This park is accessible by public transit and is in the same area as a host of other well worth sites to see while in Montreal. While in the area visit the many restaurants and speciality shops in the area. See the real Quebec, the real Montreal, the real Plateau where the diverse cultural, language and religious differences do not stop the people of this area from getting along and living together in harmony, as it should be. This is truly a part of the city to be proud of.
I remember being loaded into an Uncle Harry bus with my brother and sister and transported to Lafontaine Park for a picnic with the rest of my Sunday school quite often on warm summer Saturdays. There was no cultural reason for going there back then; just a day in the park enjoying nature was our only reason for going. I hear there was a zoo there but I do not remember ever going as a child, I just remember playing in the grass with my friends and looking at the people paddling in the boats wishing I had the money to rent one. Sometimes we would have a box lunch provided by the Sunday school and sometimes our parents had to provide them, but just being out in the fresh air was all we needed to forget everything, but being a kid. I never noticed how big it was either because we only went to the part where the man-made lake was and stayed there until it was time to go.
I forgot about this park until I got married and moved into my new wife’s apartment off Mount Royal Avenue in the plateau district. When our little girl was born I rediscovered it when my wife suggested that we bring our little girl to the petting zoo. We did not picnic on that visit we did not even go back to the part of the park I visited as a child, but I did fall in love with the zoo. I guess like all things as we pass into adulthood the awe and wonder with which we see life and things fades. We are some how no longer the eager explorers seeking adventure and seeing a mystery around every corner. My little girl’s eyes were wide open and she was an eager feeder of all the animals save for the baby elephant. He must have seen huge to her and for all of our coaxing she would not even reach out and touch his trunk. After my divorce it remained one of our favorite spots to share father and daughter time during my court appointed visitation. The zoo is no linger there, but my memories are still strong and I get a warm feeling inside thinking of how it gave a father with just 2 hours of court ordered visitation every second weekend a chance to bond with his little girl.
When I decided to see what there were as far as free parks to visit in Montreal I remembered Lafontaine Park and decided to pay it a visit. There is free parking close to the park and one quickly understands that this is a French park. The air is politically charged and at 1st I was not sure I wanted to do my walk about, but I could not resist the chance to walk where I had once played as a child. I walked around the man-made lake and watched the ducks with their ducklings swimming and preening. People walked there dogs here and sun bathed talked. There were young people everywhere with flags of Quebec and mother’s with their babies and young children playing in the grass like I did when I visited the park. My presence clearly attracted a kind of curious attention and a couple of raised eyebrows from the younger of the parks regulars, but not one rude word or offensive gesture was made.
I saw three children climbing on the stones and swimming in the lake as their parents looked on. They were clearly enjoying themselves and so did I just watching them. Everyone watching them knew they should not be swimming or even be playing in the water, but we all just watched and smiled to ourselves, reliving a time perhaps when full of the daring of youth we would have done the same thing, or did. I walked away that day wishing I was that young they looked to be having so much fun and it was so hot.
The younger crowd was concentrated closest to the lake and down to the water’s edge. The mothers with children and the older people tended to stay away from this area and could be seen more on the outskirts of the park closer to the parking areas and street. The musicians and artist were also to be found away from the water. I did see the statues and the plaques honoring the French heroes of the area. Absent were any plaques or memory of any English of the area. It was like there was never a good English person who ever contributed anything to Quebec, Montreal or the area. I found this to be a sad testament to the need of Quebec to deny and try to rewrite its history.
I enjoyed my visit to the park as I am sure most tourists and visitors to the park would. I will always be saddened when a park is said to have a historical value and find that it is flawed by a sense of bigotry and an absence of its cultural diversity. The plateau is culturally diverse and is home to people from so many different countries who have all contributed to Quebec, Montreal and this area. To only acknowledge the French is kind of slap in the face to the rest of the people who have helped this province this city this area to be as great as it is. It is not the history of a people that needs to be rewritten as the past can never be changed. It is the future that can be different if we have learned from our past. If the past is inaccurate then what we have learned is false and the future will be flawed.
The park is a nice way to spend the day with your children, have a picnic or just to take in a quiet stroll. Unfortunately any of the parks so-called historical value is diminished by its intentional absence of anyone English who might have contributed to the area. I have never been in the winter and the gardens were not opened and neither was the restaurant when I visited so I will not be able to comment on these things. Go see the park and judge it for yourself. It is a one day park and well worth the visit just to be out in the open air and a little closer to nature.