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This is my entry for Graham‘s monthly Photography Hunt. The theme for September is “Morning“.

Morning Rush Hour Downtown Ottawa

Ottawa is a morning city. I’m not a morning person.

When I was a teenager, I could easily sleep until noon or even later. When my friends disregarded the unspoken rule about not calling me before noon, I could hear either of my parents answering the phone: “yes, she is er… yes, sleeping. Yes, she should be up in about… let me see… a couple of hours?”.

These days, I rarely get to sleep in. First, I have to work. And even on weekends when I go to bed much later than I should, my body refuses to sleep as late as I used to when I was a teen. I guess it is part of growing up and getting (a little bit) old.

Or maybe I’m subconsciously trying to fit in: Ottawa is a morning city. While in France, nothing was open before 10 am, in Ottawa you can have breakfast at 5 am, an hour-long yoga lesson at 6 am and be at work by 7 am. Freaky. People love being up early in that city, and by early I mean long before the sun rises. The logic behind that is that if you start work early, you can also leave early and enjoy the rest of the day. Now, most people I know who are up at 5 am are deep asleep by the time I finish dinner but never mind. They still feel they had a more productive day than late sleepers like me.

There is also a stigma attached to sleeping in. French call sleeping late “the fat morning”, and to Chinese it is the “lazy sleep”. Early risers are considered more productive, successful, with good work ethic: “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy wealthy and wise”. Night owls are said to be negative, moody, without ambition… Sometimes, I feel people are just feeling guilty of sleeping altogether: have you heard the stupid bragging about who gets by on the least sleep? No wonder there is always a line-up at Starbucks, half of the population of the city has to be on caffeine just to make it through the day!

I believe in circadian rhythms, i.e. some of us are early risers while some of us are night owls. Trying to change what our bodies are programmed to is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. No matter how hard I try, I will never be a true morning person. So talk to me after 9 am, it’s safer… for both of us.


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. I spent the better part of my life being jolted awake by an alarm clofk and driving for an hour to work at 8:00 AM. Now I am retired and getting up early is 8:00 AM. I have 6 Saturdays and a Sunday in my “work” week. Retirement is great. Actually I keep very busy but with what I enjoy only.

  2. Tell me about it! I work better late in the evenings, bed at 2, up at 9 ish. That’s my way (plus you avoid traffic)! Yet, I don’t like to stay in bed longer than I need to, but an early rise breaks the cycle and it takes me many hours to catch up.
    I have a meeting at 9.30 tomorrow; I’m raging!

  3. I just came back from Provence!
    I had a great time over there!
    The weather was incredible good.
    How could you swap such weather with Canadian cold winter?

    It’s true! Shops and museums open at 10am!!!
    And they close at 12pm and reopen at 2.3pm?!?
    Ha ha… I had to change my itineraries to suit their opening hours!!!

  4. I am an early morning person… on weekdays 4:45 am… but I confess I also need some caffeine to get me through the day… and at 10 pm I need my bed 🙂

  5. I am a morning person and always wonder how can people sleep till late. 🙂

    Waking up early keeps me fresh for long time and by the time a late riser reaches office, I would have done half my work. Nonetheless, I don’t doubt or degrade their productivity. I think they are equally productive but then I think they miss the evening or night life. 😀

  6. I’ve lived in Ottawa my entire life and am exactly like you-NOT a morning person!
    My rhythm is set to wake up early, but actually becoming verbal and pleasant takes some time for me. (Plus caffeine!)

  7. Ha! I’m not an early morning riser, either, I need the assistance of an alarm most of the time if it’s before 8 o’clock or so. I don’t really have a circadian rhythm, though, I like to go to bed when I’m sleepy and wake up naturally after my body has rest, which completely depends on the demands of the day. That’s why I don’t get jet lag, because I have no real sleep/wake routine. That’s the upside — the downsides are the need for multiple alarms and an inability to nap!

  8. I am an early riser but that is because I have to be in order to get what I want done during the day but I think my natural rhythmn would be to go to be bed late and get up late and maybe have a nap in afternoon.

  9. You know how I feel about getting up early! There’s a huge difference for me between having to be up and out the door at 8 AM or 9 AM. 9 AM is just so much more humane. Don’t worry, I won’t call any earlier than that!

  10. Oh, I am the opposite of you. I am a morning person as well, and I love waking up early because my productivity is very high in the mornings. But once the noon passes, my productivity goes down and I just get lazy.

  11. @Tulsa Gentleman – You look like a busy retired person! I guess you wake up naturally when you are not stressed about waking up.

    @Cynthia – And it’s not just Paris… “en province” it’s even later. Really 0 incentive to wake up!

    @Em – Yay, we have the same schedule! I also work best in the evening, it’s always been like that, since I’m a student.

    @London Caller – I hate when places close at noon for the two-hours lunch break… even as a French it annoys me.

    @Sidney – That is super early! Do you have to get up that early or do you wake up naturally?

    @Nisha – See, I wonder the opposite: how can one be willing to be up that early?! 😉

    @Pauline – I love that city but it sometimes drives me crazy when I see morning yoga classes are packed at 6 am.

    @Gail at Large – It’s probably the best actually… listening to your body. Smart girl!

    @London Caller – I can imagine… I’ve heard it was even more expensive than Paris.

    @Yogi – I wish I could nap… never been able to.

    @Soleil – I feel the same! Getting up at 8 am actually isn’t bad. But before that, it’s tough and I really have to sleep much earlier. I’m used to get up at 8 am I guess. Later is best of course 😉

    @Linguist-in-Waiting – See, I’m the exact opposite. Unless I start work very early (i.e. before 7 am) I’m still productive in the afternoon.

  12. I was a late riser in France like you and liked to do la grasse matinée. Where I worked for 26 years I had to be there before 6 am so I rose at about 3:50 am if you can believe it! But now that I am retired it was easy for my body to get back to my old youthful ways. I like to stay on the computer until at least 1:00 am, then I read until 2:00 am and get up at about 9:30 am. This way I can eat my breakfast while watching the only TV show I watch, which is the daily rerun of Jon Stewart’s evening show. I thought I would keep getting up early… well I did wake up for a while at 4, then 5 then 6 and now, no problem.

  13. Heyyyyy Zhu!!!

    I am sooooo sorry I missed your photograph on the challenge results. It is most definitely there now, and what a great photograph it is too!!! It captures everything I do not like about mornings…. Going to work, being stuck in traffic, traffic lights (that always seem to turn red as soon as I reach them…ggggrrrrrr!!!). There is always one thing I can say for sure, and that is if Zhu takes a photograph I know it will be a great one!!!! I love your photography and I love your blog! (oh, and I look forward to your entry for the next challenge, as I know how creative you are!).

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