Day 102 Cornwall Ontario to Montreal Quebec: Montreal!!! Enfin nous sommes ici! - Grampies on the Go - CycleBlaze

August 10, 2011

Day 102 Cornwall Ontario to Montreal Quebec: Montreal!!! Enfin nous sommes ici!

We had set our alarm for 4 a.m. and had no trouble waking up, because this was the day for our mad dash to Montreal. Unlike earlier in the trip, it was pitch dark at 4 a.m., providing a graphic indication of just how long we have been crawling down the highways. At least the rain had stopped. We turned on all our flashers, put n our bright yellow windshells and set off.

This run down motel nevertheless kept us dry
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We set off at 5 to make sure we made it to Montreal
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Almost immediately Roslyn jumped out onto the road. Clearly her seatbelt had no been fastened properly, but otherwise we have no idea wehy she tried to abandon ship. It is a bit scary setting off in the dark, admittedly.

Roslyn forgot to fasten her seatbelt
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The Waterfont Trail continued, yes, by the water front, and we continued to think how totally great it is to have such a route.

A ship heads up to the Lakes in the early morning
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We were following Brian Hedney's instructions and the cue sheet that Dodie had put together with Sandra's help. When in South Lancaster it said to turn off highway 2 and on to Old Montreal road, it sounded logical. 2 km later, Old Montreal road ended in someone's driveway. We retraced the road looking for where there might have been a missed turn, but nothing. Halfway down there was a "dead end" sign - usually such a sign would be at the entrance to a dead end not in the middle! Anyway, we had ignored it so I guess they could have put it anywhere.

We went back to highway 2 and carried on. The lost ground did not phase us. On this day nothing could phase us. We were headed headed for Montreal and Amelia and no impediments could stop us or even hardly be noticed.

South Lancaster is the last town before the Quebec border. We soon reached it and were treated to all sorts of photo worthy landmarks. Road markings turned to French, there was a kiosk with pamphlets about the route behind us and the route ahead, and a sign that included some of our old and new favourite trail logos.

The first hint we are approaching Quebec
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La Route Verte!
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The official start/end of the Waterfront Trail
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We came to love seeing these logos
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Our new favourite
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Another old favourite - sort of!
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The kiosk had a Waterfront Trail pamphlet, but we have yet to see a full blown map
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This did not contain much info
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Bike routes of the Montreal area
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We are here - Quebec border!
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The fleur de lis
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Welcome to Quebec and "bonjour" from the bike route street marking people
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Yes, yes, Quebec!
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Bike friendly place
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We had hopes that the Route Verte signage would be better done than what we had found for the Waterfront Trail, but actually it proved to be about on a par. That meant we could expect to get lost about a half dozen times per day and/or have to use our wits (that is, Dodie's wits, I actually have none to speak of).

One very encouraging initial thing was the set up of the bike path as part of the roadway. Facing east the path was on the left, with two lanes separated by a line. Then there were flexible marker standards, then the shoulder of the roadway, and then the roadway. Of course, we have seen bike paths running beside a road, but that would typically be a single lane meandering somewhere along the right of way. This looked much more like a design for making the bike lane a full fledged part of the road design, something Dodie had been saying "Why don't they..." for about the last 6000 km.

Of course, it didn't last - this is still North America even it is was Quebec. But it was still nice to see a demo.

The bikepath as part of the road
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Another look at the road/path setup
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The surroundings were pretty nondescript. But it's not only drop dead gorgeous things that make up the interest in a trip.So here is a peek at what we actually saw. For those not familiar with Quebec, there are millions of convenience stores, called Depanneurs. Wikipedia says depanner means to help out of difficulty or "troubleshoot", but I always think of it as meaning "un-panick-er".

A typical depanneur
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Our surroundings around St. Zotique
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We tried several depanneurs looking for some Quebec flags - the Fleurs de Lis - to add to our BoBs. They all said that since it is far from St Jean Baptiste day they had no flags in stock. In Quebec, St Jean Baptiste day is the equivalent of Canada Day or July 4 in the U.S. We found this a good sign, because it meant the population was putting nationalism in its proper place - pulling out flags one day a year. When we first abandoned Quebec (in 1970) they were not only pulling out flags on the wrong days but putting bombs in mail boxes and kidnapping diplomats.

We install the fleur de lis
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A dollar store finally came up with some flags, brought from deep storage in the back. We liked the name of the store, too.

Cute dollar store name
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The Soulanges canal
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The route verte now followed the Soulanges canal. This, plus the Lachine Canal later are terrific greenways. They are like rail trails - they use an abandoned transport corridor and open it to bicycles and walkers. We we also pleased to see that the Route Verte had installed picnic tables and garbage cans at lots or places along the path. It's a big big change from the Quebec we knew 30-40 years ago, when cars were king and bikes had no chance at all. If change like we have seen can happen here, it can happen anywhere. Do you hear that - Manitoba???

Route Verte table and garbage can. Other sites also have a bike rack
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The road by the canal
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Really nice cycling
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Wild apple tree by the canal side
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Some stark dead trees. Don't know why, but they still looked interesting.
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At one point along the canal there was construction - it looked like maybe a road was going to cross at right angles. The construction zone was a wasteland of about a half a square kilometer. However lots of "bike route detour" type signage was provided, and an alternative route had been created - carefully packed and fenced - that led easily through the disturbed area. Again, it was a recognition of the legitimacy of the bike that was really heartening.

The detour
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A small gaggle of local cyclists at the detour. Dodie has just told them how to go through it.
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Locks in the canal
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A canal bridge
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Some where along the canal, where I had stopped to pick some mud out of my fenders from a spot where trucks had crossed the detour route, a touring cyclist came up from behind. The profile of a pannier loaded long distance bike coming towards you is so characteristic, and so much fun to wonder who it will be, where they are from and where they are headed.

This turned out to be Heike, from Stuttgart, who had flown to Victoria to start at the Trans Canada Mile 0, and who was headed for St John's. It turned out that we rode with Heike all the way into Montreal. It was fun to now have a real parade, an in spots where we were mixing it up with cars, there is a feeling of safety in numbers, even if the bike total is only three.

We have Heike's blog URL somewhere and I will pop it in here soon. I expect it is in German, but of course this blog does have German readers!

Dodie and Heike check the route
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It's a parade
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Bike friendly II
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The parade crosses to the Island of Montreal
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Dodie did a great job of finding our way onto the Island of Montreal proper an into the first town - Ste Anne de Bellevue. This is the site of McGill University's MacDonald College campus, and the place from which Dodie's mom graduated from teacher's college. We have some old family photos showing the graduation at exactly this place.

The streets of Ste Anne de Bellevue
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Hilda's college
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The route then leads through the west end of the Island and the towns that make up Montreal's western suburbs. Particularly by the water, there are some very big and expensive houses.

There is a string of towns down to the city of Montreal.
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and waterfront houses
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Many houses are unique and expensive
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There are still some nice water views to be seen
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The Lakeshore Road is a peaceful part of the route
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even bigger houses...
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The town of Pointe Clair
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Moving down the Island!
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Right on!
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We say goodbye to Hieke
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Storms begin to threaten
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Dodie and others check the route
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A double spire church. We will be on the lookout for Glenn's single and double spire church towns
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As with the Soulanges canal, the Lachine Canal forms a remarkable greenway though some of the grungiest, most freeway infested parts of Montreal. It;s a wonderful thing, and did not happen by accident. Banners along the way proclaim the project and its federal/provincial funding.

The Lachine Canal
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These guys were fast!
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Dodie's dad used to take her to this very bridge to watch it go up and down. (Predates TV, eh!)
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The canal is a major greenway
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Yes, and a major project
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Ha, we do not have to fight it out with these guys
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Interesting sky will soon threaten
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We were looking for a "Welcome to Montreal" sign that would be our photo op for completing this most major phase of the trip. We didn't spot that, but we did first spy St. Joseph's Oratory in the distance. This is one of the most iconic images of Montreal, and seeing it meant we really were there.

A glimpse of St. Josephs
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Other icons soon followed. The skyline in the distance, the Atwater Market building (site of some of the best food available anywhere - you could live beside this market and never ever want to leave), and Place Ville Marie - the four sided office tower in the middle of downtown.

Dodie has basically entered the city!
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Atwater Market
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Place Ville Marie
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Of course, the cycling/touring gods were not willing to just let us cruise into the city unopposed - that would be so much out of character for them! So lightening flashed, thunder thundered, and the skies opened as we came to Old Montreal. The rain bounced high off the pavement, and our cue sheet faltered. We asked directions once and even gave the Garmin a turn. Finally we approached Josh and Sabrina's street. The gods gave up, the rain stopped, and wait for it ... church bells pealed. We had made it!!

Montreal
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Rain pelts us as we enter Old Montreal
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More rain on the lower canal.
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Amelia! There is no cuter baby on earth. We both cried to see her. We got to hold her. Dodie got to change her!

Dodie first holds Amelia
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Dodie and Amelia at the back balcony
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More Dodie and Amelia
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Dodie gets to change her
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Amelia and Grampie #2
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Amelia
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Of course Montreal is also about proper bakeries, and Josh/Sabrina had chocolate poppy seed roll and Stefanka Cake specially on hand from the Polish bakery. These two things are the closest to heaven on earth as one can get. Ooops, except for real croissants,that is - and family friend Andre brought those!

Sabrina with real croissants and poppy seed roll
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Andre and Sabrina
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Cameron and Jen
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Amelia asleep
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Sabrina and Amelia
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The restaurant was called Les Belles Soeurs, and we tried to explain the meaning of this to Cameron, who is trying his best to absorb as much French (and everything else) as he can in just a day or two. We know that belle-soeur means sister in law, so we assumed that the restaurant name meant "the sisters in law". Josh put an end to it by interrogating the owner. It turns out that she started the restaurant with her sister, and also had in mind the fact that the Michel Tremblay play Les Belles Soeurs was set in this area. So in fact, as in English, there are no in-laws involved unless you get the dashes in there ----

Les Belles Soeurs
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Next stop was Josh's favourite ice cream store. We found it closed, at the ridiculously early hour of 11 p.m. A discussion ensued with the owner, but he did not actually open the store for us - a small surprise. He did close by saying "see you tomorrow". Josh says this was not just a casual sign off - he knows he will see Josh tomorrow. So there it is, sent to bed without ice cream. I guess this was not quite the perfect day it seemed to be!!!

The ice cream lover (poor Josh, we had to get one photo of him in here amid all the bike path and Amelia junk)
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Today's ride: 125 km (78 miles)
Total: 6,331 km (3,932 miles)

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