Tag Archives: New York

I can’t recall the last time I went to the movies. Regardless, I sprang at the chance to attend a screening of Woody Allen’s new film, “Midnight in Paris,” with friends the other night.

What a wise decision.

I’ve long been a fan of Allen’s films — save for, “Annie Hall,” which I loathe with a rage that burns hotter than a thousand suns. (More on this in a moment.) His wit, his charm, his outlook on life; I adore them all.

His latest offering, in which Owen Wilson more than capably stands in for Allen himself, is a real gem, and a true return to form for the septuagenarian auteur.

Aside from the fact it features an extraordinary cast, many of whom ape artists and other literary icons from the 20th century (Adrien Brody’s take on Salvador Dalí is hilarious; Alison Pil is a riot as Zelda Fitzgerald; and, Corey Stoll’s Ernest Hemingway is a scene-stealer), it puts Paris, itself, centre stage. And for that alone, I absolutely loved this film.

I fell madly in love with Paris at about this time last summer. And Allen manages to capture the magic, the mystery, the magnificence of the city in every shot, every scene. (A skill he has used to great effect when documenting New York, across the pond.) So much so, in fact, that when my friends and I were leaving the theatre, we experienced genuine culture shock when we spilled out of the Towne theatre onto the mean streets of Winnipeg’s Notre Dame Avenue — a far cry from the Notre Dame of Paris, I assure you!

Yes, I was so absorbed by Paris — of today, of the 20s, of La Belle Époque — I was momentarily disoriented by the crumbling sidewalks, empty streets, neglected façades of my hometown. For a brief second, I was at home in Paris, a foreigner in Winnipeg.

And it was that fleeting feeling that I think best captures why I loved this film so much.

Of course, I cannot say the same about Annie Hall — neither the film nor the character, herself, played painfully by Diane Keaton. (Those hats, those pants, that simpering manner. Gag me.) I suppose had I seen the film when it was first released, I might be more sympathetic. I did not, and so cannot be. I find it grating, contrived, and altogether unbearable. Thankfully, “Midnight in Paris,” is none of those things.

I highly recommend Allen’s latest film. It’s a marvellous summer treat, and a pitch-perfect postcard for the city that gave it its name.


There was a time in my life, not so long ago, when I would have seized the opportunity an unexpected long weekend presents to travel. I’d fly out on the Friday night, fly back on the Monday afternoon. Easy.

When I was living in Ottawa, I was able to indulge my jet-setting urges fairly frequently. After all, Ottawa’s proximity (and direct flights) to so many fantastic destinations — Montreal, New York, DC, Chicago — made it relatively painless. Better still, I’d become expert at playing off my two travel rewards programs (Air Canada’s Aeroplan and RBC’s Avion) against each other to my maximum benefit.

But that was then.

Despite having just such a long weekend this weekend, I’ll be staying put. My jet-setting days are over.

Granted, for a brief moment earlier this fall, I was gearing up to make fairly regular trips to Toronto. Air Canada was even offering a student pass that allowed individuals to make six trips to a specific destination. It couldn’t have been more perfect. But things change. Sometimes in an instant. And so, I’m grounded. Indefinitely.

I suppose it’s for the best. As I revealed earlier this month, I’m a student again. I might as well start living like one.

Still, I’m comforted by my fond memories of those many weekend excursions. Each one was an adventure, a marvel, a treat; always to see friends, eat well, laugh lots and soak up the many delights of whatever city I happened to be visiting.

But of all the weekend excursions I made during my extravagant years in Ottawa, I’m proudest of the weekend I spent in London. (England, not Ontario.)

It was the May Long Weekend of 2009. A dear friend of mine was celebrating his birthday around that time and I thought it might be fun to wish him a happy one in person. So, on that fateful Friday morning, I went to work with my weekend duffel and then headed straight to the airport that afternoon. By the next morning, I was eating breakfast in my friend’s kitchen, steps from London’s Pimlico tube station. Amazing.

Anyway, as I said, that was then.

Will I have more amazing weekends in the years ahead? Will I ever again be able to pick up and fly away at a moment’s notice?

Fingers crossed…

The oysters.

I’ll miss those lowly bi-valves, lovingly shucked and plated at one of Ottawa’s best restaurants, The Whalesbone. And I’ll miss their food. And their service. And those LPs. And the Sailor Jerry — that sweet, spicy elixir.

In the years I’ve been in Ottawa, this unassuming resto-bar at the corner of Bank and Gladstone has become my watering hole of choice, my go-to destination for a good time, my satellite office.

My friend Rachelle has already heaped the praise on the Whalesbone and its annual Oyster Fest that the establishment deserves, so I won’t belabour the point; but, it cannot be said enough: Ottawa’s Whalesbone Oyster House is awesome.

And when I Ieave Ottawa, I know I’ll miss the place and its kick-ass staff, many of whom I consider friends.

I know what it seems like: guy befriends staff at drinking establishment: how sad.

Not so.

Ask any urban Ottawan with half a brain and an iota of taste what they’d say is the coolest, tastiest place in town and they’ll say, “the Whalesbone.”

So, yeah, one thing I’ll miss about Ottawa is its extraordinary oyster bar.

Of course, I’ll also miss the friends I’ve made. And the four distinct seasons in this part of the country. And being so close to Montreal, and New York City and Washington, DC. (I can live with being a little father away from Toronto.)

But distance won’t come between me and my friends; nor will it prevent me from visiting DC, NYC or Montreal. (Better still, I’ll be closer to my favourite US city, Chicago.)  Distance will, however, make it more difficult to enjoy a plate of oysters and a pint of Steamwhistle.