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Sparks Street

Indulge: Five Luxury Items that are Worth the Splurge

Shopping

Treat yourself to a day of indulgence in the nation's capital.

You work hard, it’s time to enjoy yourself! From small splurges to big-ticket items, we’ve highlighted five luxury items that — bonus — also make great souvenirs from your trip to Ottawa.

ROAD TO RELAXATION
Nothing says luxury like taking time for yourself (why is that?). In this day and age of smartphones, laptops, and nonstop digital communication, there is no greater feeling than turning off and tuning out to curl up with a magazine. The glossy pages, beautiful photographs, and scintillating stories offer an escape — if only for a little while. Whether you’re reading fodder for the mind or guilty pleasure rags, this act (and its inexpensive price) is one of life’s simplest pleasures. While in Ottawa, a trip to Mags & Fags on Elgin Street is a must. In business for 30 years, this shop carries 4,000 magazine titles that range from obscure and special interest to mainstream favourites. 254 Elgin St., 613-233-9651.

koko chocolates: delicious, rich, and local, too!

GO GOURMET
Local chocolatier Jen Winter has created quite a reputation for her gourmet sweets, koko chocolates. A perfectly grown-up treat that won’t break the bank, her tasty truffles have creamy ganache centres and are dipped or molded in premium Belgian chocolate. Find fine flavours such as Thai Chili, Triple Chocolate, Margarita, Passion Fruit, and more, as well as seasonal offerings. Retails for about $5.25-$6.50 per 3-piece sleeve. Available at The Candy Store, 350 Richmond Rd. in Westboro, and several other locations in Ottawa.
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Hot Shopping: Glamorous (and Affordable!) Jewellery from True Bijoux

This pretty piece embodies two current trends: rock and roll chic and vintage-inspired.

You can’t go wrong with jewellery at the holidays, whether it’s for your mom, your sister, or your lady friend. And if it’s eye-catching bling you’re after, then True Bijoux is the way to go. This boutique offers affordable, unique, and glamorous pieces that will fit the bill, no matter who you’re shopping for (especially if you’re treating yourself!). And the store offers all the must-haves for this season: rock and roll chic, bold statement jewellery that’s meant to be remembered, heirloom and vintage-inspired pieces, plus handmade items from the shop’s own studio. (We’re loving this ebony and crystal bracelet, $125.) 206 Sparks St., 613-232-2229.

10 Things to Do for $10 or Less

Who says you have to break the bank to have fun? Not us, that’s for sure! Here are just a few activities you can do in Ottawa on the cheap.
By Misa Kobayashi

The ByWard Market. Photo credit: OTCA.

1) Outdoor markets: $0-$10
This city has an awesome selection of farmers’ markets from which to score baked goods, fresh produce, flowers, jewellery — you name it. Located in the heart of downtown, the historic ByWard Market is a must for its bustling shops and vendors. Another top pick is the Ottawa Farmers’ Market on Sundays in the Glebe neighbourhood. We love the many restaurants that set up shop in the outdoor food court. See www.byward-market.com or www.ottawafarmersmarket.ca.

2) Downtown art galleries: Free
Check out a contemporary art exhibit at the City Hall Gallery, Karsh-Masson Gallery, or Ottawa Art Gallery, all of which are located within walking distance of each other in the downtown core. Even better? All offer either free admission or pay-what-you-can. See the gallery listings for more info.

3) Splash pads: Free
Beat the heat on a hot day with your kiddies at one of the city’s splash pads. Our favourite is Brewer Park (100 Brewer Way), for its excellent picnic spots, sprinklers, mini water slide, and three different play structures. A list of splash pads can be found at www.ottawa.ca.

Buskerfest on Sparks Street.

4) International Busker Festival: Pay-what-you-can
This annual fest lights up Sparks Street Mall from July 28 to Aug. 1, when performers from around the world strut their stuff. Enjoy daily shows that captivate and delight with performances that are all about unusual — and often daring — talents. See www.sparksstreetmall.com.

5) Lunch at Di Rienzo: $5-$10
This authentic grocery and deli, located in Little Italy, is part corner store, part sandwich shop. Locals arrive in droves at lunchtime, so there’s often a line-up out the door. Choose your bread, your toppings, and your meat, and grab a seat at the park across the street, or take a stroll through the charming neighbourhood. 111 Beech St., 613-729-4037. (more…)

Hot Attraction: Sparks Street Mall

Sparks Street Mall. Photo credit: Ottawa Tourism.

With Sparks Street Mall getting extra attention with the International Chicken and Rib Cook-Off (taking place now until June 26), it’s time to give this unique outdoor mall its due. Just a block away from Parliament Hill, Sparks Street Mall is a bustling pedestrian haven. With boutiques, patio cafés, and restaurants, the five-block promenade has something for everyone. Sip a local brew on a patio and enjoy the predominant public art displays, or find that unique treasure on a shopping expedition. Keep your schedule open to make a trip here during the International Busker Festival from July 28 to Aug. 1.

Weekend Roundup: Best Bets for June 24 to 26

The International Chicken and Rib Cook-Off on Sparks Street.

Friday, June 24
Meat lovers, prepare yourselves: The International Chicken and Rib Cook-Off is back for another year at Sparks Street Mall. Running June 22 to 26, this all out meat festival serves up chicken, pulled pork sandwiches, and ribs, all slathered in an array of tasty, tangy sauces. Crowds descend on the mall at lunch time (beckoned by the smell), so head on over (with napkins in hand) for lunch, dinner, or just a snack. Teams from Canada and the United States compete for the top rank of best rib choice, best rib sauce, best chicken choice, and best chicken sauce.

Saturday, June 25
Just when you thought Ottawa couldn’t get any more festivals, FeverFest was born. This brand new independent music festival in Old Ottawa South will showcase a diverse crop of immensely talented Ottawa musicians. Headlining the event is the Goodluck Assembly, and you can also expect the “2009 Online World Beatboxing Champion” Julia Dales (who’s performed for Ellen Degeneres), The Murder Plans, the White Wires, ACRES, Monobrow, Brendan Flynn and the Terrible Liars, and Winchester Warm.

JF Robitaille plays the Raw Sugar Café.

In advance of JF Robitaille‘s debut LP Calendar (which comes out July 5), the Montreal singer/songwriter’s making the rounds at stages in Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa. He performs tonight at Raw Sugar Café. His style is perfect coffee house music — straddling the line between sweet and melancholy, folk and pop — which has earned him supporting sets for names such as Julie Doiron, The Dears, and Sean Lennon.

The Once Upon a Slam Finals are tonight, with the top eight story slammers from the year competing for the crown and to be named the first-ever Ottawa story slam Grand Champion. For those unfamiliar with “slams,” they are open sign-up competitions where the performers tell a narrative within a certain time limit (no reading from a paper!), and are scored by members of the audience. Ottawa’s monthly story slam series is held the fourth Friday of every month at the Mercury Lounge, and it all comes down to tonight when the top story slammers go head to head. (more…)

Hot Dining: The Neighbourhood Pub

Haddock sandwich from D'Arcy McGee's.

Head over for a pint and some grub at D’Arcy McGee’s. But make no mistake: this isn’t a pub where food is an afterthought. Here, the thinking is to elevate people’s perceptions of pub food with fresh, premium offerings. Check out their new menu, which includes, among other things, a Guinness burger, a haddock sandwich with lobster, and shepherd’s pie made in-house. And if you love your brews, this eatery brings in four seasonal drafts, many of which are exclusive to their pubs. Live music several nights a week and a great patio round out the experience at the downtown location.
44 Sparks St., 613-230-4433, plus four other Ottawa locations.

Hot Shopping: Fashionable Men’s Clothing at Morgante Menswear

Fashions from the BOSS Black collection. Photo courtesy of Hugo Boss.

Dapper men love the European fashions at Morgante Menswear. Offering fine service – and equally fine clothes – for more than 30 years, this boutique is for gentlemen who dress to the nines. Collections include the latest from Hugo Boss (featured), Canali, Z Zegna, Just Cavalli, and more. It’s a one-stop-shop that will get you outfitted from top to bottom, whether it’s for an important meeting or a night on the town. 141 Sparks St., 613-234-2232.