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Metro Roulette: Namur, Signs of the Times

Posted by Sepideh / June 9, 2009

Namur3-20090610.jpgI have a confession to make. I've never taken the metro to Namur. I've cycled each time instead. My little hunk of junk isn't much but she rides the cavitied and cratered tarmac of Montreal with courage, diligence and a wee bit of grace. She gets by, and I get to wherever I want to go. This time, again, the lure was Namur...

... And one very particular place in Namur: the massive Orange Julep. Forget James and the Giant Peach, this building, literally a big orange ball in the middle of a circular car park, not only serves an iconic Montreal drink, Orange Julep, but harks well and truly back to the days of Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Bill Haley & his Comets. There are loudspeakers dotted around the car park and though there were no roller skating waitresses attending to me, the place still holds such charm that it's not difficult to imagine them rockin' and rollin' between the cars to the rifts of Johnny B. Goode.

Though not witness to it myself, I hear the Julep plays host to more than its famous cup of fizzy pop and an array of fast food: Wednesday night is apparently Muscle Car Night! I'm not sure my set of wheels, my little hunk of junk, could battle with the ground troops of such an iconic North American institution, but I'd be willing to leave that ride at home if it meant I could glimpse some pre-drag-racing action with these suped up machines!

Namur2-20090610.jpgThe orange Julep is an obvious landmark. It stands out by its colour, shape, size and sheer randomness. As a non-native Montrealer, though, it can sometimes be hard to understand a place without an ear to the grounding folklore or the experience to interpret the subtle city whispers. This was definitely the case on my first trip to Namur. Apart from the Orange Julep, I saw only what my myopic eyes could show me: Value Village, a Le Chateau outlet, Decarie Square Mall, many, many fast food joints, and loads of car garages. But it's funny how much more interesting a place gets when you start exploring the history. The Julep had already given me a blast into the past but I've come to appreciate just how many more explosions Namur has in store for the unsuspecting...

When I arrived at Namur for the first time, the initial and most immediate thing that caught my sigh was the Decarie Expressway; Autoroute 15 and Decarie Boulevard. It's hard to believe that this heaving artery of human trafficking used to be the site of a mere streetcar until 1959. That year, the streetcar system was decommissioned and the City, going against the conditions set out by the Décarie estate (who originally donated the land on the condition that only a streetcar line be established) began constructing the highway as part of a drive towards Montreal modernisation.

namur4-20090610.jpgRewinding back even further to the turn of the 20th Century, where horsepower meant rather more than big engines in small cars, and turned instead on real flesh and blood, there's the Blue Bonnet Raceway (now known as Hippodrome de Montréal). Opened by the Jockey Club of Montreal in 1907, it has played a prominent role in the area for over a century; first as a central hub for Quebec's horseracing aficionados, and now for its place at the centre of a battle between the Borough of CDN-NDG, who want to use the site for much needed social housing, and the provincial government, who plan to turn it into a mini casino.

It seems also that Namur metro has more in common with its namesake than initially meets the eye. Namur, a city and province in southern Belgium, lies at the intersection of three different regions; Namur metro lies at the intersection of as many different municipalities. It is flanked by the municipalities of Côte St. Luc, Hampstead and Mont Royal, which demerged from the City of Montreal in 2006 after a forced merger in 2001. It's interesting to consider what this slicing and dicing between rival municipalities with competing and I'm sure sometimes conflicting interests, might mean for the borough of CDN-NDG, and particularly for Namur which seems to be at the heart of the dissection.

So what are the signs of the times? Namur's landmarks seem to tell a story of a place fragmented through both time and space. They tell an insider story of Montreal too; the whispers of the Orange Julep, the Blue Bonnets race track, the concrete sealed earth of the Décarie and the sliced and diced borough of CDN-NDG, are barely audible to a self-confessed outsider like me, but maybe because I gave the place a chance, their mutterings began to amplify a touch until I could only just make them out. Perhaps an old-school Montrealer can be privy to the chorus of voices I'm sure exists, but that my short recording has surely left unheard...



Margot / June 10, 2009 at 11:59 am
I'll bet that streetcar would get pretty jammed nowadays, wouldn't it?
Christopher / June 10, 2009 at 11:01 pm
Isn't Orange Julep a simple ripoff of Orange Julius, which originates in the US?
Angelique from Bitchin' Lifestyle / June 11, 2009 at 01:33 pm

I'm from Montreal and I love the Orange Julep! We used to have one in Saint Constant/Delson on the South shore... but I think it's gone now, don't know haven't bee there in a couple of yrs. For a while they painted it into a huge hamburger, just wasn't the same.
Sepideh / June 11, 2009 at 03:17 pm
Haha, yeah a hamburger just ain't the same - I love the Orange Julep structure too! Do you happen to know anything more about the muscle car nights?!?!?!

Christopher, I'm not sure if Orange Julep is a rip off of Orange Julius (I've never tasted Orange Julius). You're right in that the Orange Julius drink was created before Orange Julep (1920s as opposed to 1940s). But, one key difference seems to be that the Orange Julius doesn't come served in as wacky a building - and I think that's what has added to Orange Julep's iconic status... perhaps just as much as the taste of the drink itself...
Caroline / February 4, 2015 at 04:34 am
Until I found this I thuohgt I'd have to spend the day inside.

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