As the joke goes in Canada, we have two seasons: winter and construction. And with winter approaching fast, the city is trying to wrap up many construction projects, but some roads are still a mess.
Yearly Archives: 2011
Between adjusting the clock backward and the short late fall days, the sun now sets around 4:30 p.m. The downsides are obvious: everyone feels tired and it’s hard to go back home in the dark. But on the plus side, we regularly get to see wonderful sunsets.
I never truly caught the online shopping bug. In fact, the only times I get up from the couch to go get my credit card in my wallet are to buy Threadless t-shirts (because they are unique) and books on Amazon (because they are much cheaper than at Chapters).
And photo products.
To a lot of French, food in North America means junk food. But as I realized when I came to Canada, there is a huge difference between your usual sad-looking fast-food combo and the food served in local greasy spoons.
Yes, there is such a thing as a good burger.
Last weekend, I walked through Confederation Square, where Occupy Ottawa settled. I hadn’t gone back since the day the movement started.
Come on guys. Ottawa does not suck!
It’s funny how popular capital-bashing is in the new world: Australians with Canberra, Americans with Washington DC etc. The old world usually have capital envy—French may not like Parisians but most acknowledge that Paris is somewhat of an exciting place to be.
On the weekend of November 11, I packed a small bag, left my computer and my city life behind and headed to Bourget, a small village in Eastern Ontario. It only took a forty-minute drive to get there but as soon as we hit Vars, we entered another world of farms, straight roads and no traffic. Welcome to the countryside.
Ottawa finally caught up with the sushi craze and sushi joints have been popping up all over the town. But we are not Vancouver, and here there are mostly two ways to satisfy your sushi cravings: picking up a box of assorted sushi at SushiGo, Go For Sushi or whatever combination of these keywords; or hitting one of the more or less “authentic” all-you-can-eat sushi buffets.
In Ottawa, a simple glance at the Rideau Canal is enough to realize the seasons are changing
From mid-May to mid-October, the locks are open and dozens of boats sail on the historic canal. The scenery is picture-perfect with lots of green trees along the water, and the area is an ode to outdoor living.
Then the canal is drained by opening the locks by the Château Laurier, in order to prepare for the winter and to eventually create the longest skating rink in the world.
All summer long, I bumped into canvassers wearing emblazoned binders and vests with the logo of the charity they were working for. “Do you have a minute for the environment?” some ask plaintively. “I don’t bite, come closer!” others plead.
I admit it, I suck at buying souvenirs. First, I often don’t have room in my luggage. Second, most souvenirs are not exactly useful and can be downright tacky. What’s the point of spending money on trinkets that will just collect dust at home?
Recently, one reader asked me what Canadian souvenirs I would recommend visitors to buy.
When I think of restaurant areas, the downtown part of Bank Street isn’t the place that comes to mind first. To me, Bank Street equals great bakeries and a long string of coffee shops—not great food. But on a cold Friday night, my favourite foodie partner and I didn’t want to walk too far so we ended up at Taste Ramen+Fusion, a new restaurant that took the place of the old Ichibei.
Whether they are BlackBerry, iPhones, Android, smart phones or mobile devices… everybody’s got one.
Ottawa seems to be partial to BlackBerry though, probably because Research In Motion (RIM), the telco company who invented the device, is Canadian, has contracts with the government and is a big employer in Ottawa.
For the first two years I was in Canada, it was fairly obvious I was new to the country. Not only I didn’t speak English very well but the North American way of life was a novelty to me. I didn’t know the local customs, products and culture. I never really researched Canada the way a lot of prospective immigrants do because I just happened to land in the Great North Strong and Free by chance.
Suddenly, the very same indoors malls I avoided all summer (it’s too cold with the air-con on!) look welcoming again and I don’t want to take quick cold showers anymore but lounge around in the steamy bathroom.
Little by little, I reverted to my winter accessories and products. I’m picky about my beauty products because I want them to be: 1) affordable; 2) easy to use; 3) effective.
Most places in the Byward Market are overpriced and cater to tourists. Planet Coffee is one of the exceptions. The courtyard is quiet and the atmosphere very relaxed. While there seems to be a big turn-over of staff (that or I really don’t have a good memory for faces!) it still feels like a neighbourhood coffee shop.
Canadians like pets, and in residential neighbourhoods it’s common to see people walking their dogs after an early diner, no matter the weather.
However, unlike French, Canadians are well-behaved and they pick up after their dogs—streets here are not dotted with dog poop.
Thanks to globalization, no matter where you go these days, you will probably experience a lesser culture shock than the great explorers did a few centuries ago. Familiar brands and franchises took over the planet and local customs and lifestyles were exported well beyond their original boundaries. But it’s not always the same. Or rather, it’s the same… just different. Here are a few examples between France and North America.
The other day was one of these blah days. I was soaked by the time I got home. I ditched my bag on the floor and grabbed the camera with my favourite prime lens for a quick photo shoot—I wasn’t going to get any wetter.
I’m very ashamed to say that, for the past…er, 8 years, the pumpkin carving duty was often performed by my Chinese in-laws.
But this year, we decided to tackle the chore.
Cut me some slack, okay? Back in the days, October 31st was just a regular day in France—no pumpkin, no sugar-high kids, no candies.
North Americans take Halloween seriously. As soon as the back-to-school displays are gone, they are replaced by gooey candies and a wide range of merchandises sporting skulls, bats, pumpkins, skeletons and the like. Be afraid, be very afraid…
My story with Canadian cinema didn’t start very well. When I first came here, Feng dragged me to see Men with Brooms. Keeping in mind I barely spoke English and didn’t know much about Canada, I automatically assumed it was a comedy about… guys doing housekeeping, a bit like Mrs. Doubtfire. Well, turned out it was a movie about curling. I didn’t even know curling was a sport.
Soon, a long horde of newly-deads, including Colonel Khadafy, marched down Saint Patrick Street, blocking the traffic and scaring passer-by. Ottawa citizens stood no chance against the zombies, lurching and groaning for brains. The police could barely contain the madness. I stood on the side, trying to document the apocalyptic invasion. I risked my life for these pictures.
During the Thanksgiving long weekend, we enjoyed amazingly hot weather and we decided to spend the day in Ogdensburg, NY State. We always pass through the town but never really stopped to appreciate it. Time to do it justice under a beautiful Indian summer sun.