On frosty winter mornings, while scraping the four-inch, icy coating off their windshields, neighbours can be heard making cheery quips like, “Cold enough for ya?” or, “That’s quite the dump of snow we got last night, eh?”
Since January, however, I have admittedly *not* been embracing winter. Ottawa’s bitter temperatures – which ranged between -25C and -40C for most of the month – were a tough pill to swallow, and frankly, I felt more like hibernating than pulling on a parka.
But the beauty of the cold stretch is how good it feels when you finally get a day like today – a beautiful, mild winter day that is perfect for outdoor family fun. Our family decided to take advantage of the perfect conditions, so we headed to Jacques-Cartier Park to play at the ‘Snowflake Kingdom’ as part of Winterlude, Ottawa’s massive, annual winter festival.
First up on the agenda were the ice slides, which were a blast for all of us. The glossy, polished ice is the perfect surface for sliding down right on your butt – no mat needed.
But this year we also tried out the ‘Chinook Run,’ which is a tubing adventure. The tubes are big enough for a parent to take a child in their lap, so you can choose to double up or go solo. Festival workers grab a handle at the end of a long cord – attached to your tube – and whip you down the start of the run, delivering a good rush of speed.
Several ice slides later, our frozen toes told us it was time to warm up and enjoy a the much-anticipated Winterlude treat – the Beavertail. These cinnamon-and-sugar sensations are worth the trek downtown in and of themselves, and if you come to Winterlude you just can’t leave without trying one.
After washing it down with a good dose of hot chocolate, we headed back to check out the Aboriginal displays and presentations. This year, the group was demonstrating traditional drumming, how to make snowshoes and how to throw a harpoon. Our nine-year-old, who has taken units in school about Aboriginal groups, always loves checking out these areas, although the animal lover in her shrinks away from the furs hanging on display.
We played away our whole morning at the Snowflake Kingdom, and suddenly we were hungry for more than just sugary snacks. After putting in my request for poutine, my husband had a brainwave. Back over the bridge to Ontario, we headed to the Market where we found the most perfect post-outdoor lunch spot: The Smoque Shack.
The poutine – which was what brought us there in the first place – was outstanding. Perfectly dusted with spices and piled with cheese curds and chicken gravy, the platter was very generous – ideal for sharing amongst all of us.
Add in a pint of Mill Street Organic Lager – from a microbrewery right here in Ottawa – and the Olympics playing on the restaurant’s TV, and I’m pretty sure I found the perfect recipe for a day of Canadiana.
And you know what? Unlike those long, cold days in January, winter and I actually got along today. With a little help from great festivals and fine food establishments, maybe I can embrace it after all.