Shoes On: A Long Weekend in Montreal by Train

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With any trip I take, I aim to be as climate-friendly as possible. While I can’t avoid travel (my loved ones are spread far and wide), I can do my absolute best to avoid planes, cars, and other forms of high-emissions travel. In cities I like to try local foods, walk, and bike as much as possible. Not only is walking and biking better for the climate, but I find that I end up seeing a lot more of the city that way.

Timeline

Friday

  • 7:30 am, I got on a subway to Penn Station/Moynihan Hall.
  • 8:40 am, I caught the 69 Adirondack toward Montreal.
  • 8:15 pm, I arrived in Ticonderoga and called a taxi to my VRBO.
  • 9:00 pm, I arrived at my accommodation.

Saturday

  • Enjoyed the sights 😎

Sunday

  • Hung around and took in some views

Monday

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  • 10:00 am, I got on the metro on the Orange Line, got off at Bonsecours and followed the signs to Gare Central
  • 11:10 am, I caught the 68 Adirondack back to Penn Station/Moynihan Hall in New York.
  • 10:15 pm, I arrived at Penn Station/Moynihan Hall in New York and caught the subway home.

Most of the trip to Montreal is in the travel itself. Amtrak’s Adirondack line hugs the Hudson river, then the waterways of the Champlain Valley, which offers gorgeous views of upstate New York. In the fall this train is known for fantastic foliage viewing. However, for us, we’re using it to get to the island of Montreal in Quebec, Canada. You will need a passport for this adventure. 

The train ride is long, but incredibly comfortable. Every seat has extensive leg room, power outlets, WiFi, a window with curtains, a recline, and a pop-out footrest. The cafe car options are good, not too expensive, and there are tables in the cafe car for a change of scenery. However, I would recommend bringing a book as the WiFi in parts of the Adirondacks can be unreliable.

Roomy train seats. Footrest and seat recline not shown. Photo: Michaela Keil/Bluedot Living Brooklyn

Once in Montreal, I settled into my AirBnb near Chinatown. The location is ideal for anyone looking to visit Old Port without paying for Old Port. 

Saturday I wanted to see the Old Port. I left the apartment, and stopped at a nearby cafe for a Montreal bagel and a coffee. Montreal bagels are very different from New York bagels: they’re thinner, a little sweeter, and more often made into deli sandwiches than smeared with cream cheese. Delicious, nonetheless.

From there I walked down Rue Saint Urbain, through Chinatown, past the Place Des Arts, and walked right up to the Notre-Dame Basilica. A gorgeous church, it marks the corner of Old Port. Old Port, and Notre-Dame are part of the original settlement of Montreal, the old-style buildings, walls, streets, and government buildings. Many of them are easy to walk into, like Marche Bonsecours, and the streets are gorgeous. Walk a little farther towards the water, and you end up near the piers which are lined with food trucks and vendors every weekend in the summer. You can also see the big top tents of Cirque Du Soleil, the acrobatics troupe, which formed in Montreal. 

My poutine lunch at Montreal Poutine. Photo: Michaela Keil/Bluedot Living Brooklyn

I stopped into Montreal Poutine for lunch, and ate out on their terrasse. The restaurant — famous for it’s poutine — is in an old stone building with a courtyard. Sitting under the trees in the courtyard I could have sworn I was in the south of France or maybe Italy. While the views and the vibes were fantastic, the poutine was awesome too. For those who have never tried poutine, it is a dish of crispy french fries topped with gravy and the famous Quebecois cheese curds. 

After lunch and a drink I found the metro and took the Green Line towards downtown Montreal and McGill University. In the wintertime, downtown Montreal is known for its network of underground tunnels that pedestrians use to avoid cold air. Rue Saint Catherines is a major shopping street, and right above their underground tunnels and malls. Connecting to Rue Saint Catherines is McGill College Ave which, as the name implies, points towards the famous McGill University. 

McGill’s campus is open to the public, and has beautiful trees and greenspaces available for use. Many of their buildings date back hundreds of years and McGill’s Redpath Museum is free and open to the public on the weekends.

I took a slight detour through McGill to see some of the buildings, then turned back towards downtown and found myself near the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal — the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. There is a timed ticket entry, so I didn’t go in, but on Sundays the museum is open to the public for free. 

McGill University's Arts Building. Photo: Michaela Keil/Bluedot Living Brooklyn

I turned down Crescent Street, known for it’s fantastic food and multi-level restaurants. But I was headed towards a hidden gem for dinner. Qing Hua Dumpling on Boulevard de Maisonneuve is the best dumpling spot in Montreal. They have hundreds of dumplings that you can get as soup dumplings, steamed, or pan fried, and a notable collection of drinks as well. Having been to Montreal a few times in my life, I almost always make it to Qing Hua for dumplings. Stuffed and happy, I headed back to my AirBnb. Were I a bit younger, I probably would have rallied to go to any of the clubs that line Rue St. Laurent, but I needed sleep.

Cafe Santropol. Photo: Michaela Keil/Bluedot Living Brooklyn

Sunday morning I got breakfast at Cafe Santropol, a Montreal staple in the Plateau neighborhood. It was sunny and gorgeous as I drank my coffee, and the perfect spot to be before heading up the mountain.

Montreal, or Mont-Royale, is named because the island has a looming mountain in the middle of it. You can orient yourself almost always by seeing where the mountain is. For the best views of the city, you can take a walk (not a hike, the path is paved) up to the top. It’s not a very long walk, but you can shortcut it by taking a set of stairs. Or just follow the long winding path up to the top. The chalet which marks the top, also has a panoramic view of the whole city. 

I was ready to get a late afternoon snack, or an early dinner, so I made my way towards Bar Darling on Rue Saint Laurent for some light bites and a drink. Bar Darling is another fan favorite in Montreal, and well worth a visit. 

After Bar Darling I grabbed an ice cream at Ripples and went to go sit in Jeanne Mance park, which borders the mountain. On a beautiful summer evening like this one, people are everywhere — cookouts, volleyball, drinking, laughing, picnicking, playing with dogs, you name it and someone was having a good time doing it. The only thing I could liken it to was sitting in a park waiting for the fireworks on the Fourth of July. 

Parc Jeanne Mance at dusk. Photo: Michaela Keil/Bluedot Living Brooklyn

There is so much to do in Montreal that I couldn’t pack it all in, but the next morning, on my way to the train, I did make it to bakery Guillame before heading out for some fresh pastries to keep me sated on the train.

The train ride back was as easy as the way there. A note about customs: A good rule of thumb is to not bring any fresh produce with you. Many fresh produce items — as well as raw meat — are not allowed across the border. Border agents do board the train to talk to everyone individually and will check bags if necessary. While a mostly easy process, the ride goes faster for everyone if everyone is prepared at the border. 

Other cool sights to catch:

  • Place Des Arts has free shows on and off throughout the summer
  • Parc Jean Drapeau
  • La Ronde amusement park
  • Gibeau Orange Julep — The Giant Orange
  • Parc Maissoneuve and the Botanic Gardens
  • See Saint-Viateur or Fairmount Bagel to watch them make Montreal bagels right in front of you
  • The Biodome
  • Habitat 67
  • Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal
  • Marche Jean Talon
  • TamTams at Parc Mont Royale on Saturday mornings

If you have a little more time: 

  • Go to the Osheaga music festival
  • Continue on another train to Quebec City
  • Visit any of the festivals in Montreal: Mural Fest, Jazz Fest, Comic Book Artist Fest, etc. You name it, they have it. 
Some iconic Montreal architecture. Photo: Michaela Keil/Bluedot Living Brookyln

The calculations (cost and carbon) 

Cost: $200 per person (not including accommodations or food)

  • Subways to/from Penn station/Moynihan, NY: $5.50
  • Train from New York Penn to Back Bay Station: $182
  • Weekend Metro pass in Montreal $10 CAD
  • Sights: Free

Carbon: These calculations are approximations using several different calculators. The figure is meant to represent how travel can be clean compared to air travel. While it’s important to consider our personal carbon footprint, it’s more important to show governments and businesses what we care about — if more people chose to walk, bike, take public transportation, and use the train, then more infrastructure will be put into place to make those options easier. Plus, it ends up being pretty cost-effective to eschew planes and cars.

  • For about 740 miles of travel with Amtrak, I used 30kg of CO2 
  • For about 10 miles of subway/public transportation travel, I used 0.5kg of CO2
  • For a 3 nights stay in a different home, I used about 30 kg of CO2 each
  • Total carbon emissions: 60.5kg of CO2. That's the same amount of emissions savings you could get by air-drying clothes instead of using a dryer. Or the same amount of emissions as eating one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of beef.

This article is part of our new series, “Shoes On,” all about travel from NYC using trains and other forms of clean transportation. Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest destinations, right to your inbox.


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Michaela Keil
Michaela Keil
Michaela Keil is the Editor of Bluedot Living Brooklyn, and the Managing Editor, Special Projects, for the Brooklyn Eagle. When she's not writing, you can either find her outside — in the rain, shine, snow, or cold — or inside baking bread. Find her on twitter @mkeil16.
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