Starting our Canadian coast to coast trip

On October 6th, 2017, we began our cross country Canadian roadtrip departing from Scarborough, Ontario. Our first stop was a short break in Kingston, ON. I had faint memories of visiting my friends here back in college. The main shopping area, Princess Street, has become much busier with many new shops, healthy eateries and cafes. We sipped a coffee at Northside Espresso, a cafe inspired by the coffee culture in Melbourne and walked through Ontario’s only art gallery in an alley, Martello Alley.

Here are some Middle Eastern pastries from Patisserie Royal near Nelson’s childhood home in Scarborough, ON. These were perfect two-bite treats to accompany our coffee during the drive.

We continued onward to Brockville, ON, also known as the City of the 1000 Islands, to visit my college roommate. The town sits right along the St. Lawrence River and you can see many little islands from the shore. After dinner, we drove to a highway rest stop near Mallorytown to settle in for the evening. Although there are signs that don’t allow you to park/sleep overnight, nobody bothered us and there seemed to be a few other people doing the same. It’s nice to have access to a washroom 24/7 but avoid stopping here for breakfast in the morning as the line up was extremely long (think airport security lines).

We woke up early the next morning to continue our drive to Ottawa, ON. Along the way, we stopped at Watson’s Mill in Manotick (population of 4,486) where we got to see one of the last operational industrial grist mills from the 19th century. From the moment wheat grains are poured into the hopper, you get to follow the grain up and down the five story building as it gets stone-ground, cooled, sifted, and bagged as whole wheat flour. I highly recommend it if you’re in the area but the mill operates seasonally so check beforehand.

After touring the Mill, we visited the Carp Farmers’ Market for lunch and groceries. I bought a loaf of spelt sourdough from Heather’s Hearth. She bakes all her bread using local organic flour ground on-site in a wood-fired oven built themselves. The spelt loaf was delicious, the best sourdough bread I had on our entire road trip. We made many PB and J sandwiches and wished we had bought another loaf!

A sunset view of the Parliament buildings on a warm October evening. This photo was taken from a lookout point near the statue of Samuel Champlain.

During our few days in Ottawa, we had the luxury of staying with one of my high school friends in the downtown area. It’s a very walkable city with a lot of museums and government landmarks to see like Parliment Hill and Rideau Canal.

We took a tour of the Royal Canadian Mint where we saw the production of collectible, special edition coins. But what we found more exciting was the Diefenbunker museum tour. It was a top secret nuclear bunker built during the Cold War for government officials to keep the country running in case of an attack. We learned about the logistics of keeping construction under cover and how life would be like underground. You get to tour all the facilities they built such as the hospital, bedrooms, cafeteria, vault, conference rooms, and the prehistoric communications room.

And for the first time in 5 years, we celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving! We enjoyed a nice dinner with my highschool friend at Das Lokal, a modern German restaurant.

Scallop spätzel at Das Lokat in Ottawa.
Pork schnitzel with lemon jelly and cranberry sauce.

But the most memorable meal we had during our time in Ottawa was eating at Pili Pili Grilled Chicken. My mouth is watering as I think back to that charcoal grilled chicken seasoned perfectly, buttery rice and sweet fried plantains. Maybe it’s better I didn’t take a picture so you can imagine it in its heavenly state.

We decided to spend Thanksgiving Day hiking around Meech Lake. Ottawa is surrounded by many beautiful trails, and it’s especially enjoyable to see the colours of the fall foliage. On the Carbide Wilson Trail, you get to explore the abandoned private lab and residence of inventor Thomas Wilson who made his fortune patenting the recipe for making calcium carbide in the 19th century.

Before leaving Ottawa, we drove across the border to Gatineau, Quebec to enjoy brunch at Edgar. It’s a local favorite and you’ll always find a line around the block even before it opens. The owner, Marysol Foucault, serves French comfort food. We ordered her famous dutch baby, a light pancake baked in an individual cast iron skillet, then filled with roasted pork belly, cheddar cheese, apple butter, all swimming in maple syrup. This one dish is enough to give two people food coma for an afternoon. We also ordered huevos ranchero, and took home some pastries and caramels.

At Edgar, we dined at the bar and watched all the food being cooked and plated. Here is the owner herself, Mary Foucault.
Her pastry display, all baked in an oven under the kitchen stove early every morning. It’s always inspiring to see people maximize the potential of a small kitchen space.

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