Walking back to our hotel last night, with snow crunching under our shoes and tiny flecks of falling snow hitting our frozen faces, we realised that we had stumbled into a Boys’ Weekend; without planning Dan and Tim had both booked this weekend away in Ottawa for Winterlude months ago and, casually in discussions about travel plans, we were joined by Rob and Adam, and Pete and Royden. The dinner table was a cacophony of conversations; buoyed in no small portion by my pineapple drink (a cocktail served in a whole pineapple, held together with two stabilising cocktail umbrellas) and Vaughan’s pitcher of beer. By the end of the evening Pete’s elaboration about his Paleo diet (of eating less processed foods, not actually hunting and gathering the food himself) had resulted in Adam declaring that he was going to eat Paleo from henceforth. At brunch at the Westin today (which was surprisingly good) all considerations for healthier diets were suspended until tomorrow.
This morning while once again I failed to sleep in but succeeded in lounging about in bed Rob and Adam were up and out on the Rideau, skating. Vaughan managed to sleep. Turns out the Fairmont Chateau Laurier is a popular place for Sunday brunch and we should have booked; there was no room. Luckily Rob and Adam, in their early morning over-achievement also walked into the Westin and booked the earliest available place, at 12:30.
Those of us staying around the corner at the Novotel checked out, left our luggage, and headed across Rue Rideau to the Byward Markets and found coffee. Tim bought some glove/mittens. At noon we walked through the Rideau Centre to see if there was available space for our booking, which there was. The woman at concierge failed to consider this as a business opportunity and turned us away, “Your booking isn’t until 12:30.” She was put-out by our request to be seated early, if possible. I looked at the empty tables and considered how stupid it was to turn away a table of six that had booked, for a buffet, when we could be seated earlier and that it would get us out earlier and free up space to sell food to more people. We left and went to browse the shopping centre. Thankfully another staff member saw us leaving, checked why and hauled us back inside.
I’ve only been impressed by two buffets so far, at the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac in Québec and at the Westin today. This was mainly for the food selection and quality today. Atmosphere and service today weren’t on par with the Fairmont in Québec. This weekend Dan has started to joke with others (I overheard) that you only need two things on a holiday to make me happy: a buffet and a gift shop. I tried to be annoyed with him but it’s true.
We spent the afternoon walking across the Pont Alexandra from Ontario to Québec and went down an ice slide then walked around the Canadian Museum of History. Vaughan lugged huge ice blocks across the bridge, to throw off onto the snow covered frozen river below and make snow craters with. Others had done this previously. My socks were wet from an attempt at frolicking through the knee-high snow in Major’s Hill park. Having not grown up in Canada I learned today why nobody else was doing this. Snow gets in your boots, quickly melts into your socks and makes your feet and ankles cold and wet. Uncomfortably cold and wet. It was a performance for Daniel to take a photo of, so hopefully it was worth the chagrin.
The ice slides were packed with families and children. We still lined up. Jeans aren’t the best material to slide down on ice with. Dan beat me by miles, having slid down on his back like a beetle. My jeans got stuck.
We were all dog-tired and not particularly engaged with the museum. The floor plan on the guides look awfully like a penis-and-scrotum graffiti motif (seriously!) and there was a lack of interpretation. I was interested in a large wooden plate that looked like it had teeth embedded in it. The sign just read, “Wedding plate.” No explanation of the materials or its significance or context. Oh well. There was a special Vodou exhibit which made intriguing use of human skulls.
Tim & Vaughan have caught the train back to Toronto. Rob, Dan and I are lounging in the dimly lit Chateau Laurier bistro, and Adam is for some reason skating on the Rideau for a third time. It’s snowing outside. The sun is setting and it’s -9ºC. We missed out on the afternoon high tea, with tiered platters. I’ve bought a latte with amaretto instead. Almost time to catch the bus back to the airport and our flights “home” to Toronto. So much packed into 48-hours away!