For some reason I was really excited about going to Montreal (Thursday 9 April). Maybe because I had never been to Canada and this would help me tick off the country.
Or maybe it was because it is supposed to be a mini-France and I was excited to eat as many croissants as I could.
Or maybe because I read in my Lonely Planet guidebook that it was a foodie haven.
Or maybe it’s because it cost only $90 return, each, on the Amtrak Adirondack train.
The Amtrak Adirondack train journey was approx. 10-11 hours each way, so it pretty much took up our first and last day of our getaway.
[Photography note: I claim to be no photographer so I have spaced out most of my scenic photos throughout this post so it’s not that obvious how truly rubbish I am. The river that was photograph, that’s mainly frozen, is not the Hudson River but Lake Champlain, a freshwater lake.)
The only issue I had with such a long journey was the on-board bathroom facilities (I have an issue with any type of public bathroom facility to be perfectly honest) but apart from that, I didn’t mind that it took half a day of travel as I had read the trip was very scenic and it allowed me to catch up on my writing, reading, listening and planning.
For the journey I packed the following essentials:
- Chedder flavoured Popcorn (it’s a big thing over here) that Gambit said smelt
- Goldfish crackers that Gambit likes, a couple of Muesli bars
- Breakfast Croissants I bought the day before from Whole Foods that were stale by the time we ate them
- My Banana Toffee Easter egg
- Two sandwiches from Pret (one was egg which made me a lot of friends on board the train)
- Starbursts candy
- Comfy socks so I could take my shoes off and just wear them
- Wet wipes
- Disinfectant wipes used for cleaning (to take to the bathroom just in case it was scary)
- Fleece blanket which was actually Ava’s – so she went without so I could go with
- Eye mask for sleeping
- Ear plugs in case it got really noisy while I was trying to sleep
- Bose noise cancelling headphones
- Gambit’s laptop
- My iPhone and iPad loaded with music and books.
If you think this was a hefty list of items, it’s not – because to my horror but Gambit’s delight, I left our deck of Uno cards back in the apartment.
We left home just after 7AM for our 8:15Am train departure.
I wanted to get to the train station early because I had read that the seating was on a first-come first- serve (think Ryanair).
I also to make sure we got seats together (not that Gambit really minded if we sat apart), and were on the left hand side facing north. I got a nice hint from another blog that said the views were best sitting this on this side as the train line ran along the Hudson River for some parts. So with that knowledge in hand, I was able to convince Gambit to get to Penn Station early.
We caught the number 1 train down to Penn Station but instead of streamlining our walk straight to the Amtrak departure area, we walked around like lost tourist. All I can say is that the signage was very confusing. I feel sorry for the non-English speaking tourist because surely they would have been more confused and lost. We had to ask a station cleaner for direction in the end.
We got our passport and tickets checked, were provided labels to attach to our luggage, and then lined up in what looked like a random queue in the middle of the station. At about 8:05AM we were able to start boarding the train and we grabbed left hand sided seats, taking a guess to where north was ( I want to also note that I was desperate for a coffee and even resigned to the fact I had to go to Starbucks. Strangely, I couldn’t find a Starbucks so I got one from Zaro’s. It was surprisingly good and it was then I knew it was going to be a good day).
Despite it seeming like the train would depart late, it didn’t! It departed at 8:15AM. The beginning of the trip the train ride was a little rocky and it reminded me on being on board a ship. However, once we were on the outside train lines, the ride was quite smooth.
By 9AM I had eaten my half of the croissants and half of the popcorn. My defence was that I started my day early, like at 5AM (so I could spend quality time with Miss Ava before we abandoned her for 4 days).
The view really was quite lovely with river and the wintery trees, still brown and baron. It reminded me briefly of the time I sailed down Rhine River in Germany, but on this trip there weren’t any castles.
The hours went by quickly. If I had to sum up what I got up to, it would have basically included: eating, sleeping, listening to music, looking over at Gambit’s iPad to see parts of the movie he was watching and annoying him every 30 mins or so what was going on as I couldn’t hear the movie and wasn’t really paying attention, and reading books on my iPad.
The most exciting thing that probably happened was when the Canadian border security checked our passports and tickets, and asked us questions.
We arrived 15 minutes ahead of schedule into Gare Centrale, Montreal.
Our return leg:
The departure procedure from Montreal back to New York was a lot less casual and pretty easy (Sunday 12 April). A lady checked our tickets and we just hopped onto the train.
Again, I wanted to get to the train station early so we could sit together. I chose to sit on the left hand side heading south to get some of the video footage.
And if you were wondering what I was listening to when we traveled by such beautiful scenery, it was not elegant classical music, which would have paired nicely. But instead it was some pretty hard core hip-hop which included a lot of profanities. I’ll make sure I listen to classical next trip.
The train journey was relatively the same. The most exciting thing was again meeting the USA border security people and getting drilled by them about how Gambit and I knew each other, what we are doing in the US and what he does for work.
Unfortunately our train arrived in at Penn Station a couple of hours late because the Amtrak train had to share the train track with other trains and it caused a delay.
But the trip was still pleasant and I managed to entertain myself for a large part of it.
I would highly recommend the Amtrak Adirondack train to Montreal.
At the time of booking, flights were approx $300 each, return. Plus we had to consider the time and cost of getting to and from the NY and Montreal airport. If you have a weak bladder and a sensitive nose, I do not recommend it. If you have great bladder control, like myself, that’s fine. And if you have a weakish bladder but no sense of smell like Gambit, that is also fine.
- Leg room: I am 5′ 5″ or 166cm and I fit snugly. If you are a giant, you will probably need to try and secure two seats and sit sideways.
- Food: There is a cafe carriage but I didn’t need to go to. As you can see above, I packed enough to feed the people in one carriage. I was told there is wi-fi in the cafe but I was then told it didn’t work. Here is the menu in case you were interested.
- Wifi: According to the Amtrak website, only selected carriages have wi-fi. Ours did not and I actually liked not being ‘connected’. To be honest, the time we spent aboard in Canada where our mobiles didn’t work was about 1.5-2.5 hours.
- Cleanliness: I found on both legs of the trip that our seats were very well kept and quite clean. I feel sorry for the cleaners that have to dig out all my popcorn that didn’t make it into my mouth or down my top but in between the cracks of the seats.
- (UPDATED 21 April) Luggage: The Amtrak Adirondack booking allowed for carry-on luggage only. There is NO checked luggage option for this trip. Our luggage was counted at Penn St but not at Montreal. I can only assume that it was because it was a full train. NOTE: They do NOT like you putting your bags on the seat next to you. They must be stored in the overhead, under the seat in front or the designated baggage areas that were either in the front or back of the carriage.
Note: I went to the bathroom only once and that was on the journey back to New York. The train hadn’t left the station yet so I don’t really count it as I could have just gone at the train station. The bathroom is actually a reasonable size with a lot of room for people if they needed to get change or do some yoga poses secretly. Although I wouldn’t recommend staying in there too long as a) it stunk and b) people will think you are doing something nasty.