Culture | The familiar and the found

The eastern Plateau

My tour through the eastern Plateau took place on an idyllic, mid-September afternoon complete with sunshine, the first crunchy fallen leaves, and my rickety bicycle. I should probably admit that I happen to live in the heart of the neighbourhood that was the object of my research, but with familiarity comes a tendency to pass through a place without appreciating its details. I was looking forward to using my bike excursion as an opportunity to re-examine my surroundings with a fresh perspective. The goal: rediscovering my neighbourhood and hopefully learning something new about a place I walk through every day without really seeing it for all it has to offer.

Nestled between the borders of Saint-Denis to the west, Sherbrooke to the south, Saint-Gregoire to the north, and Papineau to the east, the eastern Plateau comprises roughly one half of the Plateau Mont-Royal borough. The Plateau in its entirety is one of the most densely populated neighbourhoods in Canada, boasting around 100,000 inhabitants within less than eight square kilometres. The eastern part of the borough is a former French-Canadian working class community that witnessed a rapid gentrification in the eighties, serving to redistribute the demographic significantly. The residential buildings that line the eastern Plateau’s streets mainly date back to the early 20th century, but the area has also been updated with an array of bars, restaurants, cafés, and shops to accommodate tourists and its more recent, trendier inhabitants.

Using Saint-Hubert as a starting point, I made my way around the many duplex-lined streets that encompass this overwhelmingly residential area. While embarking on a roundabout route eastward, taking advantage of the bike path located along Rachel, I observed the architecture of the area. It comprises predominantly of buildings characteristic of Montreal’s visual landscape, a mismatched spattering of walk-up style apartments and spiral staircases. A perceptible shift took place when I crossed from the western to the eastern Plateau, as slightly worn out, student-oriented buildings gave way to ritzier dwellings.

Turning onto Mont-Royal, the area’s most prominent commercial street, I encountered a long stretch of shops, boutiques, and restaurants. A humble outdoor market sits next to the Mont-Royal metro station, with the area seemingly dominated by francophone patrons. The dense crowd of cars, buses, and pedestrians was a little too overwhelming for this cyclist, so I decided to duck out of the traffic and head southbound.

One cannot visit this portion of the city without taking notice of its foliage. From the canopy of trees tinged with autumnal colours lining each street to the numerous parks that pepper the neighbourhood, the eastern Plateau has no shortage of green spaces. As I arrived at one of the area’s loveliest spots, Parc Lafontaine, I took advantage of its extensive network of bike paths to circle around the park’s interior. Though the recent drop in temperature has meant that the bustling summertime park culture has died down a bit, a sampling of the area’s typical inhabitants – among others, joggers, children, and chess players – are still at home in the green landscape.

A quick ride up de la Roche brought me to the neighbourhood’s lesser-known but equally beautiful green space, Parc Sir-Wilfred Laurier. By this time, the afternoon sun was waning and the park took on an almost magical quality, as some straggling picnickers enjoyed their meals on the grass.

Leaving the park, I was happy that the charm of the neighbourhood had been revealed to me once again. Traveling northbound to Saint-Gregoire, the lush backdrop of the park slowly changed into a more industrial landscape, heralding my departure from the eastern Plateau and the end of my outing.

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