Monday, March 24, 2014

Montreal Journal II: On the Waterfront

photograph by Hallie Cohen
There were two great immigrations to Montreal, one in the 1840’s which resulted from the Irish famine and also brought many English and Scots to the city. Then there was one which extended from l896-1914 in which three million immigrants from Eastern Europe, Italy and Germany arrived. By 1880 large companies like Cunard and White Star were using Montreal as a way station for voyages to Europe and down the Northeast coast of the United States.You can read all about this, if you journey down to the Old Port of Montreal. On the way you will pass the remains of L’Hopital General de Montreal which was built in 1693. It’s the second oldest building in Montreal and emanates before any of the major immigrations. A few huge tankers and barges still line the old waterfront today, though the port of Montreal was moved further down the St. Lawrence in l976. The Algoma Montrealis out of Toronto is locked in ice like an heirloom, its huge propellers and rudders looking like the fins of an oversized fish caught in a net. And then there’s Bota, a ship that has been turned into a spa, where you can ponder Chapter 42-The Whiteness of The Whale from Moby Dick, enjoying the relief of frigid air after you’ve sizzled in the deck side jacuzzi. There’s a hole cut in the icy river for those who need to refresh themselves before re entering the hot tub and also steam baths and saunas. And the meditative element is encouraged by a policy of strict silence on the vessel. But as you arrive a freight train is still pulling its load along an overpass, as a reminder of the day when the comings and goings of people and goods were still the major occupations of this once busy and noisy port area.

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