5 General Discoveries on the Maple Tree Country
The first thing that hit me about Canada is how supernaturally friendly people were. In a month, I can’t count how many random conversations total strangers have initiated with me in lifts, shopping malls, supermarkets (mainly in Toronto). I naturally compare this to 8 years in London when random strangers chatting affably with you in a public place seems more horrifying than heartening. The second thing that jumps out is the quality of service. Not only are most sales staff bending over backwards to fulfil your consumerist appetites but they really know their stuff – the content of every shelf of every floor is sort of memorised with curious precision in their minds. The third thing I noticed (though I know too little to declare this with any factual certainty but rather an impression created from my own selected exposure) is how successfully they have managed to weave immigrant communities to Canadian identity. It seemed both ‘sides’ were proud to include and be apart of each other. From a rosy distance, it almost looked like a model state of race and religious harmony. Fourthly, I was in awe of the geographical space. Huge roads, huge homes, huge malls, huge pavements etc. This kind of endless horizon had a somewhat lovely stretching effect on the peace of mind. And finally, (the last point of which is probably closely related to the fourth) Canada excelled at making beautiful landed homes. From townhouses, semi-detacheds to individual bungalows, the architecture tends to be individualised, homely, modern and cozy with a lot of space and light.
The whole Canadian adventure is a little big and scattered in my mind to fully decompress and present snug soundbites on but the one city which we visited very briefly and which really charmed me was Ottawa. I usually tend to have more affection for cute administrative capitals than huge financial centres (with various exceptions of course) and the Canadian capital definitely fell in this group. It was green, open, tranquil, neither too Anglicised nor too Francophile and in fact the perfect combination of both. I loved how the city was laid out, especially the Parliament Hill and Byward Market area, the beautiful villas of Rockcliffe Park, the quaint apartments set in townhouses on St Patrick’s Street and the idyllic manors across the Rideau river on the Gatineau side. I could actually imagine even living in such a city for long periods of time, years maybe, and getting sheltered within a pleasant schedule of walking to work, working in the humanitarian industry within a society that overall protects these aspirations, learning and speaking French and spending weekends enjoying the parks and wealth of cultural events on offer. It just seemed like a beautifully functioning society in a remote corner of the globe yet simultaneously wants to be apart of the bigger conversation with the rest of the world and help resolve the issues the international community was facing. Here are some of our snapshots.
Walking down Sussex Drive
Beaver Tail at Byward Market
Bromance Cookies at Byward Market
The Nut House
St. Patrick’s Street
Our St. Patrick’s Street Airbnb
We were super pleased with the Airbnb especially as a few that we had initially wanted sort of slipped from our hands and this sort of landed on our laps at the 11th hour. It had more than a 100 positive reviews and is located right behind Byward Market and the whole strip of road from Notre Dame which is a gorgeous walk especially on a summer’s day. Also within walking distance of Parliament Hill. It’s a perfect space for a couple or even for three people. There was loads of light, a fully equipped kitchen and I loved the view outside the window – fresh green and even the tips of the Notre Dame. Click here to check it out on Airbnb.
Canada has a lot to offer – Toronto the cosmopolitan financial centre, Montreal and Quebec for its beautiful quaint French architecture, the Rockies and Banff lake on the West and of course Vancouver, a city often voted as the World’s Best City. Ottawa usually slips away from the tourist radar as it is pretty much perceived as merely an administrative civil-service capital. While that is certainly not untrue, I guess it’s always what floats your boat. If you want to spend a few days to walk around in a peaceful, sedate ‘town-like’ Anglo-Franco city, with British architecture set in a huge open landscape, soak in an atmosphere reverberating with some kind of multi-cultural harmony, then I would definitely pencil Ottawa in any first-time Canadian adventure. As for me, I keep Ottawa in my mind as a city I would definitely love to return to and wouldn’t say no to living in either.