Is An Island
was in the fifth grade when I discovered that Montreal is an island.
At first the
idea made the city seem small - enveloped to north and south by
the Ottawa and St. Lawrence Rivers, floating in the longest inland
seaway on the planet.
But as the years
passed, the idea of smallness no longer fit. There were so many
neighbourhoods to visit, so many discoveries to make in the various
districts of the city. Visiting friends in the East, shopping to
the North, dining riverside in the West, and discovering museums
downtown and in Old Montreal to the South... There's even a second
Yet, all that
tramping around, and I was back where I'd started - Montreal was
a small city. By bus and metro, bike and train, you could explore
every part of it.
was one thing I had never done, and that was to make a circuit of
its coastline - or even travel to the very end.
So last month
my mother and I did just that, travelling to the furthest east end
of the island, to the Bout de l'Īle park.
not take very long, a half hour at most, but as soon as you reach
the end and enter the park, you can't help but wonder how long such
a journey might have taken in the past - if any of Montreal's earliest
settlers had attempted such a trek.
From the park,
there is a wide view of the le Gardeur bridge, and a number of islands,
many of which are uninhabited. It's not hard to picture a tall ship
coasting slowly down the river, sailing directly down from the time
of Cartier or Champlain.
Nearby, in Pointe-aux-Trembles,
there is a windmill still standing that was first constructed in
1719. There are also maps showing the size of the village of Pointe-aux-Trembles
at the time; a cluster of farmhouse and fields on the edge of the
river. How boundless the island must have seemed then, and yet how
limited, when travelling conditions were not conducive to leisurely
and the images conjured, on a visit to Bout de l'Īle make for an
interesting contrast: half an hour to traverse the island, knowing
where we were headed, compared to the journeys taken by the first
settlers, with no maps to guide them.
seems both small and large at the same time. Perhaps next time we
should try travelling without a map.
by Deniz B. Bevan:
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