A Visit to our Neighbors in the North
by Victoria Principato
When packing for this Summer by Rail journey, I made sure I had all the essentials: sneakers, check; backpack, check; headphones, check. But I almost forgot the most important thing: my passport! Did you know that traveling into Canada was possible by train? Before this experience, I sure didn't, but the whole process was pretty simple. After taking a quick (but beautiful and scenic) ferry ride across Lake Champlain from Burlington, Vermont to Port Kent, New York, Cate and I boarded the Amtrak Adirondack en route to the Great White North! When we approached the border, two border patrol agents entered the train, checked all passengers' passports, and, collected our claims documents, and asked a few questions about our travel. (I should mention here that legislation to simplify this process has been sponsored by Senator Leahy (D-VT). Check it out!) Soon enough, we were on our way to the beautiful city of Montreal!
If you've ever been to Montreal, you'll know that this providence of Canada is predominantly French. Being in another country, Cate and I felt that there was really only one way to fully immerse ourselves in the culture, and took it upon ourselves to take a food tour of Montreal! Naturally, we began our tour with a breakfast of blueberry crepes (some of the most delicious I've ever had!) and a check off Cate's bucket list.
After breakfast, we made our way to the Jean-Talon Market, the central hub of all things Montreal. We sampled fresh baked pastries, all natural, local honey, fresh strawberries, and (my personal favorite) fresh local cheeses! I even had the chance to try my first freshly shucked oyster, courtesy of La Boiteaux Huitres. If you ever find yourself at Jean-Talon Market, be sure to check out their stand!
Next up, Cate and I wanted to check out the famous Old Montreal. Getting there was a breeze by way of the Canadian Metro system. We were able to easily master it, as it was super similar to the D.C. Metro system. However, Canada has the US system beat in the pricing model. It was really convenient to only have to purchase a single day pass, and to travel on the system as much as we wanted to without worrying about the cost.
We spent our afternoon exploring the beautiful cobblestone streets of Old Montreal. It was incredibly picturesque, and filled with small artisan stores and pastry shops. It was a wonderfully French-inspired day!
Although I wish we had more time to spend in Montreal, I'm looking forward to our next adventure! This morning, Cate and I made our departure for our next journey from Montreal's Grand Central Station. This station is set to be renovated, to increase the station's efficiency and foot traffic flow. Not unlike Harry Potter's 9 and 3/4th platform, the 23rd platform of Montreal's Grand Central is a little difficult to locate, and doesn't follow the natural pattern of the rest of station's platforms. (Personally, I think this adds to the station's charm, but more signage would probably be helpful.)
Traveling in a Canadian train car is a bit like taking a trip back in time. The original cars, designed in the 1950s, take me back to a time when long distance train travel, not air travel, was a primary method of transportation for countless people on the go, and comfort was a priority. This morning, I had the pleasure of experiencing this leisurely method of travel. With a fresh croissant, some fresh fruit, and a view of the St. Lawrence River, breakfast couldn't have been better. I would highly recommend it. Au revioir, Montreal, and Toronto, here we come!