Poutine Of Canada

The night I was introduced to 'poutine'

One of the great things  I love about the place where I work is the continuous celebration of diversity. Last evening we celebrated Canada as the host of the Winter Olympics. Our Canadian colleagues enabled us to taste a Canadian favourite (something light  and tasty) and beer. Of course beer is pretty straightforward but the food was something I never ever heard of let alone taste. Well, that’s just the beauty of it! These celebrations give us an opportunity to taste food, beverages, learn and participate in songs and dances etc from the nations of our Commonwealth.

Now the dish I tasted for the first time in my life was called ‘poutine’. It was made up of potato chips, gravy and cheese.

I Googled ‘poutine’ to learn more about it. There are quite a few websites which contain information about this interesting Canadian favourite: http://www.montrealpoutine.com, http://www.cheeseburgerbrown.com and there is a good discussion on ‘poutine’ on http://chowhound.chow.com. I’m sure there are more sites including Wikipedia.

It was a good introduction to Canadian favourites and I was glad I dropped by the Club for a taste of Canada. Next time I am in Canada my rather erratic culinary mission would  be to go in search of the perfect ‘poutine’ – oui monsieur!

Out ‘N’ About In Ottawa

These boots are made for walking in the snow and cold. Soooo warm and comfortable.

When I was in Grade 6 many, many, many moons ago one of my class assignments or projects was to choose a city, write about it and make a presentation to the class. Each member of the class had to choose a city. I chose Ottawa, Canada. Our teacher asked us to find photos in magazines, newspaper items or anything we could find that would make our projects and presentations interesting. At that stage in our young lives in a small mission primary school in the Milne Bay Province none of us could ever have believed we could one day visit the cities we had chosen for this assignment. Nonetheless, we found pictures of cities, any city and imagined that that was the city we are writing about and used the pictures for our respective projects. Some were lucky to find magazines with pictures of their cities. I was one of the fortunate ones. I found pictures of Ottawa. I could not remember what sort of pictures I found in the hard-to-come-by magazines that fulfilled my imagination of what Ottawa looked like. I couldn’t remember the results of the class presentations. But I was sure that one day I would visit Ottawa.

A beautiful reflection in the water of the blue sky above...

Finally in early 2007, I visited Ottawa! What excitement I felt. I just wanted to visit the city and enjoy what it had to offer. The city was covered in snow. I wasn’t that all surprised as I was flying in from Minnesota, USA and March that year was a blizzardy kind of month. I had to change planes in Toronto and had some time to browse around the shops at the airport. I found this brooch (which can double up as a pendant) and for me it kind of summed up the romantic feeling I had of Canada which is large areas of  wonderful pristine wilderness, freshair and wildlife.

Brooch depicting two wolves made from mammoth rock

On the flight to Toronto I sat next to a fellow who was going to meet his girlfriend and spend the weekend in Ottawa. I told him I was a tourist and wanted to sample the delights of Ottawa and that it was a childhood dream to visit the Canadian capital. The more we chatted like old friends the more I felt that my pilgrimage to Ottawa was not going to be in vain. We parted at the airport and after collecting my luggage I was on my way to the Novotel – conveniently located next to the Rideau Centre.

I was there for 3 days arriving on a Friday evening. I had dinner at the hotel and had an early night. The following day I decided to get out and about in Ottawa and so I negotiated with a cab at the hotel and enlisted his help as a sort of tour guide. This private tour cost me C$40.00 (approx. £20.00 or so at that time) for a whole hour. I thought was not bad for a private tour with my own driver and many, many stops along the way which allowed me to take a few shots of some of the scenic views and landmarks. The driver pointed out and stopped at several scenic spots  along the way so I could take photos. I really appreciated that. He was quite knowledgable and informative about the city so I felt blessed that he obliged me and answered my many questions. He pointed out some of the landmarks along the way but I could not remember all of them. Due to time constraints I was not able to visit any of them.

There was snow everywhere and I was very much reminded of Minnesota. This was the farthest north I have travelled  in the northern Americas.  I did not see any deer or wildlife but I’m sure that they were not far off.

Ottawa is situated in Ontario, Canada and has a population of over 1 million people. It is the 4th largest city of Canada – Toronto being the largest, and is ranked 6th in the world for quality of life. Queen Victoria chose Ottawa to be the capital of Canada in 1857. The Canadian Parliament met for the first time on 8 June in Ottawa in 1866. Why did it take almost a decade before the Parliament met? The Gothic Parliament buildings are an awesome sight.

Just awesome even from this vantage point

Other important events in Canada and around the world in 1866.

  • The Royal Aeronautical Society is formed in London.
  • Andrew Rankin patents the urinal.
  • Australian Rules Football is created
  • Charles Elmer Hires invents root beer.
  • 1,800 Fenian raiders are repelled back to the United States after they loot and plunder around Saint-Armand and Frelighsburg, Quebec.
  • Cholera epidemic kills hundreds in London.
  • Atlantic telegraph cable successfully laid (1,686 miles long)
  • Metric system becomes a legal measurement system in US
  • 1st Hawaiian daily newspaper published.
  • Great fire in Quebec destroys 2,500 houses.
  • Gold coins from the Sydney Mint become legal tender in Canada.

Unfortunately, the Rideau Canal was closed to skating so I missed out on a shot of people skating on the ice! This was a first for me ie. people skating on a frozen canal. It was that cold! The ice was melting in the Canal so it was became unstable and unsafe for skating.

Biggest ice skating venue in the world

The Rideau Canal is a declared UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2007 and is recognised as the largest skating rink in the world. The Rideau Canal Waterway stretches 202 kilometres (125 miles) and passes through some of the most picturesque and scenic rivers and wilderness areas of Canada. Visit http://www.rideau-info.com for more information on this historic waterway system.

My time in Ottawa although limited, was, I’d say, a taster for another longer visit next time. I thoroughly enjoyed the visit and more importantly fulfilled my childhood dream. How far I have come from that Grade 6 project. What a privilege I feel now having visited Ottawa. It took over 40 years to make that childhood dream come true. So never give up on a dream.

For information on this beautiful city you may want to visit the following websites: http://www.ottawa.com; http://www.ottawatourism.ca; http://www.ottawakiosk.com and many others.

Some picture souvenirs…there could have been more had the weather been good.

The ice slowly thawed and the skating was closed

Ice fishing in the foreground - fascinating activity

Looking across to Quebec

"Maman" - like something from the movie "War of the Worlds"
Loved the shape of these columns, like gigantic oars
On a snow-covered sidewalk on my tour

Snow-Man’s Land Or Icecream On The Ground…

A Winter wonderland at my doorstep...

Last night it snowed like nobody’s business. We had about 2-3 inches of snow. It started snowing about 9.00pm and continued relentlessly for hours.

Mountain of snow - en route to Minneapolis from Austin, Minnesota

When I was growing up in the tropics, I thought snow was like icecream on the ground. Well, how can anyone not having seen snow before understand what snow is.  Simple! Since most of us eat icecream (or know what it looks like) the next best thing is to magnify the quantity of icecream humongous-illion times and voila! there’s your snow in the tropics. Unless you can spare the cash this exercise could blow your year’s icecream budget let alone trying to stop it melting in 33-degree tropical heat and scorching sun.

Winter sightseeing in Ottawa, Canada

I have been to places where snow is taken for granted as a familiar seasonal powdery stuff that can turn into gunk and clog up pathways, roads etc.

Snow blizzard in New York City - out and about on my birthday!

Here in Middlesex this morning, the snow was still thick on the ground as I looked out of the train. However, I was clearly disappointed that there was no powdery goodness in Central London. Nothing to chat about except that it was cold and miserable. At midday the sun came out but was gone in a few hours. Such is life in snow-man’s land.