Annie McEwen is the best. She is currently studying at Oxford University in the United Kingdom…and we miss her every day.
This will be the first December in eight years that I haven’t spent at least part of in Ottawa. For all the quaint delights of Oxford at Christmas, (including mince pies, mulled wine and boys’ choirs) I miss Christmas shopping in Ottawa. Part of what I love about the Capital is that you can live very centrally and never find a good reason to drive to the ‘burbs to visit a big box store, or lose all sanity to the incessant Christmas tunes blasted through the mall.
To me, Christmas shopping is just as much about popping in and out of interesting little boutiques and catching up with friends over an egg nog latte and gingerbread, as it is about finding the perfect little something for someone you love. The gift giving tradition in my family is about finding something thoughtful and fun rather than spending serious cash or fulfilling a practical wish list. The thrill is in the hunt and the look on their face when they open it, rather than the stress of finding that particular cake pan my sister emailed me about. Which gets me back to why I love weekends in December poking around my favourite parts of Ottawa. Perhaps the lists below contain nothing new to the Ottawa-saavy, but hopefully they’ll inspire you to get out there with a smile, rather than the dread and stress that fills the malls for many.
I should warn you, these lists are terribly incomplete. Please post comments with your favourite Christmas shops around town to help point the hopeless to holiday happiness!
Part I – The Glebe
A classic classy Ottawa shopping destination if there ever was one. My highlights of the Glebe (North to South):
Wallack’s – I could spend hours in here followed by days playing with all the fun art-supplies I’ve purchased. Some of my best gift ideas have been born in this shop, including the “only-homemade-gifts-year” when my sister and I decorated all sorts of ceramics for our family using an easy kit purchased at Wallack’s. They’ve got a wide range of art supplies and gift ideas for everyone from your five-year-old niece to the closeted acrylic painter (there’s more of those than you’d think!).
Glebe Emporium – A Glebe institution. Perfect for those reliable kitchen gadget gifts and full of cheap stocking stuffers (pickle-grabber or egg cup, anyone?). Giving it a fair run for its money and some interesting alternatives is JB Adams, near Bank and Third.
Home Hardware - Don’t overlook this Canadian mainstay with an urban storefront, it’s a treasure trove of practical and oddball things for your Dad, gardeners, or new homeowners. It also has the decorating and wrapping supplies you might otherwise trek to a big box for.
Magpie Jewellery – Much more fun than the over-run outlet in the Rideau Centre, if you’ve got a girl on your list, chances are you’ll find something cute in here that will fit the bill, and not blow the budget.
Nicastro’s – perhaps an odd pick for a Christmas shopping outing, but if you have a foodie on your list, this is the place to source some ingredients for a beautiful hamper or pick up some gourmet cheeses and olives for an evening of board games with friends.
Mrs. Tiggy Winkles – a location of a bigger chain, again a great place for stocking-stuffers, or picking up a board game or puzzle to bring the family and friends together over something more memorable than a Hollywood blockbuster. Upstairs is the more adult-oriented Lost Marbles, so don’t forget to make it up there!
The Papery – another Glebe institution, and my shopping trip to the Glebe would not be complete without at least stopping in to laugh at a few clever cards. I’m also a snail-mail fiend and tend to nudgingly give friends stationary in the hopes they’ll pick it up and send me a letter when I’m far away (hint-hint).
Food and Drink: No shopping trip is complete without a few hundred calories to keep you going. And the Glebe is overrun with places to fuel up, and I know everyone has their pick. A few of my favourites: grabbing a table behind the foggy glass at Morala’s which has the best selection of homemade cookies I’ve ever seen (and great waffles on the weekend) the French Baker for an illy coffee and croissant; the Wild Oat for some tasty dhal if you want some warm, healthy sustenance; lastly, Kettleman’s Bagel is never a bad choice.
Where are you doing your holiday shopping?