When a jet-setting friend comes to town, you better make sure you're ready!
It's not everyday that a friend flies half way around the world to see you - and it's even better when that friend is an incredible travel writer! Jo from Frugal First Class Travel is coming to Canada for the first time and I get a rare opportunity to show off my home city of Ottawa. It's so seldom that international visitors come to Ottawa on their first trip! I've seen Jo on her home turf of Sydney, Australia, as well as Athens, Greece - both tremendously interesting, stylish, fun, delicious cities. I have to make sure that Ottawa measures up and that I come up with a girlfriend's guide that's worthy of an international jet setter.
Coffee an Australian would approve of
Australians are SERIOUS about their coffee and their favourite concoction, the Flat White, has finally come to Ottawa. But I dare not bring Jo to any cafes that serves it - I'm sure they don't measure up! But a great alternative is Elgin Street's Ministry of Coffee. They make a mean Cortado, a coffee drink that is very similar to a Flat White, as well as my favourite: Nutella hot chocolate. A great stop for beating jetlag or catching up on blog work.
Meals worthy of a foodie
The last time I saw Jo, we did a day long culinary tour of Athens - and the time before that we had a fantastic meal along the waterfront in Sydney. So the food scene in Ottawa has to impress! Our first stop: the Byward Market.
The Black Tomato: Has a laid back vibe (admittedly service is sometimes TOO laid back) and a short menu with great selections. I love their ale-based French onion soup.
Dunn's: Great for breakfast but famous for their Montreal-style smoked meat sandwiches (awesome for lunch!).
Nicastro's La Bottega: Pick up Italian grocery staples, like bread, meat, and cheese, and then head to the LCBO store on Rideau Street for some wine advice - they have the biggest stock of Ontario wines in the city and can give advice worthy of someone who lives in wine country!
The Black Thorn: Great low key pub atmosphere - I love their Brie and pear pizza.
Time to compete with Sydney style.
Sydney-siders are impossibly cool and stylish - imagine New York meets Hawaii. And here in Ottawa we spend half the year bundled up in layers against the cold! But we ARE making some waves in the style department.
Our downtown shopping plaza, the Rideau Centre, is a perfect place to stock up on some of North America's coolest designers. And it's just beside David's Tea, which is the perfect place to stock up on some revitalizing and refreshing brews.
Some of my other favourite stops here include Aveda for toiletries and Purdy's Chocolate for homemade, Canadian themed chocolates and candies. Anyone looking to dive deeper in the Ottawa style scene should check out TwentyYork.com - it's the city's best fashion and beauty blog and has tons of great resources.
See beyond the symbols
Every city has it's symbol. In Paris, it's the Eiffel Tower. In Sydney, it's of course the iconic Opera House. And I think Ottawa's symbol is the Parliament Buildings. They really are the crowning glory of our city's architecture and there's nothing better than exploring the lawns, statues, and lookouts on a sunny Sunday afternoon. But even better is to take a look inside. The Parliament Buildings are open to visitors and guided bilingual tours run throughout the day for free.
Jo and I both love a good deal - and I bet anyone else planning a girlfriend's getaway feels the same! Some other fantastic things to see and do in the city for free include:
Finish up with some rest and relaxation
This isn't your typical spa, but it's the one I visit the most in Ottawa. Elgin Massage is a registered massage therapy clinic that is perfect for tired, worn out visitors. They have evening and weekend hours and in addition to regular Swedish massage, they offer hot stone, Thai-style, yoga classes, and acupuncture. And there's a small spa treatment area on site that uses only Aveda products and offers manicures, pedicures, facials, and a few body treatments. It's quiet, friendly, and reasonably priced - always a great combination!
Tell me about your hometown!
I'm going to keep adding things to my list of what's great in Ottawa - both for Jo's visit and all the other friends that come through town. If you're an Ottawa native, I'd love to hear your suggestions on what I should add to the list. And if you're not from Ottawa, I want to know where you'd recommend I visit when I come to your home town!
Here's a recap of all our past Ottawa articles:
Jane's Walk Ottawa
Salon Niccio: Making Ottawa Look Good
Cold Vines, Warm Hearts at Smokie Ridge Vineyard
Ottawa's Desserts of the World Festival
The Velodrome and the Astrolabe
Ottawa Restaurant Review: Zen Kitchen
Ottawa Restaurant Review: Maison Baguettes
Ottawa Restaurant Review: Union Local 613
Ottawa Restaurant Review: FlapJack's Pancake Shake (FoodTruck)
Ottawa Restaurant Review: La Favourita (aka: When You Have To Give A Bad Review)