When your collegues ask you on Monday morning what you did on the weekend, answering “I went to jail” may illicit a wide variety of responses, as I learned this morning.
Saturday, I had the chance to visit the old prison in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec. Closed in the mid-1980s, it’s opening date qualifies it as old, but it’s closure recent enough to still have some form of impact while visiting. Tours are given by former prison employees, and former prison inmates. The tour describes some of the history of the prison, but largely focuses on what daily life was like for the inmates, throughout different periods of history in which the prison operated.
Perhaps the most chilling part of the tour is underground, in the solitary confinement centres, which would be more aptly described by the term “torture chambers”. I won’t give away all the gory details, as you really should take the tour for yourself, but I have included a picture of graffiti which inmates in solitary confinement burned onto the wall. A wall that bordered the septic tank, and in which odours wafted through freely. I won’t discuss the vermin present with the chained up inmates, but I will allow your imagination to wander….
The visit included, in addition to the torture chambers, visits to the cells, common areas, cafeteria, chapel, and stories about the hanging victims. As the symbol on the outside of the prison walls indicates, hangings took place. A fun fact I picked up during the tour, which lasted nearly two hours, was that public hangings ended partially due to the commerce that sprang up around them, with people buying and selling “good luck charms”, pieces of the noose, hair off the victim….Slightly barbaric.
The visit itself was 10, although we paid an extra 6$ to have access to the Museum of Quebec’s Popular History (see below). We also shelled out 3$ at our departure to have our photographs and fingerprints taken, for our prisoner ID cards. Note to readers: fingerprint ink does not remove easily.
The prison offers overnight stays, for groups of 15 or more, where you spend the night in a cell and are treated to a prisoner’s breakfast.
The museum of popular history was… well… 6$ badly spent. I wished I had opted out and had waited for my group downstairs. The history of crime in Quebec exhibit was the only one that was of any interest to me, and even then… those 10 minutes weren’t worth the extra money.
Since it was the first cold (-15 degrees C) and snowy day of the winter, we decided to sample some of Trois-Rivieres cafes. Morgane cafe, a small Quebec chain, had good coffee, but lacked a bit of ambiance. The second offered hot chocolate for 1$, but was playing offensively horrible music, and was full of cranky older ladies. Nowhere near the wonderland we experienced the weekend before in Carp, at Alice’s Cafe. The bar is now set high.