Clarissa in Ottawa, Day 2

We dedicated our second day in Ottawa to exploring the city. First, we went to the Byward Market. There are several stalls selling these funny Canadian hats and mittens:

Downtown Ottawa is beautiful:

Even though there are weird looking buildings like this one:

I’m kidding, of course. I liked the weird building. I’m just trying to make this post more controversial.

Of course, no visit anywhere with my sister could do without an exploration of every baby store in the area:

And then we had to start on our way back. These beautiful clouds accompanied us on the way:

I’d really like to be praised for my improving photography skills now.


Clarissa in Ottawa, Day 1

Ottawa is a great place, people. It’s both cozy and sophisticated, safe and fun. The city is not huge and it has a comfortable, welcoming small-town feel. However, it’s a city with great universities, exquisite restaurants, and interesting stores to discover. The trip to Ottawa that I took this week started at Tim Horton’s. I couldn’t visit Canad and never see the inside of a Tim Horton’s, could I?

As soon as we arrived in Ottawa, we went to our hotel to register. Here is our room:

After that, I rushed to St. Paul’s University where my conference was taking place:

Here is the poster for our conference:

I have to tell you that at no other conference had I ever been offered food and wine of the same high quality as a did here. At many conferences, you pay a registration fee that is 3 times greater than the one I paid here and don’t get as much as a bottle of water in return. Here, however, we were fed and offered coffee and alcohol several times during the day.

In the meanwhile, my sister was having a pretty great meal, too, at Social restaurant:

I was kind of sad to be missing the meal at Social because it’s such a lovely restaurant. I stopped feeling sorry that I missed the dinner, though, when I heard the brilliant talk by Daniel Innerarity, a Spanish philosopher I admire:

After the conference ended, I went back to the hotel and spent the next four hours talking to my sister. We’ve been talking for almost 30 years now but there is still a lot to say.

Domus Cafe in Ottawa, Canada: A Review

Today in Ottawa, I decided to take my sister to lunch to show my gratitude to her for driving me to Ottawa for my conference and back. We chose to visit Domus Cafe whose talented young chef uses ideas borrowed from Canadian country food by takes them in the direction of haute cuisine (I still can’t get out of my French-speaking mode, so please bear with me until I go back to the US).

Here is how Domus Cafe looks inside:

It is located in Ottawa’s vibrant Byward Market, so it’s very easy for any tourist to find. Here is how Domus Cafe looks on the inside:

We came right after the restaurant opened at 11 am, so it was still empty. It really filled up for lunch, however, even though this is not a cheap place. Of course, the food is so good and the service is so spectacular that there is no mystery to Domus cafe’s popularity. Here are the lattes we ordered with our lunch:

I’m trying to learn to take better photos. How does this one look? I think it’s better than the ones I usually take. W

We had a long way back to Montreal ahead of us, so we decided to order a big lunch. For appetizers, we got mushroom bisque. I loved it because it was not oversalted, like mushroom bisques often are. One huge differences between US restaurants (even very expensive ones) and Canadian restaurants is that food is always grievously oversalted in the US. Here is this beautiful bisque that smelled and tasted of mushrooms:

As an entree, my sister had a mushroom barley risotto. I’d never tried a barley risotto before and I’m glad I did because it’s a very interesting dish that I now plan to recreate at home. The risotto was very delicately seasoned and perfectly done. Here it is:

And I had smoked trout with rosti, apple and endive salad and caramelized pearl onions. This dish was divine. The rosti were very crisp and fresh and the salad was very refreshing, offering a great counterpoint to the saltiness of the roasted trout:

Of course, after this kind of lunch, neither of us was interested in the dessert. In order to fulfill my role of a blogger who faithfully records all aspects of reality, I even took a photo of the bill:

This was an expensive lunch but we were enjoying a special occasion, so it was absolutely worth it.

A Day in Montreal

Everybody is publishing photo reports, so I decided to create one, too. Tell me how you feel about photo reports as a regular feature of this blog.

Two minutes after I left my sister’s house, I came across this street:

I’m sure everybody understands why I had to take a photo of it. Montreal is always building, expanding, transforming. It’s a very vibrant city that is constantly alive. Unlike the St. Louis where I live, Montreal never looks, sounds, or feels dead.

I walked down St. Denis Street, which is one of the most fun streets in this great city. St. Denis is filled with galleries, small quaint stores, coffee-shops, restaurants, bookstores, etc. You can spend all day long exploring this street and still have a lot left to do here on the next day, the day after, and the day after that.

St. Denis is a place where many of my favorite stores are located. This is the amazing Kusmi tea store:

Kusmi teas are expensive but they are extremely delicious. When you brew a pot of Kusmi tea, your entire house fills with the delicate aroma of the tea. If you do decide to try it, please don’t buy it in tea-bags. A tea-bag is a nasty perversion of a beautiful creation of nature that is loose-leaf tea. And it isn’t that hard to brew loose-leaf tea. If you are new to the idea of brewing tea, I highly recommend this extremely easy to use and inexpensive teapot.

This is how Kusmi Tea looks inside.

After buying tea, I decided to indulge my secret taste in cheap gyro plates. There isn’t a cheap gyro restaurant for a hundred miles from where I live, so I have to sneak out to get a plate whenever I’m in Montreal.

I ate the entire thing and it was lovely. And then I went to buy pants. Which probably wasn’t very smart, given that I’d just devoured a huge plate of food.

Here are the pants:

Please notice that I tried to be as American as possible and even tried on a pair of jeans. At this rate, I will probably end up buying my first pair of jeans before I retire.

Today we are going to Ottawa, and I promise a photo report from that city, too.

Customs Story

Nominatissima shared some hilarious stories about passing through the customs at the US-Canada border as a person in a long-distance relationship. I was such a person, too, and have funny stories of my own to share.

“What is the purpose of your trip?” the customs officer asked me the first time I traveled from Montreal to Indiana.

“I’m going to see my boyfriend,” I responded.

“A boyfriend? When did you meet? Where did you meet? Have you stayed with him before? What does he do? How old is he? What is his income? Has he been married before? [Before what, I wondered.] How serious is this relationship?”

“I’m sorry, officer,” I said. “I just wanted to mention that my boyfriend is a citizen of Russia.”

“Oh, you should have just said so!” the officer replied, looking relieved. “Have fun with your boyfriend. Next!”

In the future, I just stated outright, “I’m going to visit my boyfriend who is a citizen of Russia”, and nobody had any questions.

In your experience, what town has the most friendly people?

WordPress asked me this question, and I couldn’t resist answering.

Even though it can hardly be described as a “town”, the friendliest place I’ve ever been to is Seville, Spain. I only went there once but the experience was very memorable. On my first day there, I went out for a stroll and immediately got lost in the maze of tiny little streets.

“Excuse me, how do you get to street such and such?” I asked a passerby.

“Ah, you must be a tourist! Where are you from? Canada? You will love our beautiful city. Let’s go, I’ll take you to the street you need. Ah, here is the coffee-shop of my friend Francis. He makes the best coffee in Sevilla. Hey, Francis, come here. This is my friend from Canada, give her some coffee. And bring churros, too. Have you tried the real Spanish churros? You’ll love them. Hey, Francis, don’t be stingy, bring her some more to take back to the hotel with her. Have you seen a bullfight yet? No? You need to see one! Look, here is a ticket for tonight. I was going to use it myself but you need it more. Take it, and here is an invitation to another cool place. Money? What are you talking about? We are friends, aren’t we? Hey, Maria! Look, this is my friend from Canada!”

“Ah, you are from Canada! What have you got here? Churros? From Francis’s place? Nah, these are no good. Let’s go to Pepe’s cafe and you’ll taste real churros there. Hey, Pepe, this is our friend from Canada. Give her some churros. No, give her more to take to the hotel with her. What’s your name? Clarissa? We have a party tonight, Clarissa. I’ll pick you up at your hotel at eleven. Hey, Jose Miguel, look, this is our Canadian friend Clarissa!”

At the end of the outing, I returned to my hotel with my hands and bag full of tickets, invitations, souvenirs, and churros.

What’s the friendliest place you ever visited?