Thursday, July 30, 2009

Day 8 - $578.90 – The True North Strong and …Expensive

Imagine, if you will, a lovely city with a strong and vibrant downtown centre. Perhaps it is the capital city of say, a large multi-lingual country. This city would have arts and culture to spare. It has beautiful architecture and lots of sightseeing available. It has guides, and tours, and busses, and maps galore. And it’s cheap!

I was with you right up until that last bit.

The thing about Ottawa is that it has all of the above. It’s really nice city to walk around in, it has parks and museums and art galleries. It has the Rideau Canal and Parliament Hill. It also has tours offered on every street corner for every conceivable taste. It’s great – if you have a lot of money.

Because Ottawa is catered towards either tourists or government workers, everything is super expensive. I couldn’t find a grocery store near my hostel, so I went to the Byward Market (a large farmers market-ish place downtown, much like the Forks in Winnipeg but bigger) to try and find something cheap for lunch/dinner. The cheapest thing I could find was a Greek stall that gave me a plate of spanikopita and salad for about $9.

I did however, have to splurge on an “Obama cookie.” It was $2.50 worth of Harvard educated shortbread, and it was delicious. Apparently, when Obama visited Ottawa, he took a day trip to the market, and visited a bunch of stalls, including this bakery, which had a life-size picture of Obama at the market holding the cookie that he bought from them. The best part? The cookie wasn’t even for him, it was for Sasha. You know politics in your country is a little boring when…

Ottawa actually did make me feel very patriotic. I walked around the Parliament building and saw the Library of Congress, which are beautiful buildings. I saw the war monument, and the Museum of Civilization. At night, I went back to the parliament building to see the sound and light show that plays daily (for free!) It was cool, they used the building as the backdrop to play a movie across it, and the show detailed the history of Canada and talked about our arts, culture, heritage, sports, and music. It was quite the celebration of Canada. At the end of the show, O Canada played, and everyone around me stood up and sang along. It was a very cool moment, as a Canadian traveling across the country for the first time. I felt very much like a small part of something much bigger.

That’s not to say that I didn’t have troubles in Ottawa. I learned that I can read a map really well, I just have to correctly identify my end destination. When I got off the bus at Ottawa U, I was actually about 3 blocks from my hostel. I however, located a different hostel on my map, and so on I walked, carrying about 50 pounds on my back. I walked for maybe 25 minutes in a complete circle before I found my way to the correct building.

I’m lucky I did reach the hostel, though, as it’s definitely one of the cooler places I’ve stayed. It’s a converted jail, and the cells are all still intact. I slept in cellblock three. I usually listen to my iPod while falling asleep in hostels to block out the ambient hostel noises, and last night I chose Johnny Cash. I felt it was appropriate.

I hope my girl on the outside brings me some cigs and a nail file pretty soon. Being locked up in the joint can do strange things to a person…

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