Laura Byrne Paquet

Indulging My Inner Diva

Published in The Ottawa Citizen

What did you do?
Spent a decadent day primping, noshing and shopping in the Byward Market.

I’d had just about enough of grey November skies. Also, I wanted to test my diva skills.

Diva skills?
I wanted to see if I could be as achingly hip and trendy as Carrie Bradshaw and her pals on “Sex in the City.”

You do realize that show ended in 2004?
Well, yeah. I didn’t say I was hip and trendy.

So what was your first self-indulgent stop?
Since I’d booked a hair appointment for later in the morning, I dropped by Globe Mags and Cigars (57 William Street, 613-241-7274) to pick up a copy of InStyle to peruse the celebrity ’dos.

Did it work?
Well, yes and no. The good news is, I found a cut I liked. The bad news is, I found it on Jessica Simpson.

How did you drown your sorrows?
I went to the French Baker (119 Murray Street, 613-789-7941) for a late-morning croissant and tea. The delish croissant was so buttery I probably could have used it to fry eggs. Even though it cost $1.50, it was worth every decadent cent.

Then what?
Off to the lovely York Street Spa (11 York Street, 613-562-2121) to get my overgrown locks chopped. With a sleek new blunt cut, I felt ready to face the world.

So then did you hit the boutiques?
Not yet. That croissant was wearing off, so I decided to treat myself to a stylish lunch at Luxe Bistro (41 York Street, 613-241-8805). Good thing I had a magazine—the kitchen was short-staffed, so it took almost 45 minutes for my tasty club sandwich to arrive. In the interim, I learned that reading almost an entire issue of InStyle in one sitting is a bit like eating all your Halloween candy at once—it seems fun at the time but eventually makes you feel ill. On the bright side, the waitress offered us patient singletons dining at the bar a free glass of wine to compensate for the slow kitchen.

Thus fortified, where did you head next?
My first stop was William Street, where I browsed the aromatic aisles at Lush Cosmetics (43 William Street, 613-241-5874) for spicy, fruity soaps and bath bombs. A few doors down I discovered Minx Stream (51 William Street, 613-789-3977), where Carrie Bradshaw would shop if she were making real freelance wages instead of Hollywood ones. Inexpensive accessories there include pashminas, beaded purses, velour shrugs and rhinestone tiaras. Across the street in the Byward Market Building, I tried on tartan newsboy caps, velvet cloches and other fun hats at Eclection (613-789-7288).

Any other good spots for unique clothes and accessories?
Don’t miss Frou Frou (11A William Street, 613-562-4581) for wild items ranging from gorgeously embroidered jeans to Celeste Stein footless tights emblazoned with winged cats. I was seriously considering a strapless red-and-black polka dot dress, complete with crinoline, until a very non-diva thought occurred to me: Where, in all honesty, would I wear it?

Carrie Bradshaw wore a pink tutu in “Sex and the City’s” opening credits.
Yeah, and didn’t she get splashed by a bus? I rest my case.

Stop being so fuddy-duddy! Where else can I find cool diva-wear?
Head to the west side of Dalhousie Street between St. Patrick Street and Guigues Avenue to peruse Ottawa’s small version of SoHo. Four stores—Amuse (246 Dalhousie Street, 613-562-2229), Workshop Boutique (242 ½ Dalhousie Street, 613-789-5534), Paper Bag Junkies (242 Dalhousie 613-288-2110) and Victoire (238 Dalhousie Street, 613-321-1590)—sell clothes and accessories by independent or up-and-coming designers. Check out the funky purses by Boulder-based Maruca at Amuse and the fabric-covered buttons by Future Cougar at Workshop.

That stuff is cool, but, um, it’s aimed at people a bit younger and more rave-savvy than I. If I’m over 30 and work in an office, do I have to give up my diva dreams?
Not at all. Drop in to Poised Boutique (535 Sussex Drive, 613-244-4567) for dresses, separates, coats and accessories in brilliant, unusual fabrics you could wear with panache to your office Christmas party.

Carrie wouldn’t be seen in public without the latest hot shoes. Where can I find some?
Try Valentina Shoes (18 Murray Street, 613-789-5982) for Kenneth Cole stilettos, Juicy Couture flip flops (what could be more diva-esque than designer shower shoes?) and Lulu Guinness handbags.

How did you wrap up the day?
By meeting my own Mr. Big—my husband—for martinis at Zoe’s, the potted-palm-bedecked bar at the Chateau Laurier (1 Rideau Street, 613-241-1414). Yeah, I guess I should have ordered a cosmopolitan, but hey—isn’t being a diva all about doing your own thing?