Tag Archives: Ottawa

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.

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

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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Weekly Photo Challenge: REFLECTIONS

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I came across this bridge when I was walking northbound by the banks of the Rideau River in Ottawa. I was approaching Sussex Drive and I turned around and saw this bridge. I took this photo, and when I looked at it afterwards, it evoked an emotional connection in me to Money’s The Bridge at Giverny. I distinctively remembered one painting in which Money painted a reflection. I am not a photographer and this is no Monet. However, the emotional association is always fascinating. I wonder if you feel anything similar?

I also find this picture among my album and I think it is interesting that the reflections define the shapes of the leaves more aesthetically than the actual plants.

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This is a candid shot I have captured walking along a boardwalk crossing the swamp before that it leads to the sand dunes on Prince Edward Island. This is an ecologically sensitive area. I am pleased that it has been preserved very well.

Walking in Ottawa (2): Rideau Hall

I discovered another nice walking venue besides the Rideau River TraiI on my recent visit to Ottawa– the grounds of Rideau Hall, official residence of the Governor General on 1 Sussex Drive.

There were two tree-lined paths leading up to the front entrance of the building.

The grounds was designed like an English country estate, but not without the Canadian input represented by an inuksuk and a totem pole.


My walk took me to the Heritage Garden,

and the rose garden.

I was there on a hot sunny afternoon. It was bliss walking under the shades of these big trees and looking at the plaques with the names of the persons who planted them.

I spotted the trees planted by the British royal family in close proximity to one another. Here is the red oak planted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1977.

Then I saw the ones planted by Prince Charles and Prince Andrew in 1971 and 1978 respectively. They were also red oak.

I was quite delighted to discover the eastern hemlock that Will and Kate (Duke and Duchess of Cambridge) planted on their visit soon after they were married in 2011.

The tree planted by Japanese Emperor and Empress was the same specie the one for the Duke of Duchess of Cambridge. I wonder how the species of trees were chosen.

The Rideau Hall ground was quite big, and much of it was open to the public for picnics

and cricket.

This brought back found memories of watching cricket at the Lords in London on a hot, lazy summer afternoon.

Of course I also walked inside Rideau Hall on a guided tour with other visitors. Unfortunately no photography was allowed inside.

Maybe the only disappointment was that the Governor General did not step out, even though the flag on the top of Rideau Hall suggested that he was on site. Otherwise, our group would be so happy to greet “His Excellency”, which was the proper address our guide had asked us to practice so well.

Walking in Ottawa (1): Rideau River Trail

The best way to know a city is by walking. Sounds like a cliche, but there are different definitions of walking in a city.  I have been to Ottawa several times. Every time, I walked a lot– to Byward Market, up Parliament Hill, to the museums and galleries, and walking inside and outside the sightseeing attractions.

The walking I did on my recent visit to Ottawa was slightly different, but well worth it! I walked for the sake of walking, and Ottawa had some good places to offer.

I walked on the trail along Rideau River. It was paved, scenic and well maintained.

A yellow line was painted down the middle of the trail to demarcate up and down traffic, even when it ran on the side walk.

This was helpful, since there were many cyclists as well as runners and walkers using this trail even in the early morning hours I was out there.

I followed this trail from near the RCMP Headquarters to Sussex Drive, and it was about 10K out and back.  I saw maps along the trail, as well as signs showing where to enter the trail from the residential areas nearby.

I passed by a rapid,

and then saw some geese.

As I approached Sussex Drive, a building with interesting architecture came into view on the other side of the river bank.

A cyclist told me that it was the old city hall and I saw a bridge which would take me over to the opposite bank to explore its grounds; maybe that’s for my next visit.

A big city does not need to sprawl. Ottawa doesn’t and I like it for its accessibility. With my walk on this trail, I no longer feel like a tourist in Ottawa. I feel privileged that I have done something that any ordinary citizen would do in the capital city. I would like to come back many times more.