The images and stories from President Obama’s recent trip to Ottawa brought back many fond memories. When I was a speechwriter at an embassy there (for six months while waiting for my graduate school to begin) I used to have lunch on the lawn at Parliament Hill and the Byward Market was a usual destination for its cafes and boutiques.
The president visited the Market building, which houses numerous artisans’ creations: pottery, hand-stitched shoes, maple sugar candy, and, yes, beaver tails (in a little log cabin canteen at one end). I’d often stop for a beaver tail after skating the length of the Rideau Canal.
The Market in its larger sense (like, say, the Village) had a boho mix of European domestic goods (gorgeous laces for windows at Domus; fab pots and pans looong before Williams Sonoma became a major clearinghouse); cafes (Deluxe had bistro food above, a cool dance club below); record shops (great 12-inch British imports from New Order, for instance); and fashion (I once bought a silk-feather double-v-neck evening pullover that was, despite this description, quite chic; I also found my Canadian version of Alaia at the Market).
A favorite café was Clair de lune, where I had my farewell lunch with two girlfriends, as I prepared to leave for the United States. I don’t recall the main course, but I do remember the profiteroles for dessert.
After dancing till midnight or so below Deluxe, we’d trot over the bridge to Hull, Quebec, where the dance clubs stayed open till 3:00 a.m. And for breakfast, it was back to the Market where we’d find a bistro with long tables that served café au lait dans un bowl. Or if we were feeling elegant, brunch at the glass rotunda restaurant at the National Gallery overlooking the cliffs and river behind Parliament.
Then to prepare for the next evening, I’d take a 15-mile-or-so run on the canal, through the Glebe, through the experimental farm, through Carleton University, and down the other side of the canal to the trail on the river nestled in the side of those cliffs.
Dance. Eat. Run. Repeat.
That would be the title of my Ottawa memoir. And oh—there was an undergraduate degree in there somewhere, among the grooves of the Pet Shop Boys and Baltimora.