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Visiting the Saint-Laurent / Saint-Lawrence Lakeshore, Dorval, Montreal, Quebec: Views of L'Île-Dorval / Dorval Island

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Flag of Dorval

Flag of Dorval

Dorval Island, or L'Île-Dorval, and Saint Lawrence River seen from above.

Dorval Island, or L'Île-Dorval, and Saint Lawrence River seen from above.

Choppy waters and a perpetually still island

[I travelled to Dorval in the first half of March 2020.]

The late winter ice was still present on the surface of the Saint-Laurent / Saint-Lawrence (1) when I came to the shoreline at Dorval's ferry station to L'Île-Dorval / Dorval Island. For a visitor it was a curious sight: Right up against the shoreline and harbour the ice was still packed solid, while some meters out into the Saint-Laurent / Saint-Lawrence current the ice was already breaking up in perpetually choppy waters.

I reminder myself that these waters were not far from Lachine, famous for its rapids which historically have proved to be such a challenge for water transportation, whether in the building of Lachine's canal or more recently with the Voie maritime du Saint-Laurent / Saint-Lawrence Seaway.

Here, then, is the ferry station used by travellers to L'Île-Dorval / Dorval Island, which forms a municipality in its own right.

So what do Dorvaliens / Dorvaliennes (2) think of life on their thickly wooded, tranquil island home?

To this question must immediately come the next question in response: Who?

Because in terms of actual year round inhabitants, in recent years the number of genuine residents of L'Île-Dorval / Dorval Island has hovered between zero and 5.

However — and this is one of the quirks of the situation — there are about 50 electorally registered residents of L'Île-Dorval / Dorval Island, and for this reason the independent municipality which the island forms has retained its existence, not unlike a draft of wishful thinking hanging in cyberspace.

As I gazed across the partly iced up and partly very choppy waters of the Saint-Laurent / Saint-Lawrence from the Dorval ferry station, the island looked very still.

With good reason, one might add.

In addition to the apparently creative fiction of L'Île-Dorval / Dorval Island's electoral roll recordings, the municipality of zero to 5 underwent in the early 21st century a merger with the Ville de Montréal / City of Montréal and then a de-merger, all within the space of two years.

I suppose the question here for the visitor to ask would be: Did anyone notice?

Anyway, I would have been truly glad to use the ferry to sail across to L'Île-Dorval / Dorval Island, but it was not running. When the banks of the Saint-Laurent / Saint-Lawrence ice up, the ferry does not run.

In 1866 a watercolour painting — Île Dorval — was produced by Frances Anne Hopkins (1838-1919)(3). The scene it depicts (see below) has hardly changed in the intervening years.

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I must admit, as a retired interpreter, I do ask myself, How does official bilingualism work on an island municipality with a population which has hovered between zero and 5? (I feel that I am unlikely to receive any clear answers to my question.)

(My daily constitutional proceeded away from Dorval's ferry station.)

April 1, 2020


(1) This section of the Saint-Laurent / Saint-Lawrence is known as the Lac Saint-Louis / Lake Saint-Louis.

(2) NB: Citizens of L'Île-Dorval / Dorval Island are known as Dorvaliens / Dorvaliennes, whereas citizens of Dorval are known as Dorvalois / Dorvaloises.

(3) Frances Anne Hopkins painted a number of remarkably realistic historical scenes relevant to Canadian life; one of these — Shooting the Rapids — is even today not irrelevant to the vicinity of Lachine and Dorval.

Some sourcing: Wikipedia

Also worth seeing

In Dorval itself, the Eglise de la Présentation dates from 1900, and its spire dominates the local horizon; the City's Museum is situated at 1850 Lakeshore Drive; known as the Dorval Museum of Local History and Heritage, it is housed in a heritage property — a former coach house — dating from 1874 and originally belonging to Alfred S. Brown. (See also: ; contact: email, ; tel., 514 633-4314.) In 2016 an exhibition about Dorval's history was held.

The architectural and cultural attractions of neighbouring Montreal are too numerous to mention here, but of special note, among many others, are the domed Bonsecours Market (Marché Bonsecours), dating from 1847, which was a venue used to house the Parliament of United Canada, prior to Confederation. The Notre-Dame Basilica (Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal) was built mainly between 1824 and 1829; many Montrealers attend annual performances of Handel's 'Messiah' there. The Olympic Stadium (Stade Olympique) in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve district, used for the 1976 Olympics, has the the world's tallest inclined tower, at 175 metres.

Mont-Tremblant (distance: 133 kilometres), in the Laurentian Mountains (Laurentides) is ideal for scenic excursions, golf and skiing; its boutiques attract many shoppers.


How to get there: Air Canada flies to Montreal (Aéroport international Pierre-Elliott-Trudeau de Montréal ) from Toronto-Pearson, and from New York-Newark and New York-La Guardia, with wide connections. A number of car rental companies offer service at Montreal-Trudeau airport. VIA Rail maintains regular services with Toronto and Windsor. You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

Map of Dorval on the Isle of Montreal

Map of Dorval on the Isle of Montreal

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