Early this morning, before the rain finally bore down, I ran - no, swam through the soupy, pre-storm haze. Gazing out over the flat, green patch of water that we call Lake of the Isles, I took in the hot breath of clover and the dream-like landscape, tired and yellowed, the heavens like brass. A Minnesota August, if there ever was one. My mind drifted through the blur to a higher, clearer, brighter place, and longed for those deep draughts of air from a couple of weeks ago.
Ever since my arrival in hilly Montreal, one particular promontory had been staring me down. Mont Royal. Maybe the name sounds familiar? Well somewhere along the line, after an intervocalic do-si-do, the name probably morphed into Montréal, though this is apparently a mere hypothesis according to some. Whatever the case may be, I was bent on conquering the summit in my running shoes. When we finally got an afternoon off at the conference, I made a bee-line for the hotel, suited up in my workout duds, and off I went for adventure.
When I began, the sky was covered and I even had to shake a few droplets of rain off of my glasses during the first stretch of my jaunt, but this only added to the refreshment. I felt as free as a kid running off to the park after school gets out. (Actually, this is more or less what was happening.) I skipped through funky neighborhoods I hadn't seen yet, past the imposing McGill University, and up, up, up!
The dirt trails in Parc Mont-Royal honeycomb the steep hillsides, with one wide, serpentine gravel paths heading up most of the way. The grade wasn't too steep...till I got to the stairs, that is. These continued for about 8-10 flights. Yeah baby. When I arrived on the plateau above, I was not disappointed, however. That's why I love to toil my way to get higher up - it's always harder and always worth it. Downtown Montreal popped up in the foreground, while the St. Lawrence stretched out lazily through the panorama, strung with suspension bridges along the way.
I also tooled around near the top for a while, which had a whole other set of trails to offer. Adorning one peak was a significant symbol of Montreal, the steel-beamed LED-illuminated Mount Royal cross, perched 764 feet above sea level. (Yes, I know it's not a REAL mountain, but I'm a Minnesota girl - any elevation is a thrill.) It's sort of like a hybrid of the Eiffel Tower and a church steeple. Strapped to the bars was a canvas sign with the motto: "La Croix sans clotûre" - "The Open Cross", which invites inquiry. What could that mean? Certainly, if you're going to build a monument to the Christan faith on a windy hilltop, it's intelligent to let the air through. But what about the cross we preach and live out...is it just as breezy?