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M0851: QUALITY MADE IN MONTREAL

I like to travel light, usually limiting my luggage to a laptop bag and a carry-on. Simply. Effectively. I like pretty objects that are practical, good designs that last but that are nonetheless remarkable. One of the things I systematically get asked about when I travel–and I swear it happens every time–is: – Excuse me, but may I ask where you got your bag? – Oh, this bag? (I can see their eyes searching for a known brand tag…) It’s from M0851. – It’s really nice. I love the minimal look. Is it from Tokyo? – Actually no, it’s from Montreal. – Reaaaaally…? That leather looks very expensive… – …But it’s not, seriously… – Looks like you just bought it. – I’ve had this one for close to ten years now… …and the conversation often goes on and on to a point where I feel like an actual M0851 salesperson. And you know what? I always feel this certain pride in “showcasing” a distinctive and such well-made product made in Montreal.

MONTREAL’S DELUXE DEPARTMENT STORES

A Akin to Barney’s and Saks in the U.S., Shoe Mart in the Philippines, Seibu in Japan, El Corte Inglés in Spain, and Selfridges in the U.K.; downtown Montreal has her own fancy department stores. Three major ones are La Maison Ogilvy, The Hudson’s Bay Company, and Holt Renfrew. I encourage shoppers and visitors to visit all of these beautifully historic “cathedrals of commerce” whose turn-of-the-century architecture reinforces the adage, They just don’t build ‘em like they used to.

GET DOWN AND SHOP IN THE UNDERGROUND CITY

My parents were born on a sunny island in the Pacific, so I like to believe that I’m genetically opposed to winter. Thank goodness then for Montreal’s Underground City, a massive web of tunnels that connects a major area of downtown office buildings, hotels, museums, banks, condominiums, great deals on smoked meat, shopping malls, metro stations, and even the Bell Centre.

SHOPPING AT MONTREAL MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS

Whether you are in town for a meeting or with your family, friends or loved one, you will find many great holiday gifts ideas at the boutiques of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. There are two shops: M Boutique offers more traditional fares, and Design Space offers the cleanly contemporary.

STREET PROFILE: MONT-ROYAL AVENUE

2010 has been a busy year for the Montreal Street Profile series. We started with Bleury, Parc, Maisonneuve, Saint-Paul and Saint-Zotique. We visited Crescent, Greene Avenue, Sainte-Catherine and Saint-Denis. For our final installment of the year (hint: make sure to come back in 2011!), we thought a stroll down Mount-Royal was in order, in no small part because it offers some very “a la Montreal” shopping that is perfect for the holiday season… Given that it starts at Mount Royal, it’s not hard to figure out where Mount-Royal Avenue gets its name. Of all the streets we’ve profiled, this one has perhaps the most iconic landmarks of them all: you can look down from its mountainous starting point and see the Big O, where it ends. (Our exploration will a bit shorter than that.) It is a totally charming street, as “Montreal” as they come, especially in the summer when a large portion of it is blocked off from traffic. It boasts some of the city’s classic diners, some great restaurants and cool bars and, while Saint-Catherine may boast the big name stores, Mount-Royal boasts the cool independent shops that you won’t find anywhere else…

MONTREAL’S HOT SPOTS FOR JEWELLERY SHOPPING

All that glitters is not gold, a smart gentleman named Shakespeare once said. And by that I’m sure he was referring to all the shimmering sterling silver, sparkly diamonds, and twinkling gemstones that the world has to offer—and, oh, let’s not forget beautiful pearls. Whenever I travel to new (or old) places, I like to buy local jewels or handmade trinkets to remind me of my trip. Then when people comment on the mini-ornaments hanging from my earlobes (likewise, around my neck, wrists, or fingers), I can say matter-of-factly, “These little things? Why, I found them in an adorable little shop in the South of France.” (I don’t really talk like that, but it’s never too late to start.) As such, when my out-of-town girlfriends come to Montreal, I like to steer them toward local boutiques, so they can peruse the baubles of our belle province for their own “souvenirs”—and so I can get my fill of retail therapy too.

MONTREAL THREADS FOR MEN: PLAIN JANE HOMME

Founded in Montreal in 2004, Plain Jane Homme is a men’s clothing collection. Miss Jane designs timeless pieces that are perfect for the jet-setting, hip man. The collection provides accessible dandyism for the athletic type, and low-maintenance classiness for the computer geek. With clean lines and timeless fabrics, such as these, there’s no excuse for not looking sharp. We chatted with Plain Jane Homme about the collection, the guys who wear the clothes and where in Montreal you should rock your duds!

THE NUTCRACKER MARKET

I was about nine years old when I saw my first ballet – The Nutcracker. What little girl doesn’t dance around in her PJs and dream of being Clara? (Although, personally, at that age I was more interested in leaping around in a tutu than hanging out with any Toy Soldier.) Thus began a love affair for classical dance that never really faded, even after a very discouraging Ballet For Adults class. Some things, I’ve discovered, you just have to start at a young – and pliable – age.

STREET PROFILE: RUE ST-DENIS

  We’d already worn our several pairs of virtual walking shoes by the time the Montreal Street Profile series hiked down Bleury, up Parc and across Maisonneuve. But, entertained by the sights, sounds, shops and smells, we hit Saint-Paul, Saint-Zotique, Crescent, Greene Avenue and went shopping on Sainte-Catherine. We decided we deserved a good time, so we headed next to Saint-Denis…