Exciting, creative and passionate are just a few of the words used to describe Montreal, and the joie de vivre of the city is hopelessly hard to contain. From world class hotels, to superb convention and meeting space and a plethora of entertainment options, this city has it all.
Helen Landry is the marketing and special programs leader for GE Healthcare, based in Mississauga, Ont. She will be taking a group to Montreal in the first quarter of 2012. “This is the first time probably in the 15 years that I’ve been doing this kick-off meeting that we are using a city location. This meeting encompasses all of our sales and marketing teams as they outline their goals and objectives for the next year.”
The ease of getting to Montreal was a big part of her decision to hold the meeting in a metropolitan location as opposed to a secluded resort. Landry is taking her group to the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth. “It’s an easy travel for everyone in the country. It is one flight and a 15 minute cab ride to the hotel. It’s also a direct ride into the Queen Elizabeth for people who want to take the train and as one-third of our group comes from Montreal and we won’t have any travel costs for them to come to this meeting at all.”
In addition, the proximity to so many nearby attractions is also part of the appeal for groups. Landry adds, “At the Queen Elizabeth we’re so close to Old Montreal, there’s so much nearby to explore. Despite the fact that we are going to Montreal in January, we can’t get away from those cold winter meetings, but at least the city in interesting and exciting.”
Who can resist the old world ambience of Old Montreal, with its array of boutique hotels, small bistro’s, cafes’ and renowned restaurants? Catherine Morellon, manager, international relations for Tourism Montreal says there is always a festival going on in the city, even in the winter. “This year Montreal is going to have its own snow village and snow hotel at Place Jean-Drapeau. Every Saturday in December a holiday fireworks display will light up the night sky of the Old Port, and in February the 13th edition of the Montreal High Lights Festival will encourage everyone to get out and enjoy the season with culinary and wine tasting activities, shows, exhibits and concerts.”
For those who prefer a slower pace and relaxed type of destination, the Laurentians are just an hour and a half away, but exemplify a totally different tempo.
Sylvie Tremblay-Watt, event manager of Sun Life Financial, based in Waterloo, Ont., prefers to use the boutique-style Hotel Quintessence for her brokerage channel meetings for banks, advisors and credit unions. “The Quintessence is a very high-end hotel, but it’s simple, not overdone or ostentatious, you feel so welcome and so at home. The staff genuinely welcome you they’re so happy to see you, they remember your name, they’re always there to help you and your group and make sure your stay is perfect.” The picturesque hotel is nestled into the Laurentian hillside and overlooks Lake Tremblant. Temblay-Watt adds “I like Mont Tremblant because it’s remote without being far. The advantage of Quebec and Montreal and the surrounding region is that you get that European feel without having to cross the ocean. People just don’t realize how close the region is. Porter flies into Tremblant and even the transfers from Pierre Trudeau airport in Montreal are easy.” Hotel Quintessence is represented in Canada by Liz Akey, CMP at EMA Marketing.
Tremblay-Watt also appreciates the fact that the Quintessence is not exactly in the village, but just slightly out of it. “The view of Lake Tremblant is beautiful. So you get the best of both worlds – the accessibility and life of the village and the quiet respite of the hotel, when you want to get away from it all.”
Tremblay-Watt’s programs usually last two and a half days. “My group comes in around lunch; they do business sessions in the afternoon, then overnight. One more business session in the morning and then I send them off on an activity.” Activities in the area include fishing and golf. “In the winter we’ve done dog sledding, but there is also snowmobiling and skiing of course.”
New options in the Tremblant area worth noting are the new banquet halls at Casino Mont Tremblant, on the Versant Soleil side of the mountain. A new room on the second level is 2,245 sq. ft. and can become an extension of the Altitude Restaurant. It features multimedia equipment and a seating capacity of 150. Two small meeting rooms have been retrofitted with a capacity of 10 people each and a luxury meeting room has been redecorated with a contemporary look with a seating capacity of 50, which also includes multimedia equipment.
Heading further east in La Belle Province, the inaugural voyage of Le Massif de Charlevoix rail service rolled out on the rails September 9, and it’s already proving popular with groups looking for a scenic day trip along the mighty St. Lawrence.
This fall, excursions will take in the fantastic autumnal scenery and breathtaking vistas of rugged mountains and windswept coastline hugging the shores along the St. Lawrence River and the surrounding environs. Isabelle Vallée, media relations for Le Groupe Massif Inc., says the fall schedule running until October 27, is already 75 per cent booked. The train departs from Parc de La Chute-Montmorency Station for the three and a half hour trip to La Malbaie. During the journey, passengers enjoy an inclusive three-course gourmet lunch, created by Jean-Michel Breton, executive chef at Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieau.
While travelling the 140 kilometre route, iPad tablets anchored at every table on the train are activated by GPS signals to highlight points of interest. There are 18 different multimedia clips (nine on the way to La Malbaie and nine on the return trip) that are GPS-activated when the train gets to specific spot (like the Basilica in Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré) and were created by Realisation inc. The short clips are accompanied by music and can be replayed at will.
Passengers disembark for a three hour stopover to tour La Malbaie, a 250-year-old riverside resort town. Passengers board late in the afternoon for the return trip. By that time, passengers will have worked up an appetite to enjoy a four-course dinner on the way home.
And you can forget about soggy wrapped sandwiches and tepid tea. The onboard menus are designed to showcase the heart and soul of the Charlevoix gastronomic terroir. Chef Breton grew up in the Lyon area of France and comes by his love of food honestly. Many of Chef Breton’s ingredients are sourced from local farms and producers, such as foie gras or smoked duck from La Ferme Basque de Charlevoix, or cheese from La Fromagerie St-Fidèle. Guests can choose from a selection of appetizers, entrees and desserts. Each fully refurbished dove grey Pullman car has its own kitchen, and the entire train can accommodate up to 528 passengers.
New scheduled stops for 2012 include the Hôtel La Ferme in Baie-Saint-Paul and excursions from February to April for groups to ski the Mountain in Petite-Rivière-Saint-François during the day and hop back on the train to return to Quebec City at night. Spring packages will run from June to October 2012.