Visiting the Neighbo(u)rs

In late January, as hundreds of people descended upon DC for inauguration, and hundreds of thousands filled the streets for the Women’s March, Elliott and I grabbed our passports and symbolically fled to Canada. For the weekend.

Our destination: Ottawa. Yes, really. Whenever we told people this, we got a quizzical expression–even from the locals. Her? But what’s not to like? It was a 90 minute flight, same time zone, national capital, great restaurant scene, skating on the canals through downtown (take that, Venice!), and something called a beaver tail that’s actually vegetarian (and sweet).

Despite the warnings, it wasn’t even that cold–hovering right above freezing. This meant that the canal wasn’t frozen enough for skating, but everything else was fair game.

Behold!

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As a national capital with long winters, Ottawa has a top notch museum collection: war, natural history, art, etc. Of course, they were all distinctly Canadian–like this bilingual video of three English-speaking, Quebecois, and First Nation hockey fans offering snarky commentary about the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. Fun fact: the 20 minute video lasted longer than the battle itself.

It was also fun to wander around the city. The restaurants were diverse, reasonably priced, and delicious; two favorites were Kochin Kitchen (Keralan) and the new Waller Street Brewery. There was also a bookstore with some fun offerings, including this adult coloring book. (This was one of only a few pages to not include a word I thought Canadians were too polite to say.) A local bike shop also offered a cycling jersey that was clearly Canadian.

Parliament Hill at first struck me as rather European in its architecture, but then I saw this and realized that nope, it was definitely Canada.

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For those of you who haven’t been to Canada, Tim Horton’s is their version of Dunkin’ Donuts.

The highlight of the weekend was participating in a free snowshoe + animal tracking program in Gatineau National Park. (The lowlight of the weekend was learning in a panic that Uber doesn’t serve that side of town, but we managed–more on that later.) A volunteer guide led us into the woods and pointed out evidence of animal life, including fox, squirrel, deer, bird, and bear tracks. It was also a fun opportunity to talk to locals about life in Ottawa. Fun fact: while U.S. politicians are hand wringing about the threat of refugees, our northern neighbors teach their “new Canadians” how to snowshoe and enjoy winter. After our trek, Elliott and I met up with one of my Coeur teammates, who works for the Canadian Foreign Ministry. She gave us the low-down on life in the big City and drove us back to the hotel because of the aforementioned Uber blooper. Yet another reason why the Coeur team is so great!

We returned to the United States full of maple syrup, happy to see Moose, and nervous about the new chapter of our nation’s history. But hey, if this blog post is considered “radical” enough to cause problems, I will likely be returning to Ottawa soon!

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