Sylvie O'Rourke

It’s all downhill from here

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By Sylvie O’Rourke

Today we are tourists taking in some of Montreal’s popular attractions. Our adventure begins at to the Old Port, a thriving and crowded area where horse-drawn carriages roam the streets and the courageous zip-line overhead, where live statues stand still in total concentration and artists display their creations. Our taste buds tingle as we sample wine and cider and the freshest of blueberries covered in dark chocolate. Our feet must tread carefully upon the unfamiliar texture of the cobble stone roads as we walk, and occasionally pause, to listen to the street performers doing what they do best. The scents wafting from nearby cafés remind us that it is lunch time and we head towards Chinatown for a chopstick experience.

Our bellies are full as we hop on a bus to Mount Royal. Upon our arrival at Jeanne Mance Park, the pulsating sounds of the Tam Tams lead us to the George Etienne Cartier Monument. This drumming circle is in full swing and it is impossible not to feel the vibrations in our bones. We observe some people gyrating to the rhythm seemingly oblivious to their surroundings. Nearby slackliners are practicing their skills walking on bouncy tightropes stretched between the trees and others have brought hammocks and picnic blankets to settle in for the day. I am definitely sensing a relaxed vibe, almost like a trip back in time to the hippie era. A hike up Olmstead Road takes us to the Kondiaronk Belvedere where we admire Montreal’s panoramic skyline. After a short rest on the summit, we take the escarpment trail back down.

At the base of the hill we find the nearest Bixi station to rent commuter bikes.   These bikes, coined from the words “bicycle” and “taxi” are part of a bike-sharing system that comprise approximately three hundred stations around the city.   These bikes are made for short trips and extra fees are billed if the time limit is exceeded. Thankfully our leader has taken that into consideration when planning our route and has ensured that most of our cycling is downhill. Way to save on energy!

We zip down Rachel Street and turn right through the western section of La Fontaine Park, a forty hectares park encompassing various sports fields, two ponds and a waterfall. From there we head back to Berri Street where we pass the University of Quebec campus. The bicycle lanes on both of these streets are bi-directional and separated from vehicles by a concrete median. They even have their own traffic lights. It feels much safer to have that barrier between us and the bustle of Montreal traffic. The descent is steep at times and we must occasionally brake to slow down. We hardly have to pedal at all!

In no time we are back at the Old Port and we rush to the Bonsecours Market to pick up more of those chocolate covered blueberries before we go. They are made by the trappist monks of Mistassini and their season is short; all the more reason for us to indulge while we can! We have had a full day going up, down, and around this fascinating City but now it is time to go home. Adieu Montréal! A bientôt!!

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