Ottawa V 2.0

A week after arriving in Ontario, we drove to Ottawa to visit my brother and sister. Ottawa is a 5-6 hour drive from Toronto. My family moved there from southern Ontario in the mid-90's, although I didn't join them for a couple of years, and then I only lived there for a year before returning to southern Ontario for post-secondary. Over the  years I have lived and/or visited Ottawa intermittently. The last time I lived in Ottawa was prior to teaching in Russia, which I recorded in Mission to Moscow here.

Admittedly, I hated Ottawa then. I left Port Hardy, BC in December 2008 after finding an ESL job in Russia. I went to Ottawa to spend Christmas with my family but then, suddenly, the world financial crisis hit and I no longer had an ESL job lined up. I was stuck in Ottawa with no job and no plan, so my view of the city was skewed.

However, I have lived in Ottawa for 4 accumulated years and I can say that Ottawa and I have a love-hate relationship. When I visit, I love the place. When I live there, I hate it. 

Ottawa was chosen as Canada's capital because it was hundreds of miles from the US border, situated in a deep wooded valley along a rapid-infested river with few access routes for a marching American army (in those days armies travelled on foot). America had tried to invade twice before in 100 years and so in the mid-19th Century defense from the southern bully was Canada's main pre-occupation. Today, of course, it would make more sense to have Canada's capital in the center of the country, like Winnipeg. Instead, we have a hot and humid capital hundreds of miles from nowhere that is completely out of touch with the rest of the country.

But I digress...

Katya and I drove to Ottawa and spent a week with my brother. He and his girlfriend had bought a house together 3 years ago in the Ottawa suburb of Barrhaven. It's a nice house, newly built, with central air and a big garage. Unfortunately, he and his girlfriend broke up a few months ago and are selling the home, so it was one last chance for us to stay there in their spare bedroom.

As I mentioned above, I don't like Ottawa too much, but for the past 18 months I've been seeing everything anew through Katya's eyes, and Katya loved that city! On the second day there I took her for a tour of downtown and Parliament Hill. She loved the old gothic architecture, the statues and monuments, Sparks Street pedestrian mall, the Prime-Minister's home at 24 Sussex Drive and the Governor-General's mansion at Rideau Hall. We even drove across the Ottawa River on one of the many bridges to Gatineau, Quebec, so that Katya could claim to have been in 6 of the 10 provinces! 

Katya poses on Parliament Hill, with Quebec across the river in the background.
Sparks Street, Canada's oldest pedestrian mall.

A few days later we did a tour of Hogs Back Falls and the Rideau Centre shopping mall. We wanted to hit up a museum or two but we were running out of money (story of our summer so far) and, unlike in Britain, Canada's museums cost money to enter.

Visiting family was great fun. My brother and I drank most of the week and played Axis & Allies. My sister taught us archery (which isn't actually that difficult once you get the hang of it) and we had a fun game of Earthdawn for old times' sake (when my sister and brother were kids I played Earthdawn with them every Friday night as entertainment). I also made my signature Meaty Zitti dish, which my family loves.* 

* When we were young I once had a great idea that for Christmas, nobody buy each other gifts but instead we all make each other gifts. Our family was poor so everybody, including my mother, liked the idea. Everyone spent a couple of months carefully crafting and assembling gifts. Except for me, because I had forgotten about it. So when Christmas Day rolled around, I suddenly panicked and scrambled to get a gift together. I made a Meaty Ziti, a signature dish I had learned when I cooked at an Italian restaurant. My family made fun of me but loved the dish ever since.

Hogs Back Falls, Ottawa, Ontario

Ottawa's Chinatown

Learning archery
In addition to all this stuff, I also revisited some of my old stomping grounds, including the neighborhood I lived in right before I went to Russia. There was the old Italian Catholic church with its annoying bells, and there was that sweltering apartment I rented. I also revisited my mother's old home (before she relocated to Halifax) where I spent my last few days before flying out to Moscow. 

After a week, Katya and I drove home. 


  1. i love ottawa more when ever you describe it...otherwise i have always hated this city. i mean i stay here because of my chosen family members, and well my parents live here....mind you at notre dame will they really mind if i ever move from here? love canada through katyas eyes too. sorry to hear about your bro though.....sad....happy for you and, where are you two going to call home?


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