Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Ottawa: A Forty and Frozen Experience

Well it's been a few weeks now and 40 seems a lot like my 30s. The 30s seemed a lot like the 20s with the exception of teenagers and a mortgage. Perhaps it is all in the mind. You're as young as you feel, and I feel like there's so much left to be done. If this is middle age, then I have quite a bit of time and a lot left to do.

For my milestone birthday I decided to work. Then I did a little exploring. I ended up in Ottawa, Canada. The alternative was to wait a week and see the Ohio State vs. Michigan game, which I now realize would have been the best game EVER. Alas, I spent my time in the frozen tundra that is Ottawa at this time of year. It wasn't all bad. Let's break it down... (pics in no particular order because I'm pretty damned lazy)

Moxie's- Absolutely try the Sushi Cones and the Ginger Sesame Tuna. Not only was our waitress absolutely gorgeous, but she knew directions to the best LCBO in Ottawa. Gotta love a girl who can tell you where to find the best selection of drinks!

Arc, The Hotel- In the heart of everything, close to Parliament, walking distance to anything we needed and very well appointed. First off, the staff was very cordial. We were met with valet service and sparkling white before we even completed check in. The room was modern, clean, comfortable, and the bedding was heaven. Huge props for the complimentary water, fruit, and chocolates. I've been told that chocolate creates the same reaction in the brain as chocolate, though I'm not sure how much chocolate it takes.

Elgin Street Diner- After a hard night out it is always nice to find a place that will cater to your fat, carb, and protein needs. This is that place. Sure, it's a bit of a walk from where you're staying, but I can promise you that the portions are beyond even American standards and they will leave you very happy that you have to walk back. It's that good and it's that bad for you. I loved it. The coffee keeps coming and the meat seemed to go on for miles. What more could you ask for?

Museum of Civilization- Once you've reached the locks (no, I don't have pics.. they were dry) you might as well make the walk across the Ottawa river to Quebec. As you cross the bridge you'll find the Museum of Civilization where we planned to see the Vodou exhibit. If you're in the area or it travels to where you are I strongly encourage you to take the time to check it out. It's illuminating, and the staff at the MoC were especially eager to be helpful in helping to understand how Vodou merges tribal belief with modern and ancient Christianity. The artwork itself is worth a visit. We also managed to take in the Kenya IMAX show and a tour of the true First World totems. Truly impressive. I will also state for the record that his place does things right. There is a restaurant/bar ON premise. We managed to stop over for a beer and a martini before we hit the IMAX, because as the ticket agent said when asked if they had a bar, "Of course, this is Quebec!"

Aulde Dubliner & Pour House- It's a hell of a walk in the freezing rain between provinces, so we felt it only right that we stop to warm ourselves at one of the local pubs. Looking back I really wish I had tried the fish and chips. Maybe next time? Not only did I discover ciders I'd never had before, but I had the opportunity to spot a gentleman sporting all opposing hockey gear in an all Senators town with no one kicking his ass, AND I had a view of Sugar Mountain... the end all be all of sugar highs, which we visited next.

Sugar Mountain- Imagine all the candy you loved AND hated as a kid and an adult. It lives at Sugar Mountain. I don't mean to brag, but ya know the Cadbury Creme Egg we love to hate? They have a candy bar. I. Shit. You. Not. It's pretty damned amazing. Aside from that, I found lolly's and Pop Rocks. There was so much I can't buy in the SD I couldn't begin to name it all. Galaxy, real Mars, Malteresers, Dairy Milk, etc. I held back, though my companion did not. I could have claimed the tax when I left the country, but that would have seemed a little gluttonous and I didn't want to give us a worse name than we already had. "Oh, she came to Canada and she filled up on fat and sugar.. typical American."

Fat Tuesdays New Orleans Experience- I'm not sure what led us there, but it might have been the hurricane drinks. Regardless, we went. To start, it seems the appetizers were good. I had a salad so I'm not actually sure. The joy might have been sugar or post app alcohol inspired. Who knows. What I am sure of is that the jambalaya (like everything else in the city ;) ) offers up plenty of spice and plenty of meat. The waiter was a consummate flirt, winking not only at me (which made me feel absolutely girlish), but also at my companion, which made it just a little less special but a lot more funny. Absolutely delightful. Following the sampling of every cocktail on the menu (not kidding), we were treated to some terrific music by an unknown trio. The music was great and packed with lots of feeling, but the drunks around us made it even more enjoyable.

In the interim there is always travel and sleep. I must clarify for the people of my country that if you feel you are "man" enough to handle the north land, you should really go slightly north before you make such claims. I don't know that I've ever felt more frigid than the moments in Ottawa, in the dead of night, when we couldn't find a cab to take us back to our hotel room.

Twice during my visit I was given an opportunity to see how the other half lives. By the other half, I obviously mean the people who don't have to settle for malt beverage in our mixers. I don't know if people in the US are aware of this, but your Twisted Teas, Smirnoff Ices, and your Mike's Hard have been made with malt beverage. There is no whiskey or vodka in your drink. I'm sorry. You've been misled.

Apparently the US in one of the only (if not the only country) that does not trust their people to have pre-mixed drinks. In Canada (and other countries, dammit), you can get your Smirnoff Ice with real vodka in it. Your teas have whiskey. You can get your Canadian Club pre-mixed with ginger ale or cola... your Mike's Hard is actually hard! As a matter of fact, you can even get your RockStar with vodka without having to ask for it to be mixed in a glass. It's right there in the damned can. Maybe pre-mixing these drinks would keep us from having different ideas of what a "pour" is. A Denver pour is not anywhere close to a Sioux Falls pour. If it just came already done you'd know exactly how much was in it. Just saying.

This brings me to the aforementioned LCBO. Let me be very clear about something, if you think you know how to shop for booze you're wrong. I will refer you back to the conversation about dealing with the cold. Take a trip north before you get too big for your britches. I've been north of the border more than a few times and I can tell you for certain that we shop like booze pansies. I was the ONLY person at the largest LCBO in Ottawa buying a single serve of anything. As people in front of me checked out shopping carts of beverage I bought 2 single cans of ciders we don't have in the US. I felt like a child, as if people were silently mocking me for my lack of bulk booze purchase. If I'd been prepared to ship some stuff back I might have purchased more. Instead, I hung my head and tucked behind my local companion with his full box 'o booze and hailed a cab back to hotel central.

Tosca Ristorante- Oh. My. Pants. We started things off with some wine and appetizers, because apparently that's what we do. Eat. Drink. Be merry. The calamari looked delightful, but I wouldn't know because I didn't eat it. The grilled shrimp in white wine sauce were a slice of tender tasty perfection. Our wine of the night... 2008 Sledgehammer Cabernet Sauvignon. Honestly, I can't for the life of me remember what anyone had for dinner except me. I had stuffed tortellini with Gorgonzola sauce and prosciutto. It was so delicious I made it for my family when I got home. I am quite sure I didn't do it justice.

At the end of every trip is the road home. It is absolutely brutal, no matter how long or short the road may be. It takes a lot for me to get excited about being in the Midwest, but as usual I felt completely overjoyed to be back in my own car on the way back to my own bed by the time the trip was over. My urge to leave is back with a vengeance. Where I'll go next is still in the air, but my bag is already half packed.

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