Ottawa—A Great First Impression


Fondly nicknamed by my husband and me as “The Weekend of The ‘Dan’” or simply “The Triple Stacked Dan Sandwich” (after the three gents named Dan who helped make our trip a memorable one), my weekend away for my beloved’s birthday was a good one. (A special shout-out to the highly-entertaining [and overly-knowledgeable] Dan who sold us our tickets for the Ottawa River boat cruise.)

Although traveling to Ottawa was a first for me, my mind just wasn’t in the game, so I didn’t have a chance to really research all that the city has to offer. Instead, I went for the Coles Notes version—I asked people at the office who knew the city well—and with my cheat sheet in hand, we embarked on our latest adventure.

My husband and I were able to leave our respective jobs at lunchtime, so we headed out a few hours earlier than originally planned as to avoid the bottleneck traffic of the GTA. During the drive though, I realized that Ottawa is actually only a 45-minute drive from Mississauga, but the 20-mile stretch of the 401 highway from the airport is what takes three friggin’ hours! My gawd! It really makes me wonder how people handle that daily commute. Ugh!

Once we arrived, we met my husband’s friend, and headed to Elgin Street where dozens of restaurants, pubs, and bars sat waiting for us. As my husband and his buddy meandered along, passersby could have heard the endless exchange of, “Where do you want to eat?”

“I dunno. I’m easy. Where do you want to eat?”

“I dunno. I’m easy too. You decide.”

After round three of that titillating dialogue, I finally had to interject with my usual, “I’m hungry like bear. Just pick a place!”

Yes, I suffer from GOMS (Grumpy Old Man Syndrome) when I’m hungry. I think the millennials now refer to it as being “hangry.”

We settled at a modern-looking restaurant called the Waverly. It was clean, not too loud, and, most importantly—had food! I needed food. As the boys dove into their first round of beer, I was on a mission to get them to stop gabbing like a couple of girls (they haven’t seen each other in five years), and decide on their meals before I had to knock some heads. Finally, the order was placed and I settled on a “Waverly” burger simply because I was too blind with hunger to focus on reading any of the other offerings. It is with extreme gratitude that I thank my impatience and hunger pains because it was the BEST BLOODY BURGER I’ve had since I moved to Ontario! Oh-my-GAWD!

At that point, I was ready to cancel the white water rafting and all other activities, and just go back to the Waverly each day to roll around on their floor with another burger or two… or ten. Imagine any one of the banned Carl’s Jr burger commercials. Yeah… all I could picture was me, a wind machine, and a gooey, drippy, delicious burger. Mmmm… Burger…

The next day was comprised of my white water rafting life-flashing-before-my-eyes experience and another dinner with the Gilligan to my husband’s Skipper. I, of course, am Ginger, and Gilligan even brought sweet little Mary-Ann with him. A great evening with lots of laughs at Johnny Farina’s as we were entertained by our adorable server, Dan, who systematically attempted to break as many things as possible in one shift. I lost count of how many times we shouted, “Opa!” I guess he was just a little flustered being in the presence of the voluptuous Ginger… of course.

Day three was more low-key, and we wandered around downtown Ottawa to attend the famous ByWard Market and surrounding shops. I loved the vibe of the city. It reminded me of Montreal. There’s just something so calm and earthy about those two cities that I think I’d love to live in either one of them.

During our excursion, I happened upon a very trendy clothing store called Schad. Normally, knowing that I’m really not that cool, I avoid trendy shops, but how can a girl who is half Jewish/half Scottish turn her back on a “70% off” sign in the window. It would be morally corrupt for me to do so. So, in I went. Lo and behold, there they were. My new babies… Black stilettos with a silver rivet pattern drew me towards them like a tractor beam, and everything around me became blurred and silent. I stood in a daze staring at them… wanting them… aching to feel them wrapped around my adorable feet. As the gods of discount smiled down upon me, the clerk brought me her last pair… they were my size. As I slipped my delicately pedi’d tootsies into the two black studded stallions, I could not help but exclaim to my husband, “Oh my gawd sweetheart! I think I just want to touch myself!” I could now only picture myself in my new stilettos rolling around in a batch of Waverly burgers. Everything seemed to go into slow motion as I stared longingly at my long gams in their stylish new apparel. I had to have them. I had to adopt them, and bring them home to care for them. I felt that we could easily be compared to Angelina and Brad for unselfishly opening our home to this beautiful pair of orphans who had been left to parish on the discount rack. My new babies were lovingly swaddled by sweet “Emily M,” and we were on our way again.

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As we strolled along looking at the amazing architecture, I did my best to actually take photos of the sights. I’ve never been a good tourist, but I knew I had to try. As we walked hand-in-hand snapping pics of the gorgeous buildings, I suddenly wished we had more time in Ottawa. I was drawn in by so many sights.

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I even kinda liked the urban art. I chose to view it that way as opposed to labeling it as “passive aggressive littering.” I must admit though, during all of my globetrotting, I’ve never seen anything like it.

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And then it happened.

I looked up, and there it was. I stood in silent shock. I didn’t know what I was looking at, but I felt, well… umm… deeply disturbed, and a chill ran down my spine. It was the same feeling I experience when watching movies like Close Encounters of The Third Kind, Aliens, or Predator. I learned that the menacing 30-foot high sculpture that stood above me was lovingly named “Maman” (French for mother).

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I could not understand how a city, rich in so much history and tradition, would have such a disturbing looking alien-spider (complete with giant white eggs in its spidey-womb), permanently erected in the middle of the street. After a few brief moments, I dragged my husband away from the site for fear our own safety. I would later learn that I am just not very savvy in art, because apparently people love that thing. I guess I’ll just stay in my artistic comfort zone of Ikea-made prints and Home Sense decorative vases to express my artistic side. Go ahead… judge me.

In two-and-a-half days, I experienced a plethora of emotions which included food and fashion euphoria, as well as white water rafting and alien spider fear; but it wasn’t until we rounded the corner a few blocks away from the ominous spider that I was struck with the most humbling emotion of all.

Before I knew it, we were standing on the steps of the Canadian National War Memorial. Not knowing Ottawa, it didn’t really sink in at first. I stopped and looked around and felt as though the surroundings were familiar. It wasn’t until I looked at the two uniformed guards in front of the monument, that I realized where we were. We were standing just steps away from where Cpl Nathan Cirillo was killed. I immediately dissolved into tears. It felt wrong to be standing there. I felt like an intruder. It felt surreal. Less than a year prior, a young man—my daughter’s friend—gave his life for our country.

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Suddenly the eerie sound of bagpipes began to play in the distance, and my emotions welled up even more, as we witnessed the changing of the guards.

I stood in silence, with tears streaming down my cheeks, feeling the mixed emotions of trespassing, yet not wanting to leave. Not wanting to dishonor Cpl Cirillo by walking away. All I could think about was the emotion that I, that we—the province, the country, the world—felt when Nathan was gunned down.

Tonight, the thoughts came flooding back to me as I sat at dinner with my husband, daughter, and granddaughter. As I looked at my grandbaby’s sweet face, I couldn’t help but think back to what I wrote almost a year ago. I couldn’t help but picture how she might have stood in awe of “Uncle Nathan” whenever he came to visit. Again, I was overcome with emotion.

Again, I questioned why the things happen the way they do.

Again, I wondered what kind of world my granddaughter was going to be living in.

Again, I was humbled by the world around me as it reminded me how every single experience (whether scary, boring, euphoric, or sad) is a blessing.

Ottawa was certainly a “first” for me (a “first” that I would like to experience again), but it served a very important purpose. Because of Nathan’s sacrifice, once again—almost a year later, I was reminded not to take my life for granted for even a second.

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