Montreal Jazz Fest just kicked off and runs through July 17. Last year, New Yorker Margit Detweiler went to check out the music and the town. Here's what you can expect.
MONTREAL – "No lite cream cheese. No tomato."
My husband and I getting Zaro's bagels at Penn Station en route to a weekend getaway to Montreal. We want to set the bar (albeit low — these are no Bagel Hole bagels) before tasting the much-heralded "best ever" bagels in Montreal's Mile End.
We're heading up for the annual Montreal Jazz Festival (for me, the music lover), the buildings (for my husband, the architect), and for a romantic, get-out-of-dodge excursion (for us, two overly busy New Yorkers).
A ten-hour train ride might sound bonkers considering you can get there by plane in an hour and twenty, but we're itching for a low-stress train trip and heard the route is picturesque.
Get a window seat: The Adirondack scenery is no joke. Blue sky floods the windows around us, trees burst with green, the train hugs the river's edge. We pass discarded train cars, lakes, farms, mountains in the distance, and scenes of home life.
After falling asleep listening to Canadian tunes (Joni Mitchell, Be Good Tanyas, Arcade Fire), I wake up around Lake Champlain. Simply breathtaking. And it gets better the closer you get to Montreal. That's when people start waving at you because you chug right through the middle of town.
Unlike a big arrival by plane, Canada by train sneaks up on you. Red and white flags and slightly odd traffic signs just come into view.
We spend a long time in our seats at CBSA Lacolle going through customs (ninety minutes going, two hours coming back) but the agents are friendly and I started watching Up, something you can't do on line at at airport.
Across the border, my broadband stick stopped working I did a terrible thing: I turned on "data roaming" on my phone. Friends, if you value your money, never do this.
Of course, it's not all fluffy clouds and gorgeous lakes. The bathroom really stinks by hour six.
Next Time We'll Know:
To bring a sweater for the train. It gets chilly.
To pack lunch, unless you want a delicious Amtrak cheeseburger. (Husband's note: "Don't get the burger.")
Bring your passport. Otherwise, you'll be kicked off and forced to walk back.
Hit the ATM in Montreal's central station to get a better exchange rate.
You'll have spotty access. Do not roam with your data.