A love letter to Ottawa

'A love letter to Ottawa', a blog by Jose Walsh

Hey Ottawa,

I know I was a little shell-shocked when I arrived in early February.

For someone who has never seen snow before, rocking up in -14 was pretty rude of you, despite everyone assuring me that this was a really ‘mild’ winter for Ottawa.

Personally, I like seeing my taxes on a price tag than having to work it out in my head, and I’m not crash-hot on your tipping culture. I’m still a little bewildered by your fervent obsession with ‘All Dressed’ chips. And the whole milk-in-a-bag thing. Oh, and that you have a 60* temperature swing between winter and summer! Come on.

Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada. 'A love letter to Ottawa', by Jose Walsh.
Parliament Hill on my first day in Ottawa

But having lived here for the past 11 months, there are just so many things I love about you. The people are kind, generous, and ridiculously friendly — it seems that everyone has a cousin, friend or sibling living in Melbourne. I still think the way locals say ‘out’ is ridiculously cute.

I love your multiculturalism, and how I’m just as likely to meet someone who was born in Jamaica, Lebanon, the Philippines or Argentina as Toronto, and who chose to move here because of your easy lifestyle and acceptance of diversity.

I also think it’s special that so many Canadians proactively visit you, their capital, as a tourist. I can see why — Canadians are patriotic, your Parliament Hill resembles the Disney logo, and who wouldn’t want to ice-skate for miles on your heritage-listed lochs. And let’s not forget your dreamy Justin Trudeau.

So, here are a few places and experiences for which I wanted to give a heartfelt thank you.

EAT, DRINK + BE MERRY

I’ll admit, I nearly gave up hope on finding a decent coffee here. Luckily, Ministry of Coffee came to the rescue, and successfully plied me with decent espresso and tasty brownies while I zoned out in both the Elgin and Wellington St locations. Origin Coffee in the ByWard Market is the cosy go-to spot for students, professionals and writers alike wanting to enjoy anything from a turmeric latte to a local craft beer over a cheese-plate, and they even have a Bitcoin ATM machine in the foyer.

Origin Coffee, Ottawa, Canada. 'A love letter to Ottawa', by Jose Walsh.
Origin Coffee in the winter

La Bottega Nicastro is my go-to deli, and I don’t think we’d have survived without it’s delicious range of sandwiches, home-made pasta and international cheese selection. I’m forever indebted to our friend for recommending Art Is In Boulangerie, where the bread taste just like it does back home, and I can treat myself to a decadent poutine or ridiculously large cronut hole.

Art Is In Boulangerie, Ottawa, Canada. 'A love letter to Ottawa', by Jose Walsh.
Massive cronuts at Art Is In Boulangerie

When it comes to eating healthily, Pure Kitchen delivers delicious vegetarian meals like hearty mushroom burgers alongside a fantastic wine selection. Tomo is also a great place to eat well, with a delicious variety of sushi, contemporary dishes as well Japanese beer on tap.

Tomo Restaurant, ByWard Market, Ottawa. 'A love letter to Ottawa', by Jose Walsh.
Beautiful sushi and cocktails at Tomo Restaurant, ByWard Market

We were treated with a gift voucher to hyper modern, high-end restaurant Atelier, where we were wowed with technically amazing, beautiful presented and perfectly balanced food and wine.

Atelier Restaurant, Ottawa, Canada. 'A love letter to Ottawa', by Jose Walsh.
Edible helium balloon at Atelier!

I think that the best meal I’ve had so far in Ottawa was at Allium, which serves modern Canadian dishes and a banoffee pie that is so good, one of the Ottawa Senators has a standing order with the restaurant after every home game.

Allium Restaurant, Ottawa, Canada. 'A love letter to Ottawa', by Jose Walsh.
Mmmmmm…. Banoffee pie at Allium…

The diner culture is strong in Ottawa. My faves include the cute Chesterfield’s Gastro Diner which does a wicked grilled cheese perfect for a jet lag slump, and Elgin Street Diner (voted Ottawa’s best diner) does the most decadent banana milkshake I’ve ever tasted. And although it’s tricky to find a table without a lengthy wait, Wilf & Ada’s mom-and-pop-style café couples quaint surroundings with a delicious brunch offering.

Chesterfields Gastro Diner, Ottawa, Canada. 'A love letter to Ottawa', by Jose Walsh.
The grilled cheese from Chesterfields Gastro Diner fixes everything

In terms of sweet treats, I almost wish I’d never discovered Sweet Jesus ice cream as it is so goddamn over the top and delicious.

Sweet Jesus, Ottawa, Canada. 'A love letter to Ottawa', by Jose Walsh.
A single serve, small ice cream at Sweet Jesus. Dear lord…

I initially thought BeaverTails were pastry containing actual beaver, but instead they’re the best desert Canada has ever invented. Containing approximately 4,219 calories, they’re best enjoyed on a freezing cold night whilst standing outside the original stall in the ByWard Market whilst listening to the busker singing ‘Heya’.

Beavertails, ByWard Market, Ottawa. 'A love letter to Ottawa', by Jose Walsh.
BeaverTails = warmth

SWEAT + STRETCH + SOCIALISE

Walking into Elevate Yoga on Elgin Street is by far one of the smartest things I did in my first few weeks in Ottawa, as I found a beautiful, welcoming studio offering a huge range of classes delivered by friendly instructors. It also led to making two lifelong new friends and converting my husband’s firm stance against group fitness into regular attendance at Lizl’s 6pm Wednesday flow.

Elevate Yoga, Ottawa, Canada. 'A love letter to Ottawa', by Jose Walsh.
The gorgeous Elevate studio

Parliament Hill Yoga during the warmer months is almost as much of an institution as the spot where it occurs. Free lunchtime and occasional evening sessions draw several hundred people each week, although there’s always plenty of space to practice and find your zen.

Parliament Hill Yoga, Ottawa, Canada. 'A love letter to Ottawa', by Jose Walsh.
Evening zen at Parliament Hill Yoga (late summer)

I’ve also recently discovered iNSiDE OUT Studio Barre in Westboro, an intimate and beautifully decorated studio which offers a range of classes to people both new and experienced at barre. My girlfriend has also converted me to Greco Fitness, and the Westboro location offers numerous 45-minute circuit workouts to people of all fitness levels in a non-intimidating environment. The combination of yoga, barre and group fitness has kept my fitness regime interesting and helped me to stay motivated.

iNSiDE OUT Studio Barre, Westboro. 'A love letter to Ottawa', by Jose Walsh.
To the barre! iNSiDE OUT Studio Barre, Westboro

CHILL, ROAM + CHEER

Le Nordik, the largest Scandinavian spa in North America, is a pretty sublime to unwind. Featuring  10 outdoor pools, nine saunas, an underground salt water floating pool and a treatment facility offering a range of massage and beauty treatments, Le Nordic offers the full thermotherapy experience and is especially magic to visit during the winter.

Le Nordic Spa, Chelsea, Canada. NSiDE OUT Studio Barre, Westboro
The picture-perfect Le Nordic Spa

The Gatineau National Park is a must see for any nature-lover, in particular the dilapidated Carbide Wilson Ruins overrun by nature and the Ottawa River, as well as the scientific wonder and natural beauty of Lac Pink. The entire park is worth a roam in any season.

Carbide Wilson Ruins, Gatineau, Canada. 'A Love letter to Ottawa' by Jose Walsh.
Soaking up the Carbide Wilson Ruins

You can’t go to Ottawa and not see the Senators play ice hockey. You don’t need to understand the mechanics or the rules to have a great time, and the buzzing atmosphere is a chance to see how passionate Canadians are about their national game.

Senators Ice Hockey, Canadian Tire Centre. 'A love letter to Ottawa' by Jose Walsh
Going to a Sens game at the Canadian Tire Centre is a must!

Thank you Ottawa!

*Jose ‘ooot’*

 

What do you love about Ottawa? Are there any places or experiences you’d recommend squeezing in before I leave?