North American Adventure: Part Five – Montreal

The train goes through that very narrow gap in the rock

The final city visited in my North American adventure was Montreal, Quebec, Canada. And this part of the adventure turned out to be most unexpectedly different from everywhere else.

The train from New York City to Montreal takes around 11 hours but is much cheaper and much more scenic than flying. And I deliberately caught it because of my love for trains. The train travels for a few hours out of Manhattan following the Hudson River and up to the state capital Albany. After being allowed to stretch the legs for about 10 minutes in Albany the train travels through farmland in Upstate New York until it reaches the Adirondack Mountains. Travelling through the Adirondack’s the train runs alongside Lake Champlain and finally up to the border of the USA and Canada. From the border it is another few hours through farmland and city outskirts to Montreal.

Old Montreal

Arriving in Montreal at 8pm on a Sunday night was an interesting experience. Before arriving I was aware that French was the primary language in Quebec, but my friend who lived there told me that you can survive fine without it. I knew once I got off the Amtrak that I needed to find my way to the metro and catch one train, then connect with another to make my way to my friend’s house. The first part of doing this was to find my way from the main train station to the metro station through the maze of underground tunnels that link up all the buildings in the CBD of Montreal. Once I found the metro station I then had to work out how to use a ticketing machine that was talking to me in French! Finally I made it to my friend’s house after getting a little lost trying to figure out where the street he lived on was in relation to the metro station – note: Google maps isn’t always 100% accurate.

One of many Montreal churches

My mate whom I was staying with is more of an outdoor junkie than I am. The next morning he hands me a bike and, despite having not ridden in a few years, I proceed to ride up the biggest (and only) hill in Montreal. The view of the city from Mont Royal is certainly worth the climb and afterwards we descended into the suburbs of Le Plateau-Mont-Royal and Mile End looking for bagel shops. In the afternoon I went into the city to explore, finding that Montreal is interesting in the number of large old churches and other buildings it has. More so than anywhere else on my adventure has the original settlers tried to emulate Europe.

That evening we went to a local park where an outdoor cinema was screening and ate “world famous in Quebec” Poutine – fries with cheese and gravy. The following day it was back on the bikes and for an even longer bike ride. This time out to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve where the annual Canadian Formula One race is held. When the circuit is not used for racing it is open to the public as a cycling track. After cycling around the circuit we headed to the Old Port area of Montreal where we had lunch. We then spent the remainder of the afternoon cycling around other suburbs of inner Montreal before returning home.

My final day in Montreal was spent tourist shopping for family and friends and sending many postcards to a variety of different countries around the world. In the late afternoon I caught the bus to the airport where I started the very long journey back to Sydney. In total I was away for 21 days. Over two full days of this was spent getting to and from Canada. I spent seven days in Toronto, four in New York City, two in Baltimore, two in Washington D.C. and three in Montreal and another day travelling from New York to Montreal. Writing this final blog seven weeks after returning to Australia the trip is already starting to feel like a dream. But it was truly one of the highlights of my life so far.

Cycling around the Canadian GP Circuit