Wednesday, August 24, 2011
17 Things I Love About Ottawa
There are so many things I love about Ottawa in general: its thriving literary scene, of course; parts of town such as Chinatown and Little Italy, the excellent musicians, its walkability, and most of all its sense of community. I got to experience the strength and support of that community in November, 2009 when I almost lost my life to a strange combination of pneumonia and full body sepsis. So many people came together to help Charles and me when I was in the hospital and to show their concern. The medical staff at the Ottawa General Hospital also were amazing. So yes, I'm a fierce defender of Ottawa and all it offers. Here are a few specific things that I love about Ottawa.
Perfection, Satisfaction, Promise, 167 Laurier Avenue West. It's a wee spot beside the Royal Oak II and it's where I like to go after doing research in the Morisset Library at the University of Ottawa. My favourite meal is the steamed vegetables with sweet potato and tahini mayo, washed down with kombucha.
The Ottawa Small Press Book Fair, Jack Purcell Centre, in June and November: my first introduction to any kind of small press activity back in the early aughts, this was an eye opener. You don't hear about things like this in mainstream newspapers, alas. This is where I discovered the chapbook, a flexibile and wonderful form that allows anyone to publish anything in a variety of ways. The chapbook is the fuck you of publishing. It can be very cheap to produce and self-published. The Ottawa fair is special because it is small. There's time to talk to fellow small pressers and socialize after at a local pub. It is also laid back. I've discovered many writers and presses I would never have heard about through the fair.
Byward Market courtyard-in the summer time you will find me perched on a bench with a brown bag full of cherries and a soy latte from Planet Coffee and a couple of molasses cookies for Charles. I love people watching in general and this is a great spot to do so.
Sushi 88, 690 B Somerset W., I go there with friends for lunch, or sometimes on my own. I especially love the inari, which I can rarely find in Ottawa. The atmosphere is relaxed, the service excellent, and it's often quiet before the lunch rush.
The secret gardens of downtown Ottawa-Ottawa is very green with plants and trees everywhere, particularly downtown. If you don't believe me, next time you take a plane, take a look. It's a sea of green. And for downtown, it's amazing. Every season yields gorgeous flowers from crocuses and tulips to peonies and poppies. Therre are also a number of community gardens in my neighbourhood.
The Rideau River Nature Trail behind St. Paul's University. I love the area known as Old Ottawa East with its tiny new agey enclave with Singing Pebble Books, the Green Door and a few others. A walk along the river leads to the Hurdman Transitway Station. It's quiet, you can hear a lot of birds and the view is beautiful.
Strathcona Park in Sandy Hill. Years ago I used to be a regular of the Odyssey Theatre under the Stars and later a Mid-Summer Night's Tree where a bunch of poets would meet to read the work of the greats. It's not a giant park, but the trees are old and big and there are red-winged blackbirds that congregate on the side of the river. (And another spot for grand old trees is the Central Experimental Farm's Arboretum.)
Funk Your Junk, 110 Parent St. near the Byward Market offers recycled clothing, bags that use old album covers or Frito bags, buttons, notebooks made from Timbits boxes, shoes and treasures.
Mags 'N Fags, 254 Elgin St. I love magazines, still, in this age of e-everything, I prefer to hold a magazine in my hands and flip through it. Mags 'N Fags has an extensive collection of literary magazines, more than any other book store in the city.
Venus Envy, 320 Lisgar St., the best sex store in Ottawa with the most approachable and friendly staff. And there's a wall of dildos too. A great selection of books both fiction and reference, videos, a full range of vibrators, massage oils and lubes plus workshops and readings. It's the epicentre of sex positivity in Ottawa.
the Manx Pub, 370 Elgin St. a bar in Ottawa without big screen tvs? I'm in heaven. It's a cozy spot with copper table tops and red velvety seats, an excellent whiskey list, beer and food. Not only that but it is the home of the Plan '99 Reading Series hosted by local poet and playwright David O'Meara. This series takes place from fall to early spring and has hosted many fine writers from all over Canada.
the Ottawa Public Library, Main Branch - I take care of much of my fiction needs here. It saves me from going bankrupt to support my reading addiction. It is close to my home, it is easy to take books out and to renew them on line and the atmosphere is friendly. I have found some pretty obscure titles, such as books by members of Mexico's 21st Century Crack Movement. I know everyone's saying we need a bigger main branch, and I'm not disagreeing, but I still love the library.
Wild Oat Bakery Cafe and Catering, 871 Bank St., in the Glebe. They have rich, strong and tasty coffee and their lavender scones are to die for.
Stubbe Chocolates, 275 Dalhousie. I love their truffles and their spicy hot chocolate.
le Moulin de Provence, Byward Market Building- so many delicious French pastries, especially the eclairs. and it's open on Xmas Day!
The O-Train-oh, I know, it isn't enough and we need more, etc, etc, but I enjoy it and find it a great way to get to Carleton University. Sometimes I have just gotten on and rode it back and forth, especially in winter when icicles are hanging from the rock.
Pub Italia, 434 1/2 Preston St., love their mussels washed down with a bottle of Mort Subite. It's a whimsical pub with crazy stuff all over the place on the walls and a wonderfully quiet abbey where you can have a meal and a drink in peace.
Ottawa winters are my favourite season and my favourite version of winter. This city looks beautiful in winter with the canal and ice sculptures, all our green space covered in snow. As someone who lives in an apartment and doesn't own a car, the winter is not a laborious time for me, but rather joyful and unpredictable. Much of my creative work is done in the winter. Take a walk along Sussex Drive on a winter evening and marvel at the sparkly window displays while the snow falls on your mittens. It's beautiful. And don't forget the Beavertails and hot chocolate.
[photo by Charles Earl]