Taste of Wellington West: Part III!! (Plus a little Papanack Zoo)

Zebra!!

Fiona Tapp is a British Elementary School Teacher, who has called Ottawa home for the past five years. As a native Londoner, she tries to explore and enjoy Ottawa as a tourist, and so far is pretty impressed with this “tiny but brilliant” city!

Saturday was the sort of sunny, but crisp late summer day, that beckons you to step out for one of the last chances of the season, to go without a jacket or a coat.

After my very energetic Bollywood Dance class at Dance with Alana Studios, I had worked up quite an appetite and was lured by the promise of free food samples, so headed out with two good friends to the neighbourhood between Island Park and Breezehill, to enjoy the fifth annual Taste of Wellington West.

Barrel Car at a Taste of Wellington West

More than 30 restaurants and food shops offered free samples as well as a vintage car show, live music and children’s play areas. There was a really nice festival feel to the event and the volume of crowds proved it had been a successful venture in bringing people out to appreciate the neighbourhood. I was pleased to see a few businesses I had either read about or seen on the internet, such as the alternative branch to the (now closed after a fire) Allegro in the Byward Market, and also The Wellington Gastropub.

My friends and I admired the cool cars, including a strange tandem motorbike made from barrels, met a giant Panda advertising martial arts classes and then decided to join the very long line of people hoping to get a free tasty treat from The Royal Oak.

We waited just 10 minutes or so and were rewarded with a delicious mini pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw, this was a first for me, a vegetarian since the age of 11, I recently started eating meat and have never eaten pork before, it was delicious, sweet and tangy, soft and sticky-I am a convert!

Yum.

We took our sandwiches over the street to the line up for Absinthe restaurant, a restaurant all three of us had heard of but never tried. The wait here was longer, about 30 mins but there was plenty of people watching to partake in, as well as a marching band to bop to. Once at the front of the queue we were handed a cup

Fiona Tapp at the zoo!

of spicy homemade lemonade, I was about to ditch mine, thinking it had cigarette ash in it, when my friend discreetly informed me that it was a mix of spices, and perfectly edible-it was really tasty, refreshing and quite different, we were then ushered along to the next stand and handed a mini house made beef burger, there were a variety of relishes and toppings you could choose to adorn your burger with, I chose mushrooms, a tangy salsa and a grainy mustard, my pals went with the house special “baconnaise”- we all agreed these were some very fine burgers indeed, and as my first burger in almost 20 years, it certainly was worth the 30 minute wait! We all agreed to head back to Absinthe for dinner one night, if their burgers are that good, the rest of the menu is sure to impress.

We were hoping to grab a free dessert also, but we took a wrong turn and the free samples were put away by the time we righted ourselves. So we popped into Truffle Treasures instead and although we had to pay for them, we really enjoyed our sweet goodies.

I had to head home as I had a date with my hubby; we drove out to Wendover to visit Papanack Zoo. It may just be our GPS, but we found the zoo quite hard to find, especially as there seem to be two “County Road 19s”, so leave with plenty of time to avoid the map/GPS argument!

Every Saturday night between Labour Day and Thanksgiving, the gates are reopened at 6.30pm and then closed at 7pm when the Night Safari tour begins. Visitors are encouraged to bring their flashlights, so that they may see the animal’s secret night time behaviour.

Lion at the Papanack Zoo

Our guides helpfully split the crowd into two groups, those with little children and those on a date (or with older children who could control themselves) This was a marked improvement to last year when we went out as a large group and I had to bite my tongue, to stop reprimanding naughty children, whose parents conveniently disowned them the moment they became a problem!

We were told the rules; be quiet and calm and the animals will come to investigate you, do not mimic the animals noises and if the Wolves start to howl-listen very quietly.

First of all we met a very curious lynx, it was quite startling to note how alike our little kitty at home was to this wild animal, they made some of the same little noises and shared quite a few characteristics. Next we moved on to a wild boar, some lemur monkeys, donkeys, antelope and two beautiful zebras. They came very close to the fence and licked my husband, one of them breathed heavily and wetly on my hand and I realised this was the closest I had ever been to these strange yet beautiful animals.

The Zoo’s large cats are very popular and we met a siberian tiger and a jaguar, who was quite old and having put on a little weight had the look of a large bear to him, he was very affectionate with the keeper and looked quite the big softie, although I am sure if the opportunity arose his wild side could rise to the surface.

We had a break for hot chocolate, snacks and a chance for the children to use the washroom before headed over to the lions’ enclosure, where we had the opportunity to see the lions feeding. The male’s roar was really impressive and quite intimidating. The guides were very knowledgeable and easily switched from English to French to describe the animals, and to answer questions.

My favourite part was the eerie howling of the wolves which rose up from the Zoo and increased in volume and excitement and was then magnified by the coyotes joining in-it was really creepy and atmospheric.

We headed home, stopping to pick up dinner from Boston Pizza, a great end to a day full of tasty treats and amazing wildlife!

Wow, thanks Fiona – great post!