For those of you not in the know, most North Americans drive everywhere. A four-hour-long journey is considered short. As such, they tend not to take public transit (AKA: public transport) other than for commuting purposes. Ali was not, however, brave enough to drive this time. So, being as tough as nails – we live in South East London after all – we opted to take a Greyhound to Ottawa.
Fear not, we did not saddle up and ride some unsuspecting hound the 450 odd kilometres from Toronto to Ottawa, but rather caught a bus named the Greyhound. In so doing, not only did we have a quintessentially North-American experience, but we also saved ourselves $$$. We’re not quite sure what all the fuss is about (locals we told of our journey plans either grimaced or giggled), we felt the bus was completely fine. The seats were comfortable, there were charge points for mobile phones and laptops, and we even had intermittent WiFi. To top that all, our fellow passengers were colourful and, from what we could gather from overhearing rather loud phone conversations about debt collectors, relationship scandals and family feuds, seemed to have very thrilling lives. We were thoroughly entertained and reached Ottawa in a mere six hours later. A rather hilarious summary of others’ thoughts on this unique experience can be found courtesy of Reddit (warning: those of a delicate disposition should refrain from linking through!)
You may be wondering why we were Ottawa-bound. It is not normally the first destination that comes to mind when choosing to visit Canada. We were lucky enough to have been invited to the wedding of two rather lovely people: Matt and Robyn. Ever the excellent hosts, they had kindly acquired a favourable rate for wedding guests at the Lord Elgin hotel. Check out our tongue-in-cheek review of this venue.
First stop after checking-in: the Ottawa Rowing Club for our first ever ‘rehearsal dinner’. We were very intrigued by this concept as we don’t really do rehearsal dinners in the UK. At most, couples practise their vows beforehand so that they can get through the wedding ceremony with a typically British stiff upper lip, and their dignity and mascara intact. This is all with the aim of not delaying their guests due to an expulsion of emotion – from getting to the champagne and canapes. As such, practising to eat food was an enticing prospect; one, it turns out, we thoroughly enjoy! We were honoured to be included in a select group of family and friends who were invited to mingle, drink, eat and be merry before the big day.
With a few hours spare before the wedding, we decided to see what Ottawa had to offer. First we headed for the city’s number 1 tourist destination, ByWard Market. Here we happened upon BeaverTails, an outlet that has been producing a stunningly-calorific but oh so delicious fried dough pastry that, you guessed it, is shaped like a beaver’s tail. Served hot with a choice of toppings including maple butter, apple cinnamon, and chocolate and banana, the tails are worth every calorie. We also stumbled across Le Moulin De Provence, a bakery famous for its ‘Obama biscuits’. These look and taste a little like jammy-dodgers on steroids; they were delicious.
After some delicious treats, it was time to squeeze into our outfits and get set for the wedding. Now, be honest, for a couple of backpackers we scrub up pretty well!
Matt and Robyn were married in a beautiful and moving ceremony that was conducted by Robyn’s ex-football coach (also a youth pastor) and brought together two families from opposite ends of the earth: Kiwi meets Maple in Goa and boom, some things are kismet. The river, sunshine and string ensemble set the scene for a truly memorable day and a magnificent coupling. We also loved learning from their friends and family about Robyn’s highly successful football career on a boys’ team (ever the maverick!) and Matt’s prowess with musical instruments. We’ll be making him serenade us next time we do dinner!
The morning after the night before we made a valiant effort, by way of the National War Memorial called The Response (see photo below), to visit Parliament. Much to our surprise for a developed tourist industry, one cannot buy tickets for such a visit in advance. Instead, one has to queue on the day. We dutifully woke early to ensure we got tickets; however, even at 8:30am the queue was already snaking around the block. Ever so slightly defeated, we took a good look at the building and said: “sod this, our Parliament is just as impressive. Let’s find some coffee”.
This turned our to be a much worthier quest, which was rewarded with some of the most delicious flat whites we’ve ever had and an early morning sing for Sim at the Ministry of Coffee. Sim does not usually erupt into song. However, when Cindy Lauper’s Time After Time hits the decks there’s no stopping her. On this instance, Sim caught the eye of another woman who was also merrily singing along and, in a moment of gay abandon, they both decided that instead of being embarrassed they’d belt out the tune to entertain the rest of the coffee shop.
After this lovely start to the day, we returned to the hotel, caught the changing of the guard, said our goodbyes to Matt and Robyn, amazed the bellboys that we could carry our ridiculously heavy backpacks unassisted, and set off for Quebec City.