Montreal :: Un Fête Accompli

[trip style = urban + active & adventure]

I've always heard Montreal is a party. Two weeks ago, this was confirmed over an alfresco feast of festivals and fireworks.

Dinner really heats up around 9pm. The cobblestone streets are well-heeled into the wee hours of the morn. Entire districts are converted to pedestrian walkways/outdoor fêtes---complete with thousands of pink party bobbles strung between buildings. Fireworks erupt.

Fuelled by an international brew Canadian joie de vivre and French passion, Montreal is always running on a full tank. Nothing is done half-way. For example, there aren't just few good restaurants. Beyond maple syrop-themed eateries, take your pick of 5600+, from haute Portuguese to Parisienne bistros to brunch with a DJ on the side {literally, a DJ spins tunes for brunch at L'avenue---after a Saturday night on the town, maybe that's what required to wake-up?}. Or, consider the surfing revolution; no ocean, no problem. A massive river with strong currents and consistently cresting waves will do. And while I'm on the topic, no beach, no problem. In front of yachts and sail boats moored in a quiet section Saint Lawrence river below Old Montreal, there's a newly constructed urban beach.

And the festivals, well, they make the city festive whether it's a blizzady 30 below zero or a blistering 30 above zero. In fact, there's an entire plaza in the centre ville devoted to hosting some of the 106 goings-on year-round. When I was there, the top 10 finalists of the French Canadian version of American Idol, aka Star Académie, were performing for a crowd of 120,000 multi-generational screaming fans. Mark my words, the next Celine Dion was in that group.

There isn't just one kind of party in Montreal. At any time, there are many happening on the street corner, on the beach, on the river and on a rooftop terrace, and guess what, you're invited.

Stay Le Petit Hotel - Past clippity-clopping horse-drawn carriages along a Montreal's oldest street, the 24-room Le Petit Hotel is true to its name---a small slice of French Canadian paradise. Housed in a Parisienne facade, stone walls support the modern environs defined by local furniture, bakery-fresh croissants and staff who check you in, make you a latte and offer dinner suggestions. PS - ladies, they have salon hair dryers in each room.

Eat Le LocaL - Amid Old Montreal's industrial district, an ivy-covered structure softens the landscape. It's an up-cycled, warehouse-chic hot-spot, off the beaten path. Sitting on a bench propped with gold and grey striped pillows, I sip a gin cocktail with ginger, cucumber and grapefruit, and savor the albacore tuna pissaladiere. The icing on the cake isn't icing at all, but rather a small pot of creme-iest caramel I've ever dipped a spoon into. We also love: the haute Portuguese fare at F Bar, the outdoor terrace at Boris Bistro, the artisan baking and neighborhood digs at Sweet Lee's.

Do Bike - There's over 600kms of bike lanes throughout the city. Use them like the locals do via the BIXI public bike share system, or take a guided bike tour to get your city bearings. We also love: Stand-up paddleboarding down the Saint Lawrence river with PP, a surfer and former Cirque Du Soleil roller-skating performer.

Spa Bota Bota - Anchored in Old Montreal's harbor, Bota Bota floats in a quite alcove, massaging clients with the lulling water beneath and strong hands of therapists above. Formerly a ferry, this bathing beauty has been transformed into a chic, unisex, nautical retreat. PS- try the water circuit and lay in the sun on the forward and aft decks as if it's your own yacht. We also love: Scandinave Les Bains Nordic Day Spa {steps from Le Petit Hotel}

[photos by @tripstyler, taken while a guest of Tourism Montreal]

Packed :: Summer Urban Weekend

[trip style = urban + adventure + weekend getaway]

Right now I'm in Francais Canada, Montreal exactement, trying a melange of trip styles: urban AND active + adventure---a doozy for packing. And here's the kicker: I've just stayed in three different hotels over three consecutive nights { assignment for}. Double packing doozy!!

Always striving to encourage all trip stylers of the world to pack 'more' in 'less' space, I timed myself packing the day before I left. It took me an hour to select my clothes and fold them into my carry-on along with doodads {hats, camera, chargers, etc...} from my travel bin and always-packed travel toiletries {note to self: hire an Olympic coach to improve my packing time}. Knowing I'd be unpacking and re-packing a total of eight times, I tried to keep it chic and simple---after all, Montrealers are serious about le style!

{Trip Styler Tip: ALWAYS pack with your trip's itinerary in mind. Write out a day-by-day plan of what you're doing and where you're going as a means of building your list.}

My itinerary consisted of three dinners out avec fireworks and festivals apres, biking throughout the city's sights and stand-up paddleboarding {as well as a few meetings}. Packing accordingly, here's what I wore from day one to day four: {Forgive the poor quality of this photo--and the bike picture in general!!!}

Le Packing List {this is A LOT, I could've brought less} - two dresses - two skirts - 3 tank tops - blazer - 1 pashmina - 2 workout shorts - 2 workout tops - 1 light sweatshirt - runners/sox - wooden mid-rise heels - flip flops - t-strap sandals - booties - slippers - bathing suit {actually I forgot it, so I went SUP'ing in work-out spandex...classy}

{Trip Styler Tip: I know this sounds crazy, but other than adding a few more tops, this four-day packing list is MORE than enough for a week, or two, or three. Case in point, I brought the same size carry-on to Montreal for the weekend as I did to Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire for two weeks! For longer trips, pack for four days and just repeat/mix/match clothes.}

Related Fashionable Flashpacking Fitting 50 Garments Into A Carry-On Q&A With “How To Pack Like a Rock Star” Author Packing 103 // Packing 102 // Packing 101 Size Matters Travel Essentials for Any Trip Style High Rolling :: To Roll or Lay Flat? A Summer Weekend Packing List The Art of Carry-On Travel Going Away? Packing and To Do List

[photos by @tripstyler]

My Own Backyard

ottawa parliament buildings[trip style = sightseeing]

A Taster Today I'm leaving Vancouver on  jetplane. My two week get-to-know-my-own-backyard trip will take me to Ottawa, Montreal, Moncton, St. Andrews by the Sea, Halifax and Charlottetown.  Although this whirlwind adventure doesn't even get me close to exploring all the wonders of Canada's East Coast, at least it's a start, a taster per se.

No Passport Required Traveling sans passport is weird, yet refreshing. The last time I was in Eastern Canada (not including airport visits) it was 1992 and I was in grade 7. I went with my French Immersion class on a trip to Quebec.  It was a cool -25 degrees celcius, and the St. Lawrence River--or fleuve Saint-Laurent--was partially frozen.  My french class stayed in a dumpy hostel in the shadow of the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac (really?) and given the absence of my parents, I may have eaten McDonald's every day for lunch.  Both my lodging preferences and eating habits have changed since then.

Why am I going? Since most of the travel I do is international, I want to be able to tell people more about my own country, not just the small pockets I've visited to date. It's semi embarrassing when I meet tourists who've seen more of the country that put the North in North America than I have, but it's a big place. It's the second largest country in the world with a population similar to California's.  Speaking of California, ironically, last time I was there my friend pointed out George Stroumboulopoulos (Canada's famed late-night, gen-X talk show host). The fact is I'm proud to be Canadian, so I want to visit more of this mammoth land mass and meet more of my neighbours before I venture off to foreign soil again.

Ottawa for Canada Day One event I'm super excited about is participating in the Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa (Canada's Capital). I think it's kind of a propos--something I can check off my life list or that would my make my grade 4 teacher proud. For as long as I can remember, I've always watched Canada Day celebrations on CBC. The colours that stood out were red, white and green. Red for the mounties in uniform leading their horses in formation; 'white' for the Parliament buildings and Steven Harper's hair (and I mean no disrespect, running this country has got to be stressful, especially in light of the recent G20 rukus) and green for grass where the horses march and the parliament buildings sit.  I'll get to see all this with friends who live in Ottawa! Bonus.

How am I going I booked this trip using Air Canada Aeroplan miles.  Twenty five thousand miles plus $125 in taxes got me an economy ticket from Vancouver to Moncton with a week stop-over in Ottawa.  My husband and I wanted to fly as far as we could within our domestic points allowance to maximize the opportunity.  So, we're going coast to coast.

Although I'm an enthusiastic ambassador for Canada, I don't feel totally authentic in that self-imposed role, not yet at least. I have so much more to see: the 100,000+ lakes in Saskatchewan, Toronto in its cosmopolitan glory, Ontario's Muskoka region where all the design mags' editors have cottages, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nunavut, The Northwest Territories and so on.  Canada, I promise to see more of you in the future.  It's not you, it's me.

PS - research shows that people scan the written word, but pay special attention to the PS line, so, if you're more of a picture than word person, I'll post pics along the way.

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[photo by Steph & Adam]