It’s funny how memories just show up, sometimes. You can rarely recreate the whole scene and most of the time you remember just a few seconds, often out of context, like an old discoloured Polaroid that briefely comes to life before returning to its original stillness, bringing back insignificant details that are engraved in your memory but not in others’. We become guardians of a moment, keepers of a truth that no longer exists anywhere but in our subconscious.

For many years, I’ve had this type of flash walking down Montcalm Street, in Hull. Watching an al but abandoned Brewery Creek, images of a much smaller me, not quite at ease on his skates, of my sister in her white girl skates and my dad with much darker hair would come to mind, like an old 80s or 90s movie that reminds me of nearly forgotten elements from my childhood. I couldn’t insist on the surroundings so much (I know that the BDT didn’t exist, neither did La Filature, and La Fonderie was still an adandonned factory that I dreamed to break into to tak pictures) but the wooden boardwalk and stairs, the posts connected by big black chains and the Wright and Montcalm Streets bridges would come to mind, seen from centre-ice. Nostalgia at its best!

A dream come true!

I often deplored that such a jewel was left in such bad shape and that its recreational potential was being neglected. Well, last winter, the City of Gatineau (which didn’t exist either back then) heard my prayers and the Creek’s skating rink would live again! Animation was organized by the surrounding businesses and the experience was a real success for the old-timers like me who had been waiting for this moment since 1998 as well as for the newcomers who were just happy to skate in downtown Gatineau. I was happy to dodge kids who had fallen on their bums, teenagers with Habs jerseys playing a game of shinny, and even the man dressed in spandex with his speed skates doing lengths. I was happy to go back in the evening and enjoy the programming at La Filature, who also offered hot chocolate to skaters. Instead of an old beat-up photograph with a pen-written date on the back, these new memories are recorded in millions of pixels.

This year, the rink goes all the way to the Brasseurs du temps and a whole cultural and festive program has been elaborated there, bonfire included. Mother Nature has been rough on the ice this winter but if one reads the comments on its Facebook page, people love the rink at Brewery Creek and are anxious to go back! I know I’ll be hitting the ice the moment the conditions are good. It is a splendid activity to do with the kids during spring break and if you’re not from the region, be aware that the rink is very central and close to most major hotels (just across the street from the Crowne Plaza and less than a kilometer from les Suites Vctoria, for reference)

So even if Mother Nature ‘s been moody this year, I now walk along Montcalm Street and instead of washed-up old images with a n approximate context, I now think about the winters to come, with a huge smile on my face.

For more info, visit www.outaouaistourism.com.

Cover photo: Natalia Barreto

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