Having spent the past eight or nine months in Doc Martens, it took me a few minutes to find my beach feet.
But I’m getting ahead of myself, because our first stop was to pick up Isaac, the 20-month-old baby Melani and Trevor babysit, and then we were off to the Ecomuseum in Ste. Anne de Bellevue, about 35 kilometres west of Montreal, but still on the island. It is bordered by suburbia, forests and cornfields. You won’t find elephants and tigers here: The nature park keeps only animals indigenous to the area. The weathered wooden buildings blend into the landscape, so it doesn’t have the feel of a zoo, but of a sanctuary.
My heart belongs to the arctic fox, who was napping when we got there but lifted his head long enough to blink hello. He’s slender and a little rough around the edges, not unlike a few of my favourite friends.
But the wolves! My gods, I don’t think I’ve ever been so wowed by a single creature. They know how awesome they are and they’re not shy about it. They posed at the top of a small hill, watching us watching them, confident in their superiority. And speaking of superior beings, Isaac spent a lot of time with the owls. They were all very laid back, but the great horned was just generally unimpressed. He wasn’t about to put on a show for us and preferred that we didn’t put one on for him.
I could tell you more about the animals. I could go on all day about them (bears! lynx! raccoons!). It’s best that you just go yourself. The sanctuary can be toured in an hour, and we found two hours was pretty much perfect to see everything and not exhaust the smallest child.
That still left us with most of an afternoon, and the beach at Cap St. Jacques Nature Park is just a few kilometres from the Ecomuseum. I hadn’t been there before and feared it would be as uncivilized and slightly gross as the beach at Jean Drapeau Park. I needn’t have worried.
The Lake of Two Mountains beach is about a kilometre long. The water isn’t very deep, which means it’s warm, and the sand was impeccably clean. This is mostly because there is no food allowed on the beach; the picnic area was the usual mess of plastic wrap, smoke butts and bottle caps.
The beach wasn’t crowded, but there were quite a few sun worshippers. The sounds were muted. The wind through the leaves made as much noise as the children splashing in the water. Kendra and Trevor rented a kayak for an hour for a remarkable $13, which kept them in the water and giggling while Isaac collected rocks and I taught him to bash them into the sand and yell: “Hulk! Smash!” Good times.
We’ve had so many chilly, rainy days this July, but yesterday was cloudless and bright and our mini road trip was the most relaxing we’ve taken all year.