Long Walks On Leafy Streets

7/15/2017 Mont Royal Park, Montreal, QC, Canada.
Summer is in full swing now. We have had a few days when the temperatures hit the mid-nineties. You get out of the air-conditioning and a wave of heat hits you. At first it was a bit uncomfortable but after a few days I started to enjoy it. I tried to imagine that I was walking in Chennai or Coimbatore, back home in India. After all, this is what summer is about. Lasts for a few weeks in July and after that the heat slowly tapers off. One has to bask in the bright sun, enjoy the freedom to walk in very light clothes or no shirt at all, and relax with a cool drink under the shade of a sheltering tree.

When we first moved to Coimbatore from Ernakulam – I was eight years old at that time – my father used to remind us that Coimbatore is “the poor man’s Ooty.” Ooty or Udhagamandalam as it is called now is a hill station in the Nilagiri mountains with many summer retreats build by the British. Coimbatore is in the foothills of the Nilagiris, at the southern tip of the Deccan plateau.
It enjoys relatively mild summers. It gets this cool breeze all the time from the mountains to the North and the West. But lately, perhaps due to climate change, it has been as hot as Chennai where I spent five years during my College years. It has been a good seven years now since we last visited India and I wonder how much hotter Chennai and Coimbatore have gotten. It doesn’t help that more and more forests have been cleared and trees cut down due to urban encroachment and development.

Anyway we have had a good few weeks of summer. We went to Montreal by train one week and then during the weekends we go to a nearby trail and I go running while Nicole walks Prashant in the stroller, periodically letting him run around. My marathon training is in full swing now and I am running 10 miles on Saturdays. Last weekend I ran on the Mt. Vernon trail and today I ran on the C&O canal towpath. It got quite hot and humid on both days. Running was hard and I ran over a minute slower than my normal pace. Nevertheless I did get to enjoy the scenery along the Potomac river on both days. Nicole and I both cherish and enjoy the Potomac river.

The Montreal trip is certainly the highlight of our family’s summer, much as the trip to San Diego was last summer. I have been to Montreal at least three times for math conferences and such but Nicole has never been there. We started at 2 am from home on a Friday two weeks ago to catch the 4.30 train to New York. Nicole has become an expert at using the taxi apps and so it was not a problem. The only problem was waking up at that hour. Once we got on the train we all fell asleep and then after somehow managing to get Prashant through the hustle and bustle of New York Penn station –the main problems being lack of elevators—we got on the train to Montreal.

The journey was quite pleasant and all three of us enjoyed it. The train goes along the Hudson river and then along Lake George and Lake Champlain, with views of lush wetlands, the Adirondack mountains, Burlington and the Vermont mountains. At times the train goes so close to the lakeshores that one worries that it may slip and fall into the lake! Prashant loves trains and I took him outside when they changed engines at Albany on the way back. I wish the U.S had better and more extensive train service. It is quite a shame because I think a lot of Americans do enjoy riding trains. Although I am quite happy that at least California is going to have a high-speed rail system we really should have a much better network of trains with a much higher frequency. It would also reduce congestion on our highways and our overall carbon emissions. I understand that people enjoy the freedom and convenience of driving on the highways, but with the amount of cars on the roads these days it is really not very pleasant to drive more than 3 or 4 hours anywhere. On the other hand on a train one gets to sit in comfortable chairs with lots of legroom, watch a video, read a book, get some work done, or just enjoy the views. They also have a dining car where we got some food along the way. When I was growing up in India the only way we got around was through trains and buses and I really enjoyed watching the train pass through acres and acres of farmland and little villages with old temples and dusty playgrounds where children played Cricket.

In Montreal we attended a few jazz concerts that were part of the International Jazz Festival. Nicole is a huge jazz fan and in fact this festival was the one that got her interested in going to Montreal in the first place. We also visited the Notre Dame Cathedral and toured the Biodome, a combination zoo and aquarium built inside what was the Velodrome for the 1976 Olympics. The best part of our trip was touring the Mont Royal Park in the middle of the city. I have only visited Montreal in the winter until now, and Mont Royal would be completely buried in snow in the winter. I did enjoy walking in the snow and the winter scenery but it was great to be there in the summer. We got some panoramic views of the city – will post pictures on Flickr soon -- and walked around the little Lake inside. Prashant also got to run around a bit in the grass.

On the Saturday after our arrival in Montreal I ran ten miles. I started near our hotel running along the Lachine canal that was built to take ships around the rapids in the St. Lawrence River in the days before the St. Lawrence Seaway was built. Then I ran on a hiker/biker trail built along the river itself. Long time ago I stopped at Cape Vincent on the way to Canada during one of my many trips there. I walked along the St. Lawrence River and enjoyed it so much that to this day whenever I am in a good mood and walking along a reservoir or a lake or any other body of water it reminds me of that walk. So running along that river was a dream come true. It was made even more pleasant by the wetlands along the shores. I even got to see some red winged blackbirds. They are one of my favorite birds and they live mostly around wetlands and so I was really happy to see them.

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