Jul 10 2008
In many of the northern cities I’ve lived in, such as Toronto, Chicago, and Boston, the arrival of warm weather brings a sort of delirium. More than just nicer temperatures, there is a feeling in the air of promise and excitement, mixed with relief and thankfulness. We squint, and recognize that bright yellow orb in the sky, from so many months ago. We are ready to sunbathe, anywhere and everywhere, for the next 90 days.
Montréal seems to be another one of those cities, one that knows how to do summer. I just returned from a weekend there, and was treated to beautiful, 75-degree-and-sunny days. The city streets were packed, the terraces were full, and we could hardly go a few blocks without seeing someone on rollerblades or a bicycle. We began to notice the number of bike lanes throughout the city, and even bicycle traffic lights.
When we found out that the bike paths of Montréal are part of one of the longest and best-rated bike paths in the world, La Route Verte, we decided to get some rental bikes. At Ça Roule Montréal, in the old city, the staff was great, providing a map of the area, helmets, locks, a pack for the bike, and even bungee cords to strap on extra packs. The bike itself was ok–fairly light and in good condition, but with a strange, springy seat that took some getting used to. We were given some route options with mileage by one of the staff, and set off on our way.
We started out along the pretty Canal Lachine, passing a number of old grain elevators and factories, and some parks with sculpture gardens. After a few miles, we found ourselves at Atwater market, one of the city’s favorites. This is a great place for a quick pit stop on your bike. There are indoor and outdoor portions, and both are lovely. Stall after stall of beautiful local fruits and vegetables, artisinal cheeses…it is incredible. Check out Prémière Moisson bakery, where I got one of the best baguettes of my life, or Au Pain Doré, across the street, for delicious pastries. We treated ourselves to a box of assorted berries from Quebec, including some tasty yellow raspberries.
From there, we cut across a small island, searching out the bikes-only bridge we had been told about. As we reached the St. Lawrence, our bike path diverged from the cars, and brought us to the Champlain Bridge Ice Control Structure, also known as the Estacade. Though the primary use for this structure is to control ice jams in the river, it also is maintained as a bike path. It’s a beautiful ride, smooth and quiet except for the wind. We passed rollerbladers, tandem bikes, bikes with trailers for children. At the end, we turned onto a dirt road on a thin piece of land running along the river. Also car-free, lined with tall, cypress-like trees, with water on both sides, it felt miles away from the city.
The dirt road took us straight to Parc Jean-Drapeau, the city’s main park, located on an island just across from the Old Port. The park made a great stopping point for a nap by a canal, and to finish the baguettes from Atwater Market. Canoes, kayaks, and paddleboats, available for rent in the park, cruised by us, and we could hear live music nearby. We hopped back on our bikes, crossed the Pont de la Concorde bridge (which has great views of the city), and were back in the Old Port, where we ended our ride.
This bike trip was perhaps my favorite experience in Montréal. It was a low-key way to enjoy some great food, interesting sights, and natural beauty, while getting to see how the locals spend their summer days.
…Canada, Cycling, Montréal, Travel
Kate lives and works in Chicago, IL. Her interests include fine arts, food and wine, and baseball.