Ah, Valentine’s Day. The day when we celebrate that magical feeling that comes from thinking another human being is super great. Typically, we celebrate with chocolate, candy and champagne. Of course, given that it falls in February, most of us have only recently awoken from an eggnog coma. So what to do? How do you profess your love for your significant other(s) without skyrocketing right off the glycemic index? How do you say, “I love you” without giving in to the siren call of cinnamon hearts and Laura Secord? Luckily in Ottawa there are plenty of options for a Valentine’s Day that is fun and romantic — and also health-conscious. After all, love is sweet all by itself.
Plant Recreation Centre
930 Somerset St W
If you’re going to work out, why not do it in a beautifully renovated heritage building? Originally built in 1924 and named for a former mayor, Plant Recreation Centre has a lot going for it. Its façade is an impressive example of Neo-Gothic architecture, and extensive renovations undertaken between 1996 and 2004 preserved the original structure and added up-to-date facilities. “The cost to build Plant pool in the ’20s was $55,000,” says facility manager Jacques Morissette. “The renovations of this building were around $8 million.”
The area once occupied by the original pool is now used for yoga, pilates, aerobics, Zumba and myriad other fitness classes. The rest of the original building is made up of smaller rooms where a variety of classes, from music to martial arts to sword-handling, are offered. The pool area includes a 25-metre semi-Olympic pool, a smaller leisure pool, a whirlpool and a steam room. The centre also has a weight and cardio room with well-maintained machines and helpful trainers on hand, and the outdoor grounds include a basketball court, two soccer fields and, in the winter, a skating rink. At $76.50, an all-inclusive one-month membership makes a great Valentine’s gift.
Flowers and Vintage
502½ Somerset St W
Tucked away in a tiny shop at the corner of Lyon and Somerset streets, Flowers and Vintage offers an alternative to the traditional dozen roses from the grocery store. As its name suggests, half the store is devoted to vintage clothing and the other half is dedicated to flowers. Jamie Garner is the brains behind Housewife Vintage, and Vanessa Madely runs the floral side of the operation as Sparrow Floral Design. “We’re sharing the space just because we sort of felt that our aesthetics really complemented each other well, and flowers and vintage dresses are kind of a perfect combo,” Madely says. She combines unusual blossoms and greenery with vintage glass and Mason jars to create bouquets and arrangements that have a wonderfully rustic feel. “Before going into flowers, actually, my main interest was with antiques,” she says. “I’m just a really nostalgic kind of person, and I love anything old-timey with a history or with a little story behind it.”
If you prefer something less traditional than a bouquet, Madely also makes beautiful glass terrariums with air plants and succulents. She always has plenty of premade bouquets, starting at $30, ready for Valentine’s Day, and she takes custom orders the week of. The store is cash-only, so if you’re of the last-minute inclination, bear that in mind.
369 Bank St
At ThimbleCakes, the focus is on delicious treats made with wholesome ingredients. The shop offers a variety of gluten-free confections that are also egg-, nut- and dairy-free. They can also make cupcakes that are corn-free, soy-free, rice-free, sugar-free and vegan and use only organic sugars and flours. “There’s so many people with dietary needs and requirements, and so it only made sense,” says manager Katriina Kuhn. The shop offers an impressive array of flavours, from the traditional to the exotic, including red velvet, Irish coffee, chocolate blueberry and chocolate-chip cookie dough. “It’s fun when you can have a dozen cupcakes and every one is a different flavour,” Kuhn says. A single cupcake is $3.80, a half dozen go for $19.80, or if you really want to splurge, a dozen can be had for $35.80. The shop also offers drinks, so if you’re looking for a cute spot for a mid-day Valentine’s date, consider stopping in for cupcakes and espresso.
884 Somerset St W
If you want a spa experience but can’t quite afford a trip to Nordik Spa-Nature, Purple Urchin carries natural bath and body products perfect for at-home pampering. All their products are vegetarian and nearly all are 100-percent natural. For a romantic evening at home, light an EcoSoy candle ($17.99) and create a soothing bath with a Love Potion bath bomb ($3.99). If you’re going on a first date and want to bring a gift, try some bar soap ($5.99), available in an array of scents, including Lumberjack, Sweetgrass, Blackberry Ripple and Apple Cider. Purple Urchin’s lip butters ($4.99 each or five for $20) are also crowd pleasers and come in Maple Walnut, Coconut, Honeycomb, Root Beer and Raspberry.
Of course, Valentine’s Day isn’t only for couples; for some serious self-pampering, sales maverick Carly Pereira recommends the Unmarked raw facial serum ($27.99) or the Cocoa Butter & Coffee scrub ($13.99). Another great option is the Chocolate Facial Mask ($9.99), which smells divine and leaves skin feeling soft and supple. For a less-sweet experience, there’s also the Dead Sea Mud mask ($13.99).
Herb and Spice Wellness Shop
380 Bank St
An offshoot of the Herb and Spice food shop across the street, the newly opened Wellness Shop offers an impressive array of natural supplements and health and beauty products. If your energy levels need a boost this Valentine’s Day, here is a list of products, courtesy of the Wellness Shop’s registered holistic nutritionists, that can help stoke the fires of love. Of course, before using any supplements or medicinal products, be sure to consult a doctor or natural health practitioner.
AOR Classic Series I-3-C $35.29
Derived from cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and kale, indole-3-carbinol (I-3-C) is an adrenal-booster particularly helpful to men. It is a negative regulator of estrogen, and research has indicated that it could have a preventative effect against some estrogen-enhanced cancers. It also has potential health benefits for FTM trans people. As always, though, consult with a doctor or natural health practitioner first.
Organic Traditions Maca X-12 $14.59
Maca is a turnip-like root vegetable native to Peru that helps to replenish the endocrine system, increasing energy levels and decreasing stress. It contains the amino acid L-arginine, which increases oxygen absorption throughout the body and can improve blood flow to the genitals. For a more romantic maca delivery method, try the Vega maca chocolate bar for $3.29.
Purica Cordyceps capsules $55.39
Cordyceps is a mushroom traditionally used by the indigenous peoples of Tibet and Nepal that’s associated with vitality, energy, immune enhancement and libido. It contains a protein that helps to increase blood flow, meaning it can help to increase sexual stamina and the development and maintenance of erections.
Lorna Vanderhaeghe Love personal lubricant $19.69
Water-based, latex-friendly and non-staining, this lube is also long lasting and odour free. In addition to using it during sex, it can be used throughout the day to relieve vaginal dryness. It doesn’t become sticky with use and contains no toxic preservatives, animal products, petroleum or mineral oils.
Druide Sensual foaming bath $14.39
Aura Cacia Heart Song natural aromatherapy bubble bath $9.99
For a stimulating time with your honey or for some solo pleasure and relaxation, you can’t go wrong with either of these bubble baths. Both contain aphrodisiacal essential oils, including ylang-ylang, cinnamon, rose and ginger.
634 Somerset St W
If you’re trying to impress a vegan or vegetarian date, you can’t possibly go wrong with Zen Kitchen. The cozy little restaurant serves an all-vegan menu focusing on whole foods that are environmentally friendly, beautifully presented and big on flavour. “We depend entirely on fruits and vegetables and things like legumes for proteins,” says owner Dave Loan. “We try to balance healthy with flavourful and delicious. We’re not a restaurant that wants to compromise on the flavour in any way, and we’re known, actually, for doing big flavours.” Most dishes on the menu are also gluten-free, and Zen Kitchen can cater to almost any dietary restriction or requirement.
For Valentine’s Day, Zen Kitchen is offering a four-course chef’s tasting menu that focuses on the foods of love and passion (think chocolate, almonds, pomegranates, chilis and avocado). The cost is $65/person with an optional $30 wine pairing, and the restaurant is now taking bookings for Feb 14 and 15. It tends to fill up fast, so Loan advises booking early.
226 Bank St
Getting freaky is a time-honoured Valentine’s tradition. Whether you’re single or partnered, Venus Envy is the go-to spot if you’re looking to explore. It carries a huge range of sex toys, from the most discreet butt plugs to the biggest dildos and everything in between. Here are five of owner Shelley Taylor’s favourite picks.
Lelo Luna Beads $48
These Ben Wa balls are great for those who want something in the vagina while they’re enjoying other forms of stimulation. They’re also an excellent workout for the Kegel muscles, which can help improve control and continence and also increase sexual satisfaction and orgasm. The Lelo Beads come in two different weights and include a silicone harness to hold the balls in place and a nylon string for easy removal.
RodeoH harness boxers $59.95
“This is basically just a harness in a super cute package,” Taylor says. The shorts come in a variety of styles and colours, are 95-percent cotton, and have a discreet Y-front opening that reveals a reinforced harness for holding a dildo or packer. They’re also extremely versatile — practical enough for everyday wear (with or without a packer) but strong enough to hold a good-sized dildo. Taylor describes them as “the softest, most comfortable harness on the planet.”
Stronic Zwei vibrator $199.95
This solid, silicone vibrator is designed mainly for butt play. “It’s kind of a fucking machine,” Taylor says, referring to the strong back-and-forth pulsations the toy produces when turned on. In addition to a plethora of speeds and vibration patterns, it also has a flared base for perineum stimulation. The Zwei can also be used vaginally, and the curve provides G-spot stimulation.
We-Vibe 4 $159.95
Created by an Ottawa designer, the We-Vibe has taken the sex-toy scene by storm in recent years. The latest model has a more refined shape to help it stay in place once inserted in the vagina. Designed for penile-vaginal intercourse, the We-Vibe also has great solo-play potential and comes with a remote control to change the sensations. It’s also great when worn internally and combined with a dildo and harness, allowing both partners in a pegging scenario to receive stimulation.
Thurs Feb 6–Sun, Feb 16
Arts Court, 2 Daley Ave
If you’re a guy who’s into guys, you won’t want to miss Snowblower, run by the AIDS Committee of Ottawa (ACO). “[It’s] a way to bring both a festival and a celebration together with some workshops and some sessions around health issues and health concerns for gay men,” says Rob Alexander, gay men’s health and wellness coordinator at the ACO. The theme for 2014 is Let’s Get Fresh, tying in with the ACO’s broader gay men’s community-outreach campaign.
This year the festival is being held at Arts Court. “It’s a great space,” Alexander says. “It’s so comfortable, and they are so GLBT-friendly.” Events include a mental-health workshop on Feb 7 and a workshop on HIV treatment updates focusing on pre- and post-exposure safety measures on Feb 10, as well as two signature parties. There will also be a leather competition for the title of Mr Plow and a drag pageant for the title of Mz Snowblower. Titleholders will represent Snowblower and the HIV/AIDS community at events throughout the year, including Pride and the AIDS Walk. Events are free or pay-what-you-can, perfect for an inexpensive excursion alone or with your honey.
If you’re looking to score some major brownie points this Valentine’s Day, a trip to Nordik Spa-Nature should do the trick. Located in the village of Chelsea, only 10 minutes from downtown Ottawa, Nordik allows city-dwellers to experience some luxurious relaxation in nature. The spa offers a huge range of treatments and massages, including Swedish, Thai, Californian and volcanic stones. There are seven onsite pools and saunas kept at various temperatures for thermal treatments. Nordik spokesperson Marianne Trottier recommends the Källa pool, which uses Epsom salts to produce a unique weightless experience.
As part of the spa’s green mandate, all the onsite buildings use geothermal heating. Rainwater is recycled to water plants and gardens, and reusable dishes are used in the restaurant and the Panorama Lounge. For Valentine’s Day, Nordik offers a special table d’hôte menu with a wine pairing. And if you were thinking of popping the question during your visit, the staff have plenty of experience facilitating surprise proposals.