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[personal profile] japanesedream_72
How to put all of this into words? I'll do my best, but it's so difficult to capture for those who haven't experienced it. Even if you go to the same place, the feeling is different for everyone. If my words can express one tenth of the vibrant joy of living - what the French call joie-de-vivre - that I was blessed with by this beautiful city & my wonderful friend ([livejournal.com profile] teacup_sky), I will be satisfied.

I was terrified of missing the train. Not sure why, but it was a nagging fear. I'd thought, perhaps, I wouldn't go to sleep at all, & just crash out on the train from NYC, since it was an 11-hour ride. I finally decided to nap around 12:30 (i.e., just after Midnight), & set the alarm on my phone for 3 am.

Nerves all a-flutter, I was out of the house just after 5. The cab brought me to the train station. I think the train to NY came around 5:35. I'm quite sure I caught a few zzz's before we reached the City. Once I'd arrived, it was a little tense, just 'cuz I've never done something like this before, so I wasn't 100% sure what to do. It was clear enough I needed to go to the Amtrak area, since I was taking an Amtrak train. (Amtrak does the long trips; NJ Transit is what I take to/from NY.) Fortunately, there was a rather sizeable information desk staffed with what appeared to be policemen, so I asked them where I was supposed to go.

Beside the info desk was the "Canadian check-in" area (marked by a sign overhead). Showed them my ticket & passport, & they issued tie-on tags on which you need to write your name & country of citizenship, & attach to your luggage. As I was early, I was directed to the nearby waiting room, where I did a bit of people-watching, & exchanged a few texts with [livejournal.com profile] teacup_sky. We kept in touch throughout the course of the day.

America could stand to be more helpful in its airports & train stations; the slightly exasperated woman I'd asked about the train (thinking it, like airplanes, required baggage to be loaded first for long journeys) said, a bit brusquely, that it would come at 8:00. About 10 minutes before 8, I thought they'd started calling for my train, but wasn't sure. A nice Amtrak worker said they should be calling for it soon, & showed me the general area where we'd probably be queuing up. He asked where I was going, & when I told him, said he'd been to Canada before, but not Montreal. It was somewhere quite far north, but he didn't say the name of the place. I think he asked if I spoke French, & I said, "Un peu." (A little.)

Wasn't terribly long before they really did call for the train, & the nice worker guy showed me where the gate was. It was a touch confusing since the line started at the gate & curved so it was almost double, so people who were unaware it was the same line snaking around were cutting. Fortunately, since there were stops in NY state with the final destination being Montreal, they called for a separate line for people going to Canada. They checked passports & tickets, & let us through the gate so we could board.

I was behind a French-speaking family, who either knew or had gotten into very friendly conversation with an English family who spoke really, really good French. The dad from the French family helped put my suitcase in the storage "pile". I was unsure of the seating arrangements, I tried asking an older woman with an empty seat next to her if the seats were designated or not. Unfortunately, she didn't speak a word of English, but her daughter was sitting in the row behind her, & she spoke English. Turns out there was no specific seating, so I asked the older woman in broken French if I could sit there, & she said sure.

It wasn't terribly long before we set off, & for a while, I just watched scenery roll by, grateful that there was more leg-room than on a plane! I'll explain the emotional effect languages have on me later in the course of the trip, but while it's usually on the sad side, I was feeling a little bit brave on the train. I'd been itching to start a conversation with the older lady sitting next to me, & there finally came an opportunity, which I seized. When I'd initially spoken to her, I mentioned I wasn't able to speak much French. This time, I asked if she'd spent her vacation in NY, but she said no, they'd actually been to Orlando, FL, to Disney World. Her daughter paid for the trip as a gift. She added something about when they'd arrived in NY, which I couldn't make out entirely, but they were now returning to Montreal. She' enjoyed Orlando quite a bit.

I told her I was going to Montreal to visit a friend, & it was my first time. I asked if people in Montreal spoke a little English, & she said yes. I said I'd studied French in school 20 years ago, but had forgotten a lot, remembered a little. I said my French isn't very good. She said something along the lines of, "It's good, I can understand you." I felt a good deal better.

When I started making trip notes in my journal, the lady suggeseted I put the tray-table down. She said some things I couldn't figure out, augmenting her suggestion. I thanked her. From then on, she would speak to me intermittently. Sometimes, I knew what she said; other times, not so much.

Managed to sleep a bit, on & off, & eat something. There was a cute Asian guy/girl couple I saw in the dining car just on the other side of the snack car (on the train, they call it the cafe car) who'd brought their own little picnic lunch & were enjoying it - bread, veggies, dips, chips, cheese. There were some girls in line in front of me with nice tattoos. The vegan burgers are a little dry, but nice. If I take that train again, I'd like to try the teriyaki rice bowl.


From here, it's just sleep & scenery. Primarily land to one side, water to another. Switch sides after a while. A few stops. Some nice-looking stations, but I didn't get photos.


I read the guidebooks again that I'd gotten from [livejournal.com profile] teacup_sky. The French lady talked about the temperature - cold in the train, warm outside. We got stuck in Ft. Edward, NY, with engine trouble, but they fixed it after a while. At one point, you could see Vermont if you looked out the window on my side of the train.


Right before I went to the cafe car, the French lady (I call her French 'cuz she spoke French, but really, she was from Montreal/Quebec) told her daughter, who was getting ready to walk up there also, that I was going to Montreal for the first time, & that I could speak some French. I'm pretty sure she added, "She speaks French well." Spoke a bit to the daughter, in English, who asked where in/around Montreal I was going. I told her the name of [livejournal.com profile] teacup_sky's suburb, which the daughter told me is south of the city. She didn't say where they were from, only that they were north of the city.

Saw an awesome house on a hill in Whitehall, NY.


Stopped to let a train pass near Ft. Ticonderoga, but I couldn't see the fort. After that, declaration paperwork. A definite drawback to travel between countries, just because it's generally annoying (even moreso on the way back, when you've bought stuff & have to declare it).


Trees & water, with occasional rocks. A few small, rural towns. Way upstate NY is farmland. Quite a bit of rain.



It was a joy to be preparing for border crossing at Rouse's Point (NY, I think - the last US town), but a little scary when Customs agents boarded the train & started grilling us. I'm the kind of person that tries not to knowingly do anything wrong, but I kept thinking they were gonna find something amiss & haul me in! Esp. with the questions they were tossing out.

Where are you going? How long are you staying? What have you brought with you? Any gifts, & if so, what? Are they worth over $60 total? Any alcohol or tobacco? Is it your first time in Canada? Visiting a friend - how do you know them? How long have you known them? This is your first time visiting them in Canada? What do you do for a living?

Lacolle? Was that the name of the Canadian side? Wish I could've gotten a pic of the cute little duty-free shop. As usual, when going by train, by the time you see something photo-worthy, you've already passed it.

The agents held us up for AN HOUR & A HALF!! There were only 2 of them working the entire train. At one point, the French lady said something to me & patted my arm. Wish I knew what it was.


Around 7:30 pm they FINALLY cleared us, but it was another 90 minutes to the station. We seemed to be moving really slowly, which made that last stretch go even longer. Had a bit of a conversation with the French lady's daughter as we got into the city. It looked really pretty at night.

It had taken forever, but it was, at last, time to part ways with the nice French people & grab my suitcase. Through the station & up the escalator...


...& there in all her lovely Loli-ness was [livejournal.com profile] teacup_sky!!! Big squishy hugs & chit-chat while we waited for her mom to pick us up. I called my mom just to let her know I'd arrived okay.


Back at the house, I settled into my accommodations & chatted with everyone (including mom, sister, & sister's boyfriend) as [livejournal.com profile] teacup_sky made an awesome dinner of Japanese curry. And her mom set up candles! Curry by candlelight. It really was amazing.


Some more chatting, distribution of a few goodies I'd brought for my hosts (in the spirit of the Japanese tradition of bringing something to a person who invites you to their house), & a quick thunderstorm (we all went out on the front steps to watch). Then it was [livejournal.com profile] teacup_sky & me, planning out what to do the next day, & chattering about various things before turning in & preparing for the adventures ahead.

Next: Day 2 - http://japanesedream.livejournal.com/408740.html
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