Ottawa Canada24 Jul 2017 | Canada work
I had a brief American Airlines flight into Canada from DC. I was so tired from a poor nights sleep before hand, that as soon as I was on the aircraft I started to nod off. I was most discombobulated when I woke up - assuming we were still on the tarmac, only to find we were 30 minutes into our flight and I’d slept right through our takeoff!
Landing into Ottawa I was out of the airport pretty quickly, and straight into a taxi to the hotel in downtown to meet up with my colleague who landed an hour or two before me from Australia. We quickly wandeed down to the Mills Brewery. This was a nice old (1850s) brew pub in an old Mill by the river. Unfortunately the food was nothing special, but the blueberry wheat beer set the tone for Ottawa’s impressive micro brewery scene. Apparantly Ontario alone has a few hundred microbreweries, and more are opening every year.
Like the US before hand I had 3 days in town to visit, share and learn from our colleagues at Statistics Canada. The team we met with were very nice, a lot more relaxed than their US counterparts, and culturally and logistically so much more similar to the Australian context. I only wore my suit on day one. We wraped up our first day and got a bit of time to soak up the balmy evening. This involved a short walk along Spark street with a myriad of choices - but we parked ourselves at another brewery/diner 3 brewers sparks. The long evenings, and warm weather made it impossible not to take up their featured seasonal raspberry (wheat) ale. A slightly sweet, very tasty, and incredibly morish beer that along with dinner kept the conversation with my colleague flowing until the late evening.
After our second day in the office, the friendly folk invited us out for a Friday night social beer. We headed up the blossoming Wellington Street. Up in a rooftop venue we had a great and welcoming few beers. Here I learnt a bit more about the pervasive ‘Cabin culture’ - think Australian shacks by the lakes that get heavily used in the Canadian summer as a weekend getaway, how you make small batch artisanal maple syrup (a tree that is tapped can yield up to 1L of syrup, and the syrup you harvest needs to be reduced through a long boil in the open air, reducing down to a 40:1 ratio for the perfect maple syrup).
After a quick Uber ride back to the hotel to ditch the work gear, we again went out walking to explore the city and places to eat. We settled upon a nice place called Black Tomato on the edge of the famous Bywark markets. The waiter here was a lovely english lad who built up a quick raport with us - and the food and wine here was excellent.
I had resolved to go exploring through a few researched run options over the weekend. Unfortunately Friday night gave me a slightly delicate head and as a consequence I was a little sluggish to get moving. Nevertheless, I jumped an Uber and my gear for a planed 20-30 km trail run up in the Gatenau reserve. I’d heard from some locals that this is used widely for cross country skiing in winter, and mountain biking in summer - and that the large Lake Meach is a good place to swim in. Sounded perfect.
The drive up into the park took almost 30 minutes, and in the end felt a little remote to be droped off with no idea of my return logistics. But that’s what adventures are all about. Soon I was off into the lush green trails, and within 5 minutes I was delicately navigating an active biathalon range.. I’m not sure who was more confused me or the couple of guys shooting. The trail I was runing was marked pretty well as trail ‘9’ - obviously a known x-country ski route - but the path was nice and technical, with quite a few boggy sections to deftly try and navigate. My foot only sunk to my ankles a couple of times!
It took a good 30 odd minutes to find any other soul in the woods - and after an hour or so I arrived into Lake Meach.
Here there were cars parking up, and folk sliding their standup paddle boards and kayaks into the lake. A couple of people were out for a swim - and it was a delightful temperature and very placid and calm place to cool down in.
Despite half intending to carry on and do the 8.5km Wolf Trail loop - the heat and the mosquito infested trails made the day a bit more taxing than expected, so I decided to loop back. After returning to Camp Fortune ski resort (the start point) I found a mixture of poor mobile data and Uber not ‘supported in my area’ meant I was a little uncertain if getting home would be easy after all. The guys around taking part in some golf or mountain biking said if I was still there at 6pm they’d give me a lift - but given it was midday that wasn’t ideal. Fortunately a traditional taxi came after a phone call and a good 20-30 minute wait. The driver was nice and friendly - which made up for it costing $20 more than the Uber did out there.
The rest of the afternoon I explored a bit more through the Bywark markets. This place had a lovely vibe, a lot of fresh food, maple syrup, cheese and assorted shops. I was pretty happy to browse and explore. The city was pretty alive with the 150 year anniversary of Canada as a nation meaning a lot of events had been organised. I even got to my first Virtual Reality experience with a video showing the history of the Parliament and surrounding buildings and area. Good fun.
I met back up wth my colleague at 6pm to recount our days and head out for dinner. We stumbled across a nice Mexican joint called Ace Mercado and after a lovely meal we had a couple of sneaky G&T’s on our walk home and called it an early night.
I thanked the responsible me on Sunday as I laced up my runing shoes early - and hit the pavement. The downside was, being a Sunday, there was no coffee or breakfast for me - and I knew the run could end up being 25-30kms. The route was from the hotel, down to and along the river, then cuting back up via the rail line to the Rideau canal.
This was all on bike paths, with a small suburban stretch. After 8 or so kms in, I was cruising along the hip Wellington Street, and decided to take a pit stop for a coffee and a bite. Despite profusely sweating in the cafè, the veggie muffin and machiato was just the ticket. The run, especially along the canal was chockers with active Ottawan folk running in groups or solo, and the morning was cooler which made for a nice change.
After my run - I was famished, and found an awesome wholesome salad bowl venue called Mad Beets. Very hip, with a ginger kombucha to wash down my smugness. I then found another cafè to give myself sufficient caffeine, and catch up on work and documenting the previous few days of notes.
My next stop after this would have to be the highlight of my time in Ottawa - with a visit to a speakeasy style micro brewery - Waller Street Brewer. This venue was super tiny - with a sweet young francophile microbiologist brewer, and a barman that guided me through their range of beers. I started with a flight of small beers - sampling a few sours, an IPA and a dark beer. The highlights for me was the Scotch River sour - a once a year brewed sour with local spruce tips and birch sap, as well as the Livery Stable Blues a Brett farmhouse ale with 5 different yeasts. The venue was all the more pleasant by the convivial atmosphere, good unforced acquantances and conversation and incredibly small and unique batches they brew.
I met some interesting folk, had some good chats, and drank more than I had intended - but they shut at 5pm and I like a few others ordered at last drinks and sauntered out nicely buoyed.
Diner that night was a Keralan Indian joint I found - which did great authentic southern Indian food. Satiated and still a bit pissed - my one weekend in Ottawa closed out. With the final Monday in town grey and soaking wet - and my future nothing but airport lounges and transatlantic flights onto my final leg - the UK.