The Swank Tank

Facade of the 126 Sparks building

“Sure, I’d love to come up to Ottawa for a couple of months to immerse myself in Shopify,” I told Tobi and Harley when they were pitching the tech evangelist job to me, “but I can’t pay two rents.”

“No worries,” replied Harley. “We’ll get you a place.”

That place turned out to be 126 Sparks, the front entrance of which is pictured above. It’s a short walk away from Shopify’s office in ByWard Market — not even ten minutes — and it’s around the corner from this place:

Peace Tower and Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings

(For those of you not familiar with Canada, it’s the Canadian equivalent of living around the corner from the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C..)

Sparks Street was the first street in North America to be converted into a pedestrians-only route; all but two of its blocks are closed off to most vehicles. Here’s Sparks as seen looking westward, as it appeared last night:

02 west

Here’s Sparks as seen looking eastward (also last night):

Sparks Street, as seen looking eastward

Sparks is pretty quiet after working hours. Many of the fast food places on the street close their doors at 6 p.m. on weeknights, and the sushi place doesn’t even bother opening on weekends.

Once I checked in with building management and got my welcome package — a folder with some information, keys to the apartment and mailbox, magnetic passkey for access to the lobby, elevator and garage and even a Starbucks gift card (there’s a Starbucks next door) — it was time to move my stuff inside. I drove into the garage and starting hauling stuff to the elevator lobby, which looked like it belonged in an upscale mall:

Elevator lobby for 126 Sparks, featuring a couch

When I first saw the site for 126 Sparks, I was impressed, but I also had to keep in mind that it was real estate photography — the biggest apartments in the building, all best-foot-forward, perhaps a little Photoshoppery and some fish-eye lens treatment that covers a multitude of sins. However, when I entered the apartment, I found it to be a pretty nice place. Here’s the kitchen:

Kitchen in my apartment

Here are the living room and dining room, as seen from one of the barstools at the kitchen counter:

View into the living and dining room in my apartment

A view from behind the dining table:

View from the dining room

I haven’t given the stereo a proper cranking just yet.

In MTV Cribs, there’s always a point when taking a tour of a rapper’s house where the host says “An’ dis here be da baby-makin’ area.” (Hip-hoppers never call them rooms on MTV Cribs; they’re always areas.) This is that part of the tour of my apartment:

The bedroom in my apartment

It’s cosy, and should I get the urge, I can very easily moon the passers-by on Sparks Street from the comfort of my own bed.

The place also has a nice big bathroom and in-suite washer and dryer. All in all, it’s nicer than most Residence Inns and it should be a pretty nice place to spend the next four months.

I decided to give the place a name: The Swank Tank. Other possible names that I briefly considered were:

  1. Chateau Tabernac
  2. jPad
  3. La Maison de Fromage
  4. Da Baby-Makin’ Area
  5. Pants-Optional Palazzo

I think I’m going to like staying here.

Next: Professional Perquisites

8 replies on “The Swank Tank”

Sparks St. actually gets pretty awesome when summer is in full swing. A lot of the restaurants and shisha bars along the street set up terraces in the middle of the pedestrian area.

Also, if you feel like classing it up at some point I recommend waltzing into the Chateau Laurier’s bar/lounge for some scotch. Their prices for such things are surprisingly reasonable (I thinks some bars in the Market are more expensive!) and you just can’t beat the swanky atmosphere of an upscale, historic hotel like that.

Joey, welcome to Ottawa! You should stay until the summer, when there is lots of live music on Sparks. Ideal for the Accordion Guy.

Darcy McGee’s on the corner of Sparks and Elgin is the pub of choice for Parliament Hill people and it’s a good place. The Lieutenant’s Pump down Elgin is popular, and across road from there is The Manx, a downstairs hipster pub with good food and drink.

I can second the comments above, Sparks gets quite lively at times. A couple of specific things to watch out for:

1. Ribfest is going to be the best week of your Ottawa-life. A bunch of world-class travelling rib caravans set up along Sparks, and you can smell its deliciousness from kilometres away.

2. Canada day is crazy here. Sparks and parliament will be packed, and it will be very hard for you to do basic things like walk to the store or find a place to eat that isn’t overflowing with people. It’s hella-fun, though!

Finally, I have to plug the Highlander, probably the best scotch bar outside of Europe. It’s in the market, but walkable from Sparks. The flights are incredible.

I’m so glad you didn’t go with Chateau Tabernac because that’s what I’m going to call my house from now on!

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