De-stress Before School at These Beautiful Parks

The trail next to the pond in Park Lafontaine. Many use it to bike, roller skate or walk. Photo Iness Rifay

Calm Your Nerves by Taking a Deep Breath in Nature

The new advertisements preceding YouTube videos make pens, backpacks and highlighters seem much more exciting than they really are. Dull, dirty yellow school buses jam the roads and are full of overly enthusiastic children. Nearby parks and playgrounds are suddenly much quieter, and in the silence, the realization hits: school is starting again.

The few weeks leading up to the fall semester are known to be stressful. It’s a new academic year, and that alone makes back-to-school feel daunting. The purchase of textbooks and OPUS monthly passes are reluctantly made. The regret that follows is somewhat alleviated by the thought that these expenses are necessary, but still piles on top of the initial dread. The pressure and the rush create a powerful tunnel vision effect that dulls the senses and makes it difficult to think about anything else. 
It's unfortunate, really, because those weeks see the dawn of nature’s shift into the next season. Hyper-focused students hardly feel the breeze that isn’t so uncomfortably warm anymore, nor do they notice how the cicadas’ chants are more muted, or disappear. It’s oddly therapeutic, the sensation of fall. It might be difficult to find a moment to breathe properly nowadays, but when there is one, it should take place at one of these locations.

Lafontaine Park

Park Lafontaine’s mini waterfall, with it’s outdoor theatre in the background. Photo Iness Rifay
A view from behind Park Lafontaine’s waterfall. Photo Iness Rifay
An isolated staircase leading down to the pond in Park Lafontaine. Photo Iness Rifay

Lafontaine Park stands out in how it lulls its occupants. The nearby playground echoes the laughter of elementary school kids. It soothingly rings in perfect harmony with the soft quacking of the ducks who have made the small lake their home. Rather than being isolated from its surroundings, the park blends in seamlessly and adds colour to the monotone concrete buildings of the city. Walking in isn’t a commitment either: there is no pressure to spend longer than five minutes there. The experience will be the same regardless of the amount of time given to the park.

Mount Royal Park

A view of the city of Montreal and the Saint-Lawrence river in the background from the top of Mount Royal. Photo Iness Rifay
A view of the Olympic Stadium from the top of Mount Royal. Photo Iness Rifay
The cross at the top of Mount Royal. Photo Iness Rifay
A path inside of Mount Royal park. Photo Iness Rifay

If Lafontaine Park is an open oasis, Mount Royal Park is a leafy green bubble, sheltering its visitors from the cacophony of the city. Its paths to the top are tightly embraced by the forest and the trees’ shadows lay comfortably on the sweaty backs of the trekkers passing by. The higher they get, the more difficult it is to believe that this park is in the middle of the city, as the air gets lighter, fresher and cooler than the one near the sizzling hot concrete. It does have shaded lounging areas for the more laid-back kind, but the effort for the top view is worth the climb.

Mount Saint-Bruno National Park

A lotus flower on a lake in Mount-Saint-Bruno national park. Photo Iness RIfay
Lotus pads and flowers inside of a lake in Mount-Saint-Bruno national park. Photo Iness Rifay
A wide view of a lake in Mount-Saint-Bruno national park. Photo Iness Rifay
A twisted branch in the middle of the forest in Mount-Saint-Bruno national park. Photo Iness Rifay

Sheltered an hour away from Montreal, the dog-friendly national park is a treasure full of diverse fauna and thick, elderly trees that can provide shade from any weather. It’s its own little world, with six different trails covering the great majority of the mountain. Some of them circle around large, peaceful lakes, full of fish and lotus plants. Others pierce into dense forests and replace the humidity of the waters with the freshness of the mountain. Most of the treks aren’t too physically demanding, making them suitable for those who aren’t seeking to break much of a sweat.