gorge yourself. All of this glory, right downtown, outside under the early evening skies of Montréal. So get outside while you can and enjoy sweater weather at its finest (just be sure to bring a bib if you prefer your sweater… unstained).

Food Truck Friday

The Good: 

  1. Entry is free so you have total control over how gluttonous you get, both from a food standpoint and from a money standpoint.
  2. We’re in store for glorious weather tomorrow for this, the last Food Truck Friday of the year.
  3. The vibe here is always good, chill, amicable and “here-to-have-fun” so you will very likely make some new friends this weekend!

The Bad:

  1. If you do end up here for a few meals, it can hit your wallet pretty hard. I’d suggest either eating a little something before you go or, better yet, just go for it – it’s the last one of the year!
  2. The line ups at the uber popular trucks can get quite long at peak hours.
  3. If it does rain (it’s not supposed to), there’s not a whole lot of coverage for you to avoid getting soaked.

The Useful:

  1. Premiers Vendredis, 4141 Ave. Pierre-de-Coubertin (Metro Pie-IX), 514-659-6959.
  2. Official Website (and a link to Esplanade Sun Life’s calendar of events)
  3. Narcity’s rundown of the top 14 food trucks.

Pro Tip:

  • Here’s your circuit: Grumman ’78 for a taco appetizer, Le Smoking BBQ Truck for your pulled pork poutine main, and finish yourself off with a chocolate cheese cake ice cream from Le Cheese. Or make your own.

AROUND: St-Donat’s Symphony of Colours

Québec’s annual autumn explosion of colour is here! Although the fall foliage season is coming to a close, you have plenty of time this weekend to get outside for some awesome autumn while you can! Most signs point to this weekend being the last to take advantage of this stunning, natural beauty in and around Montréal. To cap the foliage season, the town of St-Donat is closing out their annual Symphony of Colours this weekend so there’s plenty of activities to augment your leaf-peeping including chairlift rides, kids activities and tastes of local cuisine. Now, to really hammer home my recommendation for this region, and to fully engulf yourself in the region’s explosion of colour, I urge you to make your way to St-Donat via Chemin Nordet. You’ll cruise up and down through the valley surrounded by mountains of the Laurentians & Lanaudière on a beautiful, new, smooth 2 lane road (potentially the best road in Québec in my opinion). 

St Donat Fall Foliage

The Good:

  1. Aside from the cost of gas, this activity can be totally free. You just need your eyeballs… and time.
  2. This weekend the chairlifts at Mont-Garceau will be open ($5-$10) so you can ride to the top and take in some breathtaking views with minimal uphill effort.
  3. It’s going to be a gloriously sunny weekend!

The Bad:

  1. The hot weather we’re experiencing right now will drop considerably this weekend (10°C-14°C).
  2. This being Thanksgiving weekend, you should assume that there will be some heavy traffic moving in and out of the region. 
  3. Although this activity is technically outside, there’s the chance that you spend most of your time in your car. You’ll have to make a little extra effort to leave the comfort of your car, get out and get moving!

The Useful:

Pro Tip:

  • If you’re more into other regions of Québec to get your leaf-peeping on, check this link for more details on other regions’ fall foliage events. Also, if you’re without automobile and you still want to take part in fall foliage fun & festivities, the CRT Lanaudière (circuit 125) can get you there!

“Woodland in full color is awesome as a forest fire, in magnitude at least, but a single tree is like a dancing tongue of flame to warm the heart.”
– Hal Borland | b. 1900 | American Author & Naturalist

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In & Around /Volume 1 /Issue 39

September 29, 2016
This Week:
Gardens of Lights in Montréal’s Botanical Garden
Apple Picking at Petch Orchards in Hemmingford

IN: Botanical Garden’s Gardens of Lights

Still in the midst of renovations to the Chinese gardens, the annual Gardens of Lights returns for another awesome storytelling experience using lanterns designed in Montréal, and handmade in China. What began with humble beginnings in 1992 quickly rose to the top of Montréalers must-see events year after year. This year is no different and next year will be even better (the renovations will be finished and the First Nations Garden will join the fun as well). About 1,000 lanterns, alongside projections and atmospheric lighting, will bring to life this year’s theme: Son of Heaven, the Chinese Emperor. Sunday is supposed to be so-so on the weather front, so I recommend hitting it tonight, tomorrow or perhaps Saturday. Give yourself a couple of hours to really immerse yourself in the full experience.

Gardens of Light

The Good: 

  1. Public transportation is a breeze and you’ll emerge from the metro or bus right into an outdoor, beautiful, natural realm!
  2. This is really something unique, and magical for humans of all ages.
  3. If you so choose, you can enjoy a special relaxation moment with traditional Japanese treats and tea.

The Bad:

  1. There’s still some construction around the area (of course) so if you drive, it will be annoying (here’s a helpful link to get around the orange cones).
  2. They close up shop at 9pm and the best time to see this, obviously, is at night… so if you’re only able to get there at 8pm or so, you may feel rushed.
  3. The Gardens of Light receives over 230,000 visitors each year… she gets busy!

The Useful:

  1. Gardens of Light, 4101 Sherbrooke St East, 514-872-1400.
  2. Official Website (avoid the line, buy your tickets online here).
  3. A sweet little video that captures the magic quite well.

Pro Tip:

  • If you’re going with a baby, moving about the Gardens of Light is much easier with the wee one in a baby carrier versus a stroller.

AROUND: Hemmingford’s Petch Orchards

As the weather turns a little more crisp, and your tastebuds start turning towards turkey and apple pie, I invite you to revel in my favourite season by supporting a local orchard (Les Vergers Petch Orchards) and helping those less fortunate (Core Care Foundation). My family has frequented Tim & Pamela’s orchard for as long as I can remember and I cannot recommend them, and their orchard, enough. Along with every variety of apple you could possibly want, you’ll also find pears, pumpkins, a petting farm and, weather-cooperating, a brisket cookout and corn maze! Also, for a few years now, Core Care Foundation has set up shop at Petch to promote their cause – helping the homeless eat healthy, fresh fruit. This year, Core Care won’t be on site but I’d still like to spread their message and encourage you to do one simple thing while you pick apples this autumn (regardless of the orchard you choose): Buy one extra bag to fill up (or many if you prefer), spend a little extra time with your loved ones choosing some lovely ripe apples for this extra bag, then take a moment out of your life to drop that bag off at a local shelter. For the past four years, Core Care has chosen the Old Brewery Mission as their main drop off point but as long as the fresh fruit is going to a good cause, that’s all that counts. Spread the word, enjoy the outdoors with your loved ones, support local business and help the homeless!

Petch Orchards

The Good:

  1. You’ll be supporting a long-standing family-run business, and helping others in need.
  2. Petch also has a small shop where you can purchase fresh baked goodies, coffee and other glorious items for your bellies.
  3. Oh… and don’t forget the new cider products that Petch now produces – Pomi Verde! 

The Bad:

  1. Part of the charm of Petch is the fact that it’s a small family-run orchard… as a result you won’t find as many child-distracting/occupying elements that you might be seeking (shows, pony rides, amusement park like installations, etc).
  2. The drive from Montréal to Hemmingford is painfully dull if you cruise down the 15 (as Google instructs). I encourage you to find an alternate route on smaller roads that have a more personality.
  3. On the busy weekends, parking can be a bit of a hassle since it’s a small orchard.

The Useful:

Pro Tip:

  • You may not be aware, but there is an artform to picking an apple from a tree. You should roll the apple upwards off the branch and give it a little twist. If it pops off, it’s ripe and ready for your mouth hole. If it doesn’t come off, it’s not yet ready and should be left to ripen for a future picker person.

“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach of us more than we can ever learn from books.”
– John Lubbock | b. 1834 | English Baron

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In & Around /Volume1 /Issue 38

September 22, 2016
This Week:
Morgan Arboretum in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue
Beau’s Oktoberfest in Vankleek Hill, Ontario

IN: Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue’s Morgan Arboretum

I have been frequenting the Morgan Arboretum for most of my life. I used to spend hours upon hours here with my dogs, with friends & family, or alone with my thoughts. At the Morgan Arboretum, you will find like-minded people out to enjoy an unspoiled corner of Montréal, with only nature in their sights. The Morgan Arboretum is a 245 hectare forested reserve owned by McGill and cared for by countless volunteers. Here you will find 30 species of mammals, 20 species of reptiles and amphibians, and over 170 species of migratory and overwintering birds (for the Birders among us). But most importantly you will find peace of mind and glorious nature at its soul-refreshing best.

Morgan Arboretum

The Good: 

  1. The Arboretum has been created, and curated, to be “au natural”. It really feels like you have stumbled into a wild forest.
  2. Ok, it’s not free, but it’s cheap, and the money goes directly to the care and maintenance of this wonderful oasis. I’m good spending money at places like this.
  3. While it is on the edge of the island, it is still reachable by public transit. You can take a bus (the 419) to within 10 minutes (walking) of the Arboretum. Depending on where you begin your public transit journey, that may not be

The Bad:

  1. The weather is supposed to be gloriously anti-mosquito this weekend but this place is known for its ferocious insects. Bring some spray just in case.
  2. Tics are a thing here. Wear long pants.
  3. You used to be able to let your dog run wild off leash, but not any more. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, I just miss that is all.

The Useful:

  1. Morgan Arboretum, 150 Chemin Des Pins, 514-398-7811.
  2. Official Website (and a direct link to the events page since they have quite a few cool ones coming up soon!)
  3. If you’re a serious Birder, then go ahead and download this little PDF to make the most of your trip.

Pro Tip:

  • Once you’re all tuckered out from the Arboretum, do yourself a favour and head over the Galipeault Bridge to L’Île Perrot and grab some of the finest smoked meat in Québec at Smoke Meat Pete.

AROUND: Beau’s Oktoberfest

This coming Friday & Saturday is the 8th edition of the famous Beau’s Oktoberfest out in Vankleek Hill, Ontario and it’s shaping up to be another outstanding weekend. For those of you that don’t know Beau’s, it’s a fast-growing craft brewery from just over the Québec/Ontario border that brews incredible, unique, entertaining and very well designed organic beers. This event has everything that an Oktoberfest should have and everything it has is done with the usual Beau’s excellence (Canadian Geographic agrees). You will spend the entire day outside at the Vankleek Hill Fairgrounds, enjoying unique beer, food, games and music all in the name of charity. While an Oktoberfest does not usually conjure up images of “getting outside”, let me assure you that this event is 100% outside and will become a perennial powerhouse in your annual event calendar.

Beau's Oktoberfest

The Good:

  1. Recycling & Composting: All of the “food stuff” used at Beau’s is either recyclable or compostable. All of it. 
  2. Food: Everything, I mean everything, is glorious. You’ll have the 3 P’s – Pulled pork, poutine, polenta fries, as well as some S’s Schnitzel, sauerkraut, smoked meat, and at least a couple B’s – Baby back ribs, baked beans.
  3. Cask House: This is where the real magic happens. Every hour or so they’ll ring the bell and a new beer (from guest brewers) will be available for you. 

The Bad:

  1. For an event whose enjoyment hinges on you drinking beer, it’s a tad far (hint: use the provided Mtl – Oktoberfest transportation).
  2. Since you’re in the middle of the fairgrounds, the wind can get a bit nippy (hint: layer up!).
  3. If you plan to experience the whole kit & kaboodle, it’ll get expensive.

The Useful:

Pro Tip:

  • School of Bock: Check out the educational sessions they offer on Friday and Saturday. For the real beer nerds out there, you’ll love these!

“Like music and art, love of nature is a common language that can transcend political or social boundaries.”
– Jimmy Carter | b. 1924 | American President (retired)

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In & Around /Volume 1 /Issue 37

September 15, 2016
This Week:
Cité Mémoire in Old Montréal
La Montagne Noire in St-Donat

IN: Old Montréal’s Cité Mémoire

Are you a fan of the long, tumultuous and awesome history of our beautiful city… and mind-blowing multimedia installations? Well you’re in luck because Cité Mémoire will blow you away. I’ll let the Montréal en Histoires official website sum up the awesomeness that is this wonderfully unique visual, audio and digital experience: “Loosely inspired by the history of Montreal, Cité Mémoire invites you to meet a host of characters who’ve witnessed the city’s evolution first-hand. Poetic, dreamlike and occasionally playful, the tableaux come alive with images, words and music. Projected throughout Old Montreal, the work appears on the very walls that surround us, the ground on which we walk, the trees that frame our present. Every evening at dusk…”.

Cité Mémoire

The Good: 

  1. There are a few circuits to choose from depending on your desires, so you can really tailor this to you.
  2. Aside from Robert Lepage’s Le moulin à images in Québec City, I’ve never experienced something so engaging, so visual, so… awesome.
  3. On the night circuit, you will experience the Tableaux you see in the photos above, Augmented Reality and Points of Interest along the way, giving you a fully immersive experience.

The Bad:

  1. Well, it’s not supposed to be the nicest of weekends, so keep an eye on Météo Média and plan accordingly.
  2. If you can only get down to Old Mtl to do this once, it can be annoying to try and pick and choose the “best” circuit to do. 
  3. Although you can still experience this amazing techno-historic masterpiece without a smartphone, you’d be missing out on some of the best bits of Cité Mémoire.

The Useful:

  1. Cité Mémoire, 170 St. Paul Street West (a good starting point), 514-666-1861.
  2. Official Website (and link to the iOS app and Android app).
  3. Don’t forget to connect to the free MtlWiFi network during your sojourn!

Pro Tip:

  • If Cité Mémoire gets your engines revving, then perhaps you’d like to explore Montréal on foot all year round. What better way than to join one of the many organized walking clubs in Montréal? Check out this article from the Montreal Gazette that highlights the benefits of walking and the details of a few great local walking clubs that you can join up with.

AROUND: St-Donat’s Montagne Noire

La Montagne Noire is one of my favourite places to be in and around Montréal, summer or winter (look for a winter write up early 2017). It’s close, at about an hour and a half, it has free parking right at the trailhead, the trails are well maintained, and, like PENS, you get to experience nature’s terrain variety at its best. I would recommend ascending by the Inter-centre (north trail) and descending by Les Randonneurs des Hauts Sommets (south trail) – this will give you a nice 12+ KM loop. To get the most out of your day, I’d allow for some extra time to hang out at the summit, even take a dip in Lac Lézard, but most of all to revel in the history of this mountain. You see, La Montagne Noire is the site of the worst airline disaster in Canadian Military History, occurring during WWII, on a routine voyage between Newfoundland and Québec. The Canadian military plane dubbed ‘Liberator Harry‘ crashed into La Montagne Noire in October of 1943, claiming the lives of all aboard. The fatal crash site was found only in 1946 and wreckage remains on the mountain along with a cenotaph, crosses and information panels to pay homage to the 24 members of the RCAF who died that night. It makes for a truly unique hiking experience.

Montagne Noire

The Good:

  1. Seeing debris from a plane crash might not be for everyone, but if you allow it, you can really dive deep into emotion here.
  2. The trail is pretty forgiving so good for the whole family (as long as the whole family is cool with a solid 6+ hour hike).
  3. If you really wanted, you could spend the night at the summit by booking the Refuge Mésangeai… it’s… outstanding!

The Bad:

  1. Depending on the route you choose, you may end up, for a while, on the Sentier Inter-centre / Sentier National trail, which can feel like a hiking highway – not people wise, just width & terrain wise.
  2. The parking is free but there are only 20 spots, so hit it early if you can!
  3. I did not see a soul on my hike, including wildlife… and I like wildlife.

The Useful:

Pro Tip:

  • Make a little detour on your way home to get a fresh pie from the famous Boulangerie Saint-Donat (you know, the brown-boxed pies you see in all the grocery stores). Straight out of the bakery is the way to go both from a taste and price point of view!

“The earth has music for those who listen.”
– William Shakespeare | b. 1564 | English Poet, Playwright, Actor

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In & Around /Volume 1 /Issue 36

September 8, 2016
This Week:
Jarry Park in Villeray
La Corniche in Parc national du Mont-Tremblant

IN: Villeray’s Jarry Park

Jarry Park has long been the heart & soul of getting outside in Montréal and, with an ongoing $4 million facelift, it’s only getting better. Notwithstanding the myriad baseball diamonds, soccer pitches and tennis courts, the park is teeming with outdoor city life at its best. Although it’s right under our noses, I had not been to Jarry Park in eons when I dropped in for a biking picnic with my son. I recommend to set up shop under one of the giant weeping willows that ring around the small lake. The air gently rolls through the trees, the fountains reflect the sun pouring through and laughter & BBQ fill the air. There are ducks aplenty for the young’uns to gawk at, as well as a little island you can walk to (over a fun little rock path). As well, surrounding the lake are bike paths, walking paths, children’s parks, and tons of open space for you to play soccer, frisbee, bocce, etc. Jarry Park really feels like the great wide open with its big skies and plenty of room to breathe. Go ahead and revisit an old friend this weekend.

Jarry Park

The Good: 

  1. Another very easy outside experience to get to via public transit.
  2. Enjoying the outdoors at Jarry Park is 100% free. Thank you very much.
  3. There is space en masse which means you can organize a day or afternoon or evening funtime with a large group. There’s just so much room – take advantage!

The Bad:

  1. I’ll say it again because it’s worth repeating – why can’t we swim in these city park lakes? Please, there’s got to be a solution here city planner people!
  2. If you happen to want to do a little jogging at the park on the walking paths, there are long stretches with zero shadow. It’s get hot. Very hot.
  3. General heads up: If you happen to go during Rogers Cup or another big tennis event, traffic around is a nightmare. 

The Useful:

  1. Jarry Park, 7920 boul. St-Laurent (Jarry x Faillon), 514-872-2043.
  2. Official Website (it’s the city website so pretty… meh.)
  3. A little visual enticement video for you.

Pro Tip:

  • Jarry Park has free Wi-Fi… so why not get outside right now and work remote from under a beautiful weeping willow? Just open up your Wi-Fi preferences and choose the Île-sans-Fil network and boom!

AROUND: Tremblant’s La Corniche Trail

Being 1.5 hours away from hiking in Parc national du Mont-Tremblant is one of the absolute greatest things about living in Montréal. In less time that it takes to feed a toddler, you can get to the doorstep of an absolute paradise full of naturally delightful trails, beaches, lakes, rivers and amenities, all for under $10. La Corniche Trail is an easier one, at 3.4km return with an elevation gain of about 230m. Along the way you’ll see a beautiful waterfall, a stream cross a bridge or two, and even ride atop a giraffe-like tree growing out of a rock (click here for the new-ish Sépaq app that will give you plenty of insight into this and other trail oddities). The ultimate reward though is a great viewing platform overlooking Lac Monroe, Petit Lac Monroe and, among others, Pic Johannsen. As well, you’ll be surrounded by rock faces to meander up and park your weary butts. While the trail is listed as intermediate, I’d go more with an “easy” grade on this one, except for maybe two or three slight steeps (I don’t recommend it but I did see a guy hiking in flip flops). Once you’ve finished up with the hike, I urge you to stop in at one of the two Lac Monroe beaches to bathe in the warm lake waters, fire up one of the permanent BBQs and enjoy your well-earned relaxation part of the day. 

La Corniche

The Good:

  1. It’s an easy, very accessible trail – good for everyone! I’ve never had such a high reward to effort ratio.
  2. If you want to make a much larger hike out of it, it’s simple to add on La Coulée and La Roche trails to really feel the burn.
  3. Once up on the lookout, peering out over the Tremblant area mountains, you’ll be enticed, nay, drawn to exploring the mountains around you. It’s… inspiring.

The Bad:

  1. The trailhead is quite dense and therefore quite mosquitoe-y. Nothing a little citronella spray won’t help with but still… ow.
  2. Parking is in short supply at the trailhead so be ready to park elsewhere (i.e. nearby beach, etc) and walk a little to begin your hike.
  3. Some of the gravel coverage is quite loose and you can lose your footing easily enough on the way down. As usual, just be aware of that and you’ll be all set.

The Useful:

Pro Tip:

  • Stop in and see Lorraine at Hop La Vie! in St-Faustin-Lac-Carré, grab a handmade chocolate, and ice cream and a latté to get you all sugared up for your ride home. You will not be disappointed. Have a look inside her little shop.

“He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature.”
– Socrates | b. 470 BC | Classical Greek Philosopher

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In & Around /Volume 1 /Issue 35

September 1, 2016
This Week:
Centre de la nature in Laval
Parc d’environnement naturel de Sutton (PENS)

IN: Laval’s Centre de la Nature

As we approach the long weekend, I thought I’d stretch a bit and include a little gem that’s more or less in Montréal for this week’s In & Around – Le Centre de la Nature de Laval. The Centre is one of my favourites in & around Montréal due in large part to the sheer number of activities available to nature lovers of all ages: pony rides, train rides, water / play park, boat / kayak rentals, bocce ball, walking paths, cycling paths, beautiful gardens (a solid #2 to Botanical in my humble opinion) and a seriously amazing up close & personal farm animal experience. The latter is always my favourite thing to do when visiting the Centre. The wee ones can walk beside, around and sometimes on (oops!), a great gang of farm animals that, unless you actually live on a farm, is a truly unique experience. Pack a picnic or hit the casse-croûte because this will be an all day affair! So go ahead and do yourself the favour of discovering a gigantic park with gigantic fun in(ish) Montréal this weekend.

Centre Nature Laval

The Good: 

  1. Access is totally free! Some things are payable (parking, poney ride, kayak rental, etc), but you can hit this amazing outdoor oasis for $0 if you wish!
  2. Quite accessible via public transport for something that’s off island.
  3. Tons of activities – everyone will have something fun to do!

The Bad:

  1. If you’ve got your heart set on riding the train with the kiddos, she gets pretty packed. Get there early.
  2. If the weekend is dry & hot, and you or your entourage are allergic to animals, the whole farm area will attack your allergic senses.
  3. Poop. Seriously, watch out for the massive amounts of bird poop.

The Useful:

  1. Centre de la nature, 901 Avenue du Parc, 450-662-4942.
  2. Official Website (and the official website for the Fête de la Famille)
  3. An easy to understand park map.

Pro Tip:

  • This coming Sunday (Sep 4), the Centre is hosting the 17th annual Fête de la Famille with special guests Caillou, pirates, giants and firemen! Here’s theprogramme for all of your planning needs.

AROUND: Sutton’s Parc d’Environnement Naturel (aka PENS)

PENS is an Eastern Township masterpiece as far as I’m concerned. It’s easily accessible (< 2 hours from Montréal), has well marked trails, crosses near or over myriad lakes, grants amazing views of the surrounding mountains & beyond and is maintained by some of the nicest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. For my hike at PENS, I chose the Lac Spruce & Round Top trail (+ a little extra) which covered about 9km. I added a little loop on top of the above linked trail which runs from Round Top onto Sentier de l’Estrie over to Braydon trail down to L’Exil and then back to the regular trail. I hate backtracking while hiking, so I really loved adding on this little loop. I must say that the lakes I crossed past and over (especially Lac Spruce!) were breathtaking and the beauty of the forests really left me in awe of this place. The final push to the summit of Round Top is pretty great as well, with the help of some well-placed ropes, it’s fun to ascend such steeps for an astounding view that surrounds you in all directions. I recommend packing a lunch and taking a moment to stop at Lac Spruce (it’s about half way through the hike) and enjoy the serenity. With so much to offer, I really can’t wait to go back and bag another PENS peak!

PENS

The Good:

  1. By now you probably know that I like getting outside for free. However, PENS charges $6.00 for the day. That, in my books, is not too shabby.
  2. The PENS trails network is connected to trails of the Sentiers de l’Estrie and la Réserve naturelle des Montagnes-Vertes (RNMV) which can make for a hike of epic proportions!
  3. There are myriad trails, and trail combos, to tailor to any level of hiker, young, old, girthy or slim.

The Bad:

  1. If you catch it on a crappy weather day, the road that winds you up to the Accueil can be… hairy.
  2. Round Top is quite popular indeed (for the reasons mentioned above), and can get crowded on those perfect days. 
  3. Hikers have got themselves lost at PENS and the surrounding trails on more than one occasion. It would behoove you to have a long hard look at the maps and be well equipped when embarking on your hike. 

The Useful:

Pro Tip:

  • Once you have completed adequate muscle and calorie burnage, you must go to Auberge Sutton Brouerie and treat yourself to one of the best poutines in the world (yes!) and some unbelievably tasty, interesting and just plain awesome craft beer by ex-Dunham brewer Patrick Roy.

“The richness I achieve comes from Nature, the source of my inspiration.”
– Claude Monet | b. 1840 | French Impressionist Painter

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In & Around /Volume 1 /Issue 34

August 25, 2016
This Week:
21 Swings in Quartier des Spectacles
Mont Éléphant in Lac-Supérieur

IN: Quartier des Spectacles’ 21 Swings

Music, art, fun & outdoors join together in a gaggle of awesome with the Quartier des Spectacles’ 21 Swings. Now in its sixth year of existence, 21 Swings is a set of beautifully designed swings that make music every time a swing arcs to and fro. With 21 separate swings being swung by 21 different people, the music is always 100% unique. If you have never been to experience a 21 person swinging orchestra, I beg you to head downtown this weekend and check it out. It really is something special due in large part to the swings reproducing the sounds of four instruments: piano, guitar, vibraphone and harp. Each one corresponds to a swing of a different colour, while the height reached by the user determines the note played (I mean c’mon! That’s awesome!).

21 Swings

The Good: 

  1. When’s the last time you swinged, swung or swang in a swing… that makes music! 
  2. Very easy to get to since it’s right smack dab in the middle of downtown.
  3. Being in the QdS means you will be surrounded by a copious amount of things to do and experience. Let 21 Swings be your gateway to a day of fun in your city!

The Bad:

  1. Swinging on a swing is not an all-day event, so you’ll need to be open to some downtown exploration if you’re in the mood for a full day experience.
  2. You may need to wait a little for your turn… just like when you were 6 years old at the local park.
  3. The swings are not baby-compatible… I’d even say that 5 or so would be minimum age.

The Useful:

  1. Promenade des Artistes, Boul. de Maisonneuve x Rue Jeanne-Mance, 514-879-0009.
  2. Schedule is Aug8 – Sep5 / Sun-Wed 10h-23h & Thu-Sat 10h-1h
  3. A cool little video showing 21 Swings in all its glory.

Pro Tip:


AROUND: Lac Supérieur’s Mont Éléphant

Let’s head back up north once again to a little known mountain at the doorstep of our largest provincial park! Mont Éléphant, located just before the entrance to Parc national du Mont-Tremblant, is a modest mountain that tops out under 2,000 feet but gives some breathtaking alternate views of the Tremblant region. Although the word on the street is that Mont Éléphant is a “difficult” trail, I would suggest otherwise. It’s got its share of steeps and terrain changes, but I’d recommend this to most everyone who wants to hike, from beginner to expert. There are awesome views to the west towards the world renowned Mont Tremblant ski resort, as well as to the south-east over beautiful Lac Supérieur from a rarely enjoyed vantage point. The hike is about 4.5 km so you should count on perhaps 1.5 hours of straight hiking. Add in some jaw dropping views, a lunch and, if you’re lucky, a child running through the forest chasing wild partridges, then you’ve got yourself a great 3 hour hike in front you.

Mont Elephant

The Good:

  1. This hike is free. No admission fees, no trail maps to buy, no nothing!
  2. You can extend this hike out to Mont Nixon and eventually into Tremblant Park if you’re really feelin’ it. Check here for a great map of these interconnected routes.
  3. If you’d like to add a little swim time to your hike, head up the road into the provincial park for an awesome beach experience on Lac Monroe.

The Bad:

  1. While it’s great that it’s free, that means that there are no trail maps or help at the base. So just make sure you’ve got your wits about you before beginning.
  2. While I state above that this is a good hike for all levels, the beginners will need to take some sections slowly for sure.
  3. If it’s raining, or has just rained, the steeps get slick! Some spots are muddy slopes with no real foot holds. 

The Useful:

Pro Tip:

  • Hit Le Rustique for a terrace-infused, open-fired marshmallow’d type of refueling after your hike!

“I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright.”
– Henry David Thoreau | b. 1817 | American Philosopher, Poet & Naturalist

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In & Around /Volume 1 /Issue 33

August 18, 2016
This Week:
Waterfight at Montréal Olympic Park
Le Petit Train du Nord in The Laurentians

IN: Montréal’s Biggest Water Gun Fight. Ever.

When’s the last time you grabbed a loaded water gun and really had at it with a few thousand of your closest friends? Right… never. So go ahead and grab your favourite Super Soaker, head to the Big O for 3:00pm this Saturday, and have at it! This water gun fight is part of the Jackalope Fest which is an action sports fest like no other, and is happening right in your backyard this coming weekend. I have never been to a water gun fight of this magnitude (since this is the first ever event of this type in Montréal), however I have partaken in a few events at the Big O in recent years since they’ve started pouring energy (& money) into the Esplanade Sun Life and surrounding Olympic areas. I’ll say that the people in charge of these events, activities and festivals are trying crazy things, unique things, and are making things happen in this long forgotten concrete waste land. Any activity that can help revitalize these awesome structures is gold in my books. Also… water gun fight in 31 degree heat? YES PLEASE!

Water Gun Fight

The Good: 

  1. Nothing like good ol’ fashioned water gun soaking fun to bring out yer inner child!
  2. You bring your own gun and clothes so you can Rambo the heck out of your weaponry and attire and (sort of) not look ridiculous within this context.
  3. Very easy to get to – it’s at the Big O which has a metro station literally in its belly.

The Bad:

  1. The event was postponed last year because it got too big before it even got started. Look for some serious security/police presence.
  2. My assumption is that there won’t be a ton of younger children, so if you plan on bringing your wee ones, I’d try and at least team up with another brood to ensure young’un fun!
  3. If you do happen to take public transportation… well… it’ll be a long, wet ride home. Ignore the staring.

The Useful:

  1. Montreal Olympic Park, 4141 Pierre-De Coubertin, 514-252-4141.
  2. Official Event Facebook Page.
  3. Direct link to the full Jackalope Fest schedule.

Pro Tip:

  • Make sure you bring at least 2 guns. Make sure said guns have ample water reservoirs too. Don’t bring one of those guns that sucks in water from a pool/tub/surrounding water/etc for every shot… you’ll get walloped but good if yer constantly looking to refill!

AROUND: Le Petit Train du Nord – Ste-Agathe to St-Sauveur

One of my all-time favourites! If you’re looking for a glorious way to spend the day outside on your bike, then this trip will make you happier than a flamingo at a P!NK concert! Le Petit Train du Nord is a cycling trail that was built atop the old path of the actual Petit Train du Nord, which was the nickname given to a railway that ushered in northward population expansion from St-Jérome to Mont-Laurier. I chose these two points for the start and finish because they provide a slight downhill the entire way and avoid climbing the steepest part of the entire Petit Train du Nord trail as you approach Ste-Agathe from the north. Our trip begins in southern Ste-Agathe, just as the trail begins to descend slightly and runs to Piedmont / St-Sauveur. You’ll pass through beautiful little villages, lakes, streams, bridges and outdoor simplicity while you slowly descend 30km to St-So. You’ll still need to pedal of course, just not uphill, since the angle of descent is south of 2% I’m sure. We had two kids in one chariot and our picnic lunch & libations in the other chariot – I recommend this mélange. Now for the logistics – If you’re able to swing it, take two cars, leave car1 in St-Sauveur (on your way up), load your gear into car2, head up to Ste-Agathe, leave car2 at trailhead and, once arrived at St-Sauveur, drive back up to Ste-Agathe to retrieve car2. If you are carless, are going solo, or only have one car in your party, then make use of the Petit Train du Nord shuttle service… for real, it exists. And it’s phenomenal (they’ll even move your luggage from Inn to Inn if yer planning a multi-dayer).

Petit Train du Nord

The Good:

  1. You’ll get to enjoy the magic of Le Petit Train du Nord without murdering your calves or lungs. A great intro to this 200km+ glorious bike path!
  2. Even though this begins in Ste-Agathe-Des-Monts (100km+ from Montréal), you can actually do this without a car (train to St-Jérome + shuttle service mentioned above)! 
  3. 100% expandable if you want to do more. You can begin higher up, descend lower down, or do a round-trip.

The Bad:

  1. If you don’t have a car, or better yet, 2 cars, then planning the logistics will need a hot minute or two.
  2. The actual makeup of the bike path changes from gravel to dirt to pave and back and forth throughout. Not a big deal, but heads up.
  3. I think we’re safe as we edge closer out of summer, but the skeeters will get yah if you stop for too long to admire the scenery!

The Useful:

Pro Tip:

  • Might I recommend stopping for a picnic lunch at this exact spot in Ste-Adèle, just after the Parc de la Rivière Doncaster? You’ll be about halfway to the End Point and, just after crossing over the bridge over Rivière du Nord, you can pull off the path, park your bikes, then enjoy this glorious open area that has been cleared amidst the surrounding forest while letting the Rivière du Nord lap away at your hot toes. It’s a glorious little hidden respite. Do yourself the favour and take a little break here.

“Humans are disappearing from the outdoors at a rate that would make them top any conservationist’s list of endangered species”
– Tim Gill | UK-based Childhood Expert