Our Final Stop in Canada…for now anyway.

It was very cold when we arrived in Ottawa on Saturday night. Except for a scary French-Canadian border guard who yelled at us in french (we had Quebec plates on our rental car so I guess he thought we were from there, he got frustrated when we didn’t understand him) – the drive went without incident. The Extended Stay hotel we checked into was great – the best I’ve ever seen in the Extended Stay chain – the building was an old apartment building that had been converted into a hotel, so basically we had a full one-bedroom apartment to ourselves, which was great. After getting settled, we ventured out for dinner at Johnny Farina’s, a yummy italian restaurant across the street. In addition to being a nice hotel, the Extended Stay was also in a great location – close to the theater and the market area, and just off Elgin, a main street with lots of restaurants and bars.

The locks at the Ottawa canal entrance

The locks at the Ottawa canal entrance

On Sunday we returned our rental car, and then had the great fortune of getting a cab with the best taxi driver! He gave us an impromptu tour of downtown, and then steered us away from our original destination, a pedestrian mall where we were hoping to get something to eat, and instead recommended we check out the Byward Market area, which had many, many more food options. We agreed to the change of plans. As we drove along the canal, our driver told us about how in the winter, the canal freezes, and people use it as a way to get downtown – they skate or ski down it. There are vendor huts along the way that sell food and drink, or rent skates. The canal is five or six miles long, I think he said. Although winters are freezing cold there, it would have been fun to have had the chance to skate down the canal! Too bad for us it wasn’t quite that cold yet.

Woolens for sale at Byward Market

Woolens for sale at Byward Market

So Mr. Awesome Cab Driver dropped us off in the Byward Market, and we were a bit overwhelmed with all the restaurant options. The actual market is a building much like a lot of public markets, with a number of different food booths inside. All the surrounding streets are filled with restaurants and shops. There were also lots of vendors at outside stands selling fruits and vegetables, and tables and tables of hand knit garments! I bought a pair of mittens. We ate a Mexican restaurant, and then explored all the streets in the area. We walked by the art museum and had to take some photos of the giant spider sculpture, Maman, which stands outside. 

Maman

Maman

After that we walked over to Parliament. The Parliament buildings are gorgeous – old and gothic. We spent a lot of time walking around and taking photos. Our cab driver had told us to be sure to go around the back of the buildings to get a good view of Quebec across the river, and as we were headed to do that, we ran into a little hut that was home to the “Stray Cats of the Hill”.  The cats have lived on the hill and have been cared for by various people since the 1970’s. They are all neutered and given their shots, and are allowed to wander around the parliament buildings to control the rodent population. How cool is that? There were also some friendly raccoons wandering around and eating out of the cats’ food bowls. The view of the river was nice, and also the Library of Parliament building, which is around the back side of the complex was quite amazing to see.

Parliament

Parliament

One of the Stray Cats of the Hill

One of the Stray Cats of the Hill

The next day Ryan had load-in, so I wandered around a little bit more and took some more photos. On Tuesday I joined the load-in. The theater was part of the complex the National Arts Center, so it was huge – housing a number of other theaters. The backstage was a labyrinth of hallways, connecting all the theaters’ various dressing rooms. The best part of it all was the cafeteria, which coincidentally was right next to our office. They sold hot meals for lunch and dinner (that were really good) and that were only $5 a plate! We mostly ate there last week because it was so easy and cheap, and good!

Opening night was interesting, having to remember our newly-adjusted show after having two weeks off, but it went well. Everyone was really preoccupied with the election returns. We had a TV in our office tuned in to CNN the whole evening. After the show, Ryan and I hung out at the hotel bar with some of the crew guys, and watched as Obama won. It was a really joyful and emotional night and fun to share it with friends. It was interesting to see how into the election all the Canadians were as well. It was just as big a news event in Canada as in the States. In the morning I went out and bought a couple of newspapers as keepsakes. It’s such a great thing for the U.S. to have this change in leadership – for the first time, I really am interested in becoming a citizen of the country where I have lived for over 25 years.

Watching the election results on CNN

Watching the election results on CNN

On Thursday Ryan and I did a little bit of mall shopping. The exchange rate right now is such that our American dollars were stretching a little further than before. For every $50 American dollars, we were getting $60 Canadian. So we took advantage of that with a little retail therapy. In the late afternoon, we took a bike ride along the canal, and along the river. The sun was setting and it was really beautiful outside. 

Riding bikes along the river

Riding bikes along the river

On Friday I had to babysit rehearsal. We have a new guy, Steven, going in to the male ensemble to cover for Lenny, who plays the Monk, while he is out for an extended period of time with a back injury. I spent most of the afternoon catching up on office work, like amending cue sheets that had changed since West Point, and also readying my new call script, as I was to call the “new” show the next day, Saturday.

That night Ryan and I biked back over to Parliament to take some night shots. The buildings are lit spectacularly at night and we got some good photos as we froze our butts off in the dark.

Parliament at night

Parliament at night

The weekend was busy with shows. I called the show after not having done so for a month, and for the first time since all the scenic changes were implemented. It went well, and actually is a little easier to call now as scenically things have been simplified, meaning less cue light switches for us to throw.

And with that, our week in Ottawa came to an end. I loved the city. It had a very European feel to it, from the architecture, to all the pubs, right down to all the French being spoken. I wish we could have stayed a little longer to allow for some more exploring, but I’ll have to make do with my week. Hopefully I’ll be back again! You can view my whole set of Ottawa photos here.

Now, on to Norfolk, Virginia!