Saturday, March 7, 2009

Vacation (Part 4 of 5)

A couple of days ago I posted a description of our recent vacation. It was all true, but it left a few things out, namely all the embarrassing stuff.

Here's another report on what really happened:


The trim black man with graying hair and a radiant smile, leaped from his car and went plunging into the throngs of tourists at the Byward Market in Ottawa. On his way back home after a very successful business trip, he wanted to pick up a couple of maple leaf shaped Canadian sugar cookies for his daughters.

The tourists parted in astonishment and delight as he passed, with the secret service and every news photographer currently stationed in Ottawa trailing after him. Everything President Obama did on his first International visit would make the news, but this was icing on the cake. Or at least on the sugar cookie. The vendor he choose normally sold 100 cookies a day to the tourists. After Obama's visit that number went up to 6000.

Obama was lucky he only chose to shop for sugar cookies instead of choosing the Market for breakfast, as Linda and I had discovered the previous summer.

Innocently enough, on our first morning in Ottawa we had gone out to the Byward Market for breakfast. The market is Canada's oldest continuously operating farmers' market and was only two blocks from our Hotel.

Amid the open air stalls filled with fresh produce, abundant crafts and flowers are a multitude of restaurants and specialty food stores that have sprouted around the market area, making this neighbourhood one of the liveliest in Ottawa. A four block area around the market provides the most dense concentration of eating places, bars and nightclubs in the National Capital Region. It has a very rich nightlife.

And has some interesting doings in the early morning light as well.

We were seated in the courtyard of the Aulde Dublaner Restaurant eating a massive "Irish Breakfast" and watching the passing parade. I was struck by how many people here were still smoking and how many women had indulged in extensive tattooing.

I was also struck by how many people were wearing red t-shirts and running by us in pairs. They were all carrying cell phones and stopping at a tented enclosure just down the street. Obviously some kind of modern scavenger hunt was going on.

After getting new instructions at the tent, some of the couples went racing off into the distance. Some asked passersby to video tape them doing seven successive leap frogs. Others talked passersby into singing "I'm a Little Tea Pot", complete with actions, for the camera.

It was making for an interesting breakfast.

Until one of the couples came running up to us to ask Linda if the woman could share her breakfast. They had to video tape someone giving them food to eat. Linda turned her plate to offer a home fry, but the woman grabbed her melon slice and ate it for the camera. Then the man asked the other diners if any of the women had a tattoo in a naughty place they could video or if any man had a pair of boxer shorts with hearts on them?

The other diners were finding all of this amusing but none offered their services and the scavenger hunters went racing off into the market throng looking for other victims.

Later that afternoon Linda and I were having our second outdoor meal of the day on the patio at the Museum Of Civilization, which also turned out to be the finish line for the Scavenger hunt.

Weary couples would come staggering past our table, barely able to take their next step, putting on a triumphant sprint only as they rounded the corner and came into view of the finish line where a great cheer would go up as they were spotted.

We learned later that over 400 couples had registered for the race.

Linda got no recognition for sacrificing her melon, but the pleasure of knowing somewhere, some weary judge was going to have to watch all 400 of those videos and see her astonished face as the girl choose not her home fry but her melon.

It was probably better for her.

But I wonder, if it had been President Obama eating breakfast, would she still have chosen his mellon?