Thursday, February 26, 2009

To Market, To Market . . .

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.

8 comments:

K.Line said...

What a lovely reminiscence! Seems almost like you miss it :-)

miss cavendish said...

Only when I think about it, so I appreciate the recent media focus on my old haunts . . .

materfamilias said...

This year's ACCUTE conference is at Ottawa -- maybe you should visit?!
I have fond memories of Ottawa as well -- Pater did a stint there for several years a few years back, so we kept an apt. there and flipped coins on who'd commute for a visit -- those bols of cafe au lait at the Market are the best ever and I love sipping mine, eating a pain au sucre and listening to a family at a nearby table switch effortlessly between French and English. There's a booth in the market that sells Indian food -- butter chicken with the best naan I've ever had. Also like The Ritz on Elgin, almost anything in The Glebe, walking along the canal and ballet at the NAC. I'm looking forward to checking it all out again in May. . . maybe you should come!

miss cavendish said...

Oh--I used to live right across from the Canal Ritz (on the Driveway at Something Street). Loved the caesar salad and zucchotto! I'd literally walk across the Driveway and put on my skates for the trek to university . . .

Mary-Laure said...

This makes me want to visit Ottawa, you make it sound heavenly!

I interned as a speech writer at the French embassy in Tokyo some years ago and just loved writing speeches, it's so stimulating.

Imelda Matt - The Despotic Queen of Shoes said...

Dance. Eat. Run. Repeat. I'd read that.

Sal said...

It sounds positively magical.

enc said...

Lovely.