Tuesday 6th September 2016 – “WELL ON THE WAY …

… to the Land of Nod” I said, didn’t I? And at 21:45 too.

And there I stayed until almost 04:00 before i had to disappear off down the corridor. Over 6 hours of continuous sleep is a miracle these days and I’m well-pleased with that. It’s been ages since I’ve been like that – it just tells you how tired I really was.

And that’s not all either. I got back into bed and I was gone again for another hour or so too – and quite right too if you ask me.

First downstairs for breakfast again, and then back up here to do some work, as well as a long chat with a friend on the laptop. The internet is a marvellous tool for this kind of thing and I wonder however we managed without it.

All of this took me until about 10:40 and I had to finish then because there was a shuttle that someone had ordered to take them back to the airport and I had hitched a ride on it. It wasn’t as if I was working to a timetable and so it wasn’t worth ordering one just for myself, even if it is a free service. And so off we set and it doesn’t take long to reach there from here.

And it looks as if the Societe de Transports de Montreal has been spending its money too. In the past, the 747 – the bus that connects the airport to the city centre – was just an ordinary service bus. But now, we have some big six-wheeled Prevost tour buses doing the runs and that’s certainly progress.

Of a sort anyway, because the legendary 25-minute white knuckle ride into the city is over.

rotten concrete urban motorway environment montreal canada september septembre 2016In the 60s, 70s and 80s there was a massive investment in the infrastructure of Montreal. But the work was blighted by problems of overspending, over-time and, shame as it is to say it, all kinds of corruption. All of the concrete work that was done in those days is falling apart as you can see in this photo and this is by no means the worst example – just one that was clearly visible right by where the bus happened to stop.

As a result, huge sections of the overhead motorway network have been taken out of service to be repaired and in some cases it looks as if some sections have been demolished. And that means that our journey took about three times as long as it would otherwise have done.

I’m glad now that I didn’t rely on public transport to bring me into the city early tomorrow morning. As a long-distance traveller I’ve always believed in being as close to my destination as possible as early as possible, and you can understand why.

So here I am at the bus station, and there’s a left-luggage place here. It’s $10 to leave an item here for 24 hours but I’m not going all around the city lugging the giant suitcase around with me and I certainly don’t want to be staggering around with it at 05:00 tomorrow morning. Here it stays.

I didn’t stay though. I headed off to the Galeries Desjardins in the rue Sainte Catherine – and for several reasons too.

  1. there’s a Subway in the basement and I’m hungry. What with the delay on the bus it’s lunchtime already and my stomach feels as if my throat has been cut. I managed to eat this one too without dropping it on the floor.
  2. it’s steaming hot again and there’s a sorbet store just across the road. The coconut milk sorbet was beautiful although they were a bit stingy with it, but the chocloate sorbet was disgusting and it was all that I could do to finish it. I won’t be having that again.
  3. there’s a metro station down in the bowels of the place and this is where I want. I’m on the move again.

The metro takes me to the terminus right out at Honore-Beaugrand and there I leap aboard a 28 bus that pulls up right on cue. This is going to take me out to the rue Jarry Est and my storage locker. My credit card expired a few weeks ago and a payment has been missed and I don’t want them to foreclose on contents of it.

It’s a nice drive out through the outer suburbs of the city and then round across the motorway to the industrial section of the east end. The friendly driver shows me where my stop is but I recognised it anyway.

And now we have another problem – and that is that my UK credit card – which is in credit as always when I go off on a wander – has been blocked. "Unusual spending patterns" probably, which is just an excuse for saying that they don’t want me to spend any money so that the bank can keep it. I mean – it’s not an unusual spending pattern at all, is it? Every year at this time of the year I come here.

Still, I’ve been expecting this ever since I was stranded in Flagstaff, Arizona, in 2002. I make sure that I have other cards with me and I’ve even opened an account in a Canadian bank. We can soon resolve this issue – but it’s darned annoying all the same.

Back outside to the bus stop on the other side of the road and it’s the same driver on the return run. We both recognised each other and we had a little chat. That passes the time of day and we’re soon back at Honore-Beaugrand, just in time to be swamped by schoolchildren. It must be chucking-out time already. But then again, we did go a long way out of the city.

hotel bon accueil 1601 Rue St-Hubert, Montréal, QC H2L 3Z3 canada september septembre 2016I alight at Berri-UQAM and head round to the rue Saint Hubert and the Hotel Bon Accueil.

It’s quite a modern building – dating from the 80s I reckon – but I bet that the rooms haven’t seen a lick of paint since then – it’s quite down-at-heel. But the place is spotlessly clean, there’s air-conditioning, a fridge and the bed feels oh! So comfortable! So much so in fact that I’m well-away with the fairies for an hour or so. And quite right too.

But I can’t stay here for ever no matter how nice it feels. I need to be on my way.

place emilie gamelin montreal canada september septembre 2016Another advantage of the hotel is that right at the end of the street is the Place Emilie Gamelin.

She was a nun who had a convent here but that was demolished to become the site of the Berri-UQAM metro station and underneath all of the grass and greenery is a concrete pad which is actually the roof of the station.

If I do decide to come back to the hotel here, this place would be nice to come to sit to with a book and a cold drink if I don’t feel up to going for a wander around the city. It’s nice to have a garden close by

But I don’t have time to stop here and enjoy the sun this afternoon. We have things to do.

gare viger canadian pacific railway terminus montreal canada september septembre 2016Our next stop is what is for me the most beautiful building in Montreal – the Gare Viger, which was formerly the old Canadian Pacific Railway terminus.

Canadian Pacific abandoned all of its operations east of Montreal back in the 1980s (hence the reason that I’m obliged to leave the city on the coach) and this majestic building was left to decay. At one time there was even talk at one time of demolishing it, but it seems that good aesthetic taste has prevailed and they are actually doing something with it. And just as well too because it would be a disaster if this place fell by the wayside.

Down to the river next to see if there’s anything loading or unloading at the grain terminals. Montreal’s fortunes were built on the grain that was brought in from the Prairies by the railway and shipped out to Europe down the Saint Lawrence.

manitoba great lakes laker port of montreal canada september septembre 2016And we’re in luck. Not the best Ship of the Day but the first one so far. It’s so far away that I can’t read its name from here (yes I can if I enlarge the image – she’s the Manitoba, or Personitoba as I suppose we have to say these days).

She’s an old laker, as you can tell from the bridge that is right on the bows of the ship. These ships sail around the Great Lakes and through the canals as far as here, and the reason that the bridge is so far forward is that the captain can have a good view of the entry to the locks into which the ship must sail.

And I do mean "old", by the way. As in 1967 as it happens and that’s an extraordinary age for a cargo ship. She’s a bulk carrier of 10902 tonnes, registered in Hamilton on the shores of Lake Ontario and, for a period up to 2011, was known as the Maritime Trader.

According to her manifests, she seems to spend a great deal of time travelling between Port Colborne on Lake Erie and Port Cartier down the Gulf of St Lawrence which we visited in 2012. It looks as if she’s in the ore business then.

pont jacques cartier st lawrence river montreal canada september septembre 2016Seeing as how we were talking of bridges just now … "well, one of us was" – ed … how about this for a bridge?

It’s the custom, as we know, for important geographical features to be named after their discoverer, and so I wonder what Jacques Cartier said when he sailed up the St Lawrence to here on 2nd October 1535 and saw this magnificent bridge spanning the river. He must have been so impressed, just as I was the first time that I saw it.

belveders ile sainte helene st lawrence river montreal canada september septembre 2016It’s a beautiful evening and not cooling down very much so I go for another stroll along the riverside.

Over there is where I should have been yesterday had that music concert not interrupted my plans. That’s the Ile Sainte Helene and that’s the belvedere where there’s an excellent view of the city at night when everywhere is all lit up. I’ll manage without a photo from there though for this year. You never know – I might be back in Montreal yet again if I can continue to fight off this illness.

But just a few words about the island. During World War II it was the site of a prisoner-of-war camp that earned something of an evil reputation due to the severe fashion that the German soldiers were treated in there. It later it became the site of the 1967 World’s Fair – Expo ’67, which, seeing as this was the the period of a considerable amount of major Quebecois terrorism, was known throughout the world as Explo ’67.

grosse ile goelette montreal canada september septembre 2016Further around the waterfront in the old docks is another ship.

Actuallly she’s a goelette, the Grosse Ile and she claims to be the last working goelette on the Saint Lawrence. She was bought as something not too far removed from a rotting hulk in 1992 and it took 20 years to restore.

Her work these days seems to be nothing more than taking tourists for a couple of laps around the harbour, and I could have been tempted, but I didn’t have the Crown Jewels with me so I let the opportunity pass me by.

Now I bet that you are all dying to know what a goelette is, aren’t you? And so you need to cast your minds back 50 years and more. In those days, most of the settlements along the banks of the St Lawrence were either fishing villages or lumber camps, and there was no road connection between them. Instead, there were the goelettes that sailed along the river from a railhead and worked a chain of these isolated communities, dropping off supplies and picking up the fish or whatever.

There are still several isolated communities like that these days and you may remember coming with me in May 2012 on an icebreaker, smashing our way through the pack-ice out to an isolated island down in the Gulf of St Lawrence.

From here I trudged wearily, because I’m in wearily trudging mode by now, to the metro. It’s my last night in Montreal so I’m going to have a big blow-out.

Quite literally too, because there’s a superb Indian restaurant right by the Snowdon metro station and that’s where I’m heading. Vegetable samosas followed by a potato, spinach and mint curry with boiled rice and a naam bread and that was me well-and-truly stuffed. As I have said before, it’s the best Indian meal that I have ever had outside Stoke-on-Trent.

Another one of the advantages of being in a hotel in the city centre is that travelling time is so much less. Instead of 20:45 it was more like 20:15 when I was home. This meant that I was all done and dusted, in and out of the shower and all tucked up in a comfortable bed by 20:45.

And if I’m going to have to be up tomorrow at 05:00, then I need to be, too. I’m not looking forward to this one little bit.

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