December 31- January 3, 2016
Notre Dame Basilica ($5 entrance fee)
We rang in the New Year with some of our closest friends in..Ole Canada! Montreal is only an easy, 6 – hour drive from the heart of Manhattan (or a beautiful train ride through the heart of the Hudson Valley, but there’s only one trip a day), and we were lucky enough to have a friend who already had a car he could use. A leisurely roadtrip ensued through the Andirondack Mountains, and we arrived at our AirBnB after many stops through upstate New York. Eager to explore such an affordable and quaint city, we braved the cold for a few days and wandered through downtown Montreal and the outskirts. Some highlights: poutine (!), Notre Dame Cathedral, Parc du Mont Royal, and simply walking through art galleries in Old Montreal. Truly an European-esque city within access of New York– what’s not to love? Everyone spoke English, but some (like our Uber drivers) were more comfortable conversing in French.
Tip: Have a good foreign currency plan with your credit card or bank. Many credit cards have no foreign transaction fees, but some restaurants don’t take American credit cards. In these instances, we had to use our debit cards to withdraw Canadian dollars from ATM machines — if you don’t have a good plan, this can result in costly fees. We took advantage of the great exchange rates, as the American dollar was strong against the Canadian.
Lodging: Entire apartment, $40 for 2 nights per person
Ubers: VERY cheap! It was pretty hard to find parking, plus we wanted to all have fun at night. $8 per trip from the outskirts of Montreal to downtown, split between 4 people.
Food: Very filling meals, for less than average American prices. About $6 for a big plate of Poutine.
Drinks: This was the most expensive. A waste of money.
Attractions: A quaint city, and most of the attractions are found by walking around. Around less than $30 for everything, including parking.
Inside the Basilicia
Adirondack Mountains, NY – Jan 1 2016
I love roadtrips- the idea of driving towards adventure, and having adventures along the way is enough to perk me up on a dreary Monday morning. We made the 6-hour drive up to Montreal go by super quickly by factoring in certain stops along the way — it was very easy finding beautiful things to explore on our way, as we were going Upstate New York through the mountains! Our first stop was Olana Historic Site in the Hudson Valley. This was the home of Frederick Edwin Church, who was an influential Hudson Valley painter, and decided to build “the center of the world” in Hudson Valley. We didn’t do the tour or anything-just watched the (free) informational video, took a bathroom break, and examined the architecture of the building and the beauty of the Hudson Valley.
After a few more small stops to look at some waterfalls and a quick lunch (in a mall, which was surprisingly good) in the Lake George area, our next substantial stop was a hike up an Adirondack Mountain. Best thing about hikes? Nature, beauty, exercise, and…FREE! I was not sufficiently prepared for such an icy climb, and somehow scrambled up melting, icy slopes in boots, a peacoat, and a Burberry scarf..but it was completely worth it. I would recommend snow shoes with traction- sneakers are the worst for icy conditions, as one of our friends found out (surprisingly, my cute military booties had a pretty strong hold on the ice!) On our drive back to the city, we stopped by the Ausable Chasm (pictured at bottom).
Adirondack Mountains (free!)