Episode 10: The Aussie takes on Canada’s cool capital
Mim didn’t exactly “meet Montreal” this week, unless you call getting to know Montreal’s highways a “must do.” Instead, I met Ottawa. Part student, part tourist (and part aspiring Canadian), I feel that it’s only right to a) do my homework (debatable) and b) explore the many sites that this country has to offer.
In Ottawa for the weekend, the first site I visited was the Rideau Centre. Shopping malls are found in every major city, so what makes this one special? Well, for me, this three-level complex didn’t induce a mild panic attack (Montreal’s Eaton Centre is like a labyrinth to me). Side note: some shopping centres are intentionally designed to be confusing to customers. Finding it difficult to escape, customers spend more time in the centre and consequently buy more products. This is termed the “Jerde transfer.” The Rideau Centre is not a bombardment of the senses, but an open-space shopping mall heaven.
That was Saturday afternoon. On Sunday, like many of us who make the late morning pilgrimage to find a worthy brunchery, it became my and my friends’ mission to find a place that served breakfast past 12 p.m. In Montreal, brunch is customary. In Ottawa, very few restaurants offer brunch. If they do, it’s only until 11 a.m. and only on Sundays. Finally, we found Zak’s Diner.
Most of my touristic activities comprise two activities: visiting heritage sites and overeating. The previous evening I had eaten poutine, a two-course meal and two and a half slices of cheesecake (I very generously helped my friends finish theirs). With the intention of opting for a “lighter” breakfast, my inner Sally came to the fore. Picture the scene from When Harry Met Sally where she makes the most ridiculously picky order in Katz’s diner. Yeah… That’s pretty much the embodiment of me.
Surprisingly, our waitress was very accommodating of my “extra hot, triple shot soy latte” kind of order (more like disorder). Her response was something along the lines of: “We’re not like Montreal. We’re not a big city that accommodates soy sophisticates.” Her comment was witty and wise. She was right: the capital city of Canada was smaller than I had expected. Also: I was a pretentious snob. Don’t even get me started on my hometown’s coffee snobbery where a minority of us treat coffee like wine (the tasting process is termed “coffee cupping”).
Later, after exploring the very little that the Byward Market had to offer, we stopped at a Beaver Tails shop for the final indulgence of the day: deep fried dough covered in sugar. Like all of the gloriously unhealthy foods I’ve tried in Canada, this one was also grossly delicious. When will the gluttony stop?
Sadly, I hadn’t brought my skates with me to traverse the world’s largest skating rink: the Rideau Canal. At least I got to see the historical landmark, though Parliament was by far the most extraordinary sight. Simply standing beside the Centennial Flame whilst staring in awe at the grand century-old building was a poignant experience. Ottawa, you mightn’t have the same fire as Montreal, but you certainly provided me with a very fulfilling tourist experience.