Big Hardware Stores in Gatineau – The Unofficial Tour

Big hardware stores are where you buy construction stuff – lumber, mouldings, fence, etc, along with other hardware materials. Biking to those in Ottawa from downtown can be pretty daunting, but Réno-Dépôt in Gatineau is accessible via bike paths pretty much all the way. Yesterday I had to return some prop items to both Réno-Depot and Pilon hardware stores in Gatineau. They happen to be close together, so I made sure my ride took me past both stores.

The red line on the map below shows the best route to get to Réno-Dépôt. The blue line is where I diverged from this recommended route to get to Pilon, then Réno-Dépôt and beyond.

These huge steam pipes hug the wall where the bike path passes under the Portage Bridge on the Quebec side. Not too long ago they used to hiss and pop.

Cool steam pipes

On one side of the path, just before it slips under Boulevard des Alummettières, sit these elegant, simple and effective demarcation posts.

Cool demarcation posts

Pilon is retro 60’s, from the design of the building, to it’s big old roof sign, to all the clean cut friendly salesmen sporting crisp shirts and ties. No orange bibs here, thank you very much.


Pretty soon there will be a bike path all along Boulevard de la Carrière, which you can take from Pilon to Réno, but right now they are in the middle of road repairs. Lousy to bike through. The changes to the road will result in separate lanes for cars, buses, trains and bikes. Here’s how it will appear, as seen in this section completed closer to Réno.

Lanes past Réno

To get to the streets I wanted to cover further north I had to cross under highway 5 at Boulevard St Joseph. Avoid this intersection at all cost. If there exists a list of ‘worst intersections for bikes in Gatineau’ I am sure this one is on it. Cars fly down St Joseph while others zip on and off the highway ramps with barely a glance. An absolute mess.

The streets I visited just south of Boulevard Mont Bleu are filled with a great mix of housing styles from the fifties and sixties. One intriguing period style I’ve come across throughout the region has big black rocks set into the facade like so.

Big black rocks

Great looking windows extending up to the roofline and tall recessed entrance on the one below.

Mid-century modern, Gatineau style

Although it’s been extensively altered away from it’s 50’s origins, I love the mish mash of growth all around this one. The little boat up top suggests an image of the whole house being submerged with seaweed growing up and around it.

Under the sea

I then followed designated bike lanes from Boulevard Riel all the way to the Ruisseau-de-la-brasserie Pathway.

A final look at big steam pipes on the way back seen from under the Portage Bridge.

The Lonely Oak

In the middle of the Experimental Farm, just west of Fisher Avenue, sits a big gorgeous solitary oak. Today I biked over to pay it a visit.

I biked past the Experimental Farm greenhouses along the way. This old one is looking great.

Old White Greenhouse

To get up close to the oak tree, you need to ride along the inside of the fence that runs along Fisher avenue, then turn west along an old gravel road that brings you to the tree.

The isolated oak sits in stark contrast to the harvested fields.

Lonely Oak

And if you love Canada geese, this is one place you are likely to find them. There were hundreds in the surrounding fields. Their continuous honking echoed across the open ground, providing an eerie soundscape while contemplating the oaks heavy gnarled surfaces and complex network of leafless branches.

lonely oak up close

Canada Geese in the farm

I continued along the gravel path through the farm heading west until I came to Merivale Road, and then followed the Experimental Farm Pathway to Nepean to cover some residential streets through Centrepointe I had yet to visit. Based on the styles of all the brown brick houses and the height of trees I’d guess the area I biked through was developed in the 80’s and early 90’s.

Many shades of brown brick

On the way back I happened upon the old Nepean City Hall and Centrepointe Theatre. The theatre is still going strong. There was a tone of green strongly adhered to throughout all of the old city’s corporate identity that I’ve come to know as Nepean Green. It is still in evidence on the exterior of the building, as is the old city logo above the entrances.

Centre pointe Theatre & old City Hall

Across the street at the entrance to Centrepointe Park sits this memorial to the late city. The stepped landscape gradually builds centripetally upward towards the fountain. In the middle is mounted a bronze slab, the outline of which describes the boundaries of the old city. On one of the concrete pillars behind the fountain are mounted the dates of the city’s existence (1792-2000) in raised letters set against possibly one of the last applications of Nepean Green.

Memorial to the late City of Nepean

I then hopped onto the network of NCC pathways which led me along our mighty river towards home.

Théâtre de l’Île

Gatineau’s Théâtre de l’Île and the island on which it sits, just off the Ruisseau de la brasserie Pathway, are local treasures.

Yesterday morning I biked over to take care of a few details on a set I designed for a play called ‘Sous-sol à louer’ that opens on the 31st. This old stone bridge leads you onto the island.

View of stone bridge from the island

The 120 seat theatre is located in the Hull Water Works. Originally built in 1886, it was converted to its present use as a theatre in 1976.

Le théâtre

The secluded grounds that extend behind the theatre are quite zen, especially in the spring with the sound of water gurgling by on either side.

Landscaped grounds

This sculpture by Victor Tolgesy is located at the far end of the grounds.

Explorateur II, 1968

This piece titled Sortie côté jardin was sculpted by Denis Charrette from a maple growing on the site. The tree was in bad shape and had to be cut down. The title of the piece is a play on words, côté jardin being the equivalent of the theatrical term ‘stage right’. The sculptor was inspired by a play written by Hedwige Herbiet, called La légende du Théâtre de l’Île.

Sortie côté jardin

It’s a great destination for a short ride, or a fine place to pause on a longer journey.

Return to Pleasant Park Woods via the Poets’ Pathway

Yesterday my son had an afternoon hockey game in the Urbandale neighbourhood so I biked there. A section of the Poets’ Pathway passes through nearby Pleasant Park Woods, which I’ve been wanting to re-visit, so I followed their suggested route on the way home. Here’s how the journey panned out.

To get to this part of town I usually ride along the canal, cross over at Hogs Back Falls, bike back down along the Rideau River Eastern Pathway, then cut east along Pleasant Park Road. This I did in reverse on the way home, but today I was running late so I chose a more direct route down Bank Street to get there. Bank Street Bridge over the Rideau River is treacherous on a regular day. Presently it is under construction, making it even more dangerous for bicyclists. Won’t do that again. It’s a spot to avoid.

Bank St Bridge looking south
Made it to the rink on time – that’s my superstar!

Many houses in Urbandale have this interesting pattern of protruding bricks on their front facades.

Architectural outies

This raised paved shoulder straddles Heron Road, which I rode along to get to the start of the Poets’ Pathway. These exist along other busy roads throughout the city as well. Not sure what their intended purpose is. Carla thinks they pave them because nothing worthwhile can grow so close to the side of these busy roads due to the salt and dirt plowed there in the winter. I consider them bike path wannabe’s.

Raised shoulders

The Poets’ Pathway (Walk 8) is along a network of intersecting unmarked trails, which isn’t too confusing since the strip of parkland it follows is relatively narrow, as long as you generally keep heading in the right direction. A compass or gps might be useful.

Most of the trail looks like this….

Lots of room

… until you reach the woods.


It started to rain as I made my way back along Pleasant Park Road, so I pulled out my super water proof gloves purchased at Preston Hardware just the other day for 50¢! I kid you not – 50¢! OK, they lack bling, but they work like a charm. There’s even room for little wooly gloves when it gets colder.

Red Cotes!

Here’s what you’ll be up against if you choose to bike back over the Bank Street Bridge.


Here’s a view of the Rideau you’ll be treated to if you choose to continue along the Rideau River Pathway.


Now that they’ve drained most of the canal, Dow’s Lake is teeming with ducks and Canadian Geese. I’m guessing they are taking advantage of the freshly exposed seaweed. Mmmm, yummy!

Ducks on Dows

Carlingwood Mall via Crestview

Last Wednesday night I attended the Citizens For Safe Cycling AGM where Olivia Chow made a strong argument for truck sideguards. The keynote speaker Ralph Bueler presented loads of great facts and observations towards enhancing the presence of bicycling in urban communities. For example I learnt that the more bicyclists there are out there the safer it is for all of us. Strength in numbers. So here’s hoping that this blog encourages folks to travel and commute via pedal power, like those living in the neighbourhood of Crestview!

There were some streets in Crestview that I had yet to visit, so that’s where I headed Wednesday morning. The red line shows the route I followed to get there. The blue line is how I got home.

On the way there I biked through the Arboretum and along the canal which is in the process of being drained for the winter.

Looking down the canal from the locks at Hogs Back

Here is a very accomplished mural located in General Burns Park I discovered en route.
UPDATE: Fall 2015 – Sadly the mural is no more. It’s been scraped down to a bare cinder block wall.


Crestview is a residential community with big old power lines cutting through north to south.

Power Tower

Consisting of mostly single detached dwellings, some of the houses date back to the mid 40’s. This one caught my eye. Even with recent vinyl siding, it has managed to maintain it’s mid-century modern look.

Crestview Modern

On the way back I stopped off at Value Village on the corner of Clyde and Baseline to find props for a play. The very kind woman at the cashier told me exactly where to find the one prop that was eluding me. “Carlingwood Mall! Just head down Clyde Avenue, which becomes Maitland, then turn up Carling and you’re there!”…… After thanking her I headed out to my bike and consulted my trusty map. Bicyclists unfortunately have to avoid Maitland and Carling if they can as they are filled with aggressive speeding cars. My map shows Clyde Avenue chopped in two just north of where I was. My instincts told me there must be a link accessible by bike that joins the two sections, so I decided to try my luck.

Clyde ends where it meets the Experimental Farm Pathway, however there is this little dirt trail that continues north, veering off to the right.

Clyde Avenue portage route

Making my way carefully along this muddy path I happened upon… an old ski tow?

old ski tow

The path opened onto a hill which must indeed have been a ski hill in the not too distant past.

Old ski hill

I made my way down and joined the northern section of Clyde Avenue. Looking south at this vertical cliff, I came to understand why Clyde was chopped in two.

Clyde cliff

Wove my way through residential streets north of Carling to the Carlingwood Mall, found what I needed, and pedalled home along our majestic Ottawa River.

To market, to market, Ottawa side. Home again, home again, Gatineau ride!

Perfect Fall afternoon for a leisurely ride, so Carla and I set off for the Byward Market with panniers ready to be filled.

Great view of the Rideau Canal locks looking up from the Ottawa River

Behind the National Gallery sits this wonderfully playful sculpture called Majestic, yet it’s playfulness shields gloomier origins. All of the lamp posts that have been combined to create this piece originally illuminated various streets of New Orleans but were blown over by Hurricane Katrina.


After locking our bikes in the market, we shopped! Our goal was to buy sausages at Nicastro’s, but we also wound up getting yummy brussel sprouts, beets, and pie pumpkins from some of the various market stalls, such as the one in the photo below. Carla designed the Byward Market graphic identity and it’s various environmental graphics applications as seen on the lamp post and the seasonal banners up above, as well as all the street signs throughout the market area.

Byward Market

If you require visiting the facilities while meandering through the Market Mall, you will need to go upstairs, which will afford you great views of this wonderful sculpture by Victor Tolgesy.

Market in the clouds

We biked across the Alexandra Bridge and headed home along the Gatineau Side. Check out theses amazingly red leaved bushes along the edge of the Museum of Civilization.

Rich Red!

Carla was very smart to have packed a thermos of tea, which we paused to share at this spot along the river.

Carla inspecting a display she designed

I love this sculpture by Phyllis Kurtz Fine that sits on the edge of the path before arriving at the Portage Bridge. It stands proud but isn’t overpowering. It’s smooth curve and elongated slits with rounded ends soften the rawness of the rusting steel it is made of. A play of contrasts.

Commentary, by Phyllis Kurtz Fine

UPDATE: April 2014 – Because this route requires riding along the section of Murray Street between Mackenzie and Parent which can get pretty frantic with traffic rushing over the Alexandra Bridge, I often prefer riding up through Major’s Hill Park and locking my bike to the fence at the top of the stairs that lead down to the market, as described in this post.

Ghost Bike Commemorating David Tyler Brown

I’ve been wanting to visit the ghost bike at the intersection of Innes and Bantree. That’s where David Tyler Brown died in a senseless accident in early September. I wanted to pay my respects, and try to shed a little light on how such a tragic accident could occur at this location. Yesterday I needed to go to the Home Depot in that neighbourhood, so I chose a route that brought me past his ghost bike.

I left from La Nouvèlle Scène on King Edward Avenue where a set I designed for the play Albertine en cinq temps was being installed.

La Nouvelle Scène

At the corner of Innes and St Laurent I entered No Mans Land. I encountered only one other person not encased in a four-or-more wheeled vehicle – a guy walking along Innes who definitely looked like he wished he were somewhere else. Here’s what the intersection of Innes and Bantree looks like.

Innes & Bantree

And here is the bike.

Ghost Bike

There is a very well written article here, which describes the bike and surrounding commemorative elements which touch upon the life of David Tyler Brown.


I chose a Sunday to ride out this way to avoid the trucks that own this landscape. Here is a panorama taken further down Bantree.


Unfortunately my iPhone ran out of juice after taking these images.

I’m a pretty confident biker, but riding through this area was scary, even on a Sunday. The lack of drainage along Sheffield Road created huge puddles that forced me to ride in the middle of the road. I hit a rut while turning my head to check for oncoming traffic at the top of Sheffield Road, which caused me to fall off my bike. I’m OK, just broke my rear light and bell. Stupid of me, really. Being so anxious about the road conditions contributed to my error. Effort is required to make this area safer for bicyclists, such as those who wish to commute by bike.

Needless to say, I was very relieved to get to the end of Walkley Road where I followed a gravel trail.

The route I would recommend taking to get to this area is the one I followed on the way back, hi-lited in green on the above map. Anderson Road and Innes Road on the East side of the 417 have bicycle lanes. Cyrville Road isn’t great, but it’s the safest way to get to the other side of the 417.

Regina Lane Mural

Some local communities are having success in addressing crime and safety issues through the creation of public art murals initiated by the Pinecrest-Queensway Community Health Centre. One impressive work located down Regina Lane was unveiled in late September. House of PainT Festival of Urban Arts and Culture was involved. Yesterday morning I biked over and checked it out. Lots to take in. While in the area I also took the opportunity to cover a few yet-to-be-explored streets on the south side of Carling.

Images of the mural in its early stages of creation can be found on this site.

And here is the completed work. I wound up having to shoot a bunch of pictures and splicing them together to create one cohesive image. Click on it a couple of times to zoom in and get a good view of the entire piece. I highly recommend heading over and taking a look.

Regina Lane Mural

On the way back I noticed that the channel of water just before the Mill restaurant has been emptied. At the bottom there is a smaller channel carved out of the rock, partially covered by old timbers which look like they’ve been there for a long time.

Old wet timbers
Where the channel ends

I believe this channel acts as a reservoir for No.2 Generating Station, which houses some of the oldest operating hydro-electric equipment in Canada.

No. 2 Generating Station

I visited the station a couple of years ago during the annual Doors Open weekend in June and remember the phenomenal power of the water rushing through by the rotational velocity of the huge turbines and the very loud humming noise they create. This clip gives you an idea of what it looks like inside.

Vive la France ! – à Gatineau.

There’s an area east of the Gatineau River where most of the streets are named after French regions, cities or communes. Yesterday morning I biked over and checked some of them out.

Here is the Gatineau River where it flows into the Ottawa River, as seen for the Lady Aberdeen Bridge.

Where rivers meet

From Rue St Louis along the river I turned up the bike lane that runs parallel to Rue de Picardie, (below on the left) which joined this dedicated bike lane along Rue des Flandres (below on the right).

Taking care of bikers

The area is bordered on three sides by the Gatineau River, highway 50 and avenue Gatineau. Based on the styles of houses I’d guess the area was developed in the fifties and sixties.

Modest Modern

Many of the front yards are graced with full deciduous trees looking glorious at this time of year.

Richelieu Park via Gamman House

On Monday afternoon Carla and I headed east to explore Richelieu Park. We took a slight detour along the way to have a peek at Gamman House, purported to be the oldest house in the pre-amalgamated city of Vanier. Here’s the route we followed.

I was anxious to see what shape Gamman House was in, since the image on Google Street view shows it boarded up and seemingly abandoned. According to this article recent plans to turn it into the Ottawa’s Workers’ Heritage Centre Museum have fallen through. When we pedaled up to it I was pleased to discover the exterior in good shape. Renovations are being done on the inside. What it will be used for I don’t know.

UPDATE, April 12, 2013 – Gamman House has been turned into an artists studio!

The Gamman House

On the way to Richelieu Park we came across this eye catching and well preserved old house. A little plaque says it was built in 1923. A sign on the gate post reads ‘CHAT LUNATIQUE’.

Blue House

Further along just before turning up Avenue des Pères Blancs sits this fantastic house with a front yard that pulls out all the stops. UPDATE Summer 2017All the lawn ornaments have sadly been removed.

Bling House

Avenue des Pères Blancs is a nice long street leading up past stone pillars into Richelieu Park.

Entrance to Parc Richelieu

The Pères Blancs is a Catholic Society of Missionairies of Africa whose scholasticate occupied the site of Richelieu Park. They were expropriated by the city of Vanier when the province ordered the city to acquire more park land. This statue of the Virgin Mary left by the missionaries greets visitors as they enter the park.


Sneaking around the back of the building on the right, we came across this impressive communal garden.

Nice Garden

Other vestiges of the Pères’ presence are scattered throughout the Park, like this white cross sitting in amongst the trees.


But the trees themselves are the most memorable offerings the Pères left for us to enjoy – hundreds of sugar maples which continue to be tapped annually, boiled down to maple syrup in their sugar shack, and celebrated during the Spring Maple Sugar Fest. Never been, but I hope to now that I know about it. Here’s the sugar shack.

la cabane à sucre

And here is one of the many paths we followed through the trees.

Biking along

We exited to the East and biked up Saint-Laurent Boulevard. Carla lived in this part of town when she was really young, and remembers this great vintage DQ sign always being there.

Old DQ

Too chilly for ice cream, so we retraced our path down St-Laurent and worked our way back through Beechwood Cemetery, which is extremely picturesque especially at this time of year with all the leaves on the huge trees changing colours. So why didn’t I take any photos? I dunno.

Beechwood Avenue to the north of the cemetery is a nice street but not so great for biking. Cars go fast and there isn’t much of a shoulder.

So if you don’t find it too creepy, biking through the cemetery is a much better option.