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Travelogue F5

July 3, 2015

Of course, far from the common rooms, a different sort of piling up plays out in the battle for positioning in the hostel bedrooms where considerations of all stripes come into play: do I privilege the high or low, that near the door or the window, to which side of the bathroom or partition? As luck would have it, I was able to select a room shunted to one side, the smaller of the two flanking the bathroom, which had only two beds and in which I could reasonably hope to be left alone.

As is my wont, I spent my first day in Montréal wandering, setting off in whatever direction seemed most promising and turning off as I encountered intriguing sights and vistas. So it was that I found my way through the Village, the gay quarter, to the undeveloped waterfront, passing beneath the uprights of a steel highway bridge, of which I would only note the name much later. Cars roared above as an amusement park came into focus, apparently located the other side of the river. Steel and wooden coasters alike, as well as a ferris wheel, rise in the distance. Not far from the bridge stands a slate-grey building and a length of its surrounding wall. I had to walk its length before coming upon some sign indicative of the thing: Au Pied du Courant.

From what I read, the place seemed a former prison. The gate piercing the stone wall was at this time fenced off, holding visitors at bay from the still intact, deep wooden gate. Brown boards, arranged vertically before and horizontally behind, display an impressive level of know-how, like all gates. The mechanism even makes room for a small mandoor, cut into the gate’s left half, by far the more used of the two. Not far off, I found a column at the top of which crouches l’allégorie de l’échec et le symbole de la gloire et de la victoire morale, an angel with clipped wings, one hand extended toward the sky, clearly off balance. An explanation stands nearby and lays out how the column memorializes the victims at the gallows from 1838 and 1839, almost uniformly participants in a conflict, whose precise nature I only learned later and elsewhere, i.e. the Lower Canada Uprising of 1837. Such are Québec’s patriots.

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