This is a blog featuring my personal stories of food, gardening, yachting, photography, travel and life. I love it all!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Ottawa!

Took a bit of a scenic side trip on the way to Ottawa this morning. We noticed on our AAA map that the road along Lake Ontario was a scenic drive so we headed off in that direction. We stopped in a small town to pick up some picnic supplies and continued on our way driving through several cute little towns and past lots of lakeside "resorts" that were more mom and pop summer cabin places. We'd peek down a little dirt road or out behind someone's home and see a cluster of little rustic cabins or with charming architectural embellishments but all small places like the old motor court motels of the 50's that sprang up across America when Americans began taking car trips. I can imagine they are probably full up in the summer months when families are looking for a sunny getaway along Lake Ontario.

Canadian capitol building in Ottawa.
Speaking of the lake, I've seen the Great Lakes on maps all my life but it really is amazing to see them up close and personal. Lake Ontario isn't even one of the biggest lakes, but driving along next it and gazing across its expanse straining fruitlessly to see New York state on the other side, you get a feel for just how big they really are. It looks like an ocean. There were even waves lapping at the shore. The water out to about 50 or 100 yards had a beautiful azure color to it indicating the shallow in-shore water. But beyond that it was as dark and unpredictable as any ocean water.

As the afternoon wore on and we tired of driving, we turned north and headed back towards the main east west freeway to speed up our arrival in Ottawa. It was a good 5 and a half hour drive without the side trip along the lake shore. After another hour we turned north and another hour later we arrived on the outskirts of Ottawa, the nation's capital.

Okay, maybe eastern Canada in March isn't such a great idea. As we drove towards Ottawa my wife read about the activities and attractions in Ottawa. With each she mentioned, it became like a running gag, "but not this time of year."

Notre Dame Basilica
It is cold here and nothing outdoorsy is happening as a result. There are lots of pubs and restaurants with plenty of outdoor seating. But not this time of year. The famous Rideau Canal is supposed to have ice skating, but the canal is nearly empty and the water unfrozen. There is an icy wind blowing across the city which influences the directions you walk. Stay as much as possible in the lee of a building and you stay significantly warmer.

There were a couple of very nice surprises when we visited the stunningly beautiful Notre Dame Basilica and we were able to sit in the gallery of the Parliament and watch legislators debate national policy. It was interesting to hear them discussing issues that we read about our members of congress discussing.

Organ bay in the basilica
The basilica was as I said, stunning. It is just perfect. Walking in through the front door you see the lovely architectural accents decorating the pillars and ceiling. Walk forward out from under the narthex and suddenly the ceiling soars high into the heavens where the ceiling is painted a royal blue and hundreds of golden stars dot the sky. Everywhere you look your jaw drops with the details. One more time--stunning! It was my number one experience in Ottawa.

My wife decided to go out for a walk this afternoon, planning to visit the National Art Museum since it is free today after 5. Snow flurries changed her mind.

So we are holed up here in our hotel room waiting until we can walk next door at 9. Luckily we are right next door to an Indy movie theater playing a film we're interested I seeing.

We've had plenty of excitement though. Last night around midnight, the hotel fire alarm system went off emptying the rooms. We hung out in the lobby while Ottawa's finest searched every room. Finding nothing, we were allowed to return to our rooms for a fitful night of sleep.

Today we've had a real adventure in site seeing and dining. We walked over to a diner called Mello's for breakfast. The food was good. It turned out the be a real working man's joint. The staff and some of the customers swore like troopers. But it was a hoot anyway with a sassy waitress and a decor unchanged since the place opened who knows how long ago.

A walk through the By Market, which was filled with locals at lunch time, didn't much impress us. We grazed a bit, trying what at first looked like a tasty chocolate chip cookie dipped half way in chocolate. Turned out to be a stale, tasteless disappointment. We also saw a delicious looking savory cheese bread thingy at a bakery shop that had posted lots of photos of President Obama's visit to their shop during his Ottawa trip. Sadly the cheesy thingy didn't match up to our level of delight with our president.

Finally, on our way back to the hotel, we thought we'd found a place that would make it all better. Dunn's Famous Deli has been open they say since 1927. Now I am not exactly sure how they have managed this, but there you are. They are famous for their smoked meat sandwiches which look for all the world like a New York style pastrami sandwich. I say they "look" like one because that is where any other comparison sadly must end. Their jumbo sandwich had about an inch of what looked like pastrami stacked on what was the same color as rye bread and a little yellow mustard swiped across it. This is jumbo? Have these people actually ever been to a real deli? A New York deli, like Katz's or the Carnegie Deli? I don't think so because if they had they would have returned to Ottawa, promptly closed their doors and stopped trying to fool people with these hopelessly tasteless sandwiches. It was as if they had cooked the flavor out of the meat.  It tasted boiled. Then I read that steaming the meat was a big part of the process. And what does "smoked" have to do with the process? This meat never came anywhere near a smoker.

Funny sign in front of a local pub.
It was served with French fries that we're very greasy, which occurs when they are cooked at too low a temperature, and with a cole slaw which was just a sad addition to my already insulted sensibilities. Since 1927, huh? Ottawans, go to New York. Send someone there as a spy to learn the deli business. Please! Oh, vey!

We managed to finish our time in Ottawa on a positive note when we walked literally next door to an Indy theater and saw Salmon Fishing in The Yemen. Terrific film from the UK about a Yemeni sheik who decides he wants to bring salmon fishing to Yemen. Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt star in this film that is much more than the title suggests. Tomorrow, on to Montreal!