Saturday, 18 September 2010

Saturday Photo: Country Lane in the Middle of Montreal

It looks like a country lane, doesn't it? A green path between fences, with flowers and vegetables growing on the other side.Yet this is not some quaint village in England or Ireland, some out of the way corner of the Continent, but the middle of the very urban Montreal district of Villeray-Saint Michel-Parc Extension, two blocks from a Metro station and, in the other direction, three blocks from the Metropolitain expressway.

We were introduced to these agreeable laneways a few years ago when Elin began going out with Emmanuel. He invited us for dinner at his place one summer night, and in between the courses of the feast (as his meals always are) we went for a walk down the lanes that cut through the blocks in that neighborhood. It was a warm evening and people were sitting out, finishing a meal, puttering in the gardens, enjoying the relative coolness. What was amazing was the the space which ordinarily is given over to public utility easements had been transformed into a linear greeway that had obviously been frequently mowed.

Emmanuel, who was renting, did not know who was responsible, but wanted to share the charm with us. When I went back a few weeks ago, hoping to get more information, found the same pleasure. A man in his 30s was walking a dog in front of me, and then turned into one of the gardens. When I stopped to compliment him on the laneway, he said that "an old gentlemen who lives about three blocks away" tended to the mowing but knew little more than that.

The houses are modest ones, built in the 1950s. That means that the young couples who first moved in and added on and cultivated their gardens are now in their late 70s and 80s, and frequently are looking to sell. Friends of Elin and Emmanuel, in fact, have just bought one of the houses on this lane. They're looking forward to enjoying the green laneway and to learning about gardening from their elderly neighbors. As one of their friends says: "They have big plans for you next year.... I bet you are the project of the block.... you too will have tomatoes to die for!"

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