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Trip report New Haven-Stowe-Mont Tremblant-Montreal-NYC

Trip report New Haven-Stowe-Mont Tremblant-Montreal-NYC

Old Nov 15th, 2006, 03:04 PM
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Trip report New Haven-Stowe-Mont Tremblant-Montreal-NYC

I *know* I posted this when we returned, but I didn't double check so maybe my computer timed out. Anyway, here is a trip report from LAST December which was greatly enhanced by the following Fodorites:
zootsi, GoTravel, nytraveler, wliwl, 123Go, bm, johnthedorf, astein12, sam, jules39, lcuy, acereid, catbrown3, marymarra, Avalon4, bgans, itsv, MFNYC, rkkwan, Gekko, sandi, mclaurie.

~~~~~~~~~~~

We're back from our Christmas vacation. The trip was good, but yes, not only were we in NYC during the first day of the transit strike, but we were also in Tremblant on the first day of a strike of the ski lift operators (and others, I think), which made us lose a day of skiing there, plus there'd been a decent snowstorm in Tremblant the day before, making us miss another half day of skiing.

We started in the city, drove out to New Haven, CT and stayed at the Omni New Haven. Nice enough hotel, but got placed into the wrong room (first time this has ever happened to us). Despite a confirmation for a two queen, non-smoking, we ended up in a king, smoking. Ick! Hotel was completely full so they were unable to switch us to another room. We slept three to the king and one on a cot and I got only 4 hours of sleep that night due to being unable to breathe normally. (Yawn!) I'd planned breakfast at Whalley's, but they gave us breakfast coupons for their restaurant to try to make up for their mistake so we had a mediocre hotel breakfast buffet with a very nice view of the sunrise in CT. We could see Yale University from the restaurant.

Then off we went to Stowe, VT. We loved Stowe, a very pretty little ski town. We arrived around noon, grabbed an incredibly quick bite at Gracie's (I had veggie soup and half a maple glazed ham sandwich), thanks to a wonderfully accommodating waiter, then hit the slopes. It was fairly cold, highs around 17-18 degrees I think, but the sky was blue, there was plenty of snow, the instructors were friendly, the 7-12-year-olds group ski/snowboarding lessons empty (thus private!), and there were no lines at the lifts.

After an afternoon on the mountain, we then went to our room in the Green Mountain Inn for a warm soak in our big jacuzzi tub. In the "living room" of the inn we found waiting for us some hot apple cider and delicious homemade cookies, board games and happy-looking fellow guests. Then we went out for pizza (two pies: Blond Vermonter - half ham, Pesto, both yummy) at Pie in the Sky. There were Christmas lights all over the village. My family somehow thought it would be fun to swim outside in the inn's heated pool when it was about 10 degrees out with snow all around, but I skipped this insanity and waited in our warm room with the gas fireplace lit and the jacuzzi filled again. We settled down in our comfortable beds and drifted off to sleep. I awoke a couple of hours later, burning up from heat as we'd forgotten to flick off the gas fireplace. I opened the windows wide to let the cold night air in and the hot air out and I stared for a while at the steam coming off the pool. Eventually I cooled off, shut the windows, and climbed back under the covers.

The next morning we ate a filling and very tasty breakfast at Gables Inn (my husband and I both choosing the Green Mountain Omelet) and chatted with the friendly innkeeper and two patrons. We then went sledding which was loads of fun and made some snow angels for good measure. Light lunch at McCarthy's (my daughter and I shared a so-so scone and a decent slice of pumpkin bread). My husband had to walk on their little covered bridge over the river before we left town.

Off we went to Mont Tremblant. After checking in at the Fairmont Tremblant, which had a good fire going in the lobby, a perfect location, and a helpful and friendly staff, we strolled through the very Christmassy village to La Savoie, a restaurant which serves fondues, raclettes and pierrades. We were surprised to see that the raclette was not served as it was on our honeymoon in the Swiss alps, but instead they used a heating lamp to slowly melt the cheese onto the food on the plates. We'd also ordered fondue and happily ate ourselves into cheese oblivion. We strolled back to the hotel under a very light snowfall, admiring the abundant Christmas lights and ice sculptures and noting the somewhat Disney feel to the village. We knew that a snowstorm was coming the next morning, with 15-25 cm of snow predicted.

Upon awakening, we went to the window and peered out at the blowing snow, which was coming down fast. The guys decided to hit the slopes anyway (fools!) while my more sensible daughter decided to wait until the afternoon. She and I relaxed, I read some blogs. Around 12:30 two semi-frozen bundles came to our room, grumpy and tired. They'd had to wait that morning for quite some time in the wind and cold to catch a shuttle to the other side of the mountain where the lift was working, and then my son became chilled as they skied and snowboarded down. At least they came back in time to go grab a rushed lunch (soups mainly) before more snowboarding and ski lessons. The kids were somewhat disappointed with Mt. Tremblant's instructors for keeping them on the bunny hill when they'd already tackled a much larger hill at Stowe, but it seems it had something to do with the lift not yet running due to the earlier storm. Also, there was confusion and delays in starting their lessons in comparison with those at the Stowe Mountain Resort. Regardless, they improved further and were smiling each time they descended.

Around 3:30, we went to the hotel and waited for my husband to come off the slopes. I was about to send the kids off to the village to purchase a local sweet treat, Beaver Tails, which are whole wheat pastries with a choice of toppings (we all four liked these), but then my husband arrived and decided to go along. So my son decided to simply crash in exhaustion in the room rather than carry food back to the hotel. We showered and relaxed in front of the television, then walked over to Crêperie Catherine for "crêpes bretonnes," my husband's favorite meal of the entire trip.

We arose early the next morning anticipating a full day of skiing but due to la grève (the strike), we could not ascend the mountain and decided to turn in our two day equipment rental and head to Montréal. We saw groups of chanting skiers, unhappy that they couldn't take advantage of the huge snowfall from the day before. We heard the strikers chanting in support of the strike. My husband was rather unhappy at our loss of 1 days skiing, plus wasted money spent on lift tickets and ski rentals and I wasn't very pleased either, after so much planning. Such is life! Anyway, on the way out, the kids ate "tire sur la neige" (maple sugar syrup poured on snow then rolled onto a stick like a lollipop) and my daughter bought a small box of maple candies. We left Mont Tremblant disappointed but not writing it off permanently.

The trip into Montréal was quick and we stopped for Montréal bagels at the St. Viateur Bagel Shop. Mmm-mmm. We ordered bagel sandwiches and were very happy with our choices. Next we drove to La Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal and went on a short tour. Check out the website for pictures, it was très jolie. After this, we checked in at l'Auberge Bonaparte where we would stay for the evening and also have our supper in their elegant restaurant. My husband, son and I ordered from the table d'hôte; I chose the contre-filet de buf à la bordelaise, which was delicious, my daughter chose croustillant de chèvre chaud amandine et rosace de tomates au Xérès, my son chose cuisse de canard confit et sa crème d'ail doux, and my husband chose magret de canard au sirop d'érable et fruits des champs. We shared desserts, a crème caramel, a crème brûlée and two others I can't recall offhand. As soon as we finished, we left the inn and headed toward the Old Port to watch a beautiful display of fireworks. The kids playfully threw snow at each other and us. Then we walked back to our room which had a beautiful view of La Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal and we watched a bit of The Sound of Music, a family favorite, and I soaked a while in the jacuzzi then firmed up some reservations for a future part of our trip.

We awoke the next morning feeling very refreshed and ate breakfast again at l'Auberge Bonaparte. I ordered pain doré (French toast) which was too rich and buttery for my taste, but the rest (coffee, orange juice, fresh fruit) was fine. We decided to go to Pointe-à-Callière, the Montréal Museum of Archaeology and History, and saw a multi-media presentation on the history of Montréal. I lost my hat and gloves somewhere in this museum and then I lost my family. It took several employees, including a security guard with many cameras, to help locate them. Turns out they went outside to have a snowball fight instead of waiting in the gift shop as my husband had said he would. He claimed that he was in the shop (where I was twice for quite a while and saw none of them and where two employees went and did not see any man with children....ahem) and finally a security guard called me over thinking he'd seen someone I'd described (tall man) walk into the gift shop briefly. I came over to look at the monitor and the guard said "He's gone." Then my husband popped back into the shop and I said, "Yes! That's him! I'll go get him now." (And watched him leave immediately again! Can you tell this is a sore point for me? I never received an apology, only insistence that he had been in the gift shop, and then later some story about how he hadn't exactly said he'd be IN the gift shop but he was there, and then days later something about an entire long snowball fight he and the kids had had.) Anyway, my hat and gloves were not found, but my family finally was.

Heading out of Montréal, we stopped at Le Commensal on Rue St-Denis. This restaurant offered a vegetarian buffet, very casual, not bad.

We drove to the Albany area and stopped at the home of a college roommate. She fed us, our kids and theirs delightedly ran around the house, we chatted for a short while, then we headed down to NYC for more Christmas delights.

We entered the city crossing the George Washington bridge and made our way right to our hotel, where the bellhop explained the features of our suite in speech so rapid my son was impressed. "How DID he say all of that so fast?" he marveled. We lowered the shades, hopped into the very comfortable bed, ignoring the fitness magazines and (missing) workout kits while enjoying our choice of pillows and fell promptly asleep.

The following morning we walked to breakfast at Chez Laurence for a tasty French breakfast served by a friendly and efficient Russian (?) waitress. Brioche, croissants, cafe au lait, chocolat chaud, etc. Very nice. We then walked toward Rockefeller Plaza, stopping at the windows at Saks Fifth Avenue and wandering into a few stores along the way. When we got to Rockefeller Plaza, we looked at the tree ("It's drooping!" my son exclaimed), watched the ice skaters go 'round the tiny rink, then we went to Top Of The Rock. This was great, we had views of the entire city, glassed in on all levels except the very top, which made it a bit warmer and very comfortable for viewing. One can also view from inside the glass, and the employees were expert at handling crowds in a very friendly and polite way. We stayed here for some time until we had viewed NYC from every direction, then we walked over to St. Patrick's Cathedral. My family said they preferred the cathedral in Montréal, but I'm not sure which I preferred, they are both beautiful to see. We then strolled toward Central Park, stopping in Tiffany's for a quick peek at all the jewels and looking at window displays, then we took a carriage ride through Central Park and bundled up under a very warm blanket. We saw ice skaters at Wollman's Rink. Next we walked through FAO Schwartz, then we went to Dylan's Candy Bar, a definite hit with the kids, who each picked out a small bag of candy.

By this point, it is time for food, so we grabbed a cab to Molly's for some burgers and a steamed vegetable plate for my little vegetarian. Sawdust on the floor, roaring fire in the fireplace, friendly Irish waitress, good food. My husband loved this place. After Molly's, we headed back to the Affinia to change and then took the (busy for the last few hours before the transit strike) subway up to Lincoln Center for a performance of The Nutcracker by the New York City Ballet. Unfortunately, I'd written down the wrong time so we arrived early and so we simply wandered a bit on the Upper West Side into a Barnes and Noble to kill an hour. Then we watched the ballet where, incredibly, the woman next to me brought a one-year-old who made quite a lot of noise (screaming) and the woman constantly made a clicking sound with her tongue (to try keeping her child quiet, I suppose). I generally like little children and babies and don't mind them grabbing me, but in this instance, she's lucky I didn't snap. After the intermission, we moved ourselves to other seats far from the woman-without-a-clue and were much happier.

As soon as the performance finished, we took a taxi down to a restaurant where we had dinner reservations, Eleven Madison Park, right across from Madison Square Park. I ordered the Roasted Four Story Hill Farm Chicken, Yukon Gold Potato and Leek "Brandade" with Porcini Cream. My husband was dismayed that they'd run out of the striped bass and he ordered the Seared Muscovy Duck Breast, which was too small of a portion to be satisfying. My daughter had the Potato Gnocchi, Swiss Chard, Sage, Walnut Cream and Mimolette and was very pleased. On the bright side, we'd ordered a chocolate soufflé for dessert which was eagerly devoured by all of us, even my non-chocolate-loving son.

Following this extravagance, we then took our son to see Times Square. We took the subway. We wandered about a bit, then into the ToysRUs to look at the toys and displays and talk about which toy store was the favorite of the day. ToysRUs was pretty much wiped out, with many empty shelves that evening and a mess that would take stockers all night to straighten. After this, we'd had enough for one day and walked back to our hotel, collapsing into sweet sleep, but only after checking the computer to see if the transit strike was on. It was.

Fortunately, having heard rumors of a possible transit strike, I had decided we would not turn in our rental vehicle while in Manhattan and we'd pay to park it during our stay. On the morning of our departure, we walked (along the streets full of walkers) to breakfast once again at Chez Laurence, then my husband walked up to the lot where we'd parked it for $12/day and came back to the hotel to pick us up. He'd been unable to catch a cab as they were all full, and of course subway wasn't running. We checked out of the Affinia Dumont and drove to JFK, then flew home.

We were unable to make a snowman (wrong kind of snow) and we've decided that we'd like to return to Stowe, Montréal, and of course New York City. Not quite as sure about Mont Tremblant, but we were glad to have gone once and would consider returning sometime in the future.
SarasotaFL is offline  
Old Nov 15th, 2006, 07:18 PM
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Thanks for a wonderful, detailed report. It takes a special temperament to adapt to setbacks like the strikes you encountered and refuse to have them ruin a great trip.

We love everything about Montreal, especially the Old Port area. If you were entirely put off by Tremblant and yet wish to return sometime, then you might consider Mt. St. Anne near Quebec City as an alternative to Mt. Tremblant for skiing, and you can take advantage of the history, the culture and the beauty of Vieux Quebec.
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Old Nov 15th, 2006, 09:33 PM
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Thanks for the great report! We are thinking of taking a similar trip next year and this will be a huge help.
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Old Nov 16th, 2006, 03:26 AM
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Too bad about the strikes! But it sounds like you all went with the flow. What a great itinerary, and a wonderful place to go from Florida (not a great weather time for you anyway, so you might as well enjoy the real winter life!)

We stayed at the Bonaparte in Montreal, too, and loved it. It is a charming place in a great area, but quieter and away from the more trafficked part of the old city.

We will be skiing in Stowe over Christmas this year.
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Old Nov 16th, 2006, 07:17 PM
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hikerboy - it is funny to read this trip report a year later. I had forgotten some of the low points and remembered mostly the high ones. We're going to Montreal again this December, but not skiing there.

cabovacation - I hope it does help you with your trip planning. That would be great.

skatedancer - yes, L'Auberge Bonaparte was nice. Trying to decide whether to stay there or elsewhere this December. We'll miss each other at Stowe; we'll be there in mid-December. Have a great time skiing there. Great place for a Christmas vacation.
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