Dispatch from Montreal
| Published : 03/Jun/2012 04:40
The idea of the artificial urban beach is not entirely new. It’s been a good decade since Parisians were first able to disrobe and flop their sunscreen-lathered selves on the moderately hot sand of Paris-Plages. There are similar projects elsewhere - in Brussels, Shanghai, and Chicago, among other places. For most of the 20th century, though, the sorry state of the waterfronts in major North American cities kind of rendered the whole concept of sunbathing anywhere near them a stunt falling somewhere between the eccentric and the absurd. Fortunately, things are changing. Not only do we hear increasingly encouraging talk of marine species returning to bays and estuaries near major American cities (which is attributed to the passage in the US of the Clean Water Act of 1972), but the very mode d’emplois
of North American waterfronts is evolving: decades after industry was effectively shipped out to foreign lands, its vestiges - ports, warehouses, and various industrial installations - seem to be retreating, too. Waterfronts are getting cleaned up, dressed in pedestrian-friendly stone and outfitted with all manner of hedonistic amenities.
Case in point: Montreal
The already rather welcoming esplanade has existed for roughly three decades, but while removing one’s shirt there has been common practice among.. hmm, let’s call them gym enthusiasts, and even sunbathing has been totally possible - on those little patches of green abutting the esplanade - the sum of these quasi-resort-like components never added up to anything even remotely resembling a beach.
But that is about to change. Come June 16th, the city will welcome its decidedly shirtless and shoeless citizenry (and, of course, similarly garbed visitors) to a new sandy strip located at the foot of the Sailors’ Memorial Tower (la Tour d’Horloge) - provided that the folks in question are willing to part with 6 dollars to gain entry (discounts for children and seniors will be available: see below).
I’ve visited the yet-to-be-opened plage (or, rather, approached the surrounding fence) and can confirm its existence and near-ready status. The sand is poured and blue parasols are installed. The city says the beach will be able to welcome up to 1,300 sunbathers simultaneously. One important restriction that merits a mention is that there will be no swimming in the Saint Lawrence - the river is judged too dangerous due to the strong currents in this area (and, I’d venture to guess, not quite as clean as potential swimmers might wish it to be). So, bring a book, but leave your swim mask in the closet until your next Carribean adventure.
Plage de l’Horloge
Rue Quai de l’Horloge, Montreal
- Seniors (60+): $1 off
- Children (6-12): $3 off
- Children (<=5): free