Tag Archives: trains

Montreal Metro vs. NYC Subway

The other day, I was amazed to see an entire train car of passengers watching with rapt attention a free-style rapper perform in the center of a green-line car. Passengers were turned in their seat, leaning to see around people, and they almost all applauded him when he was finished.

That would never happen on the NYC subway.

This guy wasn’t too bad, but he wasn’t amazing or anything. I have seen entire mariachi bands, dressed to the nines, perform flawlessly on the subway in NYC and people don’t even look up from their iphones. I have seen lovely renditions of ballads performed while people gave the singer death-stares for blocking the doors.

As a former NYer, I found the change startling, somewhat charming, but a little awkward?

The other big difference, which I have come to loathe, is the aggressive politeness of Montrealers in giving up their seat for a person carrying a baby (both pre and post-natal). You may politely refuse to take the seat several times and they may keep insisting. You may refuse a seat from one person only to have the person next to them decided maybe you prefer the view from their angle and offer theirs. People will walk halfway down a car just to point out an empty seat at the other end for you. If you so much as eye a nearby seat and you are carrying a kid, people will scramble to clear out of it for you. And even if you are happily standing in a crowded car, someone will be tugging on your sleeve to tell you they are happy to give you a seat that you have no chance to actually get to among the bodies.

I do not miss the “stand clear of the closing doors, please” recording. It’s nice that they have very few announcements here.

My daughter loves riding the subway, she likes going onto the train herself and holding onto the post by herself. She likes finding people to wave to. Most of the passengers think this is positively adorable. Even when she’s in the way. I’m pretty sure she would have been run down in NYC by now. I get a little worried at the big transfer stops when it’s busy that someone won’t see her down there, so I’ll usually pick her up. But people are mostly cautious and not that pushy. The last time we rode the train in NYC, someone totally body checked her into a post. She was 8 months old. I’m not going to postulate about the virtues of Canadian politeness because I think the generalization is not always true, but at least in this case, the atmosphere is a bit more laid-back.

Last, since the Montreal subway shuts down every night and the system is newer, the trains are a bit cleaner, a bit more timely, and have less glitches in service. The bad part? The subway shuts down! Every night!

Blows my mind.

Taking the Train with a Toddler

Yesterday, I took the train with my daughter to go to Grama’s house for Christmas. We have done this trip several times now, so we have our system down, but that’s not to say that it’s ever easy. It’s do-able. It’s 8 hours. It’s not fun. We manage.

-People smile at her, What a cute baby!

Oh people, you don’t realize if you are nice to her that she’s just going to keep coming back to see you. You’re fine with that, you say? Oh, we’ll see about that.. after the 11th time she stops at your seat to see what you are up to. Not so cute anymore, huh? I told you so. Shut up and watch your Office reruns on your iPad and try not to let my kid see it.

-There is a critical toy-per-hour chart for each child at every age.

You can’t burn through all your toys in the first 30 minutes (though you will really be tempted too). You have to pace yourself. You also have to leave the most interesting toys for last. That last 2 hour window might kill you. For some reason, no matter how long my trip is, if it’s over an hour, the last hour always sucks. I know some people who buy new toys for their trips. That’s nice too. For my daughter, nothing beats tearing apart my toiletry bag and putting things back in it over and over and OVER.

-Layovers help.

You would think that schlepping bags and a kid would be awful, but even with all the back strain, it’s really good to get off the train for just a little while (our layover is usually only 30 minutes) and grab a drink/snack. If it weren’t for our having to change trains in Toronto, I would seriously lose my mind after the first 5 hours of the trip.

This particular layover my kid spent running around the Via terminal in Toronto like a prisoner who’d done months in solitary experiencing a sunlight meadow for the first time. I was trying not to leave my bags “unattended” lest they be stolen/reported to the authorities, but she’d just take off and there wasn’t much I could do.

-Pack a bottle of water, snacks. For yourself too.

The food and beverage on trains, if they even have them, are so overpriced. You’ll probably need to buy a stupid bottle of water anyway, because your kid will have knocked yours over on your lap and an hour later, you’ll be parched in your mouth but damp in your lap and $2.50 won’t seem so bad. But at least you’ll have saved yourself the first $2.50.

-The critical napping window.

You should consider carefully when you want your child to nap. It helps to have your departure/arrival at times that don’t interfere with napping. Sometimes you don’t really have a choice and ultimately, it’s up to your kid if they will or won’t nap. However, I have been able to successfully tweak nap-time by a combination of bedtime and wake-up variation that I usually get my toddler’s necessary train nap to come about 30 minutes to an hour into our trip. This is most ideal for us because it leaves us plenty of time for her finish the nap as well as fewer stops during that nap that might waking her up.

-The last hour you’ll probably spend walking up and down the aisle anyway.

This is where taking the train beats car trips soundly. When all else fails, you can just walk back and forth from the front to the back of the train saying hello to all the baby-friendly-now-totally-annoyed people you met on your first pass. You’ll also discover EVERY feature of your train: the trash compartments, the seat bases, the variation of decor in each car, the window blind technology…

-There will be about 30 minutes where you swear you will never ever do this again.

But it sure beats the hell out of flying, even though it takes a bit longer. So you endure.


I just got home from a 2.5 day excursion to visit a friend in scenic Plattsburgh, NY. And by scenic I mean, if you are not at on the Lake and staying at a hotel near the mall, you better like views of parking lots. Needless to say, it was perfect for our purposes because it was a good mid-way point between our cities to which I could take the train, offered us a inexpensive place to stay that had a nice pool and nearby stores/restaurants, and did not offer much distraction from our sole mission to let the kids play and just “hang out.”

My friend brought 11 bags for a 2 day stay. This is traveling with toddlers. I brought 3, but I also forgot a second shirt, socks for the baby, and I ran out of diapers on the last day, so I lose.

The first thing we did is bravely attempt dinner out with two 13 month olds. All in all, it went very well! I think only the carpet lost.

After that, we went to the supermarket and loaded up on baby snacks and extremely unhealthy adult snacks (hello chocolately caramel corn!). We got back with just enough time to take the kids down to the pool and try get them them REALLY tired before a quick bath and bed. They both slept pretty well the first night.

The next morning, we let them play all over the room for awhile and fed them breakfast. The kids had a grand time at such activities as: putting stuff in the “bible” drawer and taking it back out, stealing each others toys, opening and closing the temperature panel on the a/c unit, banging on said a/c unit, giggling wildly, sharing sippy cups, bouncing on the bed, running around going “da da da da,” and eating goldfish, crackers, apples, yogurt melts, and puffs.

It is also possible we heard Adele’s “Someone Like You” on the radio 500 times.

We didn’t venture out until lunchtime when due to the relative success of Dinner 1, we attempted another sit-down meal. A gentleman at a nearby table actually remarked to us that we had very “well behaved children.” I wouldn’t go THAT far, but they were pretty good! They ate some food, they didn’t make tons of noise, the floors were not strewn with absolutely everything… We made a very thorough survey of Target and a tiny dip into Michaels and then headed back to the hotel because the kids needed naps.

Dinner we decided, was best to order in. And boy, we nailed it. I don’t know if you’re ever planning on being in Plattsburgh, but we highly recommend Mangia. It’s a Italian, brick-oven pizza kind of place. But everything we had was delicious. The crab-cakes were something special and the ravioli were beyond.

Since swimming worked so well the night before, we tried that again. My daughter likes to take her rubber ducks to the pool and throw them in from the edge and then try to go in after them. You really have to watch her or she will try to jump in by herself. The kids were pretty delighted with the pool, even if it was kind of chilly. We warmed them up with a dip in the hot tub. And before you get all hysterical about babies in hot tubs, let me add, it was a pretty mild hot tub. I’ve run hotter baths for my daughter.

I was prepared for some really epic sleeping after their post swim bath, but it was not to be. My friend’s son went to bed like a good boy, but my child? Oh no. She decided to whine and thrash about, disrupting his winding down. So I had to quickly put her in warmer clothes, stuff her in the Ergo baby carrier with her blanket, and walk around outside for almost an hour. Freaking ridiculous.

I walked by a lot of closed strip mall-type places. There was one with a bridal store. The dresses in the window were alarmingly tacky. Attention future brides of Upstate NY, please avoid the polka-dot sash number.

After both kids were FINALLY in bed, we got to sit still for a moment and eat chocolatey things, drink fizzy things, and talk about life and stuff.

It was nice.

We packed up the next morning, took the kids for lunch out again (the floors may have lost again), and then I had to catch my train. I pushed nap-time back as far as I could hoping to catch a really good block of sleep on the train and I’m happy to say it worked. But bedtime when we got home was a mess again. I guess my toddler is just a little wound up from her trip.

I am, on the other hand, so very tired. But I’m glad we went. It was a good idea and I think everyone had fun. Even our waiters.