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Like Old Times

The day started rather inauspiciously. I awoke with a bug bite on the neck. As if being sun burnt weren’t enough. Merde! Oh well, it was still a nice day with plenty to do. After getting myself ready and walking down to my designated breakfast café, I realized that delivery trucks were a regular event in the mornings. They came in the mornings, removed the temporary barriers from the ends of the street, lined up, dropped off and then whisked away.

Other events of this particular morning included seeing four cops corner and cuff a man dressed in fatigues and seeing an older businessman walk past me who had a small red smear on the brow of his left eye. I wasn’t sure if it was blood. He walked fine, and assuming I would be more of a bother than a help if I tried to talk to him, I just let him carry on about his reddened day. Were these events connected? Perhaps so.

I decided to head down to old town for the morning. Along the way, I saw a couple of raggy men jump into idling traffic and wash a Buick’s windshield. The elderly couple inside gave them some money, and the men went off. Yes, Montreal is a larger city.

Seeing Old Town

Old town was utterly stunning. The old stone and brick buildings were so beautiful. Some of the streets were still made of very worn cobblestone, while other streets had a newer if similar design. For a few moments, I could imagine what it would have looked like centuries ago. There was also a one block long market square in the heart of old town, which was undoubtedly where people used to come to gossip, peruse, ogle and perhaps even buy. Today, it is flanked by restaurants and populated by a few merchant kiosks. I enjoyed the atmosphere for a very short while, but there was much more to see.

As I walked along, I saw  old school horse drawn carriages as well as the more modern amphitour. Old town, also called old port, had a river running along it with a few waterside features. I went out along the northern most quai with the steeple like clock  tower at the end. There was an elevated “boardwalk” that came out from a waterway pouring down over some terracing and into the river (or so it seemed). There was also a large pond in the middle of a small park, and the pond had two large fountain bursts shooting upward some 18 feet (or 6 meters).

As I walked about old town, I smelled marijuana. I realized I had smelled it several times while I was in Montreal. Also, I am very certain there is one popular cologne that all the men in Montreal wear. Yes. If a man wore cologne in Montreal, it was this one particular fragrance.

Well, I wanted to go to an island that I could see from the riverside, so I went back to the Village to refuel with some poutine and set back out. I had to go by metro, as it was the only practical way to get there.

Île Ste Hélène and Parc Jean Drapeau

As I stood waiting in the metro station, I heard someone yelling out something I couldn’t make out right away. After a little while, and repeated yells, I figured out there was a woman saying “hallelujah”. No one seemed to be paying her any mind. Once the rubber wheeled train arrived, we all boarded and headed on our…faaah! The train lurched to a halt nearly throwing everyone standing to the floor and giving everyone seated whiplash. It was about a minute before we were on our merry (if jolted) way.

The island was the very next stop along the way, so it wasn’t long before I was out of the station, which opened up on a courtyard with a snack bar on one side and an outdoor swimming pool on the other. There was many a nice spot to hang out, beside a small lake, at the island edge overlooking the river, along tree shaded paths and so on. I walked around it all, shot photos and paused to take it all in. It was Parc Jean Drapeau.


There were a few specific “attractions” on the island. There was the biosphere, not to be confused with the biodome. Although I chose not to go inside, the outside looked like the Epcot sphere stripped bare of paneling to reveal only the spherical skeleton. It apparently used to be enclosed, but a fire burned away the shell, or at least enough of it that it is completely open now. It also was shown in a 1970s Battlestar Galactica episode “Greetings from Earth”. It is a monument to environmentalism (I think).

Lévis Tower and Stewart Museum

The island had a couple of older military buildings on it. There was the Lévis Tower (Tour de Lévis) that did a pretty good job of towering. As it happened, the woman from the metro station that had yelled out several times stood in the closed doorway and waved a pink flag with yellow cross while holding a bible. It made me think about how people can immerse themselves in their beliefs so strongly.

I walked on and found the Stewart Museum (Musée Stewart) made from part of a fort building constructed in 1820. Interestingly, the fort was made in case the U.S. decided to invade Canada. I didn’t really feel like taking a tour of military history, but it was interesting to see it from the outside. The canon at the front didn’t really inspire me either, although the closed gun ports in the fort walls were interesting. I think I want a brick house with gun ports and towers with ramparts. They’re such under appreciated architectural features.

Devil Dog

A disturbing incident of note about my visit to the island was a shrieking dog. Yes, that’s right. I heard this sound that I thought was similar to a very upset child. However, as I came into better view of the auditory spectacle, I saw a dog held on a leash. I was so shocked, I wasn’t sure what was really going on for several seconds. I finally realized this small dog (not sure of the breed) was shrieking.

La Ronde (Six Flags)

On the North end of the island was a six flags amusement park called La Ronde. It was closed the day I made it to the island, but I took a peek at it anyway. It seemed to have all the typical rides of a six flags, as well as the typical prices: CAD $44. I thought about returning to it on the coming Saturday, but as I planned to be at an amusement park later in the year, I decided to save my money instead and not go. When I return to Montreal some day, I will be sure to go when the park is open and spend a day there.

Read more about the Biosphere
Visit the Stewart Museum site
Read more about the Lévis Tower
See the Ronde site

Peruse the pictures of the day

Les mots du jour: bassin (pond, pool, tub), vieux-port (old port), balades (tours), croisières (cruises), canette (drink can), sortie d’urgence (emergency exit),  casse-croûte (snacks), déchets (trash, litter), une navette (shuttle service, ferry), débarcadère seulement (drop off only), crème sure (sour cream).

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