CHEMIN DU ROY
When I was here in April 2012 I was caught in all kinds of adverse weather conditions and adverse traffic considerations. These caused me to change my plan of action and to seek shelter from the storm.
This is the Motel des Pinions Rouges in which I sheltered for the night. It's at a place called Bout de l'Ile, right at the end of the island of Hochelaga, the island upon which the city of Montreal is built.
In the foreground is the Dodge that we had in 2012.
And this is the view of my Motel bedroom window - overlooking a swamp. Mind you - I'm hardly surprised about this. After the torrential downpour that we had last night, just about everywhere would be a swamp this morning.
The idea of having a swamp outside the bedroom window did appeal to me. The room actually smells like a tart's boudoir too. Yes, it's a real motel. The kind of place where you could imagine Norman Bates living.
Having been rudely awakened (although not as rudely as in the Howard Johnson Motel in Montreal in November 2010) at 05:15, I attacked the notes from the previous day. And then I turned my attention to my stomach.
For breakfast it was cinnamon and raisin bagels with strawberry jam (there was a sale on in the IGA supermarket) and the maple syrup left over from last year. And the maple syrup didn't give up without a fight either. The lid of the jar had crystallised onto the bottle, but what else are motel door jambs for?
The verdict on the Motel des Pinions Rouges? I'm a budget traveller, always looking for the cheaper options when I'm travelling and I'm quite prepared to put up with some discomfort if that is reflected in the price. This motel cost me €60 including taxes (I found my notebook) at off-season rates and I reckoned that I had had more than my money's worth here without a doubt. I'll certainly come back here again.
As I mentioned just now, Montreal is built upon an island, which is separated from the mainland by a river - the Rivière des Prairies. The last time that I was out this way I was in something of a rush and so I reckoned that I would come by again and take a proper look.
That's where I was having all of my issues last night - Highway 40 that runs between Montreal and Québec. I'm glad that I didn't have to spend last night up there somewhere. It certainly was dreadful. And looking at this photo, it isn't all that much better now, is it? There is however a little piece of blue sky appearing in the distance.
One of the reasons why I'm here right now is to follow the Chemin du Roy. This was the very first inter-city public highway in Québec,and linked Montreal with Québec, and you can read a little about this road on the index page .
It is still not finished, because the decision was made in the 20th Century to extend it beyond Québec all along the North Shore. At the moment construction is stalled at a point about 20kms east of Natashquan, about 1300 or so kms from here and that's where I'm heading.
The irony of my stay at the Motel des Pinions Rouge at Bout de l'Ile, which didn't strike me until much later on, was that the settlement there was the first stop of the stage coaches (the diligences) that travelled the road back in those days. How apposite!
The Chemin du Roy, modern-day Highway 138, is over there heading off to the town of Repentigny which is my next stop. I photographed the bridge last time that I was here but from the other side. This time I'll take a shot of it from here, a shot which will include the railway bridge.
You can't see the road bridge properly but you can make out the piers if you peer through the gloom underneath the platform of the railway bridge.
Being in such a rush in 2011 I didn't spend too much time looking around at the surroundings and so I resolved to put that right on my visit in April 2012. One of the things that I wanted to do was to take a photo across the St Lawrence to the south bank of the river, not that you can see very much in this appalling weather. The larger of those islands there by the way is the Ile St Thérèse, I reckon.
With it being April, you'll notice that there are no leaves on the deciduous trees over there. That is good news - at least, for photographic purposes. Nothing to get in the way of the long-distance shots.
When I was here in 2010 I drove along the south bank of the river as far as Québec City, and I recalled going past some kind of major industrial complex, an ethanol plant that was situated near a town called Varennes.
I'll have to check up on this otherwise I'll probably end up with something of a complex about it but that town over there is where I would expect Varennes to be, and I do recall being impressed by the enormous amount of steam that was being emitted by the plant back in 2010.
And didn't the weather look better back in those days? What wouldn't I give for some of that today?
Talking of back in those days, I had a rummage around and turned up some of the photos that I took in 2011. I reckoned that I would add them in here for the sake of continuity
You'll remember that just now I took a photo of the railway bridge and behind it there was the road bridge for Highway 138. This is the view of the bridge from the other way round. The road bridge is in the foreground and you can just about make out the girders of the railway bridge behind it.
What you can also see is that there are two creeks here. It's all part of the Rivière des Prairies, which leaves the St Lawrence in several branches, all of which meet up a little further upriver. That bit in the middle is an island. The bridge that we can see over there is over the western, or left branch
There is of course a bridge over the eastern, or right arm of the river. It's so close to the western bridge that you will hardly notice the join, but it's hardly as awe-inspiring as the previous one.
One thing that you will notice of course is the substantial nature of the piers upon which the bridge is built, especially when you consider that the bridge doesn't appear to be all that much. This will give you an indication of the power and force of the ice that is brought down by the river in the spring.
This is the right arm of the Rivière des Prairies and, believe me, I would give my right arm to live in one or two of those houses just there. They certainly look quite posh and with their own landing stage into the river, I bet they don't come cheap.
You are probably wondering why I didn't cross over the road and take a photo of the view without the bridge in the way. The fact is that there is only a pavement on the south side of the bridge and you are actually fenced in so that you can't cross over the road, as you may have noticed in the photo above.
If you notice the bridge in the background in the previous photo, then when I was here in 2013 I took a little diversion around the back of the Riviere des Prairies to take a photo of the bridge that I walked across last year. In 2012 the weather was all grey and full of doom and gloom, and it didn't look much better this afternoon. The skies are greying over and there's a storm beckoning.
If you peer through the gloom and look farther over to the right, you can see the second part of the bridge.
You saw the Dodge from 2012 just now, so here's my trusty steed from 2013. A Dodge Caravan as usual. Very comfortable and make excellent campers. I do so like these vehicles.
This particular one is top-of-the-range and even comes with a built-in 110-volt mains inverter. This is definitely a sign of progress and it seems that once more the world is catching up with me.
What new innovation can I think of next? I mean, I've had a 33-watt solar panel on the roof of my van for five or six years.
I took a photo of this place in 2011 as I quickly drove past but I dunno what happened to it. It must have disappeared into cyberspace, thats the only thing that I can think of, and so I'll have to take it again.
The reason for the photograph is not the product that is being sold but the name of the operator of the premises - Lallier, or "the Man From The Allier". The Allier is one of the départements of France and it is just up the road a couple of miles from where I live. But that's not the important bit. I read a book The People of New France about the sociological implications of the settlement of Nouvelle France back in the early days, and according to the author, many of the original colonists and soldiers made a determined effort to leave their past behind them in Old France, quite often abandoning their original family names and assuming the nicknames that they had been given by their new acquaintances in Nouvelle France.
This reasoning may well explain "the Man From The Allier" and it may also explain some other bizarre surnames that I have encountered in Québec and nowhere else. Couchetard, or "Late-to-bed", being a classic example.
At the side of the garage is some kind of lane that goes down to the St Lawrence, or at least a creek of the river, and so I creaked my way down there to see what I could see, like I usually do at times and in places such as these.
Amongst the highlights of the events down here was two men with some kind of JCB tractor whatsit. And it looked as if they were having an enormous amount of fun wrestling with a huge pontoon. I'm not quite sure why, and although this would usually be the cue for me to go down and ask them why - after all, that's why I'm here and it really is the only way to find out - they seemed to be far too engrossed to want to be disturbed.
And while I was musing on the scene, a huge speedboat went roaring past and that really shattered my concentration. It's all happening here.
A little further along here, there was a nice view of the St Lawrence River, or at least, one of the branches of the river, looking eastwards. This was my first introduction to the river back in September 2011 when I took this photo.
The river isn't tidal at this point but it certainly looked as if the water was flowing upstream. Maybe it was the wake of the speedboat that had just gone past. I dunno.
There are several islands lying parallel to the shore just here and the St Lawrence is split into several channels that thread their way between them.
The modern-day main road goes on into Repentigny but there's a spur of old road that goes down to the river and so I decide to follow it, thinking that it might at one time have been part of the old Chemin du Roy.
Parking the vehicle I go for a prowl around and find myself confronted with a little gated community there. That road seems to be on a line with other bits of the former Chemin du Roy so maybe it was formerly part of the King's Highway too.
But who wants to live behind a wall or a fence anyway, apart from Romans, East Germans and Zionists? If your mode of life is such that you are so frightened, then change your mode of life. I don't understand why people find it so necessary to live in such fear.
So if that was part of the Chemin du Roy then so is this. It certainly looks most probable.
However, as I said right at the very beginning of this, these days it's just so difficult to work out the route of the old road with the banks of the St Laurence having been subjected to so many floods, landslides and coastal erosion.
WHat with all of that, the Chemin du Roy has changed its position many times in many places since it was first constructed.
Here we have what is called "emerging marshland". Here to the left we can see the Ile Lebel, Lebel Island and as you might expect with an island, there was a water channel between it and the mainland.
However, rivers are contrary things. Sometimes they flow fast enough to erode away the adjacent banks, and then in other places they slow right down and when they do that, they no longer have the velocity to carry the load of silt that they have won from further upstream.
Consequently they drop the load of silt and this is probably what has happened here. The channel between the island and the mainland is now choked with silt and as it hasn't dried out yet, it's encouraging all kinds of marshland plants to take root here.
Several islands off the shore of the St Lawrence have rejoined the mainland due to the silting up of the channels, and it looks as if within the next 50 years or so there will be another one.
Another factor that is contributing to this silting up process is the constant dredging of the harbours upstream to permit access by bigger and bigger ships. Not all of the excavated silt can be picked up by the dredgers and a fair amount will be carried away downstream by the current.
Something else that should not be overlooked is that it has been said that this area of Canada is depressed, not by my constant visits here, but by the weight of the ice that was pressing down upon it during the ice age. Very slowly, the level of the land is rising, and that factor might also be playing some kind of role in the silting up of the channels.
I took a turn around the island, and the first thing that I encountered was the ... errr ... waste disposal and waste treatment centre.
Of course, this is a euphemism for something else and this made me wonder. The siting of this processing centre and the silting up of an adjacent channel is far too much of a coincidence for me, cynic that I am. Maybe it isn't silt that is blocking the channel.
With this being a pretty little park, despite the ... errr ... waste disposal and waste treatment centre close by, there were several information panels giving information to the passing tourists.
But not, as it happens, for every tourist.
Repentigny is one of these places that is known for its Francophone-extremism and consequently, as you might expect, every single sign that I saw in the park is written in French and with no translation into English.
The silly burghers of Repentigny probably have a good laugh about this - how they are "getting one over" on the wicked Anglos whom they believe oppressed them and mistreated them 250 years ago - without giving a moment's thought to the fact that just two hours away there is a country of 350,000,000 people who more-than-likely can't speak 10 words of French between them.
That particular country has the greatest spending power of any nation on earth, but not one of them is going to come on a tourist expedition to Repentigny to find out more about the history and attractions of the area, because the stubbornness of the inhabitants means that they won't be able to understand anything that they read.
Not one single US dollar of the billions and billions in circulation in North America will be spent in Repentigny, but this is the price that you pay for pig-headedness and stubbornness. The silly burghers of Repentigny would rather turn away all of this money than speak or write one word in English.
I know this from first-hand experience. Each time that I've produced my British passport or British driving licence in Repentigny, not one word has ever been said to me in English, and it really annoys the locals when they discover that I can speak better French than most of them.
I did see it mentioned that in 1928, the year in which the Province of Quebec began its tourism programme, over half a million car-loads of tourists from the USA came to visit the Province.
Half a million! I bet that I haven't seen half a dozen.
Abandoning another good rant ... "for the moment " - ed ... I clamber back into the Dodge and head on down the road and in a matter of a few hundred yards I was in Repentigny. This is an interesting building - it's in the style of building that in the UK would be described as "Primitive Georgian" or maybe even "Queen Anne", dating it to about the early or mid 18th Century.
Of course, here in North America where architectural styles were a generation or two behind and where personal taste and preference were more important than keeping up with fashion, it could be absolutely anything and I don't know enough about contemporary North American architecture to be able to comment.
It's not very often, by the way, that you see a brick building in North America. That fact alone is an indication of the status of the original owner.
This however is something else. It's quite obviously the house that Jacques built. It's situated at 269 rue Notre Dame in Repentigny and it is clearly something of note. People just don't build places like this for no good reason.
I had a brief browse around on the internet to see what I could find, but apart from an obscure reference to the Tremblay family, and of course "Tremblay" is the archi-typical surname in the province of Québec, rather like Smith in the UK or Dupont in France, there was nothing at all. If you have any info on this house, please . Someone must know something.
One thing is for sure, though. Whoever it is who lives here today has an excellent view out of his window. We have the crazy paving of the highway, the St Lawrence River, the odd island or two and then the huge ethanol plant over at Varennes.
I bet that this looked so different 50 years ago. Perhaps in the summer when the leaves are back on the trees it will look so much better.
One thing to which you will have to accustom yourselves as you follow me around Canada, especially if you have never been here before, is the presence of power cables in every shot. Underground cabling doesn't exist anywhere, except in Amherst, Nova Scotia, and there the workers for the electrical company moan like old women about having to work on them.
It seems that in Canada they are quite prepared to run the risk and put up with the inconvenience of the cables being brought down under the weight of snow and ice rather than run them underground. It makes a total mockery of all of these appeals against new constructions on the ground that they spoil the view. You'll see what I mean about spoiling the view the farther along the road that we go.
The church here in Repentigny is the Eglise de la Purification de la Bienheureuse Marie and was constructed between 1723 and 1727. It has been enlarged and adorned on several occasions, most notably (if that is the right word to use) in 1850 and again in in 1984, following a ... errr ... major fire.
It is also home to all kinds of important works of art, and was created a Monument Historique in 1978.
I couldn't resist the temptation to go over to the church and photograph these signs. You see, as I boy I was brought up as a Christian and I remember learning the Lord's Prayer and in particular the bit about forgiving those who trespass against us. Somewhere in the Bible, I'm very sure of that, is a bit about forgiving sinners. There's certainly nothing in the Bible about towing them away.
I went over to the two guys just there, who clearly believe that because they are something to do with the church the signs don't apply to them, and engaged them in discussion about their sign. All they could do by way of constructive debate was to smile weakly and shrug their shoulders.
I've no objection whatever to anyone who holds firm religious beliefs. In fact I sincerely believe that the world would be a far better place if we all had something to believe in. But what really gets right on my wick is the insincerity and hypocrisy of many of the so-called modern Christians. If they were really Christians they would study closely exactly what Jesus taught to his disciples and then go out and practise that and nothing else.
HG Wells once said that modern religion is all about "Confession on Saturday, Absolution on Sunday and At It Again on Monday". I bet that this lot here don't even realise the implications of their signs, let alone confess the sin of having installed them. No wonder the modern-day church has such a bad name.
A little further down the road I come into the centre of Repentigny. and this is the view looking back towards Montreal, the direction from which I have arrived.
So seeing as I'm here, what can I tell you about the town of Repentigny? Firstly, it's one of the hotbeds of extreme Québec separatism as I said earlier and always seems to elect delegates from the Parti Québecois and the Bloc Québecois regardless of the fact that extreme separatism is pretty much discredited, if not meaningless, today.
The seigneurie of the area was granted to a certain Pierre le Gardeur de Repentigny back in 1647 and it's from him that the settlement that grew up here took its name.
This is the view looking eastwards towards Québec City and that's the direction in we will be going.
Despite the existence of a settlement here for over 350 years you can see how modern everything looks around here. I've not noticed a single vestige of anything dating from anything like a respectable age. Either we have had a huge wave of 1950s and 1960s "modernist" British architects from the Donald Gibson School of Wanton Vandalism retiring over here, or else the conflagration that badly damaged the Eglise de la Purification de la Bienheureuse Marie in 1984 also wreaked all kinds of havoc down here too.
By the way, don't laugh at the idea of a major conflagration. We will be discussing this kind of thing in much greater depth the farther around our circuit that we go, and with very good reason too.
As you have probably gathered, I don't normally go for modern architecture because in my humble ... "huh?" - ed ... opinion most modern architects aren't fit to lace the boots of any of the architects who were flourishing back in Victorian days. A brief look at St Pancras Station will show you exactly what I mean.
However, I could live in a place like that. I think that it quite splendid, considering that its not so old. Obviously there's some hope for somebody somewhere.
This here windmill is the Moulin Grenier by the way and I'm not sure now how I managed to miss this when I drove round here in 2011. I must have had my eyes shut. I mean, just how do you miss a windmill?
One thing that it does go to show is that the early settlers of this area were quite impressed by the power of the wind. Otherwise with the fast-flowing river just a little farther away they would have built a water mill to grind the corn instead, at least during the months when the river wasn't frozen over.
So if there is an impressive amount of wind here that makes a windmill more efficient than a water mill, how come there aren't any wind turbines around here generating electricity? I've said it before ... "and you'll say it again" - ed ... that there is a host of opportunities for generating electricity by renewable means all going to waste.
But before I leave Repentigny completely, I find a road that takes me down to some more of what might have been the old Chemin du Roy and as I look right, in the direction of Montreal, this is what I see.
The old road seems to have come from that direction but it will no longer do so because of the new construction in the way. If that is indeed part of the old Chemin du Roy, not all of it has been lost to coastal erosion, but it does show you how much of the original road has been abandoned and how difficult it is retrace its route today.