Anyway, I had to go to Ottawa for work-related reasons for a couple of days. Needless to say, I took advantage of that to walk around the town before meeting with my old buddies and to reminisce in the couple of years I spent there.
Walking around this city again made me remember what the problem was with Montreal. My hometown has lost a lot of its charm. You're constantly stuck in traffic and feel trapped like you can't go anywhere. The landscape is littered with orange cones and construction signs everywhere. And all of this is due to the decrepit roads, bridges, overpasses and tunnels which all threaten to collapse at any moment. This makes everybody frustrated, impatient and angry on the road and makes driving a hell of a stressful experience. It also feels dirtier than ever. Walking around as much as I did, I realized that I had to wash my face every time I got home because of all the crap in the air that sticks to your skin. The cars seem to kick up so much dust, and mixed with their exhaust it just seems to stick everywhere. There's also a distinctive smell, or stench, around the downtown area. It probably comes from the backed-up sewers who can't handle any rain, the smoke from the many many chain smokers, that stuffy rubbery smell from the metro, all the overflowing trash cans lying in the hot sun, the mix of B.O. from every single person and the car exhaust fumes binding it all together. Everyone is rushing everywhere and when you want to have some fun you can't without spending any money. It's also very difficult to stay active without a gym membership of some kind.
Ottawa, on the other hand, is a beautiful city. Some call it boring, but in my opinion, it just has a different pace of life and there's just different activities to do. I remember when I lived there, in the morning I would open up my apartment windows and there would be a fresh breeze coming in that smelled like trees and grass all around, and I lived at about a 45 minute walk from downtown. The roads were beautiful, smooth and fun to drive with long winding roads all across the city with very few stops and traffic lights, and very little construction. You could get out of the city within 30 minutes on the highway and end up in the country. The air smelled fresh and cool and there were so many parks and green areas. People would get together and play flag football, Frisbee, volleyball, soccer, heck all kinds of sports. There were beautiful trails along the Rideau river and bike paths everywhere. People were active and spent their time outside having fun and socializing. You could see it in their face that they were more at peace over there and relaxed. I found them to be a lot more friendly too.
So, as far as walking around goes, I couldn't go too far. I was going to meet my friends later that night at the very good pub Chez Lucien in the Bytown area. So I walked through the business district of town and emerged in front of the Parliament and walked west for a bit until I reached the Bank of Canada.
This is where debt comes from.
Then I headed back and walked past the Confederation building. That building houses many offices for the members of parliament (MPs) It was built in the late 1920s and was finished in the early 1930s and used to house the department of agriculture, mostly.
This is where our politicians "work".
I walked up parliament hill and walked around the parliament building. I always liked to go there because you have such a beautiful view in the back. You can see Gatineau and the Gatineau hills in the distance and a big part of Bytown. The sun was setting when I was there and it was absolutely beautiful. The only thing though is that all the grass was dead. Like yellow and brown dead. Ottawa has been going through a bad drought and it really shows. In fact, while I was there, on the news that evening they announced that there was a bush fire some where in the west end of the city. That's how bad it was. Indeed the temperature was very hot, but because it was so dry it was still comfortable. The funny thing that evening is that the hill was overrun by rabbits, they were everywhere eating whatever green leaves they could find. I guess they must have been hungry as heck with all the plants dead.
After going around, I headed to the Byward Market in Bytown to walk around and look at the local shops. I remember just a couple of years ago how everyone went completely crazy because the U.S. president, Barack Obama, made a surprise visit in the Byward Market and bought some beaver tails and cookies. The cookie shop didn't waste any time in advertising their cookies now known as Obama cookies. I bet if prime minister Stephen Harper did the same, the shop would close down in shame. Apparently, now they also had royal cookies as well for when the royal family visits. Maybe that's because of when prince William and his wife Kate came to visit last year.
Later on I passed in front of the very famous Zaphod Beeblebrox bar. Named after the character in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, this bar is where the Rolling Stones shot their music video Streets of Love!
I remember spending an evening there with my good old friend who introduced me to The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy. He's one of the coolest dudes I know, and I mean that in terms of being cool, doing cool stuff for his job and being successful at it, and also having a cool head with a positive outlook on life. I swear he's an incarnation of Zaphod Beeblebrox himself, but WAY more humble. We were pretty excited when we saw that the bar served the famous Pan-Galactic Gargle-Blaster! We worked our way through the list of mixed drinks named after the different characters until we got to that amazing drink. Indeed, at this point we both felt like our brain had been smashed by a slice of lemon wrapped around a large gold brick.
Those were some smashing good times!
Just down the street I ended up in front of the American embassy. That building always made me feel uneasy because it looks like a freakin' high tech prison. Especially with all the concrete barriers and spiky metal fence all around it. It looks like a modern fortress. Anyway, they're still our crazy, retarded, gun-toting brother just south of us so walking in front of this building is my way of saying hello and that we love you guys no matter what. Just as long as you keep us out of your personal problems.
I walked back another street, passing Irish pub, after Irish pub, after Irish pub. I swear there's an Irish pub at every corner in this part of town. It's so dense with Irish pubs, they don't know where to put 'em anymore. I swear I wouldn't last long if I did a pub crawl around here.
Even back-alleys and parking lots have Irish pubs!
I reached Dalhousie street (pronounced Dal-hoooo-zee) and thought I'd go pay a friend a visit in her own store called Milk. Unfortunately, when I got there I was just 10 minutes too late. They had already closed. But, if ever you're in town, please go visit her store. It's a great place for fashionable, unique clothes and accessories for women as well as other very cool stuff.
Finally, it was time to enter Chez Lucien. I went in and sat at the bar and had a beer while waiting for my buddies. I had a bit of a chit chat with the friendly, lovely barmaids at this French-Canadian, Habs lovin' pub in the city of the Sens. (Watch some hockey, eh.) I got ourselves a table and as the waitress cleared it up for us my friends started to pop in one after another. I ordered myself a delicious Frida and Diego burger. Their burgers are without any doubt the best hamburgers in town. And that's saying a lot considering they have the most amazing gourmet burger chain there called The Works. I had a great time with my dear Ottawa friends and I was so happy to see them again. Eventually every one had to go as all good things must come to an end, but one buddy and I went to another bar near Ottawa University and spent the rest of the night playing Foosball. Best. Night. Ever.
Now before I end this post, I'd like to make an honourable mention. The next day, I was going back home with another Ottawa friend, and dodge ball ex-teammate, who was going to spend the weekend in Montreal with me. Before hitting the road, she took me to another southern soul food place called Jean Albert's American Style Soul Food. Now remember how bat shit crazy I am over fried chicken? And remember how I went insane on Canada day when I found out about Fatboy's Southern Smokehouse? Well, dear readers, Jean Albert's even better! I ordered the fried chicken and it comes with a choice of two sides. I ordered some mashed potatoes and collard greens. Everything was absolutely delicious!!! This is home made stuff, folks. It cannot get any better than this. Indeed this is the very best soul food I've ever had and I am definitely coming back. Pay LeRoy a visit when you're in town and eat at Jean Albert's! You'll definitely won't regret it y'all!