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Metro Roulette: Jean-Drapeau, for whichever flag you fly

Posted by Margot / June 4, 2009

20090604-jean-d.JPGOver the course of the summer, your diligent and dutiful Midnight Poutine team will be continuing the popular tradition of Metro Roulette by visiting the many multifaceted metro stops in and around our fine city. With a third of the stops down and about 40 more to go, chances are that the roulette wheel will stop on your stop next! (and when it does, make sure to let us know about anything in your neighbourhood that we might have missed.) To get things started, here's a metro stop where the surrounding neighbours are mostly of the marmot persuasion: good ol' Jean-Drapeau. So keep reading, parce qu'il fait beau dans l'métro.

Until the 1960s, this post would have been impossible (of course we'll overlook the fact that I was far from born, the Internet wasn't around, and they still hadn't sent a man to the moon). No, it's because before 1963, Île Sainte-Hélène sat all by her lonely self in the middle of the St. Lawrence River. But with the excavation of what would be our city's metro system - and with Expo 67 on the horizon - there was about 25 million tonnes of fill to get rid of. What better way to dump it than to expand the existing island and create a new one? Enter Île Notre-Dame, the sister island that completed what is now known as Parc Jean-Drapeau. And the easiest way to get there? Hop off at the Jean-Drapeau metro station (le sujet du jour!) and take in all the place has to offer.

20090604-drapeau.JPGOriginally, the metro station was called "Île Sainte-Hélène," after the island on which it's located (and after the saintly wife of Samuel de Champlain). In 2001, the name was changed to "Jean-Drapeau" in honour of the city's late mayor and champion of Expo 67. The metro station itself is unique in that it's the only mid-point station on the yellow line, dipping up from the sub-river tunnel that connects Longueuil and the South Shore with Berri-UQAM and Ville-Marie. It was also built with large crowds in mind; three concrete partitions funnel passengers onto and off of the train platform. A good thing, too: Expo 67 saw over 50 million visitors between April and October of that year. And here I thought there were a lot of people at the Radiohead concert last summer.

I knew Parc Jean-Drapeau first as a large concert venue; the wide open space just south-west of the metro station is a perennial favourite for big names at the Jazz Fest, popular tour bands (Dave Matthews Band will be there next week - yes, he's still touring), and more recently, Osheaga sets up shop mid-summer on various stages around the island. But on a day like the one I was there recently (evening, mid-week, late spring), the place was eerily empty, and reminded me of a toboggan in July, sitting in the corner of the garage waiting to be used again. Or like that time Michelle Tanner had to bring back the rabbit she filched from summer camp after camp was over (don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about). That gravel-covered field without its thousands of concert-goers sort of made me sad, but I saw the tell-tale cylinders of sod ready to be laid out for the new season. Piknic électronik is in full swing. Summertime's on its way.

20090604-circuitcycliste.JPGOf course, other parts of the Jean-Drapeau neighbourhood don't wait for summer to be in full swing. Steps away from the metro exit is the Complexe aquatique Île Sainte-Hélène - I witnessed an intense waterpolo practice the other day, but the heated pools are also open to the public. (If you're looking for a sandier getaway, head across the channel to the man-made beach; sometimes the water gets murky and gross, but there's nothing like an afternoon in the sun come July.) Also across the channel, I found packs of cyclists using the smooth surface of the Gilles Villeneuve Circuit (RIP Grand Prix: the hordes of tourists you brought to our lovely city will be missed). This coming weekend they're hosting an inline skating relay race.

20090604-biosphere.JPGRequisite picture of the Biosphère - she's a beaut, ain't she?

For those looking to connect with nature, Parc Jean-Drapeau is a good destination. As one of the city's biggest parks, it boasts myriad picnic areas, playgrounds, grassy knolls, and good climbing trees. And for a more structured appreciation of nature, there's always that iconic monstrosity, the Biosphère. Originally the United States Pavilion at Expo 67, it has been through some tumultuous times (including juggled custody and a skin-destroying fire). Environment Canada is now at the helm of the giant sphere, and runs an environment museum to teach about climate change and sustainable development. How chic! (Seriously, though: cool place.)

Surely I can't write about Jean-Drapeau without mentioning La Ronde (who doesn't love rollercoasters?), the casino, and the International Fireworks Competition (this last one is my absolute favourite, and starts next week!) Basically, those two little islands offer up too much to talk about, so I'll suggest you hop on our trusty metro, and head over to Jean-Drapeau yourself.

Check out the Parc Jean-Drapeau website for more information.



Jer / June 4, 2009 at 08:08 pm
Yay. Metro Roulette lives on!!

Two things, both sports related.
1. Why is water polo so awesome?

2. Are there really still rollerblading races? Even if you call it inline skating, it still belongs in the early 90s.

3. I lied. One last thing. Did you see anything about the rollercoaster that stranded riders a few weeks ago at La Ronde? Or was everything running smoothly?
bubTrieni / December 16, 2009 at 11:20 am
Quelle phrase magnifique retarde lejaculation:
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