Canada 2017 Pt. 1
I've been meaning to publish a post about my trip to Canada earlier this year. I flew into Toronto on February 21st and came home March 28th with about a week before shipping off to Europe. This was technically my second time to Canada, but my first time to the eastern(ish) side. For this post, I'll go over general impressions & my short experience in Ottawa. I'll most likely post two more parts to cover Montreal, Quebec City, and Toronto.
First off—Have you been to Canada? If the answer is no... WHY? It's an 8 hour drive away from DC or 1.5 hour flight. I think a lot of us (me included) forget how accessible Canada is. We often make light hearted jokes about our northern neighbors, but honestly, they're pretty awesome. Canada is not drastically different from the US, but it is most definitely not the same. Especially once you get up into Quebec. Right now, the exchange rate is quite favorable for us Americans—currently, $1 USD = about $1.25 (as of today, $1.32) Canadian. However, Canada isn't always that cheap, so sometimes the exchange rate cancels out. Compared to some places in Europe, it's quite affordable. Get ya damn passport & go.
How much was my flight? Roundtrip was $220 via American Airlines. I have a feeling you can get them cheaper than this.
PRO TIP: Canadian Border Patrol are notorious for being intimidating. Make sure to not take it personally—just be honest, open, and respectful. They can, after all, deny your entry. It's good to know how long you'll be in Canada, where you're planning on visiting and where you'll be staying.
Let's clear one misconception: Not all Canadians are that nice. And, I'm convinced they have some of the craziest drivers in North America. I had multiple near-death experiences. I also played chicken with a few cars while crossing the street via the crosswalk.
I will confirm: Yes, they do say "eh?" a lot. They also say "sorry" a lot, but they use it in the way we often say "excuse me." Not all Canadians have the strong accent...but when you find them, it's amazing, haha. They love Hockey like Americans love Football. Maple syrup is a big thing and it's not only for the tourists, it's apparently one of their big exports so it's strictly regulated. It's basically their liquid gold. For fun, you can look at the intense regulation docs here.
Pop Quiz: What's the capital of Canada? *Ding* *Ding* The answer is... Ottawa!
Ottawa is known for being...underwhelming. Most people recommend spending no more than 1 or 2 days there. I spent 2 nights & I think that was perfect. There's not a lot of sights to see & the ones that are there are easily accessible as the city is very small & very walkable. The Parliament building and surrounding buildings are massive & beautiful. I visited during an interesting time of year when it rains, sometimes freezing, the canal is frozen over & sometimes it might start snowing. I did work at a coworking space one of the days. I can't remember what it was called, but the people were nice!
Where did I stay? The Jail Hostel. Unfortunately, I do not recommend this place. They make it look cool online, then in real-life... it's not. The facilities are semi-shitty, poor wifi, didn't feel very clean & the grungy dark feel of the building wasn't very appealing or welcoming... I guess that's the point though. But, they did have free breakfast!
What did I eat? The staple must-have-when-in-Ottawa a Beavertail. It's basically a flat fried donut covered in cinnamon & sugar...it's wonderful. Also, I highly recommend going to the Brig Pub. The atmosphere was nice—classy casual, great service, great beers and the food is seriously phenomenal. Had one of the best southern style fried chicken sandwiches there... I was blown away (picture of this glorious meal below).
Any interesting experiences? Actually, I just so happened to be in Ottawa when they were setting up the Red Bull Crashed Ice event. You can see more about it here. (Picture below.) I also had a great time running around the city. Despite it being freezing cold, I put on my tights, face mask and gloves and toughed it out. Going for runs when you visit new cities is a great way to explore and learn your way around all while getting a work out in. Then, you don't feel (as) bad about eating food like... fried chicken sandwiches & beavertails.
Do I recommend / would I go back? Meh, I think it's worth stopping by for a night or two on your way to Montreal ;) I don't plan on returning to Ottawa anytime soon.
PRO TIP: I took the Train (VIA Rail) from Toronto to Ottawa—if you have the Hostelling International membership, you can actually get a discount on the train tickets. I only found this out after I had booked all my VIA Rail train tickets. Go me.
And, make sure to follow my adventures on Instagram & Snapchat: ASWolfe91
Next stop: Montreal.