Archive for October, 2008

Snow has arrived in Montréal

The first flutters of snow have arrived in Montréal. There is a small layer of snow on the cars and other items in the street.

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One of the things that Canada is known for is the poor quality of its healthcare. So lets get this into context first – Canada’s healthcare is ok, it’s just not as good as that of France, Belgium or the US. What it does have in its favour is that everyone can access it, unlike the US system where you need to pay.

In fact, Canada’s system is very similar to the UK’s NHS system and as you can imagine it has all of the same problems as the UK system. The one big difference is that the private industry here is strictly controlled so it’s difficult to queue jump without going to the US. If you’re not familiar with the NHS and Canada’s system, here it is in a nutshell:

Everyone has the same access to “high quality healthcare” free on point of delivery. The government is the principal healthcare provider. This means that you tend to get centralised, un-innovative, non-user friendly providers that…. well don’t provide much of a service.

In addition to this structural problem, one of the big challenges that Canada and Québec are facing is the USA. Next door doctors get paid oodles more cash than here in Canada, so if you’re a trained doctor why practice in Canada when you can get more money in the US? It’s worse out in the countryside – why live in the middle of nowhere and get paid less than you would in the states?

I don’t think that there are real plans to get this sorted out here in Canada any time soon and unfortunately the clock is ticking because the population is aging.

A bit of a story

I took my daughter to see the doctor this week with a minor problem. We went to a drop in clinic as we don’t yet have a family doctor. At 8:15am there was a queue outside. At 8:25am the doors were opened and we all trooped in. My daughter was about 5th on the list.

Around 9:45am the doctor arrived and started seeing the first patients. Yes, you read correctly, the doctor arrived over an hour after the clinic was opened. Each patient gets around 8-10 minutes with the doctor. The one we saw didn’t even want to correctly examine my daughter, we had to push him to do so.

Overall, not a good experience so we’ll be avoiding the Centre medical Mont-Royal on Papineau (near ave. Mont-Royal) in the future.

Cost of the consultation $125. I wish I earned so much for so little work! The insurance company were rather good though. You have to call them before seeing the doctor to open a case, and then call them back afterwards. I hadn’t done so by Saturday afternoon so they called me to see what had happened! I found that amazing.

Why did we have to pay? Well new residents aren’t covered by Québec’s health scheme until they’ve been here 3 months. This is to prevent health tourism. So we had insurance from Manulife for the three months at a cost of around $850 for the whole family with a $0 deductable.

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Knowlton is the largest village in the town of Lac Brome in the Eastern Townships. It’s very much a tourist destination with pretty Victorian villas and various cafés and restaurants. Situated on the edge of Lac Brome, Knowlton is a wonderful destination for a weekend away from Montréal or even for a Sunday lunch out. The village was founded by loyalist settlers that left the US after its declaration of independence from the crown.

There are a lot of nice shops to mooch around, although quite a few less than Magog. Knowlton is very much a village. The Knowlton Station shop is worth a look, they make great sandwiches and cake so worth popping in for afternoon tea too.

Knowlton has also a small museum which is worth a look with articles from the wars and the settlement of the area.

One of the nicer restaurants to eat in is “Le Relais” a old staging inn that is still operating as both an inn and a restaurant. If you’d like to eat here at the weekend it’s imperative to reserve in advance on + 1 450-242-2232.

If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in the area that is reasonably priced, it’s worthwhile looking at Le Cyprès motel. Its small but clean rooms are around $100 + tax which includes a good continental breakfast. Reservations on: 1.866.243.0363

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Answer our quick straw poll so that we know a bit more about our readership


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Cherry Lake in Mont Orford national park

Cherry Lake in Mont Orford national park

Mont Orford is the highest peak and the largest national park in the Eastern Townships. It’s run by the Sépaq so has all the standard facilites including parking, a visitor centre, camp sites and trails.


In addition to the national park, the mountain also has an area reserved for alpine skiing, and when there is no snow, gondola rides in the cable car.

The national park has several walking trails of different difficulty, although there is not a vast choice compared to other parks. I have the feeling that this park really comes to life during the winter when there are several cross-country skiing and racket trails.

At this moment in time, the change in the colour of leaves is absolutely spectacular throughout the park and in the surrounding area.

Just outside the Sépaq park is the Ski Centre Orford which is set up for skiing on Mont Orford, but during the summer offers hiking trails up to the summet of the mountain. The easy trail is about 4km long. There is also the gondola cable car which will take you up to the top for the modest fee of $6.50 plus tax.

The nearest town is Orford, but Magog is near by too and has many more hotels, restaurants and shops so makes a good base for exploring the mountain and indeed the rest of the Eastern Townships.

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Pier at North Hatley

Pier at North Hatley

North Hatley is a small village in the Eastern Townships on the north end of Lake Massawippi. It has a population of around 800 people and is one of the prettiest villages in this part of Québec. 

Originally founded by loyalists fleeing an independent America, it is made up essentially of pretty villas overlooking the lake. There is really one road that runs through the village with a few cafés and restaurants and a few tourist oriented shops. There is a good sized car park behind the Pilsner Pub.

Next to the car park there is a children’s play area, a few picnic tables and an unmanned tourist centre. Pop into this centre to pick up a walking tour leaflet for a bit of history of the villas in the village.

North Hatley is a nice place to spend a few quiet and calm hours. Why not come for lunch looking over the lake or afternoon tea?

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Cafe post update: we’ve just been to Starbucks today to use their Wifi and learnt that it’s only free if you have a Starbucks card.
At Café Dépôt things were much smoother, we just arrived, opened the computer, clicked OK on the welcome screen that arrived on the browser and we were cool. Okay, it timed out after 2 hours, but we can live with that.
Starbucks on the other hand presented us with a nice Bell welcome screen and asked us to put in either a Starbucks card number, a credit card number or a Bell customer number. Starbucks card holders could get 2 hours wifi free per day, after that it was :
$7.50 for 60mins
$13 for 24 hours
$35 for 30 days
We’ll be back to Café Dépôt next week….

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