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Smoked Meat Diaries #13: Ronde and Ronde it Goes

Posted by Will / June 29, 2009

20090629-ronde7.blue67pony.jpgThere are certain attractions that some Montrealers could probably live without. One such attraction that comes to mind is "La Ronde" - the amusement park situated on Île Sainte-Hélène. The first time I crossed the Cartier Bridge, I had my inaugural glimpse of La Ronde with its myriad thrill rides towering towards the clouds, sprawled across a 150-acre plot. I shan't lie, I got excited.

"What's that?" I asked La Belle Fille.
"That's La Ronde," she responded. "It sucks."
"No it doesn't. It's totally awesome. Want to go this afternoon?" I offered.
"Will, there's 10 inches of snow on the ground. It's not even open."
"So what? Why do you insist on crushing my hopes and dreams?"
"15 seconds ago you hadn't even heard of La Ronde!"
"Hopes and dreams!"

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I've always loved amusement parks. I like the sights and sounds and even the smells. I enjoy the nervous excitement of being strapped into a ride, and the terrifying drops, dips, spins, and loops that accompany each 60-second journey into Thrillsville (yes, that's right, Thrillsville). Unfortunately, I couldn't find anyone to go with me. No one seemed to be too fond of La Ronde.

The Brother of La Belle Fille: La Ronde? That place sucks.
The Sister-in-Law of La Belle Fille: Are you serious? La Ronde sucks.
One of my co-workers: Have you been to La Ronde? It sucks.
Montreal friend: Oh Will! Ha ha! You're too much! That's a good one... La Ronde sucks.

Okay, okay, I was starting to sense that this wasn't exactly a local hotspot despite the fact that 2.5 million people visit La Ronde each year - I'm guessing very few of these visitors are adult Montrealers. Regardless, I was dying to go. I certainly wasn't going to go alone. I'm not afraid to attend the occasional movie by myself, but going solo to an amusement park is sketchy at best. It was becoming apparent that La Ronde appeals to a younger demographic and I surely couldn't appear any less creepy as a twenty-something male saddling up next to a bunch of tweens as a "single" rider on a rollercoaster. Luckily, I eventually found my amusement "park-ner" (Get it? Copyright pending). My friend was in town and when I told him that Quebec's largest amusement park was a mere 20-minute metro ride from my apartment and had just opened for the season, he was totally on board.

We ended up going on a day when there was a 100% chance of rain. This decision was calculated because we knew that with an ominous sky there would be fewer visitors and thus, shorter lines. When we arrived at the ticket booth, the first thing the cashier told us was that, due to the high chance of inclement weather, she was obligated to warn us that all tickets were non-refundable. It had not started raining yet, but the sky resembled the cast of Twilight (dark and brooding). The cost of admission was $39 - a steep price if we were going to get shut out. But we're risk-takers at heart and we decided to proceed with our plan. Once again, she asked us if we were certain, because all rides had to be shut down if it rained. Indeed, we were certain. After handing over our currency we were provided with passes which we took to the turnstiles to enter the park about 30 metres from the ticket booth. Before letting us in, the guy at the turnstiles went through the same spiel about the non-refund policy as though we might have forgotten or changed our minds during the 5-second walk from the ticket booth to the turnstiles. The pressure was almost too much to handle.

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Finally, we were allowed in the park and with the prospect of a thunderstorm halting our fun we impulsively began running. There we were, two men in their late twenties, sprinting through an amusement park like it was the Amazing Race sans television cameras. We must have looked like a couple of morons. We immediately made our way to The Goliath - La Ronde's newest rollercoaster and Canada's second-tallest and second-fastest. Just as we predicted, the line-up was miniscule compared to the physical queue that contains riders-in-waiting when the park is at full capacity. We walked through the empty queue which snaked its way back-and-forth for hundreds of metres before reaching the end of the line-up not ten feet from the loading dock of the ride. Just then, it began to drizzle. We started to panic, believing we had just spent $80 to run across the park only to be told the rides were closing. Luckily, the rain let up and our quest for thrills would not be threatened by weather again.

Indeed, the average age of park patrons that day seemed to skew towards pre-pubescence. There also seemed to be a disproportionate amount of females. We were a smidge out of place. It's hard to feel like a badass thrillseeker when all the other riders are 13-year-old girls. To be honest, riding rollercoasters all day is about as "badass" as flashing the devil horns at a Coldplay concert. Regardless, as the line shortened and we made our way to the front of the loading bay, I felt a twinge of anxious anticipation. Within a few minutes we were seated in the rollercoaster, ready to rock. I had never been on a rollercoaster that has such a high lift hill - the initial peak in which you slowly climb and accumulate potential energy. As the coaster crept to the top of the lift hill and I surveyed the skyline of Montreal, I grabbed my friend's hand, Thelma-and-Louise-style, and said, "We're going to die today." Just then the Goliath plummeted down the track and we barrelled through time and space, feeling the exhilarating effect of multiple G-forces pulling our faces taut like Joan Rivers.
Mere seconds later, the ride came to an end. We exited the ride and made our way past the booth where pictures of us screaming during the ride were being sold for unreasonable prices. I took out my camera and snapped a picture of the picture displayed on the screen in front of us which did not please the worker of the booth. (If a picture is worth a thousand words, is a picture of a picture worth two thousand words? Or would you square it - therefore it would be worth a million words. Let that rock your world for a minute.)

Luckily for us, our plan of going on a day with poor weather worked out just fine as each line was not more than a few minutes long. We rode every one of the big coasters: the Monster, the Cobra, the Vampire, the Boomerang, and we even went back to ride on the Goliath again (second-for-second the Goliath is the best coaster hands down). We rode on a few other rides, including the Tremblay Beer-sponsored "Orbit" which underwhelmingly shoots you up into the air. We perused the grounds and saw the things you normally see at an amusement park - overpriced food, crying children, and sociopathic carnies running the midway games who would take your last dime if they could convince you to try tossing a 2-inch wide ring onto a 3-inch wide pop bottle.

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All-in-all, La Ronde doesn't offer anything too spectacular and I'm not sure $39 was worth it. The rides were splendid fun while they lasted, but they were way too brief for the amount of waiting involved - even for the relatively short lines we encountered. It made me wonder about the value of visiting La Ronde during peak hours when those queues would be full and wait times would extend into several hours per ride. Ughh. I would lose my mind. Perhaps that's why the general consensus among Montrealers is that La Ronde "sucks." There are far better things to do with your time in this city than stand in line all day to experience a few minutes of thrills. In terms of "wait-to-thrill ratio," it would be more stimulating to stand in line at Schwartz's on a Saturday afternoon.

Perhaps my initial excitement for La Ronde was fuelled by too much sentimentality for childhood fantasies that I've long outgrown. Maybe one day I'll return with a mini-Will of my own who will soak up the atmosphere with wide-eyed wonder. In any event, I'm glad I went. Now when an out-of-towner suggests we go to La Ronde I can knowledgably say, "La Ronde? That place sucks."

Relevant song:
"Thriller" by: Michael Jackson
This is thriller, thriller night/ 'Cause I can thrill you more than any ghost would ever dare try/ Thriller, thriller night/ So let me hold you tight and share a killer, diller, chiller, thriller here tonight.

Photo credits: blue67pony, Danny VB, Joe Rollerfan, Steve-23, and gino carrier



Balaji / February 4, 2015 at 12:38 am
Bonjour,Tout d'abord merci de suivre l'e9mission et de reealyr vos remarques sur le blog.Plusieurs choses e0 dire concernant votre critique sur c9glantine et les pissenlits: je pense tre8s honneatement que la pre9sentatrice connaeet les pissenlits et sait e0 quoi ils ressemblent mais cela ne veut pas dire pour autant eatre capable, e0 coup sfbr, de les reconnaeetre d'emble9e dans un pre9 au milieu d'autres herbes qui leur ressemblent n'est-ce pas? Je crois que vous auriez e9te9 davantage choque9e si l'e9mission avait e9te9 truque9e et qu’c9glantine trouvait imme9diatement des racines de pissenlits au milieu d'autres ve9ge9taux. Nous avons fait le choix de la ve9rite9 qui pour ma part n'est pas honteuse car je pense que la majorite9 des gens aurait eu du mal e0 reconnaeetre des racines de pissenlits au premier coup d’œil e0 moins d'eatre un grand passionne9 du monde ve9ge9tal. D'autre part, ce n'est pas parce que c'est la pre9sentatrice qu'il faut qu'elle incarne la perfection ou le savoir absolu, elle est le0 pour orienter, accompagner les familles et les interroger sur l'expe9rience qu'elles sont en train de vivre. En tout cas maintenant, les te9le9spectateurs de l'e9mission sauront e0 l'avenir non seulement reconnaitre des racines de pissenlits mais surtout re9aliser un substitut de cafe9 (me9lange d'orge et de racines de pissenlits).2e8me remarque: Nous avons voulu montrer ce que signifie eatre locavore au sens radical du terme, ce qui implique de ne pas faire d'exception tout de suite. Ce parti pris suppose des contraintes notamment pour des produits de base tels que le cafe9, le sucre, le chocolat en effet. Mais vous allez de9couvrir dans l'e9pisode suivant la fameuse exception Marco Polo qui autorise le locavore e0 choisir une denre9e qui provient de plus de 200km Chaque famille va donc pouvoir e9lire un aliment comme le chocolat ou le cafe9 justement.Il me semble enfin que l'accent est mis, tout au long de la se9rie documentaire, sur les produits frais tels que les fruits et les le9gumes, la viande et le poisson car en effet nombreux sont les petits producteurs locaux qui en vendent alors que les grandes surfaces par souci de profit importent ces denre9es qui ont fait le tour de la plane8te parfois pour certaines et donc ont passe9 du temps dans les frigos et les moyens de transport, ce qui a un impact e9cologique direct e9vident (fort bilan carbone et forte empreinte e9cologique).Je vous remercie une nouvelle fois pour vos remarques en espe9rant que vous continuerez e0 regarder l'e9mission pour de9couvrir la suite de l'aventure de ces 5 familles.Bien e0 vous.

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