Category Archive for Alternative Canada

Alternative Montreal travel guide! Hipster Alt Hotel, virtual reality museum, Thierry Mugler futuristic Goth fashion.

montreal fashion blogger, quebec outfits

If you’re an alternative or artistic type, then Montreal is a destination you’ll adore!

Particularly in the summer months, the city has a full calendar of edgy events. I was excited to return to Montreal, and see more of the groundbreaking museums and Gothic stores. 

Read on for a guide to offbeat, hip travel in Montreal –– including close encounters with robots and aliens! 

reformation black tencel mini dress

My alternative travels began with a stay at the aptly-named Alt Hotel Montreal. These hip boutique accommodations have contemporary rooms, and art everywhere… I was pleased to find what looked like a pentagon Pokeball on my concrete wall!

(This black dress is by The Reformation, worn over a white baby tee like in the 90s. Sandals by Lola Ramona, and more dresses by Ref below…)

montreal hotels downtown view

Alt Hotel is conveniently located in Griffintown, which is a short walk from Quartier des Spectacles, the Gay Village, and other downtown districts.

I had a room on the top floor, with tall windows and these cool views of Montreal. From one of the panes, I could even see the experimental Habitat 67 by Moshe Safdie (the community housing that looks like a stack of Legos).

hotel room gift chocolates wine

The staff at Alt Hotel Montreal makes sweet efforts to give their guests a memorable stay. They knew I loved dark chocolate, berries, and local wine — so I found this welcome plate in my room, upon checking in.

alt hotel montreal rooms bed

I always prefer to stay in modern design hotels, and Alt checked all of my boxes. The bed was excellent quality (which is not often the case, in hotels), and the bathroom finishings were new.

Hotel Alt strikes a balance between luxury, design, and affordability, making it a nice choice for young travelers.

farine five roses view montreal

Be sure to head to the 7th floor, which is a covered terrace for guests. From the balcony, you can spot the Farine Five Roses sign (a local flour company, and Montreal landmark).

hotel alt balcony griffintown

Once a poor industrial neighborhood, Griffintown has transformed into a hip Montreal hub. I was happy to discover that Alt Hotel was a block away from Adonis (a Lebanese grocery store / deli), and La bête à pain (a spectacular French bakery / cafe).

(I’m wearing a black mini dress by The Reformation, and red shoes by Lola Ramona.)

montreal instagram murals walls rainbow pride

The lobby welcomes visitors with this cheery rainbow wall, which is made up of square photographs. Alt’s interior design is made for Instagram, with “selfie stations” and guides to trendy restaurants.

alt hotel montreal review, design boutique hotels

Salut Alt Hotel Montreal for the fabulous stay. I’m very happy that I made this cool boutique hotel my home-base.

centre phi virtual reality exhibit

Now, let’s teleport into the future… I went to Hum(ai)n, a Montreal exhibition that lets you interact with AI, and discover new worlds through VR! 

The high-tech installation is inside Centre Phi, an art space for avantgarde, multidisciplinary works. 

montreal goths japanese gothic street fashion

I went to the Humain exhibit with friends both old and new. As you can tell, we adore Gothic and Japanese street fashion.

robot learning montreal humain ai artificial intelligence

Many of the exhibits have an interactive element, such as Ophelia the robot lady. You can ask her questions in either English or French, and each conversation helps her learn what it means to be human.

At first, Ophelia’s replies were simple and “robotic” — but now, after speaking to hundreds of visitors, she responds with remarkable depth and humor!

phi center humain ai robots exhibit

There were about a dozen stations to explore, each with a different take on virtual reality, artificial intelligence, or biotechnology. Is the “rise of the robots” something to worry about? Only time will tell…

perfume maker machine robot

My friends and I participated in “Algorithmic Perfumery,” which creates a unique fragrance based on your answers to a series of questions. The data includes your preferences, personality, and response to multiple scents.

technology customized custome performe cologne

Then, the machine mixes the custom perfume. The results were hit and miss: some of us felt that the resulting fragrance wasn’t to their liking.

vr headset virtual reality games gaming montreal

The Phi Center is in a historic building, which was quite the contrast with the VR headset stations. This one is “Emergence” — when I look around, I see myself running in a crowd of thousands. Using the wireless controller, I can change my direction and try to race into vertical beams of light, which alters the pattern. 

japanese virtual reality video

Some of the immersive narratives were rather intense. “7 Lives” is a Japanese production that includes traumatic experiences (jumping off the Tokyo subway platform, and being berated by an angry Japanese mother).

centre phi humain robot ai videos

When you put on the VR headset and headphones, you find yourself immersed in a new universe (you can look around in all directions, and react to sounds and visuals like in real life).

immersive vr games movies gallery

The “films” range from fantastical toys in a gymnasium, to psychedelic ayahuasca visions in the Amazon rainforest. As you can see from our reactions, they truly transport you to a different time and place!

HUM(AI)N montreal artificial intelligence, biotechnology art

What does it mean to be human? Are we creeping closer to the singularity? Montreal’s Hum(ai)n exhibit lets you ponder these questions, and witness the latest developments in art and technology.

(PS: be sure to book tickets in advance from Centre Phias there are limited time slots.)

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts building, Thierry Mugler

I got to see another futuristic exhibit at the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal. The fine arts museum houses the world premiere of “Thierry Mugler: Couturissime” — a retrospective of the imaginative designer. 

quebec Thierry Mugler fashion costumes Exhibition‎

The visionary French designer, photographer, and perfumer rose to fame in the 1980s and 1990s. At the time, Thierry Mugler’s garments looked like they came off a runway on Mars: he became notorious for his flamboyant, sci-fi and fetish inspired couture. 

Thierry Mugler Couturissime - Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal

Montreal’s “Couturissime” is set in several dramatically-lit rooms, which match with Mugler’s pomp and glamour. The first room showcased his visionary stage costumes for Shakespeare’s Macbeth, including oversized black ruffs and spiked codpieces.

david bowie dress thierry mugler music video costumes

Thierry Mugler made costumes for many musicians, including David Bowie, George Michael, and Lady Gaga. This skin-tight dress was worn by Bowie; the peaked shoulders are typical of his “power dressing” approach.

mugler couture dresses exhibit

The screen shows music videos and concert footage from over the decades, with artists wearing his creations.

thierry mugler famous goth dresses gothic

“Thierry Mugler: Couturissime” includes over 150 garments, over 100 photographs, sketches, and more. His gowns span a variety of styles; of course, I fawned over these Mugler Gothic dresses.

alien weird bizarre costumes thierry mugler

No wonder Mugler makes an Alien fragrance… he had quite the affinity for extraterrestrial space couture!

thierry mugler futuristic strange gowns

I loved seeing the decadent fabrics and details up close. Mugler liked to break conventions and had a sense of humor; one mannequin had a “beer can holster” attached to her thigh!

sequin dresses thierry mugler 90s

Wouldn’t you like to wear a sequinned creation by Mugler? (Below are some of his designs for sale; click to see.)

goth fetish latex leather thierry mugler

As you can see, Mugler was inspired by fetish and S&M subcultures. He incorporated latex, leather, flogs, and other paraphernalia into his designs.

matières fécales fashion fecal matter designers, montreal dress

The exhibition also included a showcase of local fashion designers. How cool to see Matières Fécales (above) featured in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

I hope these photos inspire you to see the Thierry Mugler exhibit for yourself.

creatures boutique gothic store montreal

Speaking of Montreal fashion…. if you’re a “creature of the night,” then you should stop by Boutique Creatures, a Goth store in the Mont Royal district.

joe mcharg cabaret berlin montreal, creatures goth

I met up with Joe McHarg, owner of Creatures. He also runs Cabaret Berlin, an alternative event space. The club has frequent Gothic and underground music nights, as well as a Tech Noir synthwave party (I’m so bummed I missed the date!)

montreal alternative goth clothing

Creatures stocks a variety of underground brands, inspired by Goth and punk subcultures. The boutique focuses on original, local designs — including their own Creatures fashion line.

creatures boutique mont royal montreal

In addition to Victorian dresses and hard shell bags, Creatures sells art and prints by Quebec creators.

goth montreal fashion blogger model

Creature’s fashion line is one-of-a-kind: Joe picks out the fabrics by hand, and everything is stitched locally. I’m wearing one of his dark creations, a long sleeved top with mesh panels and scalloped edges.

goth shops shopping Montreal quebec

From skull wallets to glitter backpacks, Creatures has something for anyone who loves alternative fashion.

silver gothic witch jewelry occult equinox art

The jewelry case features deadly earrings by Quebec’s Equinox Art.

leather fetish chokers necklaces handmade

The O-ring leather chokers are also made by hand. Love how Boutique Créatures focuses on quality items, and supports local Gothic artists.

montreal kitsch swell pin up boutique

Montreal has other terrific alternative fashion shops, particularly in the Mont-Royal area. Here’s a peek at Kitsch n Swell, a vintage / pin-up / retro boutique. (I featured them on Touring Bird, the new Google travel project I’ve been working on — you can see all my TB.D Montreal tips here.)

montreal gothic fashion clothes diabolik

Diabolik is another diabolical dark fashion shop. I spy Hell Bunny dresses in the window.

montreal hotel alt, art design hotels griffintown

Montreal’s fashion, art, and museums are out of this world! The city is also known for its food scene — and that’s what I will show you in the next post.

I hope this story inspired you to book a flight to Quebec… before the robots become our overlords…

(Dress by The Reformation, with more below. The white top and other designs are for sale on my Depop.)


My food tour of Quebec City: young, hip Quebecois restaurants! La Planque Limoilou, Chez Muffy, Le Voisin.

travel blogger quebec city chateau frontenac

Ouais, ouais… I had a delicious time in Quebec City! Ready for a guide to the best restaurants and art in the French-Canadian capital?

I haven’t been to Canada’s Francophone province since a brief stop here as a teenager. Growing up, I went to a school with a bilingual program — so this trip gave me a chance to practice speaking “en français” again.

(Where to get what I am wearing: Black bucket hat by Lack of Color, platform shoes Rocket Dog, top Valfre from Forest Ink, skirt Charli Cohen.)

hotel frontenac quebec city fairmont architecture

Most travelers know about Quebec City’s historic sites, such as the Hotel Fairmont Château Frontenac. (Built by architect Bruce Price in 1892, these pointed castle spires are unmistakable.)

However, Anthony Bourdain’s food / travel TV shows showed Quebec City in a trendier light. He partied with young (and rather wild) Quebecois chefs, and feasted on dishes piled with hearty, experimental ingredients.

As I discovered, Bourdain was right. Quebec City is the ultimate destination for foodies. Read on for my restaurant recommendations, with lots of decadent photos.

quebec city Confucius statue sister city china

First, let’s take a stroll around Quebec City’s old town. The city is small and highly walkable, with plenty of old buildings and statues to admire.

I was surprised to see a statue of Confucius, the Chinese philosopher. The monument was a gift from Quebec City’s sister city, Shandong; they participate together in a university exchange.

ironic hipster windows 98 t-shirt

Quebec City is far more “French” than Montreal, in terms of the culture and feeling. You can get by speaking English, but locals predominantly communicate in French. I’m sure you will notice a different accent and use of slang too!

(I popped into Simons, the Quebec-based department store. This French Windows 98 “Fenêtre98” t-shirt made me laugh.)

belgian carnival parade old quebec

While walking around, I ran into a colorful parade that reminded me of my adventures in Binche, Belgium. Quebec City has quite a few carnivals, including the famed winter “carnaval” with its rather frightening Bonhomme snowman mascot.

belgian carnival costumes, quebec city parades

Dressed in tufted collars and pointed feather hats, these men danced through the streets. They were accompanied by a live marching band.

Stilt walkers of Namur fighting carnival belgium

I also came across Belgian stilt walkers that were demonstrating Namur stilt-fighting. Dressed in folky red costumes and caps, they try to knock each other off their pedestals to the beat of a drum. I didn’t stick around to see the winner, but he apparently receives “golden stilts.”

outside musee beaux arts quebec city miro

I lucked out with the weather — just as the rain began to pour, I arrived at Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec! Located near the Plains of Abraham, the MNBAQ currently has an enormous exhibition dedicated to artist Joan Miró.

quebec city museum rem koolhaas architect staircase

I was especially keen to visit… because the new Pierre Lassonde pavilion was designed by Rem Koolhaas and his team at OMA.

The architect’s signature is unmistakable in the stark glass exterior and curving white staircase. Doesn’t this look like a ramp from a spaceship?

quebecois art artists mnbaq

The Musee des Beaux Arts houses an impressive collection of Quebecois art, including 25,000 works by locals. The museum is large and has various pavilions; I highly recommend that you take time to visit the outstanding Quebec section.

I enjoyed seeing the eccentric visions of contemporary artists like Jean-Paul Riopelle and Jean Paul Lemieux. The latter JP is responsible for “Les Masques” (above), a 1973 expressionist painting that caught my attention.

joan miro art exhibition retrospective

The MNBAQ had an entire exhibition dedicated to Spanish painter and sculptor Joan Miró. Dubbed “Miro in Mallorca: A Free Spirit,” this special gallery includes almost 200 works from his 1956 to 1981 era in Mallorca.

gaudi miro paintings art

What a joy to see so many of Miro’s works including sculptures, sketches, and even a rug. The exhibit is well-designed, with each room focusing on one of his styles, and including information in French and English. Above shows his Gaudi-influenced period that expresses Catalan pride.

joan miro exhibit gallery quebec city

My outfit matched Miro’s giant abstract paintings from his minimalist series. These black and white works attempt to capture “the void,” or all-encompassing emptiness, as expressed by Tibetan mystics.

joan miro primitivism japanese paintings

Much like me, Miro found inspiration in his travels worldwide. He loved visiting destinations with strange cultures and art, like Easter Island and the Yucatan.

On the left, this series drew upon his travels in Japan, where he was fascinated by Japanese ink calligraphy. The beast on the right is merges his artistic style with tribal primitavism.

Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec exhibits

Stars, birds, women… Miro’s energetic paintings are a wonder to behold in person. I hope you get a chance to see his touring works while they’re in Quebec City.

chez muffy restaurant brunch

And now, let’s eat! I consulted long-time locals for recommendations, and they delivered: I could easily imagine these Quebec City restaurants on an Anthony Bourdain TV show (RIP).

I’m a big brunch fan, so I was especially keen to spend a morning at Chez Muffy. The cozy restaurant takes a farm to fork approach, building seasonal menus around ingredients grown on their farm at Île d’Orléans.

(As a fan of Miffy the bunny, I also liked the name… Looks like she’s slurping most of my orange bourbon cocktail!)

chez muffy menu, brunch buffet

I’ve been to decadent buffets around the world, but the quality level has been hit and miss especially at hotels. In contrast, at Chez Muffy, everything was executed beautifully — my mouth waters as I remember the fresh spread of French specialties.

At the ordering station, you could get eggs Benedict with duck confit, pork belly, or smoked salmon. Everything is made fresh to order, and the Hollondaise sauce was on point, which is difficult to achieve.

quebec cheeses, quebecois food

I channeled George Costanza, and bit into these hunks of Quebecois cheese. The fine “fromages” come from local farms, and include blue and goat (chevre).

When you have brunch at Chez Muffy, you can indulge in as much as you’d like from the buffet. It’s the perfect chance to try a bite of something different, like truffle devilled eggs or black sausage with gooey cheese inside.

best buffet quebec city

True to Quebec, everything is written in French and English, and includes healthy bistro-style selections. As you can see from the colors of this beet salad, the dishes are house-made with produce straight from the farm.

 Chez Muffy, hotel Auberge Saint Antoine

Chez Muffy is located in Auberge St Antoine, a luxury hotel by the St Lawrence river. The restaurant sits in what was once a 19th century maritime warehouse; the classic wood beams and iron stairs hint at its former incarnation. In the lobby, you see artifacts dating back to the 1600s, which were discovered during an archaeological dig at this location.

Quebec Restaurant brunch

Pile up your plate with quiches, roast beef, salads, and charchuterie. From the a-la-carte menu, you can order coffee drinks or cocktails.

best pastries quebec city bakery breakfast

Be sure to sample items from the baked goods section. I don’t usually have much of a sweet tooth, but I couldn’t get enough of Chez Muffy’s unique pastries. (Kudos to the pastry chef here.)

Among my favorites were the scones (the texture and balance were perfect — Muffy made probably the best scones I ever had). Quebec is known for its strawberries, and the unusual strawberry tart with hemp was outstanding.

la planque olivier godbout chef

One evening, I had dinner at La Planque, and it rocked hard! I could see Anthony Bourdain living it up in this restaurant with a punk spirit.

La Planque is located in Limoilou, a hip neighborhood of Quebec City known for its bars and eateries. Try to get a seat at the kitchen counter, so you can watch head chef Olivier Godbout (on the right) and his young, tattooed colleagues do their thing.

la planque limoilou restaurant review decor

In 2018, La Planque underwent a renovation. The new interior is dark and  stylish, with a giant spider-like wood lamp over the bar. If you aren’t able to get a dinner reservation, you can still hang out at the circular counter, and sip on creative or classic cocktails.

(My wrap top is Valfre from Forest Ink, and skirt Charli Cohen.)

quebec amuse bouche, la planque dinner

Chef Olivier started us off with an amuse bouche with a mustard-based sauce. From this first bite, we know La Planque would live up to its reputation.

la planque hipster chefs tattoos

It was a delight to perch over the kitchen, and see the cooks work in tandem at different stations. Olivier chatted with us between plates, and explained that everyone takes part in all the tasks (from shucking oysters to clean-up), including himself.

dinner menu la planque quebec city

We whet our appetites with this eye-catching dish — just look at the variety of colors and textures. Olivier combined scallops from Nova Scotia with radish slices, squid ink mayo, and grapefruit pieces.

anthony bourdain quebec city restaurants food

If you’ve seen Bourdain’s episodes about Quebec City, you’ll know that the local chefs shine when it comes to meat and rich flavors. One of La Planque’s specialities is their foie gras terrine, masterfully paired with fruit chutney, honey apricot puree, and toasted brioche.

la planque dining hip limoilou

The name “La Planque” means a stash, or a place where you can keep warm and find shelter. In the basement, up to 10 people can rent out the private dining room, which doubles as a soundproof hideout.

quebec city chef olivier godbout

It was fun to chat with Olivier and see him in action. He’s focused and thoughtful about every dish he makes.

best quebec city restaurants food blog

Olivier insisted that we try the thinly-sliced asparagus. The green vegetable is currently in season, and he hand-picked each piece from a local supplier.

The special cocktails were also very Quebecois. One was made with the famous small strawberries, and served in a vintage glass. The other had duck fat whiskey, orange, scotch, ginger. 

la planque menu quebec fine dining

It’s a good thing we were hungry after a long day of sightseeing. Onward to the catch of the day, a white fish with pasta and delicate vegetable foam. On the right: cornmeal encrusted sweetbreads with king mushrooms, turnip puree, and thyme sauce.

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Put your trust in the staff for a wine pairing, and they’ll suggest a global variety to match each dish.

dessert la planque

Breakfast for dessert — why not? The granola came with house-made yogurt, white chocolate crumble, ice cream and berries.

famous top canadian chefs quebec city

Rock on, Olivier and his team. I’d take shelter at La Planque restaurant any time.

le voisin quebec city restaurant

Somehow, I had room for one fabulous last meal. I ate lunch at Le Voisin a casual “resto-buvette” that spotlights seasonal, Quebecois cooking. Loved the exposed brick walls, industrial elements and panes that let in natural light. 

(Here’s where to find my exact wrap top, maxi skirt, and platform shoes.)

quebecois lunch cafe le voisin

Le Voisin, which means neighbor, is a perfect spot for dining with friends (they serve brunch/lunch and dinner). This artful arrangement features poached eggs with salmon gravlax, blinis, tzaziki sauce, and capers.

quebec city artisan coffee lattes

The drinks were outstanding, especially the creamy lattes and ginger mimosa. The freshly-baked bread comes with apple butter, and I was delighted to see pomegranate seeds in my berry and apple fruit bowl.

le voisin menu food quebec city

I dove into this pan of gnocchi with tomato sauce, grilled vegetables, and two poached eggs — topped with shaved Parmesan. Le Voisin is a wonderful bistro with a neighborhood feeling, where you can find familiar dishes with a twist.

quebec city fashion blogger goth gothic

A final look at the Chateau Frontenac and my outfit of the day. (Wearing this bucket hat by Lack of Color, platform sandals Rocket Dog, ballerina wrap shirt Valfre from Forest Ink, skirt Charli Cohen.)

À bientôt, Quebec City… Anthony Bourdain was right about your formidable food scene. I’m sure I will be back soon to discover more of your restaurants.