Romanticize everything, always
The beauty of Ottawa is tragically underappreciated. In fact, of all the places I’ve lived, the nation’s capital has quickly become one of my favourites.
Born in Bangladesh and raised in Canada, I’ve made my way around the block — the block in question being the world. As a child, I lived in Stuttgart, Germany for four years. My parents gallivanted a young starry-eyed me through Europe all the while. As for Ontario, I’ve lived in the likes of Scarborough and Thunder Bay — two rather different cities on opposite ends of the province. I’ve returned to Bangladesh and appreciated the change of scenery, as beige buildings were replaced by colourful, ornate structures, and Balsam trees exchanged for banana leaves.
Even so, my love for Ottawa remains unique. As such, I have no patience for any critiques of Ottawa being small, ugly, or anything short of beautiful.
When I first moved to Ottawa, I did so with my best friend from Thunder Bay. Make fun of us all you want, but we were star-struck by the likes of Queen Street.
Though I will always be fond of Thunder Bay and its small-city charm, I’m aware that its tallest building, standing at 16 floors, pales in comparison to those of downtown Ottawa.
Did we sing Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind” for the first few times? Did we call the LRT the subway?
Yes and yes. Look at these buildings.
Are you going to look at me and tell me I’m wrong? We are in the concrete jungle where dreams are made of, thank you very much.
Perhaps my fondness for the city is because, despite my travels, I grew up mainly in small-town suburbia.
Or, perhaps, it is simply the tangible beauty that decorates the streets of Ottawa.
Likewise, the corners of the U of O campus are characterized with this same charisma.
People who have lived in Ottawa their whole lives often have an inclination to neglect its distinctive loveliness.
Of course, when you see something every day, you become desensitized to the beauty of it. It’s that inherent fascination with the new. Bigger is better, newer is cooler. Trend cycles depend on this exact mentality. It’s why we buy new clothes and new phones consistently, despite the old clothes and old phone models being just fine, too. It’s why we’re our own worst critics — how often do we pass our own reflections without ever really noticing our own beauty? We see something over and over and forget to appreciate it.
So, I have to wonder if my love for Ottawa will dwindle over time. Having lived here only over a year, I fear that one day, I will take it for granted, too.
With a passion for taking long walks, I doubt I ever will. I’m always finding new spots, all the while appreciating the old. I hope that I never look at Ottawa with unappreciative eyes.
Every winter, I’m sure I’ll feel like I’m in a Hallmark movie.
I am certain that, as long as I live here, the way the first fall of snow decorates Sandy Hill’s streets will never fail to amaze me.
I’ll always be excited to strap on my skates (hockey, not figure — the toe picks get me every time) and head onto the Rideau Canal or Rink of Dreams.
And what would skating in Ottawa be without Beaver Tails?
Of course, because Sandy Hill is filled to the brim with university students, that first snowfall can mean a varied array of… street art, one might call it.
And an interesting choice of mistletoe, too.
Likewise, there exists a beautiful juxtaposition between the ornate exteriors of these seemingly old houses, and the comparative less classy parties that have taken place within them. Take Russell Avenue, for example. In its winter wonderland splendour, how would anyone ever know that, just a couple of months prior, a car was flipped on this very street?
Strathcona will always be magnificent because it is always changing. In every season, it’s afforded a new beauty — a park that can do it all.
I can’t imagine that the charm of Parliament is something of which I will tire.
I will always feel like I’m in a movie as I jog past them. There’s something incredibly fascinating about being surrounded by evidence of history.
And the Chateau Laurier, in all its pretentiousness, is lovely as well. My friends and I once spent an afternoon in our Sunday Best attire, ordered the cheapest items on the menu, and traipsed through the hotel for the better part of an hour — I highly recommend it.
Every time I walk over Somerset bridge, I know I will stop and look at the locks and be encompassed by that same feeling of sonder: who put these locks here? Where are they now? What are their stories?
Never will I tire of trying new restaurants in Chinatown and Little Italy alike.
I’m not sure I’ll ever try them all, but I can only hope to.
The way art lurks around every corner of Ottawa is something I have yet to fully appreciate.
Chinatown, in particular, has art hidden in all its nooks and crannies.
And, of course, the statues that are sprinkled on the streets. My personal favourite is Mr. Oscar Peterson, the jazz pianist that used to creep me out a little bit in the night. Now, of course, I greet him fondly.
Hi, old chum.
And what is a University of Ottawa student experience without the ByWard Market?
I know that most of what I cited to be beautiful isn’t unique to Ottawa.
There are other lock bridges with a greater number of locks, Chinatowns that are far more expansive, and an array of competitively beautiful cities — sure. However, that’s not the point. The point is: there is beauty everywhere, should you remember to look for it.
If you find yourself growing bored of your city, I urge you to appreciate its intricacies.
Sure, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but if you can’t see the beauty in Ottawa… maybe get some glasses?
Look at Ottawa with fresh eyes, an open mind, and a willingness to romanticize, and I assure you that you, too, will fall in love with it.