My forays to the eastern end of Montreal can be counted on the fingers of one hand. The last dates back to the tragic last passage of the whale, seen in Pointe-aux-Trembles, in 2020. It was an opportunity to discover charming shores and, thanks to our photographer Hugo-Sébastien, established in the area, and to the circuit ridden by my colleague Pierre-Marc Durivage, we make new discoveries, scooter handlebars in hand.
After a looooong trip down Sherbrooke Street, a first appetizer awaits us at Place du Village-de-Pointe-aux-Trembles, one of the most pleasant and convivial areas on the banks of the river. We go from one two-wheeler to another, reaching the funny belvedere composed of two superimposed discs. Right next to it, benches and sandboxes allow locals to stroll under the rays of the sun. You can survey the waves of the river or, in the opposite direction, the elegant building of the Maison du citoyen. Information taken, it is a beautifully renovated former convent now housing several administrative services.
After the visual appetizer, it’s time to put something concrete in your mouth. Let’s be honest, the phrase “food desert” came up on the lips of many people I met along the way. Fortunately, Pierre-Marc pointed us to a refueling stop at the MariePain bakery, Sherbrooke Street East. From the outside, it doesn’t look like much, stuck in a small, slightly sad roadside shopping area, but the shop hides its game well, revealing pies, pastries, delicatessen products, homemade chocolate sweets, sandwiches etc The quality is there and judging by the attendance, the residents seem well informed!
Loaded with food, we restart our motorized machine to spin along Sherbrooke East and turn off towards the Bois-de-la-Réparation park, where the sanctuary of the Réparation au Sacré-Cœur and Saint Padre Pio nests. Beyond the imposing chapel of the Reparation, there is a network of paths in the forest where it is good to recharge your batteries. There, at least two curiosities attract attention. The first is a reproduction of the grotto of Lourdes in real stone – I had once visited the original, on a school trip. The second is the chapel of La Scala Santa, in the Byzantine style, signed by the architect Joseph-Arthur Godin in 1905. Inside, there is a wooden staircase evoking the eponymous staircase in Rome, which must be get on your knees (done, and it hurts). Statues and original stained-glass windows in the shape of flowers adorn the whole, making it a curious place of contemplation.
After this bite of nature-culture, we want more. That’s good, since just a few turns of the wheel, you reach the entrance to the vast Pointe-aux-Prairies nature park, spanning 261 hectares. Hiking, bird watching, dog walking… peaceful and exotic, especially in an urban context (Highway 40 is not far). A recently inaugurated footbridge makes it possible to step over the marshes to better examine fauna and flora, before sinking into the woods. By the way, we put a little cross in the notebook for winter, since cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and biking with oversized tires are allowed.
To visit a sector of the city is certainly to take advantage of the urban, natural and commercial facilities of the area, but it is also to meet the characters of the district. The scooter is also ideal for facilitating closeness! We stop at the intersection of Notre-Dame and 86th Avenue at the foot of Monsieur Léo’s red cart, a real institution, which has been around for more than 30 years, with its fruit and vegetable stalls. These come from the Lavaltrie, L’Assomption and Saint-Gérard-Majella fields, supplemented by products supplied by the Toit rouge de Repentigny. We grab a bucket of fragrant strawberries and get back in the saddle, heading to the beach!
So here it is, the famous Eastern beach inaugurated two years ago. Frankly, the setting is very attractive, opposite Île aux Asperges (where, according to our photographer, arms of the river form a network that you can criss-cross by kayak). Expanse of small pebbles, concrete promenade, double volleyball court, ramp and jetty… the urge to grab a towel from the trunk of the scooter to run and dive into the river itchs us more than ever. Too bad the project fell through: swimming is not allowed there, due to contamination (it is an old marina where paint residues would be present), but also because of the presence of the copper redhorse, an endangered fish that frequents these areas. We don’t know if it will one day, but for now, we’re content with sunbathing in a very relaxing setting with water games nearby. Heartbreaking, though!
Pierre-Marc knows me well, and he knows that any scooter tour without an ice cream stop will be considered a fiasco. So he pointed me to the Crémerie Gelato, on Boulevard Gouin, where I could sit down after driving along a lovely stretch along the Rivière des Prairies. The menu is classic, between soft, hard, blitz, smoothies and decadent compositions, coated in all kinds of dips. A great way to complete this eastern circuit, which has a few surprises in store along the way, and to appreciate the evolution of this sector, often out of sight (for residents of the central and western districts), but now closer to the heart.
Last year, I sent Silvia Galipeau to what was called the Far East of the island of Montreal. This year, the Far East of Montreal awaits you, Sylvain, all the way to the tip of the island! It is there, at the end of Pointe-aux-Trembles, that we find without doubt the most beautiful beach layout on the island, although we still cannot swim there. But the area is also full of gigantic parks, which run from one shore to the other – we just asked our fellow photographer Hugo-Sébastien, proud resident of “PAT”, for advice. Besides, admit that the first kilometers of boulevard Gouin give you the impression of being miles away from the city.