The Cities of My Youth: Bytown

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I’ve been ignoring the blogosphere.

My thoughts are often in large knots. I imagine if you could extrapolate the traffic in my brain, into a concrete image, it would look something like a horrible tangle of Mobius Strips. This isn’t conducive to blogging. I typically end up going from one topic to another at such a rapid pace, that I end up with pages of blabber. On top of that, I haven’t seemed to be able to sit still and relax the last little while. I’m really glad I don’t have a large audience, I don’t think I could handle the expectations of regular posting.

Awhile back on my other blog, I did a series of mini-playlists relating to the various places I’ve called home. It was a fun exercise in nostalgia. It made me remember not just moments that I cherish, but the small things I miss about those places. Recently, I’ve been listening a lot to an old, middle-school friend’s album. In one of the songs, there’s a line that goes:

I’d return to the cities of my youth if I knew the youth’d come back

I’m a sucker for nostalgia, so for the next few posts, I’m going to reminisce about the things I miss about those cities. Starting with my hometown…

Bytown 

I couldn’t wait to get out of Ottawa growing up. I don’t think that’s an unusual feeling for anyone who has spent a lot of time in a city. Particularly if they haven’t travelled a lot. In my youth, we spent more time exploring what we had in our own backyard, than seeing other cities. It’s not like I missed out, I just felt that by the time I’d reached high school, I needed to do some exploring. It’s been a touch over 10 years since I left, but it will always be my hometown.

I would say Ottawa is an underrated city.

It doesn’t have the glitz and glamour of a Montreal. It’s not a big, sprawling metropolis like Toronto. It certainly isn’t the diverse, internationally driven, city that Vancouver is. It’s definitely not a city, when mentioning your hometown, that really packs a flavourful punch. After all, Ottawa is just a quaint, little town, full of blowhard politicians.

I mean, it’s really only the Capital because it sits so perfectly in the centre of the Anglophone and Francophone worlds satisfying both sides’ need for representation…right?

Well that’s one way to look at it.

It’s a very balanced city. By that, I mean you get a little bit of everything, especially as a kid. There is no shortage of museums, galleries, and historical areas. It’s one of the perks of being in the capital, the national galleries and museums are all situated there. Nature, science/tech, civilization/history, art, everything is well represented. It’s probably the part I miss the most. Being able to just wile a day away, absorbing all the information. I’ve visited all the museums more times than I can count, and even though they have changed in some areas, I could still go back a hundred times and not be bored.

Sports are pretty well represented too. While the population isn’t large enough to support a bevy of teams, there’s still lots to go see. I was lucky enough to see the early stages of the Senators’ rebirth. I was also fortunate to be able to enjoy the Lynx, when Ottawa still had Triple-A baseball. CFL football has had ups and downs (more downs sadly), but it’s coming back with a strong ownership group, which is exciting to see. Outside of that, there are so many youth leagues, it’s impossible not to find sports.

Between all those galleries, and the athletics I was surrounded with, I’m surprised I ever had a chance to stop. I didn’t even mention the libraries, plus the great programs that were run out of them. I realize that a lot of this stuff was 20 or so years ago, and it may not be the same. I’d like to think a lot of it is better now, though. Of course, I’m looking at this all through rose-coloured glasses, I’m terribly biased!

Now, I have to talk about the seasons.

Yea, Ottawa actually has them! Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. Many of the other cities I’ve lived in/visited don’t have such distinctive seasons. It adds to the charm, because with each passing one you can look forward to new things.

Spring brings the Tulip Festival. While it’s not on the same scale as the one in Amsterdam, it’s still a bright, colourful, wonderful harbinger of Summer. I miss seeing the rows of flowers livening up downtown when May rolls around. I get lots of Dutch customers roll through my store during high-season, and I’m always eager to reminisce. Once that snow melts, it’s heavenly. I think Ottawa Springs are my favourite.

Summer can be muggy and humid, that’s for sure. That’s about the only downside. Festivals! Festivals! Festivals! Ottawa is home to some pretty awesome ones. Bluesfest is probably at the top of the list. It may have strayed far away from being a true Blues festival, but it brings in some pretty big heavyweight acts. For those who don’t have the time/money to see the huge American festivals, this is a satisfactory substitute. Plus, there’s still plenty of great blues/folk acts to appease the purists like myself. Folk Fest is also a big one later in the season. Much like it’s cousin, it has become a bit more diverse than the name suggests. That doesn’t mean the quality is lacking though. Of course this isn’t mentioning walks by the river, questionable beaches, and best of all: PATIO SEASON. Ottawa has fully embraced the microbrew fad, and there is no shortage of suds in the Nation’s Capital come Summer.

Fall in Ottawa is one of the most beautiful seasons I’ve experienced. With all the oak, birch, and maple indigenous to the area, the whole cities is a mosaic of red, yellow, and orange. It’s particular lovely in Gatineau Hills Park. While that’s technically on the other side of the river, it’s easily accessible, so it counts as part of the Ottawa experience. The trails are perfect. They’re low impact enough to enjoy the amazing scenery, while still making you feel you’ve gotten a good workout in. The air is so fresh and crisp, it is my absolute favourite season in Ottawa.

Winter. Oh winter. Anyone who’s lived in, or visited the Ottawa Valley, knows how nasty it can get. The moisture, coupled with high winds, and bone chilling temperatures, who could love Ottawa in the winter?! Well…winter means Winterlude for one. It also means skating on the Ottawa Canal. The world’s largest skating surface, it’s a crime if you’ve ever visited while it was open, and you didn’t experience it. Not only is it a ton of fun to feel the wintery air bite your face as you zip your way from Dow’s Lake to Downtown, but there are plenty of BeaverTails and Hot Chocolate stands to make it an even more worthwhile experience. Besides, the snow is lovely when you’re not shovelling it!

(DISCLAIMER: I do NOT miss winters in Ontario. While I do wish I could get a skate in on the Canal every year, I am quite content with my Pacific Northwest winters. Thankyouverymuch.)

See? Well rounded!

It’s not a perfect city, but it has the right mix of everything for young and old. While I may never call it my permanent home again, I will always think wistfully of my youth in Canada’s Capital.

-DFP-

 

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