Montreal-chic: from culinary to fashion

montreal-chic

Thanks to Tourisme Montreal for this photo of haute couture.

If I say the words ‘Canada’ and ‘chic’ in the same sentence, I guarantee that at least 90% of people surveyed would think of Montreal. The largest city and business centre of Quebec brings the same level of chic–meaning fashionable, with a touch of elegance and sophistication–to Canada, that Paris brings to France.

montreal-chic

What could be more chic than taking a horse-drawn carriage ride through the cobblestone streets of Old Montreal?

Coming from the Canadian Prairies, I really notice the level of sophistication seen on the streets of Montreal. Women don’t ever seem to leave home without a fashionable scarf around their necks, every accessory in sync, and perfectly coifed hair.

montreal-chic

Doesn’t this salad look chic? It is a strawberry and goat cheese salad adorned with a chocolate balsamic dressing and artistically etched chocolate crepe that I enjoyed at Juliette et Chocolat in Montreal.

Even the chocolate of Montreal is highly sophisticated, and for the most part, ultra chic. But I’ll delve deeper into more delicious chocolate of Montreal in future posts. In this post, I wanted to share a few of the highlights I’ve enjoyed during numerous Montreal visits, with hope that it will inspire you to visit this ultra-chic French-Canadian capital. (Note that Québec City is the political capital of the province of Québec, but Montréal is certainly the fashion, cultural, culinary, and economic capital of Canada’s francophone province.)

montreal-chic is part of the culture of quebec’s largest city

Being someone who does not consider herself to be chic, I have a love/hate relationship with Montreal chic. It fascinates me. But it kind of disturbs me, as I always feel my appearance (down to the last accessory) is being observed and judged. Perhaps that encourages us ladies to up our game when we go to Montreal as we must always be sure to bring fashionable clothes and remember that accessories are equally as important as any outfit.

montreal-chic

Carrie McPherson is an excellent tour guide and writer who has transposed herself from Saskatchewan to Montreal and immersed very well into the world of Montreal chic.

There are quite a few Anglophone (English-speaking) highly creative Canadians that I know who have moved to Montreal from other provinces. My guide during my most recent visit in July was originally from Saskatchewan, and decided to leave her Prairie lifestyle in favour of life with a French flair in Montreal. She now has her own tour company, and does a lot of work with Montréal Tourisme.

montreal-chic

I was quite fascinated by the architecture of Saint Michael’s Church at 5580 St. Urban Street in Montreal. It is more formally known as St. Michael’s & St. Anthony’s Catholic Community, and definitely worth stopping in for the free tour.

In 2017, Montreal turned 375 years-of-age. But she doesn’t look or act it! Montreal is beautiful, vibrant, and filled with confidence. A perfect city for anyone who loves top quality in food, fashion, culture and fun.

montreal-chic

Thanks to Tourisme Montreal for this great shot of Montreal harbour taken by Stephan Poulin.

If you live in Montreal, what do you love best about your city? And if you have visited Montreal, what contributed most to the pleasure of your visit?

Sincere thanks to Tourisme Montreal for helping immerse me into the world of chocolate in Montreal, with a good helping of Montreal-chic.

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Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

62 Responses

  1. Susan Gill says:

    Will Have to get east on of these days and explore Montreal.

  2. Phoenicia
    Twitter:
    says:

    Montreal looks and sounds incredibly posh. I have always wanted to travel to Canada (amongst many other countries!) I have been mesmerised by Niagara Falls ever since watching Superman 2 as a child.

    I have ridden a horse but not a horse-drawn carriage. One more thing for me to place in my “must do” list!

  3. Janice
    Twitter:
    says:

    Hi Doreen – loved this post, especially the photo of the salad with the chocolate lattice crepe! I’m going to forward it along to my daughter, as she is going to Montreal and Quebec City for the winter carnival next January with her high school French club. Yes, that’s probably THE coldest time of the year she could go, but I would if I could!

  4. Donna Janke
    Twitter:
    says:

    This post reminds me that it’s been years since I visited Montreal and it may be time for another visit. I remember travelling to Montreal decades ago for business and feeling outclassed by the chic style even when wearing my best outfits. And this was in the days when one still dressed up for work! The best would be if I could squeeze in a small amount of shopping time and buy a dress to take home.

  5. Lovely! I’ve only been to Montreal once and it was on business so I didn’t get around much but I fell in love with the city and would love to return one day for some quality time to explore the area.

  6. As an American in Europe, I totally identify with your statement about noticing Montreal’s style and the chic that seems to be the special, elusive quality of some people and cities. I hope to see Montreal’s beauty for myself someday but for now, your posts will be a terrific introduction!

  7. Montreal is on my list for 2018!! Those horse drawn carriages just look so quaint. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Irene
    Twitter:
    says:

    Leave it to Doreen to find chocolate balsamic dressing! Tres chic!

  9. Jenn says:

    I’m from Ottawa and have been to Montreal many times. My favourite part is the food! You can find the best cheese curds there and cheese cake. I never had a bad meal there. Got to love that french Canadian cooking!

  10. Julie Cohn
    Twitter:
    says:

    I am going to Montreal and Quebec next spring so appreciate your recommendations. I can’t wait to try all the tasty French-Canadian treats!

  11. It’s been decades since we’ve been in Montreal – will have to return!

  12. I so identify with the chic, no chic thing, Doreen. (check out: I’m not a fashionista) During our multiple trips to Milan, I continued to wear my Danskos and Merrells while the Italian women traipse by on stiletto. Fun blog and great pictures.

    • Hi Rose: I think when we get to be a certain age, it just doesn’t matter. Those in their 20’s and 30’s seem to have something to prove in the chic category. Once you pass 40, you realize you are who you are, and you look stupid trying to be something your’e not. I, too, love my Merrells. 🙂

  13. Suzanne Fluhr
    Twitter:
    says:

    Salad with a chocolate lattice crepe—why didn’t I think of that? 😉 We enjoyed our visit to Montreal—sort of like “France lite”. When we were there—some years ago—it actually wasn’t all that comfortable for anglophones. I suspect it has become more cosmopolitan over the years. I’d like to do a return visit—but I’m not sure I have the proper fashion accessories—still the salad with a chocolate lattice crepe thing could get me back sooner rather than later.

  14. I would love to come here, it looks so lovely. I could try out my archaic French!

    • Cindy, is the French you learned Parisian French or Francophone French? They’re quite different in the nuances. I find that when the French speak slowly, I can understand quite a bit. But when they’re speaking quickly as they do to one another, I’m completely lost!

  15. Malini says:

    I love Montreal! Great pictures – especially that salad!! Yum!

  16. Cindy
    Twitter:
    says:

    I’ve never thought of Montreal as a chocolate destination, so I’m looking forward to your posts. But even visiting from Ottawa, I have noticed the chic aspect.

  17. Abhinav Singh
    Twitter:
    says:

    That is such an unusual account of Canada. You made me see it in a different light. Didn’t know that people of Canada are fashion savvy. I am impressed with the architecture of Saint Michael’s Church.

  18. You’re making me nostalgic for Montréal, Doreen! I had a wonderful visit there a few years back. I couldn’t believe how equally comfortable people were was speaking both French and English. That is probably part of the “sophistication” and “worldliness” that you mention here! Looking forward to hearing about their chocolate!

  19. Tami
    Twitter:
    says:

    We just visited Montreal two weeks ago, and I had a very different perspective of our two days there. While we enjoyed the things we did, we must have visited the wrong neighborhoods, because our overall impression was that Montreal is a little edgy. We saw lots of street art and sampled different foods, enjoyed historic architecture, walked the streets, visited the markets, and even enjoyed the view from Mont Royale. But I never passed a chocolatier, never saw anyone dressed to the nines, and never saw anything we would describe as chic. I would never have thought to describe it as anything like Paris, except for the french-speaking. I guess Montreal can be lots of different things to different people.

    • Very interesting, Tami! May I ask where you stayed? Montreal is definitely made up of clearly defined neighbourhoods as most large cities are. I am very surprised that you never passed a chocolate shop, as there are so many in Montreal! And the women of Quebec (most notably in Montreal) are probably the most fashionable in Canada. So I am indeed surprised by your comment.
      Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…Montreal-chic: from culinary to fashionMy Profile

      • Tami
        Twitter:
        says:

        We stayed on St. Denis near the Latin Quarter. We also spent some time on St. Laurent Blvd checking out all the street art. We also visited Jean-Talon and Atwater markets, the Lachine Canal, Place D’Armes and the Botanical Garden. But I will say that while we were there, Montreal was having a rare heat wave. It was 90 degrees and very uncomfortable to be outdoors.

  20. Arienne
    Twitter:
    says:

    I love the ‘chic-ness’ of Montreal! Makes me feel like I’ve travelled to Europe but I’ve actually stayed in my homeland. I’ve never felt like I’m being judged but then again, I’m always distracted by the architecture, food, and street art 🙂

  21. Right on, Arienne! Montreal is filled with many amazing diversions. I love the street art and varied architecture.

  22. Doreen, I’d love to visit Montreal again. I was there several times many years ago when I was an account executive in NY on the Air Canada account. Unfortunately, my trips consisted of landing, going to the Air Canada office, and then heading back to the airport. The Montreal harbor is beautiful.

    • Hi Jeannette. Isn’t that the truth about biz trips? Too often, we don’t get to see the fun stuff in a destination we are visiting for biz. I think that’s why the younger generations have invented the ‘bizcation’, adding a couple of days on to a biz visit, so they can add some fun times to the trip!

  23. I went to school in Plattsburgh. I miss going to Montreal. It was a great city, and environment. The architecture alone is worth visiting it. A perfect city that combines both new and old.
    Thanks for sharing.,

  24. Jeri
    Twitter:
    says:

    I would love to visit Montreal someday. All cities have a certain charm that can’t quite be known until experienced up close on intimate terms. There’s no doubt it’s a sophisticated city. When I moved to NC, one random person I talked to in the parking lot about my Idaho plates actually seemed to think most roads are still dirt in Idaho. We’re not that much of a cultural backwater…

  25. Montreal is a lot like Paris that way – best to dress up a bit even when exploring the streets! As you say, a small scarf often does the trick. Although for me the biggest challenge is trying to find shoes that are comfy and chic.

  26. Hello Doreen,

    I lived in Montreal (many years) and in Italy for a while. What you mention about dressing up in Montreal I felt it while traveling in Northern and Central Italy. So, I guess it is all relative.

    That being said, in my former work environment in Ottawa colleagues of mine would sometimes comment on my “Montreal-looking style”. What is that? More colourful? I thought so. It might as well have something to do about the use of accessories (yes scarves, polished shoes, boots, stylish eyewear and so on).

    May I mention a detail I noticed just recently. I take Italian courses. My teacher comes from Italy. Most days she wears cute, original earrings. And a fitted shirt or jersey sweater… just like a lot of women seen throughout Italy (maybe less so in Palermo). She is stylish. To me it means wearing right-fitted clothes and displaying some character.

    Montreal? What makes it very particular I think is the food and culinary scene. In 2017 it is possible to pay a relatively reasonable price for outstanding meals served throughout the city’s distinctive neighbourhoods. (Impossible to keep the pace: there are so many restaurants opening every year. Below in the link to the blog I wrote on the ones I preferred at the time.)

  27. Erica says:

    I’ve never been to Montreal, but your post made me want to pay it a visit. It seems like a really fun city. Interestingly, I always thought Los Angeles would be so trendy and chic. And when I moved here, I was so surprised that most parts of L.A. are super casual. That’s why it’s good to visit different places. You can imagine what a place would be like, but you have to really be there to get a true sense of a city.

    • I think you have made a very valid point, Erica. When we travel as a visitor, we go with our impressions to guide us. When we actually live in a place, it is like peeling an onion. Each day/week/month/year provides us with a greater understanding of our new home.

  28. neha
    Twitter:
    says:

    Your comparison of the sophistication of women and chocolates brought a smile to my face. Yet another of your chocolate journey that I loved to take with you (virtually!). Everyone of your chocolate posts makes me want to go to the destination as soon as possible..since I love chocolates so much and so does my little daughter.

  29. Sreeram
    Twitter:
    says:

    Love the expression, ‘Canada’ and ‘chic’. Canada is on my list for 2018 and this post would be an ideal guide to explore Montreal. Montreal Harbour looks absolutely stunning.

  30. Ami Bhat
    Twitter:
    says:

    Montreal does look quite interesting with its multi-lingual culture. It does seem like a photographer’s paradise, especially for those night shots of the harbour. Canada has been calling out to me for long. Maybe it is time I take it seriously. Cheers

  31. Sandy N Vyjay
    Twitter:
    says:

    I never knew that Montreal Chic is comparable to the elegance and fashion of Paris. But yes I too would feel uncomfortable in a place which is too high on chic and where one is likely to be scrutinized.BTW St. Michaels church looks really beautiful in its perfect symmetry.

  32. Carrie
    Twitter:
    says:

    Thanks for the chic mention, Doreen!

  33. Mehedi Hasan
    Twitter:
    says:

    I’m from Ottawa and have been to Montreal many times. My favourite portion is the food! You can locate the best cheese curds there and cheese cake. I never had a bad meal there. Got to have a high regard for that french Canadian cooking!

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