My attempt to hit up all the east coast cities I can before I decide where I am going to land continues on. The last weekend of June Christine, Christian and I headed up to Montreal for a beautiful long weekend. I am going to start again with the how, what, when and follow up on all the fun stuff. I promise to try to not make this one too boring either!
I’ve heard from multiple friends and random people how amazing Montreal is and it has been on my to see list long before I moved to New York. After Melissa’s trip up there last fall, I knew I had to go before I said good by to the east coast. She was invited to go again, but understandable wanted to save vacation time for a new city adventure. Kurt would have joined us in a heart beat. In many ways, this trip was very similar to our Washington DC trip in May, except I did the planning this time, although it was channeled through Melissa via her blog posts.
Part of the fun of traveling to Montreal is the train. Amtrak’s Adirondack route is suppose to be one of the most beautiful train rides you can take in the country. If you get tickets early enough, it’s actually a really cheap way to travel, just means you have to have people willing to commit to a trip in June in February. Christian and I were the original crew taking the plunge to travel up north and we only bought our return tickets for June 25th because we were not sure if we wanted to take off Friday as well. The train ride is an 11 hour event and only one train leaves from New York and Montreal a day. We can get a bus several times a day up so we could be more accommodating to our work schedules. In the end, I ended up taking the entire Friday off, leaving at 9AM on the Greyhound bus, Christine took the train up, and Christian took an afternoon bus. The bus was suppose to be faster, but we hit an accident or something that set us back about an hour. Then we got held in customs for an hour and a half because of someone they wouldn’t release and we couldn’t leave them there until there was another bus. Stupid. So even though I was suppose to arrive an hour before Christine, I ended up getting there about 10 minutes after her. Christian was only 3 hour behind me in even though he left 4 hours after me. The good thing about the bus was that I had wifi pretty much the entire way and I had my laptop because I had a lot of random stuff to get done. I thought I was just going to be typing up this and that, but I was actually able to deal with emails and complete tasks, something the trains finicky wifi would not have accommodated. The bus had a surprising amount of leg room and really wasn’t a bad way to travel, except the bathroom was literally like and port-a-potty, no flushing device. I opted to avoid it.
When I arrive at Montreal, Christine was already waiting for me at the apartment we rented through Airbnb. There was a slight problem. Our host had another apartment picking up keys for a place around the corner and the both sets were suppose to be in the mail box to our apartment. Since I was suppose to arrive first, he told me to leave the second set in there, but didn’t alert the other renters that there might be two sets of keys. I was delayed two hours and when Christine showed up there were no keys. We checked all the mailboxes on the building and (creepily) checked all the neighboring buildings just in case. Christine had already called our host before I arrived and left a message and I did the same after we searched all the mailboxes. It went straight to voicemail. It wasn’t looking good. I called Airbnb and they tried the host twice and told me he had two hours to get back to us, which was fine with us, but since his phone was going straight to voicemail it was a bit worrying. The good thing is that Airbnb doesn’t desposit the money you paid into the host’s account until the day after you check in, so if something that that happens and you don’t get in, you don’t loose your money. Luckily, as we abandoned our post on the stoop to head to a bar near by, our host called us and told us the other apartment must have the keys. I tried their door bell and he tried to call them. They didn’t answer, so he had a friend who brought another spare set of keys to us quickly. So it all ended well and we had a huge apartment for the weekend. The living room and dining room were the size of my apartment. I meant to get pictures, but kept forgetting sorry! The location was also perfect. We were basically in the middle of everything, in the downtown neighborhood. It was a 15 minute walk to the bus station, 20 to the train station and 15 minutes to river.
Most of our planning was based around what we had heard from friends. We made a google map of all the places we wanted to see and eat at. We stole ideas things from Melissa’s blog posts, the blog Smith & Ratliff, National Geographic and other random places. Since none of had data service (without paying dearly for it), I saved jpegs of the map to Evernote, a very handy app if you don’t have it, you should. (Melissa said they just saved the images in their photos on their phones.) I could update the maps on my laptop with our apartment wifi and sync it to my phone before we left in the morning. We even had jpegs of the address information at such after the maps. It was great.
We had a lot to see and only two full days to see it in, that means we must bike. I really, really, really love biking through a city. It has to be the best way to get around and really see a city. Montreal has a well established bike path system and huge bike share program called Bixi. We decided we would do one day on Bixi and rent bikes from a shop for the day for the other. On Saturday we rented bikes from Ca Roule Montreal located right on the river in Old Port. We figured we would run all over the city and tire ourselves out and take it easy on Sunday, doing shorter trip on the bike share. For the entire day rental, it only cost us $35 a person and the bikes were really good bikes. We picked them up around 10 AM and had them until the shop closed at 8PM and we did go all over, around 20 miles that day. The next day we took it much easier and rented the Bixi bikes for the day for $7. We still did quite a bit of riding and had no trouble finding docks, even though we didn’t have data to use the app. They had stations almost every four blocks. There was only one time when we pulled up to a dock and it was full. The one thing we had to get used to riding bikes was that there was typical a two way bike lane on the ones ways and on one side of the road. At first we kept turning and heading to the right side of the road only to realize that the bike lanes were both on the left or something. That said, it was really nice and typically the bikes were separated from traffic by a barricade of some sort. With the bike map that the rental place gave us, we never got lost, it was so easy to get around.
On Monday, we packed up and headed to the train station. At the Amtrak desk, there are kiosks that we assumed would print our Amtrak tickets. Not so, after trying it a few times, we realized that it didn’t actually say Amtrak on it, it was some other name, and Amtrak just had a spot at that desk. There was a line that made me kinda of nervous, but then we realized that that was not for Amtrak either. They need better signs, I’m just saying. Anyway, after standing in the wrong line for 2 minutes we moved to the Amtrak line that did not exist and got our tickets to go wait in the huge line to be released down to the train. Everyone going to New York City was put in the last two cars and train was packed. We were all able to get seats together and the Amtrak crew was pretty helpful directing you to were you could find space for all of your group. We also got window seats. Our train didn’t have the glass covered car, so windows were key. Christine had the best view in the morning before we reached Albany of all the lakes, (east side of the train), and Christian and I had the views of the Hudson River, (west side), on the way down from Albany. It’s a tough choice as to which is better and it was a gorgeous ride even though it was kind of cloudy and raining at times. After our long ride down with a quick stop at customs and short break in Albany we were back in New York and headed to the subway home.
Stay tuned next week for all the fun stuff we saw and did!