Bonjour, Montreal – Blue Collar Red Lipstick

I loved visiting Montréal (and my bestie) so much last year, I decided to make it a family affair this year, so we took the kids and flew out for a week’s adventure in la belle province. We were also there to celebrate my bestie’s convocation (as valedictorian!) from McGill University. We all had a wonderful time catching up, exploring, and enjoying sights, the museums, the cafes and restaurants, the weather. It was a blast! My highlights were Old Port, Verdun beach (such a lovely surprise), St. Joseph’s Oratory, and all the flowers and murals we saw on our adventures. And, of course, watching my friend walk across the stage and give her speech to the entire Faculty of Arts graduating class of 2024.

And I did it all out of a carry-on! Seven days, one small suitcase*? Truly, my evolution as a savvy travel-packer is complete. While I did travel to Montreal before with just carry-on, I must point out that it was for only five days. Two extra days might not seem like a lot but, trust me, they are. Plus, this time, I also took a smaller tote than before as my personal item. And half of my carry-on was taken up by a gift I was bringing for my bestie. I am telling you! I did good.

My strategy was the same as last year, but refined in execution. I started, as before, with the footwear. Montreal is a destination that involves a lot of walking, so I knew I needed something very comfortable. I packed a pair of Birkenstocks as a back-up, but I wanted something a touch more elegant so I took a calculated risk with a pair of Sorel sandals I recently thrifted. They are black and white and have a somewhat sporty vibe, so that set the tone for the rest of my clothing choices. I decided to stick to a mostly black, white and blue theme, and go with a more streetwear kind of vibe as opposed to my more boho or preppy looks — again, suited to my primary footwear option. I did also pack a very light pair of dressier sandals, but since the sole of it wasn’t cushioned, I did not want to rely on it too much; I mostly took it because I knew I needed one dressy outfit to celebrate my bestie’s McGill convocation.

I wore my heaviest clothes on the plane, natch: my oversized denim jacket, white tee, sweatshirt and sweatpants, and sneakers.

I included the sweatshirt at the last minute, as the weather forecast raised some questions. I picked one that could be mixed and matched with at least 2 other main pieces (the polka dot skirt and the black dress). The jacket was chosen because I know it would go with pretty much anything else, in the event I needed a topper every day. As it turned out, the sweatshirt was entirely de trop as the weather was much warmer than anticipated; even on the plane, it was too hot. The jacket, on the other hand, was the perfect choice. I was able to wear it most days comfortably, thus cutting down the need to slather my arms in sunscreen.

As for the rest, here is what I packed: 2 skirts, 2 dresses, 1 vest, 1 black cardigan, 1 black turtleneck, 2 white tees, 1 graphic tee. The turtleneck and cardigan were hedges against cooler weather; I didn’t end up wearing the former at all, and only wore the cardigan once, when we went to the oratory and I needed something to cover my arms (but not too bulky). You may think 3 white tees (in total) plus a graphic tee would be overkill, but most of my outfits were planned around wearing a white tee, and I didn’t want to have to worry about laundry during the trip. They didn’t take up a lot of room, so it was fine.

For all that, I ended up with some pretty fun outfits even though my goal was practicality not style.

I know these photos look like they were snapped with a potato, but such are the hazards of on-the-go photo shoots. It was so sunny in Montreal that finding a good spot to take pics proved extremely challenging, especially since I had about 30 seconds each day to do it. But I hope you get the general idea. This was, believe it or not, one of my white tees (not a strange grey one). I wore my denim jacket over this, and it was a good topper choice for the weather that day. The sandals proved to be suuuper comfortable too.

This outfit also turned out quite well. However, after 2 days and tens of thousands of steps, the sandals started to really bite into my ankle bones. I tried using bandaids to relieve the pain, but to no avail. This was a real bummer as they were otherwise perfect for walking. I’m hoping that, once my ankle bones stop hurting, I’ll be able to wear these again for shorter periods of time.

This was a bit of an improvised outfit, as we ended up with a last-minute itinerary made up of rather different activities. We hit up Verdun beach in the morning, which meant I needed something that could easily go over my swimsuit; from the beach, we headed to the Oratory, which meant that I had to look presentable and also have my shoulders and knees covered. This outfit ended up working fine. I switched to my Birks, not just for the comfort but also because they’re plastic and, thus, good choices for beach footwear; being black, they can almost pass for regular sandals.

After all that, I needed a change of clothes for dinner and stroll around town. I switched to my Chie Mihara sandals for this, and was pleasantly surprised that, despite the flat sole, they were very comfortable for walking a longer distance.

By the point, the weather had become quite hot, so I only wore the jacket for a little bit. The black top underneath is sleeveless, which helped to keep me well ventilated. The sandals continued to serve me well; very comfortable and also versatile. Not winning any style wars here, but such is the compromise of traveling light and not paying extra fees to Air Canada.

This was the outfit I wore for my bestie’s convocation, and it was a good choice for both the occasion and the weather. A statement belt can do a lot of heavy lifting, and takes up very little room in one’s luggage. Duly noted for future reference.

À la prochaine, Montréal!

* I feel compelled to clarify that each of my family members had their own carry-on. No, I did not attempt to dress 4 people for 7 days out of one bag. There are limits to my packing abilities, friends, and I do not possess Mary Poppins’ luggage.

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