May 3: Montreal - Lacolle, QC - The Great North American Sticky Bun Hunt - CycleBlaze

May 3: Montreal - Lacolle, QC

...but the professional ladies of Montréal do just that.
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YOU THINK YOU pass unnoticed on a bike. Nothing, anyway, beyond the empty stares of those you pass and perhaps the unnoticed sighs of drivers who believe you have no right to be there. But sometimes there is more. Today, for instance, we had an especially taxing morning trying to get out of Montréal. It rained, the roads weren't simple and the wind blew on the bike path on the pont Jacques-Cartier high over the river. The only entertaining moment was to see two prostitutes - Montréal is especially well provided with professional ladies - arguing over

The sailors' church in Montréal
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Detail from the sailors' church
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who would be first to use a public pay phone. The fact that at eight thirty in the morning, and in the rain, they were dressed in no more than panties, bra, high heels and backless, apron-like dress, just added to the pathos.

But, look, that's not the point. What I was going to say was that we failed to find all but brief snatches of the

There's no denying the Frenchness of Montréal (1)
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There's no denying the Frenchness of Montréal (2)
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fabled Route Verte out of the city and therefore had several distinctly unpleasant hours on badly surfaced roads in dense traffic and in the rain. When we eventually reached Chambly, the point at which we could say we had left the gravitational pull of the city, we had settled on a day that was promising to be strengthening rather than pleasing.

Going the other way, though, unknown to us, was a smiling, retired school teacher called Gilles. He saw us, turned his car back to where he had been and followed us to the post office. As we emerged, he was waiting for us.

Gilles: the day had found its sunbeam
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"Where are you from? Where are you going? I ride a bike as well." Enthusiasm poured from him. "Have you got time for a coffee? Come to our place. I'll call my wife and tell her."

We settled on meeting at a coffee shop down the road - a question of time, really - and the day had found its sunbeam.

"This is a strategic point," he explained as he led us down past the fort and

Gilles leads the way on his guided tour of Chambly and its history.
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on beside the chasing river. "You have to remember that the French controlled Canada and that they feared attack from the south. Anyone who passed this point would have free access to the St Lawrence river and therefore to everywhere beyond."

The fort is small and rectangular. Engraved names run down the pillars of the main doors, recalling battles and generals. It is now a national monument.

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Gilles has lived in Chambly for 35 years. He was a teacher but he works now restoring houses. His pride in his town is obvious.

I said I'd noticed that all the car number plates had the legend Je me souviens - I remember. But what do they remember?

Gilles said: "It means..." He paused and laughed in amusement at his ignorance. "Well, to be honest, I don't rightly know what it means." We both laughed. There is an enjoyable irony in boasting that you remember something you have forgotten.

Old Montréal
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