I arrived in Canada Thursday, after driving through the snow from Mount Tremblant. I showed up at my host Vince’s house and he immediately gave me a house key, a map of the city complete with explanation and some great beer. We went to an awesome Irish pub where I had bacon wrapped meatloaf with garlic mashed potatoes. Vince’s friend Matt joined us, along with a couple of his couch surfers and his sister Stephanie. I cannot even say how many pitchers came and went from our table but I think it’s safe to say that we all had a blast. At the end of the night, my host Vince picked up the entire tab for the 6 of us, which, needless to say was awesome and seemed to be a very genuine act from a very genuine guy.
The next day I spent wandering around Ottawa after some guidance from Vince. First stop was to buy a scarf because though the weather was warm, by Canada standards, it never got much above 30F while I was there. There is a central area called Byward Market, which is a large walking area full of restaurants, shops, bakeries, and specialty food shops. I found a French pastry shop that was huge and had every type of pastry you can imagine.
Naturally, I had raspberry danish or chocolate croissants every day for breakfast. The city of Ottawa also assists in maintaining the ice on the Rideau Canal, which they close off for ice skating when its cold enough. Though only part of the canal was open to skating while I was there, I did rent a pair of skates and spent a couple of hours skating up and down the canal, during which I stopped and got a beaver tail on the ice, which is a very Canadian dessert type pastry. The city is very convenient for walking, and you can walk from one side to the other in about 30 minutes. Also, because it’s the national capital of Canada it is very clean, very beautiful, and very diverse.
That night we went to Matt’s for a pasta dinner before going out and seeing there friend Jenn Morin at The Black Bear Pub, she sings and plays guitar. As it was described to me, “we don’t go see her because she’s our friend, we see her because she’s good.” And she was really good! I’ve been listening to her on her youtube channel since then, here it is- http://www.youtube.com/user/jennimo26 The pitchers of beer flowed pretty freely that night as well. After the show we opted to take a cab through the blizzard back to Vince’s, where we continued to drink beer until about 4am, at which point I decided to spend another night in Ottawa.
The next day I didn’t get up until afternoon and spent most of the afternoon wandering around the market looking at the shops and at the art in the foot of snow that had fallen the night before. Mathieu put on a dinner party that night for his couch surfers who were leaving the following day, after being with him for 2 weeks. The dinner he put on in his house was one of the best I’ve had in my life, a five course feast for 10 people. At the table were myself, and three other couch-curfers from Italy, Poland, and Holland, along with Vince, Matt, and a couple of their friends. The first course was butternut squash and sweet potato soup, followed up with lemon risotto and seared scallops. The main course was filet mignon, roasted potatoes, and steamed veggies. After that we passed a cheese and fruit plate around the table, then finished up the evening with homemade creme brûlée. To compliment the meal, the wine switched from white to red after the second course, and there was fresh bread passed around the table from beginning to end.
We headed back to Vince’s at a decent hour, for the first time in my stay in Ottawa and even got to bed early. The next day I packed up early afternoon and left Ottawa, but only after a final chocolatine from my favorite bakery. I cannot even say enough good things about Ottawa! Its beautiful, the people are so friendly, and the food is excellent. If you’ve never been, its worth the trip- go to Ottawa!!