Arts

Zak's dinner in the market
I hope I never look at Ottawa with unappreciative eyes. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum
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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.

Parliament seen from Somerset Bridge
View of Chateau Laurier from the Somerset bridge. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum

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.

Downtown Ottawa
View of the Parliament from Elgin Street. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum

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.

The view from Chateau Laurier
The view from the Chateau Laurier pathway. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum

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. 

Queen's street
All hail the concrete jungle. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum

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. 

Downtown Ottawa
Glass buildings in downtown Ottawa. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum

Did we sing Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind” for the first few times? Did we call the LRT the subway? 

Elgin Street
The intersection of Elgin Street and Laurier Avenue. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum

Yes and yes. Look at these buildings.

Downtown Ottawa
Buildings in downtown Ottawa. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum

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.

Ottawa at night
The intersection of St.Patrick and Murray streets. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum

Perhaps my fondness for the city is because, despite my travels, I grew up mainly in small-town suburbia. 

Major Hill's Park
Major Hill’s Park. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum

Or, perhaps, it is simply the tangible beauty that decorates the streets of Ottawa.

Sussex Drive
Sussex Drive at night. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum

Likewise, the corners of the U of O campus are characterized with this same charisma.

Tabaret Hall
A snow-covered Tabaret Hall. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum

People who have lived in Ottawa their whole lives often have an inclination to neglect its distinctive loveliness.

The path along the Rideau Canal
The path along the Rideau Canal. Photo: Snajida Rashid/Fulcrum

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.

Lafayette
Chateau Lafayette, the oldest tavern in Ottawa. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum

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.

Zak's dinner in the market
Zak’s Cantina in the market. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum

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.

Sparks Street
Sparks Street. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum 

Every winter, I’m sure I’ll feel like I’m in a Hallmark movie.

Street at night
Hallmark movie material. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum

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. 

House and tree
A snowy house in Sandy Hill. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum

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.

Rink of Dreams
The Rink of Dreams. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum

And what would skating in Ottawa be without Beaver Tails?

Beaver Tails stand
Beaver Tails are amazing. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum

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.

phallic snow art
University students love their phallic art. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum
Smiley on a car
Nothing is more wholesome than a smiley face drawn on a car. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum

And an interesting choice of mistletoe, too.

Trojan box in a tree
No caption needed… Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum

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? 

Russell Avenue
Russell Avenue. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum

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.

Strathcona Park
The Strathcona Park bridge links Sandy Hill with Vanier. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum
Strathcona Park
Snow covers the beautiful Strathcona Park. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum
Strathcona fountain with pine tree behind it
The Strathcona fountain with snowy pine trees in the background. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum 

I can’t imagine that the charm of Parliament is something of which I will tire.

Parliament
Can’t forget Ottawa’s most iconic building. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum

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.

Chateau Laurier
The historical Chateau Laurier. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum

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.

Chateau Laurier
Sanjida really loves the Chateau Laurier. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum 

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?

The locks on Somerset bridge
The locks on Somerset bridge. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum
locks on the Somerset Bridge
Who put them there, and where did they all come from? Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum

Never will I tire of trying new restaurants in Chinatown and Little Italy alike. 

Chinatown
Chinatown is littered with amazing restaurants. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum

I’m not sure I’ll ever try them all, but I can only hope to.

Little Italy
Little Italy. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum

The way art lurks around every corner of Ottawa is something I have yet to fully appreciate.

mural
Mural in Chinatown. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum

Chinatown, in particular, has art hidden in all its nooks and crannies. 

Panda Mural
Ottawa really loves its pandas. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum

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. 

Oscar Peterson
The Oscar Peterson statue. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum

Hi, old chum.

And what is a University of Ottawa student experience without the ByWard Market? 

The market at night
The market at night. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum

 I know that most of what I cited to be beautiful isn’t unique to Ottawa. 

mural
Another mural in Chinatown. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum

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. 

Little Italy
A lovely caffé in little Italy. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum

If you find yourself growing bored of your city, I urge you to appreciate its intricacies.

Russell Avenue
Majestic Sandy Hill. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum

Sure, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but if you can’t see the beauty in Ottawa… maybe get some glasses? 

Mural under the 417
Mural under the 417. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum

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.

Wellington Street
Wellington Street. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum