Side Trips From Montreal

For respite from urban stresses and demands, Montrealers need only drive 30 minutes or so to the north or east of the city to find themselves in the hearts of the resort regions of the Laurentides or the Cantons-de-l'Est. The lakes and mountains of both areas have invited development of year-round vacation retreats and ski centers. The pearl of the Laurentides is Mont-Tremblant, the highest peak in eastern Canada, but the region has 18 other ski centers with scores of trails at every level of difficulty, many of them less than an hour from Montreal.

The bucolic Cantons-de-l'Est, known as the Eastern Townships when it was a haven for English Loyalists and their descendants, is blessed with a trio of memorable country inns on beautiful Lake Massawippi. The region promotes four seasons of outdoor diversions. Many of the same trails and settings developed for winter sports are used for parallel activities in summer. Bromont, for example, has 100km (62 miles) of marked trails for mountain biking, and Mont-Orford Park is the focal point for another 160km (99 miles) of hiking trails linking six regional parks. Rock climbing, white-water kayaking, sailing, and fishing are additional options. Appropriate equipment is readily available for rent on-site, wilderness shelters and trail cabins are at hand, and even meals can be catered in the woods. So, though it has fewer ski centers than the Laurentides, and the resort hotels that serve them are generally smaller and less extensive in their facilities, the Cantons-de-l'Est's many lakes and year-round pastimes give it the edge for warm-weather vacations.

Because the people of both regions rely heavily on tourism for their livelihoods, knowledge of at least rudimentary English is widespread, even outside such obvious places as hotels and ski resorts