It’s a perfect day for kayaking. You paddle quietly over calm waters of the deepest blue. You are enchanted by the wilderness, the feeling of having the entire world alone to yourself, of being lost in the middle of nowhere, when you suddenly notice a small sandy beach on an island. It’s not so much […]
Frédéric Arsenault, master in the art of relaxation
You are greeted at the corner Murdoch St. and 8th St. by a rather burly, bearded man. His biker with a heart of gold look perfectly complements the sparkling smile he flashes at you. Meet Frédéric Arsenault. As he extends his hand, he presents himself as the Director General and co-owner of the Hôtel des Gouverneurs (the one on the corner of the street, over there). As the conversation unfurls, you tell yourself that you’ve once again come upon a very passionate person (what do they put in the water here?) and somewhat eclectic man, who likes the circus as well as football and is on almost every board of directors in existence.
Even though he left the region to go study, the fact that he would return was a given and the decision to do so was an easy one to make: “I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else,” he confides. One advantage of living here among others, is that you can leave home for work at 7:55 a.m. when you begin at 8:00 a.m. and be home by 5:05 p.m. when you finish at 5:00 p.m. That allows one to spend more time with one’s family, which for me, is important.”
Listening to him speak in that same joyful, excited tone you’ve heard others here speak in, you start to think that a natural predisposition for happiness may just be a characteristic trait of the locals. “I like to have fun in life,” says Frédéric. “I also like to work with the public.” Even if he’d never dreamt of taking over an accommodation facility, Frédéric has no regrets whatsoever as to his position in life: “People are happy to come and see me, which is not the case when you’re a dentist, for example,” he says with a laugh.
Yet, he became co-owner of the hotel almost by accident following a series of coincidences. “I’d just completed a CEGEP diploma in Pure and Applied Sciences,” he recounts. “I was considering going into the health field, but then realized that even though I liked the pursuit of knowledge, the academic life wasn’t for me. So, I left for Europe for a year with my girlfriend. We backpacked here and there, worked harvesting grapes and came back when our money ran out. We settled in Rouyn and I started working as a dishwasher. Then I became assistant cook, then cook. I liked the restaurant industry, but the lack of opportunities for upward mobility wasn’t appealing. So I went back to school at the Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec. When I saw that they were looking for a restaurant manager at the Hôtel des Gouverneurs, I applied as this is what I had been training to become. I held that position for two years, then went on to be Manager of Accommodations for another two years. Then, when the owner decided to sell, I bought the hotel from him along with his sons.”
Since then, he has continued to strive to improve things. “What I like to do,” he says, “is searching for new ways of doing things or new products to offer. I like to maintain our product offering fresh, both in terms of decor (though that’s not my strong suit—that’s something my partners handle) and in the kitchen.” Coming from someone who rides a unicycle, does a little juggling and spits fire, this thirst for action is not that surprising…
What he also finds interesting is that all accommodation owners currently seem to share this same agenda to improve their establishments: “The amount of investment we’ve seen in the city’s hotel industry over the past few years has been excellent for everybody. The quality of accommodations is exceptional and we take pride in that.”
The region as a whole is most certainly another source of pride for Arsenault, you think to yourself as he goes on: “The Abitibi-Temiscamingue region is a hidden treasure. It’s not so hidden anymore, but it still takes a certain amount of audacity or courage to come all the way out here to visit us and I have to say that I like it that way, because those that do come out are the gutsy ones who have spirit. People who want to try things, who are ready to follow us into the woods, go hiking, canoeing and who are willing to discover new things in what is more often than not a slightly more rustic environment than what they are accustomed to. We are a very welcoming people and it’s easy to make good acquaintances here who will not hesitate to point you in the right direction or lend a helping hand if you’re ever in a tight spot, regardless of where that spot is.”
He advises those who have yet to visit the region to get out here as quickly as they can. “We are ready and it will be our pleasure to accommodate you! You don’t have to worry about getting bored, we can respond to your every need no matter what your field of interest is, be it nature, culture, events … or sports … winter sports, hockey … we’ve got something for all tastes.”
Frédéric’s regional favourites include:
– Hiking trails, namely those in the Kekeko Hills area which is dotted with lakes. The splendid Lake Kipawa;
– All outdoor sports;
– The poutine at the Bar à Poutine Chez Morasse, which he eats from time to time; and the sirloin steak at Le Cellier, which he eats once a month, to his doctor’s despair!