Sunday, 1 May 2016

A Day in Ottawa: Trek America Canadian Roadtrip Day 19

It's been nine months since we came home and yet I'm still writing about our Canadian Roadtrip with Trek America! Going over the photos now, it feels like years ago. Nine months doesn't seem like that much time, especially when entire years seem to pass in a flash. But somehow, thinking back to our trip, it feels as though it happened to somebody else.

Ottawa was a strange place to visit. I chose to explore it with Meg and Clare whilst Michele went off with some others from the group to visit galleries and museums. The three of us ambled past the impressive (and rather Hogwarts-esque) Fairmont chateau in the centre and watched the changing of the guard at the National War Memorial. Our next big plan was... to do absolutely nothing at all. We wanted to see Byward Market so we headed there and spent most of our time sitting around drinking iced tea and trying out beaver tails, the big, flat, fried pastries that come topped in all manner of deliciously naughty things. Mine was smothered in Oreo cream and biscuit pieces and probably contained my entire calorie/fat/sugar allowance for the entire day.

Afterwards, we walked lazily around the parks and canals, admiring the unique Ottawa skyline. Something about the buildings made me think of Scotland (not that I've really ever been before) with their reaching spires and smoky brickwork. Their green roofs shot up beyond the treetops and punctured the sky. A small museum beside the canal offered a little culture and history, painting a picture of early Ottawa and the role of the canals in the city's growth. We sat outside and watched the water glide on past towards the greater river before heading back to the Canadian Parliament buildings where we soaked up the last of the sun and caught up with the rest of the group.

As with most of our stops on the road from Seattle to New York, there was a sense of having barely scraped the surface. But our lazy, unplanned day was exactly what we needed after weeks on the road. Ottawa was hardly the most exciting day of the trip but it definitely did the trick.































Monday, 18 April 2016

Wandering Around Toronto WITH A Plan: Trek America Canadian Roadtrip Day 18.. Part 2...

Following on from a morning of wandering around aimlessly and stumbling upon small clues that Toronto was actually one of the coolest cities around, we met Michele's friend in the shadow of the CN Tower. Having moved to the city from his native Milan a few years earlier, he had offered to take on the role of tour guide for the afternoon. Leaving the glare of the hot summer sun and slipping down sunlight-dappled streets, we found ourselves being taken straight back to Kensington from where we had just come. Here, the pavements were bustling too but with a different kind of energy. Hippy hideouts and indie cafes lined the roads and the low, townhouse buildings were a far cry from the soaring skyscrapers.




Lunch consisted of tacos from Seven Lives, fistfuls of hot, sunny flavours and plastic cups of refreshing fruity concoctions. We gobbled them up before my camera had chance to get much of a look in.




On the topic of food heaven, a shop called Cheese Magic just along from Seven Lives caught my attention. I didn't buy anything (I'm not sure it would have survived a day of soaring temperatures in my backpack) but I did count at least fifty more reasons I want to move to Toronto when I'm a proper adult.




Lunch was walked off in the sunshine. We strolled lazily down a myriad of roads, dipping in and out of residential areas, perusing little independent shops and spending a half hour under the shade of trees in a nearby park. The endpoint of our travels was not a significant landmark nor was it one of the sights you have to see when in Toronto...





...but an unassuming brewery with a cluster of tables outside.



We were still full from tacos but the girls sitting next to us turned with a friendly smile and a golden piece of advice: "you have to order the corn."

So we did. And it was good.




And it was so good that we ordered another three. And a fried beef tomato, ricotta and lemon sandwich. And we just ate until we were so full we realised that dinner just wasn't going to happen after this.

I've had a look at the Bellwood Brewery website and from the look of things, the corn isn't on the menu anymore which is a great big sad crime. I'm hoping it is because if you read this and you decide to go there (which you should because if it's still as good as it was that day, it's pretty much the only thing you need to do in Toronto apart from visit Bang Bang ice cream which I shall get to in a second) you must order it. And if it isn't on the menu, maybe just talk at them until they make it or put it back on the menu?





As it turned out, Ossington Avenue is the best place in the world. Bellwood Brewery was just one jewel in it's wonderfully Instagrammable crown.

We walked past countless other foodie places we didn't have time to try before coming across Bang Bang Ice Cream for which a vital exception was made.





Every day spent in the van resulted in the consumption of at least two ice cream sandwiches on my part. For those of you unfortunate enough to not have come across an ice cream sandwich before, it essentially consists of two soft, crumbly cookies embracing a huge chunk of creamy ice cream. The consistencies have to be carefully matched; the cookies can't be too soft and crumbly or the structural integrity of the sandwich will be compromised. The cookies can't be too hard or by the time you've finished gnawing through them, the ice cream will have oozed through the gap between them and spread all across your hands (and possibly have been wasted on the pavement). It is indeed, a careful balance to attain - often achieved by (what I imagine has been) a carefully thought out research process and a fine selection of ingredients and "ingredients" to produce the perfect packaged sandwich so that gluttons like myself can reach into the freezer at any gas station and be assured to find another clone of another satisfactory ice cream sandwich.

And then there are the artisan genii working hard to bring us delights such as this: a scoop each of brown bread ice cream and earl grey ice cream lovingly sandwiched between two halves of a rich chocolate cookie.


Michele gave his official approval face:


And I gave a range of my own:





Ossington Avenue, I am coming back for you in a big way.

By now we were substantially late for dinner with the rest of the Trek America gang so we bid our excellent tour guide goodbye and hurried back through the fading gold to the meeting point (with time only for an obligatory tourist shot in front of the big Toronto sign).






At dinner we only just managed to share some nachos and a jug of fruity cider whilst watching the baseball on TV. We shared stories from the day with the rest of the group who had stayed to explore more of the central areas of Toronto.



And then we jumped back in the van, heading back to the campsite and watching the lights of the city recede into the horizon.