Our $95 2 nights accomodation package included breakfast both days and dinner on the Saturday evening, served in the school canteen. It's been a few years (well, maybe more than a "few") since I last had a school dinner but stangely enough I was looking forward to reliving the experience.
I certainly wasn't disappointed! In fact I was impressed!
Breakfast was an eat-as-much as you wish affair which would put some mid-market hotels to shame. The hot array included pancakes, ham, boiled eggs, porridge (which I passed on) and of course, this being Quebec, French toast, all finished with a generous ladle of hot maple syrup. On the cold selection there was fruit juice, yoghurts, cereals and fresh fruit.
Dinner too was a veritable feast: soup, a simple Ceasar-type salad, a tasty pasta dish, fresh fruit salad and cookies - 5-courses plus coffee. The only thing missing was a glass of wine but that was an oversight on my part as there was no injunction against bringing your own - as I noticed, enviously, that the next table had indeed done.
The service too was cheery and swift, supplied by the school catering staff who had given up their weekend for us and the dining room's buzz was of happy contentment - the clean plates bearing their own testament.
Yep, absolutely no complaints from this quarter :)
I don't know if any of those involved in making our weekend the experience that it was ever find this page, but if they do - Merci Beaucoup a Tout!
Favorite Dish: Favourite had to be the breakfast with the pancakes, ham, eggs, maple syrup and of course the French toast! Coffee was excellent too.
Papineauville boasts a grand total of two bars for its 2,380 population but then who needs more?
I only visited one of the bars (three times in total) and so can't comment on the other except to say that it is at the bottom of a fairly steep hill which I didn't fancy my chances of getting back up on an icy freezing February evening.
The bar I did visit, Chez Jim, suited me perfectly. This is an ideal small town local bar with friendly regulars (most of whom seemed to be friends of the young female bartender), a laid-back ambience, smiling service and is a proper drinking establishment. There's no trendy chrome and glass furnishings here, nor clever lighting, just a nice simple long bar, a few tables scattered around, a pool table and a big TV for the hockey (of course!). There's a patio out back which looks over the river which looks quite attractive, but being mid-winter this wasn't in use, and a covered patio for us smokers out front (which was in regular use!).
The bar is part of the adjoining Chinese restaurant, Cite Lin Eng, and whilst I did't notice anyone actually eating in the bar itself I did notice a few people stopping for a beer whilst awaiting their take-aways.
The bar seems to cater for the younger crowd but without the "boom-boom" music one might expect. I was only in in the earlier part of the evenings though and so can't attest to how things develop later - the bar is open until 3 am most nights.
Yep this was definitely my sort of bar but one thing to be aware of is that if you ask for a Labbatt's Bleu you'll only get the small bottle - ASK FOR UNE GRANDE!
Dress Code: This is a proper bar and so no particular dress code. Mid-winter removalable layers are the norm and females peeling to their skimpies are, as always, appreciated ;)
Papineauville is actually on one of the main railway lines between Ottawa and Montreal and trains used to stop there regularly. However passenger trains no longer use the route and so the only way to get there by public transport is by bus.
Greyhound VCL offers two daily services each way from Ottawa and Montreal on the 5842 to 5845 routes with a journey time of about 1hr 30 mins from Ottawa and 2hs 30 mins from Montreal.
For the Canadian Ski Marathon however there were chartered buses laid for us, contracted from the school bus service and hence the pic:
It's obviously important when taking part in any marathon-type event to train and be otherwise adequately prepared. Part of the preparation is to ensure that you have stoked your system with the adequate calories and nutrients required before setting off and also to ensure that you have sufficient rations to keep yourself topped-up during the course.
Here, during the Canadian Ski Marathon, each checkpoint provided hot soup, cookies, nuts, Gatorade (that's the funny coloured stuff that's supposed to be good for you) and other nutritous bits and bobs, served up by the hard-working team of cheery volunteers.
However it's also very important to ensure that you carry your own high-calorie nutrition to snack on as you go and for emergencies. The obvious thing to carry are the cereal bars whose sugar content provides immediate blood sugar boosts whilst the cereals leech their nutrients in a slower manner. However it's not just calories that the system uses, it also uses various other nutrients and especially vitamin C. And so another ideal snack food to carry is a banana or two.
So here's the warning: If you happen to double up your cycle jacket as your ski jacket (that's the one with the pocket that goes all the way round your backside) then it's not that great an idea to put the bananas in that! I don't know if you've come across the Canadian singer-songwriter Harry Chapin and his song 30,000 pounds of bananas. If not then here's a shortened version:
"It was just after dark as the truck came down the hill into Scranton, Pennsylvania,
Delivering the next day's tasty fruit, 30,000 pounds of bananas.
The young driver, just on his second job,
Missed the sign: "Shift To Low Gear/ 50 Dollar Fine My Friend".
He was pushing through the shortening miles, thinking about the warm-breathed woman,
Who was waiting at the journey's end as he started the two mile drop.
He was picking up speed as the city spread its twinkling lights below him,
But he paid no heed as the thoughts of the night's delights went through him.
His foot nudged the brake to slow him down, but the pedal floored without a sound.
He said "Christ!", He'd named the only man who could save him, "Make It A Dream".
He passed the thankful passing bus at ninety miles and hour,
Sideswiped 19 neat parked cars, hit 2 houses, bruised 8 trees, Blue-crossed 7 people.
Slid for 400 yards along the hill that leads into Scranton, Pennsylvania,
Just imagine - 30,000 pounds of mashed Bananas!"
Well I didn't have 30,000 pounds, just two single, slightly ripe specimens but I had a similar experience and hence the look on my face - and my ass smelled of bananas for the next 2 days!
Website below has the full lyrics for anyone interested:
JUst about everywhere off the main road in Papineauville is "Off The Beaten Path" and this includes the town's marina, which is situated just off the mall on the western approach.
There's only about a dozen or so moorings here in the sheltered Bay of Pentecost, on the River Ottawa, but its mid-way location between between Ottawa and Montreal would make for an ideal out-of-the-way location for an overnight stop. The marina is run by the local Club Nautique whose website is below (in French BTW).
Of course it wasn't open in February on account of the river being frozen and so I can't attest to the facilities or its popularity but it certainly looked cute ;)
Whist Papineauville is on the main road between Ottawa and Montreal it is, as I said in my intro, the sort of place where most people merely pass through. There are no hotels or motels and the town certainly doesn't offer itself as a tourist destination.
It is however set in spectacular scenery and so is ideal for those of us who enjoy the outdoors proper, rather than joining the madding crowds.
During the weekend of the Canadian Ski Marathon the town's high school hosts the dormitory accomodation for those participating on the two days (and does a very good job of it too) and is an ideal getaway from the more popular (and expensive) Montebello. The surrounding area north of the river really does look like what I always imagined Canada to look like. The sweeping vistas of virginal snow and the fir-tree topped hills are a visual delight and even with a couple of thousand others taking part there were still occasions when we managed to get the place almost to ourselves ('cos I'm a naff skier and got left behind!).
Equipment: One thing I didn't notice in the town itself is any ski hire places and so best to bring your own, although I would assume that nearby Montebello will have somewhere.