Arriving in Canada was like meeting an old friend; albeit a very frigid one: it was about -18 Celsius. I gasped for air as soon as I crossed the doors of the terminal towards the taxi. We drove past stores like Loblaw’s, Metro, Tim Horton’s, Canadian Tire, all of which brought back so many memories of the time we lived in Toronto.
That evening, quite a lot of people were skating along the Rideau Canal, which runs across the city and freezes in winter. Considerably fewer people were jogging along the canal’s path. I thought to myself “Would I be able to endure the harsh Canadian winter? Probably not, I’d miss the sunny climes I’m used to.” But I’m proud to say that I survived a whole week unscathed.
Our mission in Ottawa was to renew our American visas. Yes, I did say American. You see, the renewal process is started and approved in the US but the cherry of the pie, the actual visa stamp, is obtained at any American Consulate around the world. We chose Ottawa because it was convenient.
For security reasons, you’re not allowed to bring bags, cameras, phones, etc, into the Consulate building. We took nothing but the clothes on our backs and the documents we needed. I put my gloves, pashmina, wool hat and parka through the scanner. A female security guard took my parka, checked the pockets and removed two highly dangerous articles that could potentially pose a security risk: my travel-size lip gloss and chewing gum. She foiled the Chewing Gum Plot. I was not allowed to bring these items inside and had to pick them up on the way out.
We ate poutine, the quintessential Canadian comfort food, to fortify ourselves against the cold. We found a place called Poutinerie that serves basic poutine with many different toppings. We tried it topped with caramelized onions, peas and mushrooms; pulled pork and bacon and the traditional one, which was my favourite.
One afternoon, I visited the National Gallery of Canada (or Musée des beaux-arts du Canada for those who live across the river in Quebec.) I did what I always do at art museums: look at the date of birth (and death, if he or she is not contemporary) of each artist and calculate their age. And if they died young, I feel sorry for them. I seem to spend more time doing that than looking at their work. I wonder why.
I’ve always found Tim Horton’s coffee revolting (although their doughnuts are the best in the world.) But I changed my mind after that last cup of coffee I had at the airport at 5 am before our flight home. Sean ordered a double-double for me and a whole new vista opened up: it was actually quite good. As it happens, I’d been doing it all wrong. Too bad we were about to leave the country.