Byward Market: Good Enough for A President

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Every time I visit Ottawa, I always make a stop at Byward Market. Street markets always have a lure for me, and particularly at this time of the year, the fresh produce from the local farms tops it all. I’ll let this mosaic of colours speak for themselves.

Then the Byward Market also offers many delicious goodies, like the Beaver Tail,

and this delicious croissant with ham and egg filling and home fries.

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The pastries and cookies at Le Moulin de Provence should not be missed. In fact, when President Obama visited Ottawa in 2009, he made an impromptu visit to Byward Market. After trying the Beaver Tail, he walked across the road to Le Moulin de Provence and he was offered maple leaf cookies for free. A huge photograph of the President and a video clip of his visit are still on display to-day.

One Book One Burlington (OBOB) 2103

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The Burlington (Ontario) Public Library has chosen Beach Strip written by local–Hamilton resident–author John Lawrence Reynolds for their annual One Book One Burlington event this Fall. This is a crime novel. A series of events and talks have been organized around it, such as meet the author, history of the Beach Strip and Burlington Light House, forensic sciences, crime authors panel and film noir, are taking place this month. Naturally, extra copies of the book has been made available to promote readership. Imagine, one can find a copy of the book on the local transit! I tip my hat to this marketing ploy.

I had read the book and discussed it with a book club earlier. I was there at the kick-off event, Meet the Author John Lawrence Reynolds, two-time winner of the Arthur Ellis Award for Mystery, to find out more. There were at least three hundred people at the hall of Port Nelson Church for the talk.

John Lawrence Reynold was forthright and entertaining in his talk. He lived in Burlington and knew the Beach Strip well. He said that it was his wife’s idea to use the Burlington Beach Trail as the setting for his book. He began jokingly by saying that as a male, the word “strip” has another meaning, but with his strict Christian upbringing, he did not feel comfortable placing the dead body of a naked woman on the beach; hence the victim was a man.

He spent a lot of time explaining his use of a woman’s voice. He revealed that his publishing team from agent to editor were women, plus his wife. They were giving him suggestions along the way. Besides, he justified his decision by adapting a Jane Austen quote, and Reynolds said, “A man must realize that he does not know any more about women than women know about men.”

Reynolds mentioned that many of his fictional characters were derived from people in his own experience, like the self-centred, manipulative Tina (Josie’s–the heroine–sister), who flirted with the taxi driver, Josie’s mother who was perceptive, and the shy Glynnis. He built Josie’s character to be the same as his male detectives in giving her persistence, courage and perseverance. He recognized that Josie’s had critics, likely because female and male characters were being judged differently. He believed that he had given her female qualities by her need for relationship and her sexuality.

The same applied to events from his own experience. Josie’s recollection of waiting at the canal for ships to pass came from a person he had known who enjoyed doing the same and waving at the boats that passed.  Josie’s blocking out her father’s death was related to Reynold’s experience of the Defasco (a big Hamilton steel factory) industrial accident many years ago.

Reynolds did not intend to send any message from his book. He just wanted a page-turner; a story well told was his goal. As a writer, he spent time on his characters and put them before his plot. He put them through the scene and trusted that the rest would follow. In this connection, he compared this approach to that of Ray Bradbury, who said that the plot was the foothold for the characters to launch.

There had not been any offers for a TV movie, and Reynolds spoke in a tongue-in-cheek manner that two more sequels may be in the pipeline, and the titles would be Beach Blonde and Beach Balls.

The audience seemed happy with the talk.  For me, it was educational to go into the process of  the creation of a fictional novel and the workings of an author’s mind.

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: SAND and DIRT

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This picture of all the debris on the sandy beach may not be what beach and nature lovers want to see. It fits the theme for this week’s Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge (Sand and Dirt) nonetheless. With each tide, the debris is washed onto shore and then back to the sea.

I leave the next picture to your imagination.

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A footprint here…Mine! It would be washed away by the next tide. Ephemeral our existence is in this world, how can we leave a cleaner footprint, and make this earth a more beautiful place for everyone?

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Thursday Special: Vodou

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This was an exhibition that was new to me at the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa. The warning that part of the exhibition might cause discomfort or surprise spurred my curiosity to take a look. As it turned out, it was a thought-provoking and educational display on the origin, history and the practice of Vodou.

Vodou came to the New World from West Africa and took root in Haiti blending with local religious beliefs. The first group of exhibits were artifacts inspired by Vodou. On display was a Vodou shrine in the size of a small closet where Vodou could be practiced at home.

A wall was dedicated to the time-line of Vodou in Haiti, where colonizers who were Catholics denounced Vodou as superstition and considered it to be evil and barbaric. This drove Vodouists into clandestine practice and they formed their secret societies.

A central belief in Vodou is the interconnection of the spiritual world after death and the world we live in. This is achieved through Lwa, which are special spirits also manifesting the presence of the Great Met (the Vodou god). Lwa can appear in many shapes and forms. This one is an example:

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Vodouists communicates more easily with Lwa and when they do, they enter into a state commonly known as “possession”. The vodouists do not suffer and they return to their own selves afterwards.

On display were drums and artifacts used in special ceremonies and a video played the dancing, chanting and trance-like condition of vodouists to the rhythm of drums.

The exhibits looked more menacing towards the end of the exhibition, as they represented the darkness of persecution by the colonists and the struggle by vodouists for freedom and independence . Vodou also became synonymous with the fight against slavery at the time.

Haiti became independent in 1804 and Vodou was officially recognized in Haiti in 2003.

One of the goals of the exhibition was to dispel the notion that Vodou was associated with curses and the popular image of a Vodou doll that people poke with needles. In this exhibition, I saw a lot of parallel between Vodou and many other indigenous folk beliefs all over the world. Believers were persecuted in the name of religion by colonizers or invaders in human history. It is unfortunate that political domination is linked hand in hand with the attempt to eradicate the collective meanings of a culture that has become the subordinate. Would it not be a better world if we were more tolerant of differences?

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For more Thursday Specials this week, please visit Paul’s blog Lost in Translation.jupiter-widget_text

From Caledon Hills to Limehouse: End-to-End with the Bruce Trail Toronto Club (Day 1)

1-IMG_1853The Bruce Trail Conservancy’s Toronto Club End-to-End expected hikers to complete about 50 Km over two consecutive days. (There was a one-day option, but I decided to forego this ultra distance which would take me 10 hours of walking and took it easy instead.) My group met at Limehouse in Halton Hills. This small community of about 500 people were still asleep when we arrived. There were over ninety participants in this event and we were taken by bus to the start point which divided the Toronto Club section from the Caledon Club section.

The first lag was the paved asphalt surface of Credit View Road and then Boston Hill Road. We were flanked on both sides by farmland. We passed a cornfield and an orchard.  We walked over a kilometre before entering into the trail.

The footing and the trail surface changed as soon as we were in the woodland.

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It was more shaded, but it also meant more obstacles. Some trees that had fallen across the trail were there for us to walk over or duck under. I negotiated three such tree trunks within a short distance. I felt like a horse jumping over hurdles in a steeple chase.

This section soon ended and we were back on the road of Heritage Road, which led into the Caledon Trailway.

The Trailway had an old rail buried under it. It reminded me of the Rail Trail in Hamilton that I frequented. As another hiker remarked, “Once you’ve seen a rail trail, you’ve seen them all.”

After exiting the Trailway, we entered some private property by climbing over a stile, and out again, but not before we saw many apples by the roadside. They were likely from apples trees of an abandoned orchard in an area close to the Terra Cotta Conservation Area.

The forest is a mixture of deciduous and evergreen tree. This is  the military formation of tree planting.

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We had walked over 10Km and was glad to reach the first check point near Vaughan Road for some snacks. Leaving the Terra Cotta Conservation Area, we entered the Silver Creek Conservation Area for a totally different challenge and scenery.

This was also a very rocky section on high elevation.

I suddenly realized that I had been here before, when I came to this narrow rocky section. I was here in early spring here when it was still covered in ice and snow on what I called a treacherous hike.

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We were hiking by Silver Creek and the sound of the running water accompanied us for some distance. This was a well-maintained section by the volunteers of the Bruce Trail. We came across many bridges like this one.

One more rocky patch and the second checkpoint was in sight.

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This also meant out of the woods into more urban area of the trail. The remaining hike went through the grounds of Scotdale Farm, road ways and finally the Limestone parking lot was in sight.

Day 1 was now completed and we had accomplished 28 Km. The weather was most co-operative. What we needed was a relaxing bath and a good night sleep to recover for the following day.

Reference: The hike followed Maps 13 and 14 of the Bruch Trail Maps and Trail Guide Edition 27.

O-O-O Challenge: Opalla’s Overindulgence in Ottawa

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First of all, my gratitude to Frizztext for the inspiration to write this post about Opalla in Ottawa in his comment to my recent post, and I take it as an invitation to submit to his O-O-O Challenge. Nonetheless, I take credit for the “overindulgence”.

It was a working holiday. There was no time for haute cuisine, even though there was plenty in the Canadian capital. Whether it was the meetings and workshops that drained calories or the cooler Fall air outside, I craved for comfortable food. Interestingly my companions felt the same.

One night we ate The Manx near downtown (Elgin and Gladstone).  We were at the pub around 5:30 p.m. and was lucky to find the last table. It certainly was a busy pub the entire time we were there. My attention was captured by the picture frames on the wall.

There were others that read “I bought this because my friend was the artist”, “Ikea print”, and so on. Fun!

The food came in generous helping and was delicious. My pork chop had been brined in ale and was presented with a beautiful baby arugula salad and maple parsnip mash. It went very well with the pale ale I ordered. I finished all my food.

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My companions each ordered from the daily special menu and had pork chop and penne respectively. They were very happy too with their food.

The Manx, 370 Elgin Street, Ottawa.

The Manx on Urbanspoon

Another pub we went on this trip was Mill Street Brew Pub. near Parliament Hill. I had been there before and liked its location near the river. The building was converted from an old mill.

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On this occasion, the quality of the food also lived up to my expectation. I had a tourtiere made with pork, elk and veal prepared with veal stock and Mill Street stock ale. It was very flavourful. I ate up the last pea on my plate.

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My friend who ordered the steak was also very pleased with the helping and the taste. The fish and chips for my other friend was disappointing though, because both the fish and the chips were dry. (To be honest, when it comes to fish and chips, I would put my vote on the British fish and chips any time.)

The beer was nice, and Mill Street Brewery produced many house brands. I chose one infused with green tea and I liked it.

Mill Street Brew Pub, 555 Wellington Street, Ottawa.

The pub food on both nights was hearty and satisfying. My food cravings were curbed, but I had overindulged.  My workout could come later, I told myself.

Mill Street Brew Pub on Urbanspoon

Thursday Special: Ottawa Celebrates Fall

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This 900-lb pumpkin at Byward Market in Ottawa is my entry to Paula’s (Lost in Translation) Thursday Special this week, before I return from the capital to Toronto in preparation for the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. I have had a good business-cum-pleasure trip the last few days and I hope I shall be blogging more about my visit. In the meantime, please join me in celebrating the harvest season with pumpkins big and small, and gourds of different colours and shapes.

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Finally, do not miss out on the pumpkin cookies!

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