The plan: to travel the entire island of Montreal, from end to end; I wanted to touch the water at the western edge and the eastern edge, all in one day.
The goal: to see things and places I never would have otherwise, to travel for the sake of traveling, and to see my city from an entirely different perspective. I had no event or destination, just curiosity and some time to kill.
It began with a commuter train ride from Vendôme; the waiting area was mostly empty aside from a handful of quiet solo travelers. After all, few people make the trip out west in the morning. The tracks run along Autoroute 20 and being a few feet off the highway somehow felt like a world of it’s own — especially from the vantage point of the second floor of a double-decker train.
Arriving at the Saint-Anne-de-Bellevue Station, I began walking west until there was no more west left to walk. First, I had to cross under and between the highway, under a cacophony of automobiles amplified by the cavernous concrete structures before weaving my way through narrow residential streets. Finally, like stepping through the wardrobe into Narnia, I arrived at a boardwalk that felt more like an idyllic seaside town than what I knew of Montreal; hard to believe this quaint, easy-going pace exists not far from high-energy St-Catherine.
When I reached the tip, I felt a sense of scale you miss downtown. I was reminded of how relatively small the city is, standing where one place ends and another begins. At the water’s edge, the solitude and tranquility of rippling waves created a moment to turn off and listen.
The next step was to make my way downtown to catch a bus out east, which drove along the lakeshore. While they may be a long ride, the busses out west take some of the most scenic routes in Montreal. Passing through Baie D’Urfé and Beaconsfield — with lush foliage on one side and the Fleuve on the other — I passed through the outskirts of industrial Dorval and into Montreal-Ouest and the Turcotte Yards. Here, the greenery is replaced with a concrete maze of intersecting highways — just as beautiful in their own way. As the bus nears the Lionel-Groulx terminus, there is a small window that gives a view of the South-West and its industrial, St-Henri landmarks.
Once downtown, after the tranquility of my quiet wanderings, my mind was thinking of one thing alone: food and coffee. Once satisfied, I waited for the express bus to the east end to start running. This is where the real adventure and exploration into the unknown would take place; even waiting at the corner of René-Levesque and Mansfield felt new and different. At the foot of all the business giants surrounding me, I didn’t feel small or insignificant, but truly a part of the cityscape myself.
The majority of the bus ride was spent along Notre-Dame East. Just past the Jacques-Cartier bridge, there was a striking view of La Ronde set against the port of Montreal. Glimpses of roller coasters between grain elevators, silos and cargo ships set the stage for an odd backdrop that persisted throughout the trip; football fields sandwiched between factories, residential streets alongside warehouses, these are all a part of the areas unique landscape.
As the train sped along, it passed by an abandoned windmill at the corner of Notre-Dame East and Third Avenue. Having barely enough time to snap a picture from the moving bus, I knew I would have to revisit this relic: a remnant and reminder of a time when the outskirts of Montreal was still farm-land.
Unlike the round edge out West, Montreal ends on an actual point in the East. The bus terminus felt like the edge of the world, the end of the line. Several hours later, my journey was nearly complete. I could see the water edge and followed it along until I reached a park — appropriately titled “Parc du Boût de L’Ile.” It was simply a matter of walking towards the apex now.
While it would still take me about 2 hours to get home, I pondered the total length of my travel on my long way back. I could have driven to Toronto in less time, or flown to Florida. But, spending that time traveling across one city, I saw just how large and amazing Montreal is; I saw how much the city has to offer and how much more I still have to see.