On April 4, filmmaker and ultra marathoner Caroline Côté headed off on a 2000-km solo expedition across Quebec, skiing, biking, canoeing and walking her way to the finish line, in Montreal. Along the way, Côté—who is no stranger to adventure, having sailed the Atlantic and paddled over 3,200 km down the Yukon River—followed the power lines the city’s electricity runs along, filming the landscapes and people she encountered along the way. Organized by Hydro-Québec, the aim of the électrON expedition was to showcase Quebec, its power grid and the people who live here. Here Côté talks about her expedition experience and her favourite things about her hometown.
What did you learn from your expedition about power and the city it fuels?
I learned that the electrons in the hydro electric system go across Québec in a fraction of a second—that’s how fast it brings power to Quebecers at every instant. I am amazed that when I turn on the light at home in Montreal, it’s happening instantly but in fact it is crossing the same distance I crossed by foot—2,000 kilometres in 74 days. As an adventurer, I was challenged each day and couldn’t forget that on the same path, a group of people dared to push their limit and build this huge project to spread electricity all over Quebec.
What was the most memorable moment of your expedition?
It had to be waking up one morning. My boots were frozen and there was a lot of ice everywhere inside the tent. At first I was scared, but then the sun showed up and lit everything around me. I made coffee on my little stove. Everything seemed so simple and at that moment, I realized that sometimes we desire a lot in our normal day to day life. That same night, I closed my eyes looking at the sky and thinking I was so lucky to have this kind of experience. Being alone for so long in a cold environment changed my way of thinking. I had to focus on positive things in order to be able to continue further. I can now say that I grew up a lot after having lived that kind of adventure.
Tell us about where you live:
I really enjoy spending time in the southwest area of Montreal, near Griffintown and Saint-Henri, so most of the places I talk about are around here. It’s where I live.
So, where is the best place to sit down and have a coffee in your town?
September Surf Cafe Is probably one of the best places to go sit and chat with friends. They have a really nice terrasse behind the building and it’s quite calm there. You can order really good Snack Box meals. The owners are kind and happy, friendly people. There is also a surf boutique there if you plan to travel, with cool T-shirts and clothes. You’ll see a lot of suntanned people there!
When you go to the local farmers’ market—which vendor do you visit first?
The first place I visit at Marché Atwater near my home is a family business founded 20 years ago. Fleurs de mon Jardin et des Champs specializes in the production of lilies, peonies, dalias and sunflowers. I always recommend that place to people who want the most colorful bouquet for their tables. When I pass by the kiosk, the smell reminds me of wild fields where I used to play when I was younger, near Rougemont and Mont-Saint-Hilaire.
What’s your favourite independent business?
The Letter Bet is a gallery-style retail space located in the heart of Saint-Henri. They host contemporary art that showcases the talents of artists working in a diverse range of mediums. They also specialize in the production of limited-run screen-printed art. What I like about this place is that the artists change almost every week and it creates a great art community in the area.
When company arrives from out of town—where do you take them?
I would definitely bring people to my favourite spa, Bota Bota, located directly in Griffintown. It’s a quiet, peaceful place, and you can even catch a film there in the summer, on the water.
When I have a chance to take them away for a short amount of time, I like to bring them to Boucherville, on the south shore of Montreal. There we can visit my favourite coffee place: Saint Laurent Café-Boutique, located in the old city. On the walls and in the little shop inside, you’ll find a lot of locally designed objects and decorations. While there, you can visit the Parc des Îles-de-Boucherville and cross paths with some deer, and you can even do a little canoe expedition on the St. Lawrence river channels.
Where’s the best place to watch the sunset?
Will I tell you my secret favourite place? Yes I will! This is located in Verdun. There are two docks there with a solid nice view on Île-des-Sœurs. You can go watch the sunset on paddleboard. They rent some at KSF just some kilometers always from the spot. You can relax with your friends and watch locals fishing on the St. Lawrence river. I saw them catch some pretty big fish!
Who’s the most famous person in town?
André Turpin is an award-winning French Canadian cinematographer, film director and screenwriter. For me, he best represents my generation and the colours of Montreal city and the vibe here. As a filmmaker, he inspires me a lot and the work I’m doing in my documentaries.
Is there a community garden?
There are a lot of community gardens in the Montreal area. The one I most frequent is La Légumière Rose-de-Lima. I particularly enjoy the work of a small company from Verdun, Urban Seedling. They specialize in helping people grow their vegetables and they offer also support, expertise and everything else you need to create a garden.
What does your town smell like?
Early morning, my town smells like raisin bread. I think there is a factory on the south shore. Also in the afternoon, when I walk down the Lachine Canal path to return home, I can smell the St-Ambroise beer factory that is doing the brew of the day. You can go and have a pint on the terrasse, which has an entrance off the bicycle road, on summer days.