Monday, July 27, 2009

Cycling around the west Island Part 2

One of the stranger facts about the West Island is that there are villages embedded in the fabric of the big city suburbs. Before the suburbs took over there was a series of small villages along the shore of the Saint Lawrence River. With the growth of the urban landscape these villages found themselves in the middle of the housing developments. The first time you are biking or driving along and suddenly you are in the the middle of a typical small village, it is a very strange feeling. It is one of the better kept secrets of our part of the island.
At the complete end of the island is the town of Ste-Anne de Bellevue. This town has been around since the 18th century and has a canal that connects Lac St-Louis, Lac des Deux Montagnes and the Ottawa river. This canal is a National Historic site and was originally built in the 1840's. There has been a canal with locks here since 1816, bypassing the rapids between the western end of the island and Île Perot.

This is the canal facing toward Lac St-Louis

Main Street

The Town Hall (in French l'Hôtel de Ville is not a place to sleep. ;o)

Despite having been gussied up, this is the original general store of the village. G Daoust & Cie has been a fixture of Ste-Anne for more than 100 years. It still has its creaking wooden floors and an old fashioned method of paying. There is a sort of pulley system that goes all around the store. The clerk takes your money, puts it in a small metal box and hooks it to line which is whirling around the pulley system. The money and bill go to a central office where they make up your final bill and then send it back to you with your change. The owners even bought up several old systems when other places closed so they would have spare parts to keep their system going.

Ste-Anne is also the home of John Abbott college and the Macdonald Campus of McGill University. It is a beautiful campus made up of red brick buildings, mature trees and large fields of grass. My daughter got her degree in microbiology there. Macdonald Campus is the agricultural portion of McGill and they even have a complete working farm. John Abbott is a CEGEP and rents a part of the campus from McGill. The whole campus is quite nice and reminds me of the universities near Boston.

We are now riding along Lakeshore road, which as you can see runs along the shore of Lac St-Louis. As we get to Baie d'Urfé, a rich suburb we can see one of the many marinas.

This is the town hall

and this is a picture taken at night of the boats on the lake near the town hall.

As we ride along Lakeshore Road, we will finally come to Pointe-Claire Village.

The town of Pointe-Claire has a windmill on its coat of arms and here is the reason. The windmill in on a point of land jutting out in the lake near the church. The windmill originally belonged to the church.

As you can see there is a small town atmosphere but yet we are in the middle of the suburbs. So though the West Island is known as a bedroom suburb, in reality there are many hidden facets that most people don't know about. In the next blog I'll show you some of the hidden gems, for there are still many of the old farm houses that have survived and can be found throughout the more modern suburban housing.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cycling around the West Island

Not long ago my lil sister Jazz showed us her neighbourhood, which is situated in Outremont. Outremont is a borough of Montréal and as such, is an urban cityscape. When we think of the Island of Montréal, we always think of the city and suburbs but this is not really true. The West Island, aptly named, is the western part of the island of Montréal. Although there are suburban cities, there is also a lot of green space, not just parks but farms, woods. (See Google Map)
Pretty much all of the northwest part is, as you can see, green space. Developers are gradually encroaching upon this rural setting but for the moment it is still very green.
As some of you might know, I am an avid cyclist and I thought that I would take you around my neighbourhood on my bike.

As you can see, I'm not going very fast since it is hard to ride a bike and take a picture at the same time without breaking your neck. ;o)

This is a typical street in Kirkland, a typical suburb. So now we ride toward Gouin Boulevard one of the oldest roads on the island.

This road leads down to Gouin Boulevard and as you can see, it is pretty much a country road. The condition of the road is also pretty much country being, in places, more patch than road.

There are also quite a few wild animals in the West Island, there are deer, foxes (I saw one as I was riding but I wasn't quick enough to get a picture.), raccoons, skunks and various other critters.
One of my favourite places to go to is the Cap St-Jacques Park. (On the map it is the big headland sticking out of the northern shore of the island.) It is the biggest park on the island and includes a ecological farm that employs troubled city youth as part of a rehabilitation program. In the summer there are walking trails and in the winter these become cross country skiing trails. Since it is only a few kilometres from my home it is an ideal way of relaxing. Some of the following pictures have already been posted since I often bring my camera with me to take pictures there.

Once we have left the park we ride down Gouin Boulevard until it becomes Senneville Road. Now Senneville is really the rich enclave of the West Island. When Montreal was still a young city, the rich and famous had summer homes along the shores of the Lac des Deux Montagnes, even today the biggest and richest homes are still all along the lakefront.

This is Senneville road. There are many huge mansions but also some working farms as strange as this may seem. It is probably the greenest past of the West Island and runs along the northern shore of the island.

One of the old farm buildings with an old truck.
Here are some of the mansions along the shore. Some of these domains are huge and I wouldn't want to be the person paying the property taxes.

This is an example, usually they are set so far back from the road that it is impossible to take a picture through the gates. The garage of this mansion is bigger than my whole house...

When I first saw this house I figured that it was a nice tutor house of reasonable size, then I realized that it wasn't the owner's house, it was just a house for the gate keeper. Behind the house is an apple orchard that leads down to the main house that we can't see form the road. Obviously some peole are richer than I am. :o)
This brings us to the village of Ste-Anne de Bellevue and the villages of the West Island, which we will look at in my next post.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Eagle has landed!

On this day 40 years ago, when I was in my teens, a man made a small step which was in fact a giant leap for mankind. I remember seeing it on television then going outside, looking up at the moon and thinking about Armstrong and Aldrin standing there so far from home. It was moment in history that every person on earth shared, and made us realize how small we really were in the cosmos.
Like many kids in the 60's I grew up with the NASA space program. It was exciting and grandiose and I remember watching John Glen take off during breakfast, the first space walk in Gemini, and of course Armstrong's first step off the lunar lander. Since then the earth has pretty much abandoned manned exploration and the world is a bit less exciting for it.
As Dickens once wrote, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us..."
That pretty much sums up those years.

First Moon Landing 1969

Friday, July 03, 2009

IE 8

This week all the folks using Internet Explorer 6 had problems with one of my posts. It would take down the whole blog, nothing would load, or at least that is what I was told since I use Firefox and Safari and they were working just fine. (Being a Mac person from way back I don't consort with the dark side... "come to the dark side Luke, come to the dark side...." ;o) )
Now M$ is coming out with IE 8 which hopefully will be a little more forgiving than its predecessors. To market this new browser they came out with this ad, which they promptly pulled after people complained.
Now besides the fact that the humour has the subtlety of something my 13 year old students would think up, there is also the underlying message that it's OK to go to disgusting porn sites, because now you can hide it from your wife and family. What kind of selling point is that? No wonder people complained enough for them to take it off. What is remarkable is that nobody at M$ saw that before using it. Putting a positive spin on it, they even had the chutzpah to crow about how they listened to their customers. Two inches of cheek all over...
O M G I G P Internet Explorer 8 Puke Vomit Girl