Thursday, August 25, 2011

Secrets of Île Perrot

Susan and I returned yesterday from the annual governance conference of the Canadian Society of Corporate Secretaries that was held in historic Quebec City.

There was a lot riding on my shoulders and, even though the conference was an unprecedented success, I need a break before I plunge back into life at the office.

A little excursion today to Île Perrot seemed just the ticket.  You see, Île Perrot harbors some very special secrets.

I thought I'd share two of the secrets with you.

If you're here, or when you come for a visit, and if you can explore on your own, you'll have two secrets to seek out, and more to discover on your own.

To get to Île Perrot I took the Galipeault bridge.  So this post gets tagged as a bridge post as well.  Bonus!  For an aerial view of the bridge, and of Ile Perrot, click here.

The best place to see the Galipeault bridge is from the boardwalk in the village of Ste-Anne de Bellevue. 
The boardwalk sits on the canal lock that allows pleasure craft to get from the Lake of Two Mountains to the west, to Lake St-Louis in the east.  The lock itself sits right under the bridge (actually three bridges, once you include both vehicle spans and the railway bridge).
Navigable watercourses are a federal government jurisdiction, so the lock is a federal work.
The flag is flying at half-mast in honour of Jack Layton's passing last Monday.  He was easily the most loved of Canada's federal politicians, and was the leader of the opposition in Parliament.  When I announced his passing at the conference at Monday morning's plenary session, a ripple of shock spread through the ballroom at the Chateau Frontenac Hotel.

I got back on my Vespa and set out across the bridge to Île Perrot.

Just over the bridge, you'll find the first secret.  It's not exactly what you'd call a genuine secret, since it's there for all to see, hiding in plain sight.  It's just that unless you're in-the-know, you wouldn't know that one of Montreal's iconic fast food treats is smoked meat (others are 'Montreal bagels' - click here, and here, for the bagel posts - and of course, poutine which has spread all the way to New York, if you can believe it).

Anyway, you can get smoked meat in just about every no-star restaurant in the province of Quebec, and there are places in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver that claim to offer it as well.  But, like the venerable Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich, most offerings of the delicacy leave much to be desired.

The kind of smoked meat that put smoked meat on the map is only served in a handful of Montreal restaurants, and nowhere else on earth.

There is the legendary Schwartz's on the main, along with the Main Deli, across the street, Dunn's is right up there at each one of its two or three branches, there is tiny Deli B, in the Valois village in Pointe Claire, Abie's on St-John's boulevard also in Pointe Claire, and then, there's...
From time to time, one of Montreal's daily newspapers holds a foodie survey to determine which place has the very best smoked meat.  Schwartz's usually comes in first, and Smoke Meat Pete comes in second.  For the life of me I don't know why, because Smoke Meat Pete is clearly head-and-shoulders the clear winner by a country mile.

Oh well! Les goûts se partagent mais ne se discutent pas! or à chacun son goût! or, as my brother-in-law is very fond of saying, à chacun son mishigas!

I didn't have time to stop to indulge, so I set off again, heading for the very tip of Ile Perrot.

My Vespa becomes a time machine, and I am magically transported to 1705.

I dismount, and twenty steps later, my Vespa might as well have been my horse.
A wooden walkway leads through the woods.  A short enchanted stroll later and the best secret of Ile Perrot emerges from the light at the end of the soft green canopy.
There's the miller's cottage, and just beyond, at the water's edge, amazingly, a perfect little windmill.
The mill was lovingly restored back to its original working condition in 1979 and won an award for the best historical restoration.  The last time I visited many years ago, the mill produced flour to demonstrate how mills operated in the 18th century.

The site is landscaped so that when you're at the mill, there is no evidence of the 21st century that intrudes to break the spell.  You are, while you are there, truly transported in time.
When you turn around to leave, the modest miller's cottage stands in your way.
Before you leave, take a moment to take in the pure beauty of this slice of life from 1705.
Then again, with another of my time machines, in this case a wicked long lens on my Olympus SLR, I can peer forward in time and see what the city of the 21st century looks like, shimmering through the haze.
I thought you might appreciate a treasure map to guide you on your discovery of these secrets, so before setting off on my return trip, I pulled out my Iphone and switched on the GPS tracking.  This interactive map is very cool.  Click on the "Earth" option.  Explore and you'll even find the windmill on your own.

View Ile-Perrot-2 in a larger map


Matt Maxwell said...

Love the journey! Great pics.
I think my favorite is that old wooden walkway. Just beautiful!

Curious... whats the longest trip you've done? I am preparing for a long one through the lost and forgotten parts of the US and I would love to get your input.

David Masse said...

Hi Matt, my longest trip was just last week. You will see the post in the list of posts under August of this year. It was a 233 mile return trip, Montreal to Ottawa.

If you check out the links to blogs on the right side of the page you will see detailed blog accounts of one gentleman's ride from Florida to California and back, and a second trip from California to Florida. The first return trip was on the same bike as mine, a Vespa LX 150. The third trip was on a Vespa GTS that he bought in California and rode home.

You will also find the 2010 Scooter Cannonball rally posts: Vancouver to Portland Maine in 9 days last September. Finally, Google "Symba California Alaska" and you will find Binh Cheung's accounts of his return trip to Alaska.

That should be enough reading to get you seriously inspired.

Good luck with your riding plans. If you do decide to take some serious road trips, please consider blogging about it, or, if it's on a scooter, post a ride report on Modern Vespa. It doesn't matter if the bike is not a Vespa.

Dar said...

David - Beautiful pictures! Breathtaking actually! I love visiting historic sites and learning about the area I am visiting. I am so glad you took along your camera, I would truly like to visit your neck of the woods one day.

I too was saddened by Jack Layton's death, he truly was a gentleman who tried to unite us all and show us that our differences really aren't that big and we can work together for a better Canada. One thing he said that impacted me was, "Dream no little dreams." He was an amazing man and will sadly missed.

Hope you are going to do some more scoot trips & post your pictures.


SonjaM said...

David, great little journey. I love the windmill. At least you have some historic buildings in the East... something that I miss every once in a while.

I hope you meanwhile recovered from your Ottawa trip and have new destinations in mind ;-)

David Masse said...

Sonja, the key is variety. One of the great blessings of living in this age is the ease with which we are able to travel. Even with the twin drags of airport security and fuel prices getaways across the continent or to the far side of the world are within our grasp. I love the west, and particularly the pacific coast. Our son Andrew has moved to Vancouver and that plus some business travel will surely get me out your way in the coming months. What I love about the west is the feeling it gives me of freshness, wide-openness, and the spirituality of the tall evergreens meeting the water's edge. It seems to be a kinder quieter place to enjoy life. Ride safely.

Unknown said...


If you are in Vancouver make sure you don't leave without saying hello. We will have time to chat over a meal. Sorry I don't have an extra scooter, but perhaps I could borrow one.

I remember going to the Hotel Frontenac when we visited Quebec City, eons ago . You have so much history where you live, out West, we have nothing. everything has been ripped down and replaced with modern stuff. Of course this is through our local eyes, your eyes may reveal a different interpretation

Riding the Wet Coast

David Masse said...

Bob, that's a very generous invitation. I'll be sure to let you know if and when I will be getting out to Vancouver. I'd love to get together for a bite to eat, and maybe a ride. It's too much to ask to borrow someone's scooter. When the opportunity arises I'll look into renting.

The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.