I generally don’t watch travel shows on TV. However, for a few weeks I’ve been watching the documentary series “Great Continental Railway Journeys” which shows a variety of railway journeys through Europe. On the episode about Germany they showed the Wuppertaler Schwebebahn (Wuppertal Suspension Railway). After seeing the show I knew it was a place I had to visit.
Getting to Wuppertal from Osnabrück required a change of trains in Dortmund. I had around 5 minutes to change trains and with a heavy suitcase this required getting downstairs and then upstairs to a different platform. Rather frustratingly the platform numbering at Dortmund makes no sense. I ended up going up to the same platform that I went down from because the two platforms next to each don’t have sequential numbering.
As I approached Wuppertal I started to see snow on the hills and then on the ground next to the train. While it had been lightly drizzling in Osnabrück in the morning, it had been snowing in Wuppertal. By the time I arrived the snow had stopped and was quickly melting as the snow came out.
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.
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.
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.
I have just got back from a very fast weekend holiday in Melbourne.
At 7.45am on Friday I caught the daylight XPT Train from Sydney to Melbourne. I really like trains so spending over 11 hours on a train is better and cheaper than flying. Upon arriving in Melbourne I headed to the airport to meet a friend flying in from NZ to join me for the weekend. Once we had checked into our accommodation (Space Hotel) we went for a midnight stroll around the CBD.
On Saturday we got up early and headed out to the MCG and walked around the former Olympic Stadiums. From there we caught a tram to St Kilda and Luna Park before spending the afternoon shopping. In the evening we investigated Southbank and Crown Casino. The casino complex is massive, by far the biggest casino I have been in, and also just as impressive in eating my $5 I put in a pokie machine in rapid time.
Having tired our legs out with so much walking on Saturday, we spent Sunday morning at Melbourne Museum. Their dinosaur exhibition is amazing (see video below). From there we went shopping at Spencer Street Mall – which has a very Dressmart feel to it. After this me and my friend parted ways, they flew back to NZ and I caught the overnight XPT train back to Sydney.
This was my third visit to Melbourne, it is one of my favourite cities, in fact I came very close to moving there a few years ago – but a better opportunity arose in Sydney. The city has so much shopping, trams, and culture. Everywhere you go and look there is something unique and different to see. I simply love it.
Photos (click on an image to bring up larger version):
KiwiRail says the platforms are of a shorter length because of “constraints on keeping the line away from nearby apartments”, electric trains could run to Onehunga but people would only be able to travel in the front two of the three car trains.
Not only is Auckland 100 years behind most of the developed world in getting an electric rail system (remember that Britomart is the only underground diesel railway station in the world!) we can’t even get the size of the platforms right. This would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.
Meanwhile in Sydney next week sees the commencement of the 4th Metrobus route from Bondi to Chatswood with 80,000 people per week capacity. The Metrobus system in Sydney has been a great success with bus running so frequently they don’t need timetables. In Auckland there has been the Link bus for a number of years working on this system, but how about seeing it on routes like the Northern Express, Dominion Road (ARTA are launching the “B.Line” here), Great South Road, New North Road, Great North Road.
There is a reason why “Public Transport” in Auckland has been called an oxymoron and this stuff up in the length of the train platforms is yet another example of it.