It’s been a week since we got back but I’ve only gotten to transferring the photos today. Both my Olympus camera and Samsung phone have been giving me grief but I’ve managed to resolve the issues. Yey for me.
Since we wanted to save on cost, we decided to fly to Plattsburg, NY via PenAir, then from there, take the bus to Montreal, Canada. I’ve always thought that Montreal was the the capital of Quebec province until V corrected me on that. Turns out Quebec City is the capital but Montreal is much bigger in both metro size and population size.
We rode on a noisy turbo prop that had seen better days. It was tiny, much smaller than the planes we took in Greece, with 1-2 seat configuration. Standard carry-on roller bags didn’t fit in the overhead compartment so they had to be left at the foot of the stairways on the tarmac and retrieved at the same spot upon disembarkation. Though the plane wasn’t much to experience, the lone crew was very attentive and the free drinks and snacks made up for it, on both ways. Imagine that. A one hour flight and the passengers still got fed and treated with decency.
In Plattsburg, contrary to what we read online, there weren’t 1 vending machine; there were 2 vending machines. Everything seemed to be in twos: 2 bathrooms, 2 carousels, 2 security lanes. There was two signs for a restaurant but the restaurant was a snack stand manned by friendly guy who regaled us with stories about his son who studied in Boston and was now working as a campaign manager.
A lone airport taxi waited outside in the rain. We hadn’t bought a ticket for the onward journey to Montreal since we read somewhere that we could get a taxi from the US to drive us over the border. Nope, said the taxi driver. They’re not allowed to do that, unless the taxi driver was the owner of the taxi. The closest they could get to the border was the duty free shop at Champlain. Since that option was gone, we headed to the bus statio. The fare was $15 plus tip.
It turned out, the bus station was a Dunkin Donut/ A&W- cum- grocery shop. We arrived at 12, purchased our ticket from the register. Our bus wouldn’t show up until 3.30 so decided to have lunch.As we waited for our A&W order, this was our conversation:
Him: This looks like one of those places where horror movies could be set.
Me: Uhuh. Like a zombie apocalypse. Remember that movie where there were these two guys who kept driving around looking for twinkies even with zombies after them?
In the background, Alex Trebek asked his double jeopardy questions as Barry White crooned “Can’t get enough of your love, baby.”
Finally, the Greyhound bus arrived. The bus driver checked both our passports and bus tickets. The bus stopped at the border control building, a small office manned by 2 Canadian customs officers. We had to unload our luggage from the bus and bring them with us as we got checked. Fortunately, we had the foresight to only bring one carry-on roller. There were no x-ray machines so not sure why we had to remove our bags from the bus.
The questions asked were:
Where are you headed?
What’s your relationship with each other?
How long will you stay in Montreal?
When was your last visit to Canada?
How are you planning to get back to the US?
After everyone was checked, it was a mad scramble back on the bus. Still, people were mindful about where they sat originally and nobody took anybody’s seat.
The ride to Montreal was smooth and the landscape consisted of long stretches of greens and brown open lands strip bare of its produce. We even saw clusters of pine trees, perfect for Christmas trees.
Montreal, Province of Quebec, Canada
We got off at the Central Station and decided to buy the Opus cards but we didn’t see any ticket machines. V went off to ask the staff at the news agent while I asked one of the security guys where to buy the metro card. We were both told separately that we had to buy it from the metro which was outside the bus station to the left.
We bought the Unlimited Weekend card since it was cheaper than the 3-day pass (CAD 13.75 vs CAD 18). Tickets can only be bought at the ticket machine if paying by Card; if paying cash, tickets could be bought from the staff at the ticket booth. Also, as we found out later, AMEX was not widely accepted in Montreal not even by the ticket machine. Good thing we had alternative cards.
A quick google showed that we were four stops away from our hotel so we ditched the taxi and took the train. Not sure if it was because it was too early at 6.30 pm or rush hour was done but the train wasn’t as crowded as other places on a Friday at peak-hour traffic. Another pleasant surprise was finding that our hotel was a few steps away from the shopping center of Montreal, St. Catherine Street or Rue St. Catherine.
Since it was still early, we decided to check out the neighborhood and stumbled in to the Barbie exhibit at the Les Cours Mont-Royal.
All along, something niggled at the back of my head as we explored. It wasn’t until we got back from dinner and drank a few glasses of alcohol that it hit me. Lack of numerous homeless people. I’ve seen so many of them in the US cities I visited that it seemed odd not to see them. They were there but we only saw one or two at a time. The parks were empty save for a few people sitting and enjoying the trees and flowers. The other difference was that the homeless in Canada seemed more assertive and vocal in approaching people to beg for coins.
We didn’t feel unsafe though. Montreal was a safe city. More Quebec posts to follow.