Our nation's capital (Ottawa)

Having almost certainly probably decided to suddenly change my whole plans and come back to Australia, I quit my job in order to make the most of my time left and booked three bursts of travel – Ottawa and Montreal, New York, and Chicago – so that each time I would be back in Toronto for the weekend to recuperate. I have certainly been put off long stretches of travelling for a good while.

After having had an excellent week or so in Toronto in holiday mode (wilfully unemployed), I rested on Sunday and packed my bag before heading off to Ottawa on Monday. Naturally I didn’t expect much as I had heard that it was not a very interesting or big place, but was determined to go as I would be annoyed if people travelled around Australia without at least dropping into Canberra for a couple of nights.

An easy 4.5 hour train ride later I arrived without difficulty at the accommodation, which was literally inside an old jail (but my dorm room was a normal dorm room). Still tired, I had a delightful two hour nap inside my quiet dorm before leisurely rising to get ready to do something for the evening.

I was then pleasantly surprised to receive an invitation from an Ottawan I had randomly and briefly met in Rome to join him and his friends at his house the following night to watch the ice hockey game and then head out. With this to look forward to, and having had such a good week in the days prior in Toronto, and with Montreal (apparently amazing, according to everyone) coming up, I was not at all concerned with whether I would get up to much that night.

I went down to the hostel outdoor courtyard bar, but it was empty – possibly not open until 10pm, although it was hard to tell. Hungry, I strolled outside, turned right, and found what turned out to be a fairly main street and the entrance to the Byward Market area. Here, there was a welcoming-looking Scottish pub that I went into and ordered two lots of tasty appetisers that were huge but cheaper than a burger, and enjoyed a cheap Caesar (Canadian cocktail like Bloody Mary).

I ate while doing some Googling on my phone and discovered a popular jazz venue with live jazz on Mondays a three minute walk away. I finished up my dinner at around 10pm and walked over and in, grabbing a seat at the bar. For about 45 minutes I enjoyed the female singer and male pianist and my glass of wine.

At about 11pm I decided to try out a club I had read was good on a Monday and was only half an hour walk away. Stepping outside into the cold (probably not really that cold but kind of cold) I elected to jump into an eight minute $9 taxi instead. The Club turned out to be hilariously empty except for the bartender and bus boy, who were both quite friendly, although incredulous as to what I was doing there.

Soon a number of other bartenders arrived: it was Industry night, and although there were not many people there, everyone knew each other and it proved quite fun with everyone in the bar buying everyone else (including me) drinks and the DJ playing whatever songs people wanted and writing funny in-jokes across the projector. I was also informed by one of the bartenders (of another bar) where to go the following night, and what sites to see the next day. Oh, it also turned out I had crossed into Quebec (Gatineau), which explained why everything was now in French first and English second, and all the fluent Canadian-accented bartenders could also switch to fluent French.

The weather the next day was absolutely beautiful: not too hot as in summer, but fresh and warm and sunny. Without having a specific plan I was able to walk around and take photos of all the main sites (noting down that I was indeed seeing the places I had been advised to see the previous night), as they were all in relative proximity.

I admired the canal, walked across bridges, ate lunch at the cafeteria of a museum, saw statues outside parliament house, read about various things to do with the history of Ottawa in a beautiful park overlooking everything (I didn’t need to go into any actual museums!), wandered into the shopping centre and simply walked around streets. I thought to myself how much fun I was having now that I had resumed travel again: I think it’s necessary to have a decent break in between to resume enjoying the act of being somewhere new and interesting.

It was then time for another nap before getting ready to go to the house of the friend I had met on my first night and his last in Rome, which was only 15 minutes walk away. I joined the group of science Masters students to watch the Ottawa Senators beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in the ice hockey (oh where did my allegiances lie! Turmoil!) while having some drinks, playing card games and listening to music.

Eventually I pointed out that it would be nearly 2am if we did not go out soon (everything always closes at 2am in Ontario) so the four of us who were left jumped in a taxi to a pumping bar in the market. It was surprisingly full of exuberant dancers for a Tuesday night!

The next day I had a couple of hours to head to the Byward Market and eat a savoury beaver tail (not really a beaver tail), walk around and enjoy the warm to hot weather and just sit on the bank of the canal before my two hour bus to Montreal.

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