I Always Liked Ottawa

People like to slag Ottawa but I like to think they are just wrong about it, pushed into that mindset by their disdain for Stephen Harper or for the whole process of government. I like the place.

It is the sort of city you can walk in and if you ride a bike, even better, you can bike your heart out for days without repeating your route. Even downtown streets have dedicated bike lanes.

There are plenty of places to walk but, I love the walk along the river below the Parliament buildings ending at the stair step lock on the Rideau Canal. I can spend days exploring the museums and it is a photographer's dream.

I can't think of another Canadian city with a whitewater kayak course, a stone's throw from downtown.

After years of offering less than spectacular dining the restaurant scene is getting better and better. The Whalesbone is a favorite and this time we ate at Aroma a little Mediterranean mezes place. Quite good although their Retsina  only comes in 500 ml bottles.

Give the city a try. Get out of the conference rooms, walk around a bit, get beyond the Byward Market and enjoy what the place has to offer. You won't be sorry.



Montreal is still one of my favorite Canadian Cities. You can forget how busy big cities are after living a few years somewhere smaller. The hustle and bustle was particularly noticeable for someone who had just spent a week on a Laurentian lake.

I love walking through the throngs along St Catherine Street Saturday morning or for that matter closer to midnight. The place always seems busy.

We wandered down and along, past the refurbished St James United Church, as far as The Main and savouring the smells of the small markets and restaurants down through Chinatown we headed to Old Montreal. The place still has so much old world charm,  that film production companies often have it stand in, pretending to be some European location.

Get passed the overpriced restaurants on Place Jacques Cartier and ignore the junky souvenir shops and there are treasures here. Tiny bistros hidden away on side streets, streets paved with cobble stones sent over from Europe on sailing ships from Europe as ballast, great old stone buildings, artists tucked up in alley ways and buskers.

We walked back to Pointe St Charles along the Lachine Canal bike path, part of an urban revitalization project that is turning old abandoned factories and work yards into condos and parks. 

Apportez Votre Vin

One thing Montreal, and Quebec for that matter, has going for it is its liberal regulations regarding the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Bars are open very late and you can pick up beer and a good selection of wine at your local corner depanneur. That is a convenience store for the uninitiated.

But for me the most progressive part of all that is that a culture of restaurants which don't have a liquor licence but that allow you to bring your own wine has really come into its own. This way you can afford a great meal without feeling ripped off by that $40 price for the $15 red you are drinking. You can afford to bring something nice and the restaurant provides full service including opening the wine, supplying the glasses and if you are drinking white or rose, a cooler to keep it chilled. If you don't finish it all. Pop the cork back in a bring it home to drink at lunch tomorrow.

There are thousands of restaurants to chose from pizza joints to creative and modern French cuisine.

We went out to Le Pegase located in a hundred year old former residence on Gilford Street. I am sure the place doesn't sit more than 30 people, including the outside deck and has two sittings at 6:00 and at 9:00.

We brought a nice red and a rose which went really well with the pan seared scallops in a curry cream reduction and the stuffed rabbit that I had but the chef's special the night we were there was venison. It was all very good.

No question, it is time for the rest of Canada to catch up. Bringing your own wine is a really civilized approach to it all.without the bar, restaurants can focus on the food and you don't feel ripped off by the gouging markup we usually pay for restaurant wine..