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Day 1 – Club Med Charlevoix

Throughout human history, there have been many similes to describe uselessness…

As useless as a screen door on a submarine.

As useless as a chocolate teapot.

As useless as an accordian player on a deer hunt.

As useless as an inflatable dartboard.

The list goes on. It’s quite exhaustive. Still, I believe I’ve found a new one.

As useless as a ski hill in a rainstorm.

This is not the result of many hours spent brainstorming new material, but instead an unhappy accident due to our upcoming holiday – we’re off to Le Massif hours before the mother-of-all-nor’easters is set to make landfall on our vacation destination.

4 inches of rain, landing smack-dab on an early-season ski hill – and then a flash freeze.

This might be all right if we were heading to some place we’d been before. A family cottage perhaps, or an oft-frequented hotel.

Instead we’ll be headed to the Club Med Charlevoix – never having stayed at a Club Med, and having only the faintest idea of how to navigate its labyrinthine all-inclusive programs.

Charlevoix is about an 8 hour drive from our home, so we made the decision to head out early in the morning on the day of our departure with the hope of arriving early and outrunning the rain.

That meant loading up our car the day in advance. The result was something like this:

And this:

We do not travel light.

Apart from stuffing our poor Honda HR-V to the point of bursting, the departure went smoothly – we were on the road by 8 am amidst a light splattering of rain.

There wasn’t a trace of white on the ground – perhaps another clue as to the foolhardiness of our plan.
But the snow started to appear on the outskirts of Montreal and grew deeper as we approached Quebec City.

It wasn’t a bad drive, all considered – not much traffic, only a few quick stops, and the monotony managed by a mid-way switch-up of drivers. The only thing that seemed strange were the pairs of animals, lined up to board a large wooden boat. I kid, I kid.

We even managed to make it in 7 hours, as opposed to the 8 we’d expected. So far, so good. That brought us to Club Med Charlevoix at 3 pm, hopeful that we’d be able to settle in before dinner.

It was a bit of a rough arrival.

First, you need to unload your own bags. Fair enough. But the unloading area was largely blocked by a tour bus and the sidewalk was covered with ice. The accessible doorways were also near-impossible to spot. All of this combines to create a hilarious montage of a middle-aged man attempting to push an overladen luggage cart through the snow.

This may look like a picture of a garbage can, but it actually shows the exceptional measures you need to go to spot both the accessible door and its associated open button

Second, our room wasn’t ready. That’s also understandable – check in isn’t until 4 pm, after all. Except the front desk said that our room might not be available until 5 pm. Which meant that we’d need to leave our bags in the parking garage whilst we waited for the much-longed-for call that meant we could finally access our room.

In the meantime, I was able to unload the rest of our ski and snowboarding gear and put it into lockers. This was when I started to get some glimpse of Club Med Charlevoix’s better side – the stylish interior, the immaculately clean floors, and the very handy lockers that will (hopefully) allow us to make the most of this ski-in, ski-out winter wonderland.

Fun Fact: If someone claims to know what this artwork truly means, the bar will cut them off

Then back to the lobby bar to wait a bit longer. Still no call. Minus a point from Club Med.

But! The drinks are included, and service was quick. So – following a sip of tasty gin and tonic – the point gets added back on.

I eventually went back down to the front desk to inquire about our room – to discover that it was, in fact, ready. How long was it ready? Why didn’t they call? These are the mysteries of life, never to be answered.

I took the luggage cart up to the room, and then whisked the kids off to kids’ (and teens’) club to get them registered. The staff was incredibly helpful, but the process is complex – particularly if you want your kids to join skiing or snowboarding lessons. There’s lots of show-up-here and get-this-sticker and all their gear-stays-here.

I have to admit, I didn’t follow it very well – but I’m not sure I see the point in doing so until we know when (if) we’ll be out on that hill. So we pushed that to another day.

But we did meet another family with kids around the same age as ours, so that was another pleasant surprise. Clearly Club Med is trying to cultivate a family-friendly atmosphere.

Though there are times – such as when kids are climbing overtop of you as part of a spirited game of hide-and-go-seek – when we wondered whether this might be perhaps too family friendly.

We went off to Le Chalet (the a-la-carte between-meals restaurant) for a quick bite, and the hit-and-miss continued – we sat in a beautiful window-facing booth and were served quickly, only to receive a glass of sparkling water instead of sparkling wine, a club sandwich without any chicken and a Caesar salad with both ranch dressing and tomatoes and chicken. Possibly from the sandwich. So bizarre.

Staff were apologetic about the mix-up with the wine – but we still didn’t have the replacement drink by the time we left some 20 minutes later.

From there, we went to collect our eldest from teens’ club (or Club Med Passworld, as they call it), and found him all-but-impossible to dislodge. He had discovered a Foosball table and Nintendo Switch, and already made several new friends. He was in his happy place.

Happy place or not, he still had to eat so we went off to the buffet for dinner. We were wary after our less-than-stellar Chalet experience, but the buffet was better than expected. Some of the offerings included freshly made pizza, salmon, curried pork udon noodles, chicken and dumplings, stuffed ricotta and chocolate fondue – to name just a few.

Table service at the buffet was also excellent – faster than on our cruise last summer, although in this case there were far fewer options.

From there, we went back to our room to hang out for a bit before taking in some of the evening activities. Gradually, we are beginning to realize that the most economical room option was probably not the best fit – while storage is ample and we have 2 separate, albeit small bedrooms, we’re lacking any kind of a desk or seating that isn’t a bed.

Wisely – and perhaps essentially – Club Med separated the toilet from the shower. But they didn’t give it its own sink so you have to walk across the foyer to use the sink in the shower room. And really, a toilet without a sink is gross, and shouldn’t be found in any high-end resort. Or really anywhere. (Though of course you can avoid this little annoyance with one tiny upgrade from ‘Superior’ to ‘Deluxe’.)

But seriously, Club Med – even prison cells have a sink next to the toilet.

Our son once again disappeared into Passworld after a brief period of downtime, and my wife, daughter and myself sat down to wait for the Just Dance event.

We passed the time by engineering fortifications with legs and tables to prevent errant children from charging across our row of seating. It actually worked fairly well. You live and learn, apparently.

Set up continued and we noticed that there was a stage, and the children were wearing pinnies. That seemed ominous. I was waiting to see if there was a table full of grumpy-looking judges with score cards at the ready.

Thankfully, it basically involved them playing gameplay videos from Just Dance and the kids (and parents) following along as best they could. Within a few dances, my daughter and I were up out of our seats dancing our little hearts out. It was truly great fun. Score many, many points for Club Med for this one.

Anyway, we’re now back in our tiny deskless room, far past our bedtimes, waiting for a torrential rain storm to hit. Le Massif has officially announced that they are “Exceptionally Closed” (Ferme Exceptionnellement) for tomorrow, and we have no idea whether the snow base will be able to handle the massive rainfall inbound.

What comes next? Stay tuned to find out…

Ready to check out the Club Med Charlevoix? Contact me at ryan.aldred@gmail.com for a friends and family invitation that will save $100 off the cost of your trip.

(Not available for Last Minute deals. Other limitations may apply.)

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