Mena G. is a fundraising consultant who moved to Ottawa in August 2010…and it all started because of a conversation in a British pub, with an old school friend and her Canadian husband.
We were so delighted when my friend from her school days said she was coming home for a visit.
She had moved to Canada the previous year and had just relocated from Nova Scotia with her new husband to Ottawa. As we sat eating our meal in the Bumblebee (yes, it’s the name of the pub) in front of a roaring fire, they talked about Ottawa – a city that they described as a delightful mix of city excitement and facilities surrounded by beautiful lakes and countryside. They told us tales of skating on the canal, going to ice hockey games, husky sledging, Bluesfest… and well…by the end of the conversation, we’d decided to move.
So for a last reality check before I became too firmly fixed on the idea, I asked my friend, “Okay, be really honest, what DON’T you like about living in Canada?”
She said, “the cold.”
“And that’s all?” I asked.
“Yep, that’s about it,” she replied matter-of-factly.
Needless to say, it didn’t put us off. So just under two years later, after much form-filling, travelling back and forth, buying a house, setting up accounts and various other things… here we are.
My husband moved over two months before me to organize the house while I finished up my job back home, and I still remember clearly the first night I got here. It was a warm summer evening and rather than give in to the jetlag, we went for a walk down the street where we live and I was amazed by how many people were out the front of their houses. Whether they were tidying their lawns, playing with the children or chatting to the neighbours, it was a real difference from the fortresses we tend to build for ourselves in the United Kingdom, from which we only venture out of to put out the rubbish or get into the car to go to work.
Since that first night, we’ve travelled a bit further than the street where we live, around the lakes of Gatineau, explored downtown shops, the ByWard Market and of course the Parliament buildings. But for me, my favourite experience so far, and one that I imagine we will repeat many times, is barbecuing on Petrie Island. Who’d have thought it – a beach in Ottawa!
Our next adventures we hope will include camping in Gatineau forest, hiring a cottage on a lake and indeed, skating on the canal.
As for the one thing my friend said she didn’t enjoy – the cold – I’ve yet to discover what that will be like. But, I’m starting to get a taste of it, and I think I might end up agreeing with her!
Are you new to Ottawa? Share your first impressions with us!