ELLE Travel: Canada's got style
Forget the tourist traps! Travel like a fashionable local in six of our coolest cities.
by : ELLE Canada- Jul 6th, 2009
The buzz Home to designers like Denis Gagnon, Renata Morales and Andy Thê-Anh, Montreal is Canada’s original fashion capital. Where to go? Old Montreal,
bien sûr, for Old World ambience spiked with cutting-edge style, the west end for designer boutiques and the Plateau for friendly bistros and the best hipster sightings in the city.
Stay Start and end the day in the elegant civility of Old Montreal’s cobblestoned streets. Housed in a 19th-century building, Hotel Nelligan is a boutique hotel with exposed brick walls and a rooftop terrace where you can sip an espresso overlooking the nearby Notre-Dame Basilica.
Shop and stroll If your aesthetic runs toward the moody and minimal, check out Boutique Reborn, which offers carefully selected pieces from designers like Rad Hourani and Alexander Wang. More of a vintage fan? Visit Sharyn Scott, a consignment shop inWestmount that offers investment pieces at H&M prices (think an Hermès scarf for $100). While in the west end, stop by accessory boutique Mona Moore: With its French furniture and peerless selection (Lanvin, Haider Ackermann), it’s fit for modern Marie Antoinettes. For chic shoes that are made in Canada, drop by La Canadienne’s gorgeous new flagship store, housed in a spacious converted loft.
Dine and drink The Plateau area has the city’s liveliest 5
à 7 — the daily after-work happy hour. At Au Pied de Cochon, order the spicy house beer and appetizers like Maple Syrup Smoked Mackerel, courtesy of celeb chef Martin Picard, who sparked the nationwide trend of putting foie gras on poutine back in 2004. (He also recently opened his own cabane à sucre in Saint-Benoit-de-Mirabel, north of Montreal. Sample the results in the delicious Sugar Pie for Two.) Liverpool House, the new restaurant from the owners of Joe Beef, is Montreal’s culinary
belle du jour. The mostly Italian menu changes daily and features local ingredients like fresh basil and buffalo mozzarella from the nearby Atwater Market, the city’s premier destination for fashionable foodstuffs.
Librissime, books are treated as reverently as art. “Beauty will save the world, and beauty is the splendour of truth,” says owner Gilles Tremblay of his retail philosophy. “I want people to discover that luxury isn’t confined to watches, jewellery, cars and wine.” Tremblay’s stock famously ranges from $9 (for a children’s book) to $999,999 (for a collection of special art editions of world literature classics) and includes the amazing Goyard Travel Library Trunk (100 memoirs on stylish subjects like fashion, design and celebrity).
Text by Laura deCarufel, with files from Stephanie Boridy
Image of Old Montreal’s chic European sensibility by Rolf Hicker Photography/Alamy
The buzz With its denizens of young creative types (courtesy of its five universities), Halifax has always had a singular artistic energy. Now, the electricity is collecting in the north end: Artists and designers have migrated to Gottingen and Agricola streets, setting up galleries, shops and cafés that represent an avant-garde, sophisticated side of the East Coast.
Stay Oscar Wilde stayed at the Waverley Inn, which shares a sensibility (eccentric, lovable) with the Irish writer. Beyond the yellow exterior, the ambience is pure Canadian
Gothic: oil portraits, raspberry-hued wallpaper and four-poster beds.
Shop and stroll Start at the Hydrostone Market (at Young and Gottingen), which bills itself as “Halifax’s European shopping experience.” Browse the jewellery at Lady Luck, then stop in at Julien’s bakery for its famous almond croissant (dipped in rum syrup and topped with almond cream). Nearby, Fred Salon is a triple threat: a gallery, café and
salon. Admire the Bruce MacNeil photographs (which have a Nan Goldin spirit) and sip a latte while waiting for your manicure.
Dine and drink For a truly special dining experience, book a table by the ocean at Bish. Try the Lobster and Sweet Potato Chowder, then go for broke with the Filet Mignon with Half Roasted Lobster and Truffle Mashed Potatoes. Saege Bistro, near the Botanical Gardens, offers the city’s top treat. Don’t even ask for a dessert menu; just order the Chili Chocolate Pot de Crème, made with 70 percent chocolate ganache and served with orange shortbread.
Featuring cool-girl labels like Comrags and Ça va de soi,
Heroine is Halifax’s It spot for Canadian style. Owner Jody Manley moved to the north end in 2007 and has since taken a guerrilla approach to retailing. “I did a series of showrooms, profiling the collection of one designer,” she explains. Manley also hosts trunk shows so that customers can meet the designers: “My clients love them. Each season feels like a new art show”.
Text by Laura deCarufel
Image of Fred Salon, a meeting place for artists and designers, courtesy of Fred Salon
The buzz Long overshadowed by Montreal and Toronto, Ottawa is finally shedding its underdog status and rep for bureaucratic blandness. Twenty years ago, the city had a few steakhouses; today it’s in the midst of a culinary renaissance, with cute bistros popping up everywhere. New Edinburgh, near Sussex Drive, is an up-and-coming area, but the city’s core — from Byward Market to Bank Street — is still the main attraction.
Stay A 15-minute walk from Byward Market, McGee’s Inn has all the charm you would expect from a bed and breakfast housed in a threestorey brick Victorian. Stay in the cozy Egyptian room and make sure to wake up in time for breakfast: Homemade crepes with fresh fruit are served every morning in the sunny parlour. If white duvets and green apples are more your style, book a suite at ARC. Billed as Ottawa’s first
boutique hotel, it’s close to Bank Street and the Parliament Buildings (and nirvana, when you order the club sandwich from room service — trust us).
Shop and stroll Start at Louise Bourgeois’ spider sculpture at the National Gallery, then head south on Sussex. Trustfund offers haute jean brands (Citizens of Humanity et al.), as well as flirty silk dresses from Amanda Uprichard. Once the market’s weakest link, Dalhousie Street is now a fashion powerhouse. Victoire Boutique is a must-visit: With its yellow wallpaper, antique mirrors and cool
Canadian fashion (Juma, Birds of North America, Preloved), it’s like being in your chicest friend’s bedroom.
Dine and drink The most buzzed-about restaurant in the city, Atelier is worth the trek to Little Italy. In a 22-seat dining room, guests enjoy a four-hour, 12-course
dining experience: Chef Marc Lepine and his team create a nightly tasting menu, which can include basics like Bison and Mashed Potatoes, as well as more exotic specialties like the Elvis Truffle. (We won’t spoil the surprise.) At Murray Street, sit on the grapevineshaded back patio, order a glass of Pinot Grigio and sample the housemade charcuterie (smoked ostrich meat and a terrine made of elk, dried cherries and kale)
Minutes from downtown,
Le Nordik recreates the Finnish spa experience in the Gatineau wilderness. Book a volcanic hot-stone massage or relax in the outdoor pools, surrounded by evergreens. “We give people total relaxation in the heart of nature,” says Caroline Jalbert, marketing coordinator for Le Nordik. “[Moving among the pools] allows the body to eliminate toxins, relaxes muscles and improves quality of sleep. It provides an opportunity to purify oneself, physically and spiritually”.
Text by Laura deCarufel
Image of the entrance to Byward Market by Andre Jenny/Alamy
The buzz Toronto the Good is on its way to becoming Toronto the Great: Art Gallery of Ontario is preening, post-Frank Gehry makeover, and the film festival is a worldclass event. Yorkville is a perennial hot spot, and Leslieville — in the east end — is heating up, but go west (Queen West) for the best bookstores, galleries and vintage shopping.
Stay Tucked away on the 32nd floor of the Hilton, the Margery Steele Signature Suite pays tribute to a Toronto fashion icon. The director of the St. Regis Room, Steele was the first to bring designers like Geoffrey Beene to Canada. Her good taste inspires decor that is both elegant and welcoming: pumpkin-coloured chiffon curtains, a mirrored walk-in closet and vintage photos of Steele on her international buying trips.
Shop and stroll Browse bestsellers at Type Books, which is as well curated as any designer boutique, then settle in with a latte and a ginger cookie at the White Squirrel coffee shop, named after the albino squirrel in Trinity Bellwoods Park.
For cutting-edge labels like Isabel Marant and Marc Jacobs, stop in at Jacflash and Jonathan Olivia. I Miss You has the best
vintage accessories in the city (think YSL pumps and Chanel clutches), while Toronto designer Virginia Johnson’s eponymous shop is an explosion of turquoise and watermelon prints on dresses, scarves and bags.
Dine and drink At the always busy Pizzeria Libretto, try the Duck Confit Pizza with Bosc Pear, baked in an oven imported from Italy. Foxley is the perfect neighbourhood bistro, featuring a tapas menu of dishes like Crisp Lamb and Duck Prosciutto Dumplings. Reposado, the city’s first tequila bar, showcases the sophisticated side of the mythic liquor: Order a flight of sipping tequila while admiring the servers. (Just say that you were checking out the stained-glass window behind the bar.)
The Sunny Choi Gallery is Queen West’s exciting new outpost, but for the latest place to check out contemporary art, head north to Dundas West. Highlights include the
Alison Smith Gallery, which features cutting-edge photography and art. “It’s near-gentrification utopia,” says Smith of the neighbourhood’s appeal. “There’s a great energy — the cheek-by-jowl of galleries, car-repair guys and bakeries. The guys with last year’s BlackBerrys and pot bellies aren’t here yet. It’s just about perfect”.
Text by Laura deCarufel
Image of vintage finds courtesy of I Miss You
The buzz Any city that thrives in –30°C temperatures deserves its rep for toughness. But there’s more to Winnipeg than its hard-earned authenticity: Dubbed the “Chicago of the North,” it boasts examples of Chicago School architecture as well as a growing arts scene. Iconoclasts like filmmaker Guy Maddin and magazine entrepreneur Tyler Brûlé grew up here, and young artists are continuing their legacy, creating bohemian enclaves in the Exchange District and Osborne Village.
Stay Sleek and sexy, the Inn at the Forks embodies the intersection of nature and design. Located on the Forks National Historical Site, where the Assiniboine and Red rivers meet, the hotel has a boutique aesthetic, but the requisite glass, steel and stone are punctuated with paintings by local artists. At the on-site Riverstone Spa, book the Complete Vichy Shower (a full-body exfoliation, mud wrap and massage). Arrive early to experience the
eucalyptus-infused steam room.
Shop and stroll Start your day at the hip brunch spot The Tallest Poppy, which is helping to revitalize the North Main area. Its mostly organic menu changes daily, but a constant is the delicious coffee and offbeat charm (think mismatched chairs and a carved polar bear). Then head to Osborne Village, a boho-chic area in the centre of the city. If you’re in the market for an LBD, visit Frockstar, which specializes in dresses and jewellery to accessorize them. Out of the Blue — Frockstar’s sister store — carries trendsetting lines like Susan Harris, a Canadian designer who creates dresses and tanks from
recycled materials, and Gentle Fawn.
Dine and drink Pizzeria Gusto offers gourmet pies in a friendly, upscale ambience. Try the Sophia, with pecorino cheese, mushrooms and truffle oil; for dessert, Chef Scott Bagshaw recommends the Duo Panna Cotta, a lemon and espresso custard served with almond cookies.
Once home to musicians as diverse as Neil Young and Christine Fellows, Winnipeg has always had a great livemusic scene. The Lo Pub is where all the hipsters and scenesters come together to check out
up-and-coming indie bands. Jack Jonasson is the owner of the venue and a mod-rock musician with the band Novillero. “Winnipeg is like any other city with a bunch of great bands," he says. "It’s just that Winnipeg has a higher proportion of the great” (204-802-0911).
Text by Lydia Guo
Image of the Exchange District, an emerging spot for artists, by Tibor Bognar/Alamy
The buzz This tiny town on Vancouver Island has the laid-back vibe you’d expect from Canada’s surf capital. But it’s not all board shorts and dreadlocks; Tofino is home to an increasingly sophisticated culinary scene and
world-class hotels and spas that make full use of the scenery: an astonishing trium virate of the Pacific Ocean, temperate rainforest and snow-capped mountains in the distance.
Stay Go luxe at the award-winning Long Beach Lodge and Resort. Featured in
Architectural Digest, it has a lovely common area that features Douglas fir beams and floor-to-ceiling windows. Book a beachfront room, which gives you direct access to the shore.
Stroll and spa Tofino is more of a spa destination than a shopping hot spot. Located on the water, the Sacred Stone Spa specializes in Ayurvedic treatments. After a day of surfing or hiking in Pacific Rim National Park, try the Heaven (on earth) Signature Treatment, which combines a hot-stone massage with an
organic facial, then add the Lemongrass Bamboo Scrub.
Dine and drink Jesse Blake was head chef at upscale bistro SoBo before opening the more casual Wildside Grill last year. Tag line? “Natural food by natural dudes.” Specialty? Seafood, of course, with a twist. Try the Seafood Gumbo with Chorizo, Shrimp, Sour Cream and Cilantro or the Oyster Burger and Fries served with Chili Mayo.
Canada’s only Roxy-sponsored camp,
Bruhwiler Surf offers daily
learn-to-surf packages, private lessons and just-for-girls Roxy Surf Camps each summer — plus, they’ll outfit you in sweet gear to brave the cold waters. “All the beaches and breaks are safe and sand-bottomed, the waves are gentle and the ocean is so wild that you get to soak up much more of raw mother nature’s power,” says Catherine Bruhwiler-Temple, a surf instructor and founder of Bruhwiler Surf. “Surfing is so new to Canada, so everyone is learning together — it makes the experience that much more fun!”.
Text by Alison Lawler-Dean
Image courtesy of Long Beach Lodge and Resort
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