“Want to go see the fall foliage?” “What do you mean? Why would you go on a trip just to see leaves?” quipped the girl who's grew up with forests in between each European town. That's how the convo started when I first mentioned fall foliage.
New York to Montreal by Amtrak
What started out as foliage trip turned into a food tour. The idea was originally a foliage trip on Amtrak's last year running the Great Dome car. We just found out about the Great Dome car this year so it was perfect timing as rumor has it that 2018 is the last year it will be available. It's quite a long trip (NYC-Montreal) with awful food, but its a pleasant trip with beautiful views, even if you don't get up in the dome car.
It's supposed to be the best foliage views in the country. The foliage was OK, mid-late October would probably have been better as you'll see below. The views in general were worth it, and… so was the poutine. Going Thursday and returning Sunday was a good length though I would have also been happy to return Saturday (but we needed the Marriott Elite stays). At least one couple went only for 1 night and returned to NYC the very next day.
What you need to know
- Where's Waldo? If you go, don't wait for the track to be assigned in New York Penn Station. We stood around doing nothing waiting for the track number to appear on the board until almost the last minute then discovered we have to check in (it's an international trip) plus getting down to the tracks with a stroller was not fun. The check in was right next to the unknown track entrance. There was no notice about this so ask around to find the check in.
- Bring food! Bring breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks and snacks. You'll have an extended break in Albany to take a walk or buy bad food in the terminal while they attach the Dome car. Otherwise, you'll get desperate enough to eat train hotdogs and burgers.
- No assigned seating, so if you want two seats together, get on line early or change seats later as people get off along the way.
- Dome car seating: Seats are limited and people rotate in and out. Be nice. Oh and those who sit up there the entire trip will have their stuff moved and seats taken over which is fun when you come back. Lastly, your purse/bag/jacket doesn't need it's own Dome car seat.
- Border delay: Expect to sit around for an hour+ at the Canadian border.
- Poutine: The reviews on yelp/google definitely have it wrong, and it's not just me. Scroll down to see what is actually REALLY good!
- Save: I saved 15% on my tickets by booking through this Amtrak deal page.
The leaves were only starting to turn during the first weekend of October. Not quite bursting with vibrant colors like I was hoping for.
and kids like trains right?
POUTINE & More
When in Canada, I eat poutine. Every day. All my healthy eating habits get paused, and well, “I'm on vacation right?” Once we got to Montreal, we went to see a couple tourist spots and the rest of the time spent on food touring. The poutine search began:
1) Montreal Pool Room
The first night, we stopped at a popular dive for poutine after the train ride. Montreal Pool Room was close by and and “institution”. There's no pool, pool tables, just popular poutine, hot dogs, and hamburgers. Decent.
2) La Banquise Poutine
What a disappointment. La Banquise is a very highly rated 24 hour restaurant that supposedly has lines out the door at times. Not this time. And I don't know why there would be. Yes, this does look like a heart attack on a plate. The fries were part warm, part cold, and super soggy. Most of the ingredients are not fresh and most things they serve come from a jar (like the guac). The place has a cool vibe actually and after I sat down I said “I like it already”. The service was equally as bad as the food. I had to ask for a menu after about 15 minutes with nothing on the table. Then I had to ask to order. Then for utensils after the food was delivered. Napkins I got from our neighbors who didn't to have to ask for anything. They also quite enjoyed their food. Well, this food paled in comparison to #3.
WOW! I found some killer poutine at Poutineville! This feast is a house specialty, hand crushed potatoes (instead of the usual fries) topped with their house made braised beef, sauteed onions, and goat cheese. It was piping hot and I was close to ordering another massive poutine. We learned from our neighbors how much better Toronto is than Montreal and that everyone comes to Montreal for the poutine.
Poutineville is also home to the largest poutine in town. “The Heart Attack” is over 15 pounds of poutine and only $100. Wonder if anyone has tried this monster?
4) Juliette & Chocolat desserts
I have to mention Juliette & Chocolat for their desserts. The menu is unique and I knew would require multiple visits as I flipped through the menu eyeing many different things. Did I mentioned I'm not a sweets person? The one thing I had to get was the cookie with a chocolate syringe injection, because, who doesn't want to inject chocolate into their cookie. And they make their own marshmallows (on the stick next to the brownie). Check out the video clip. By the way, one of my favorite cookies in NYC is from Levian Bakery. After filling my belly with poutine, this was the next stop. Then a nap in the hotel!
We loved the brunch here at Eggspectation and hoped to stop there in the morning before train back to New York. With the kid and all, we weren't able to get ourselves together early enough. I'd get this French toast and green juice again. Go early if you want to skip the long line.