As spring unfolds and we get anxious to enjoy Ottawa’s great outdoors, we’re very excited to share this post, highlighting our city’s preeminent bicycle/fashion blogger, Zara Ansar. Zara curates a very cool blog that features stylish cyclists riding the streets of Ottawa. The blog will be turning 4 this summer and is slowly expanding with a re-brand and a new name, XO VELO, which will enable her to feature people in other cities. Zara’s great answers to our loveOttawa questions have inspired Anita and I to change our format slightly, to allow for more of Zara’s voice to come through. Thanks, Zara for sharing so many great reasons why you loveOttawa!
“I love Ottawa because it’s a great city for focusing on creative endeavours, it has a great cycling scene and we are very close to beautiful parks. We’ve got some great restaurants some of which I frequent a little too often. There is also a major creative movement happening in Ottawa right now, so that’s also nice.”
What do you love to do in Ottawa?
“My main love is cycling. There are so many great paths and quiet streets. I also love to just wander around Ottawa looking for bright coloured buildings (this is hard to find) or objects and take photos. I also really love scoping out and taking photos of people dressed really well on their bicycles. I enjoy attending local art shows and going to the ballet/musicals at the NAC.”
Do you have any favourite restaurants, bars and/or cafés in Ottawa?
“I have a few favourites!”
Oz Kafe – I love eating at Oz because the menu is small, creative and seasonal but packed full of options. Staff is like family – caring, accommodating and welcoming. Best Martinis and Caesars in town.
El Camino – Best fish tacos and guacamole to die for. Also, I can eat dozens of those tasty scallops in a day.
Café My House – The menu here changes seasonally as well. Great drinks, very creative and a well curated menu incorporating fresh, local organic and seasonal ingredients. They even offer a bicycle discount :D
Do you have any favourite music venues or local musicians you really love?
“I enjoy Mercury Lounge and I really love the Souljazz Orchestra and NOAH. I also am proud of my friend Tariq Anwar for challenging the music scene in Ottawa. Found out about some new artists that don’t get much exposure through him. He rocks!”
How do you see Ottawa progressing as a city, and/or what are the region’s qualities that you feel are evolving, bike and/or fashion related?
“There is so much stuff happening in Ottawa right now that I am having trouble keeping track. While social media has helped to spread the word about various events happening in the community, I just can’t seem to keep up. There are times where I have to flutter from one event to the other. Who says Ottawa is boring? The arts and culture scene is emerging and more people are aware of it and are embracing it. I’m enjoying seeing new artists, musicians and other creative folks pop up that don’t get the attention they deserve in Ottawa.”
“Fashion-wise, Ottawa has its pockets of stylish individuals. It’s great that we are seeing more unique stores popping up and online shopping has really helped to style some of the city’s best dressed. I am also enjoying more people embracing vintage fashion. Great way to look good, save money and change your wardrobe often!”
“Cycling-wise, there is a huge cycling scene which has been increasing every year. I’ve seen a surge in winter cyclists too. People are realizing that cars are expensive and owning a bike is much cheaper, healthier, and better for the environment. Ottawa definitely needs protected and extensive bike lanes to encourage more cycling. I know a lot of people that would love to bike in from outside the downtown core but are unable to do so because of a lack of protected lanes. The more we can protect cyclists, the more cyclists we will see on the road.”
Are there any special things about Ottawa and the region you’d like to share (hidden gems)?
“There is a really great trampoline school called Spring Action and everyone should have their birthday party there, or at least join a class. It’s too much fun! Artengine is a great collective where artists and technologists intersect. Foobz is a bubble soccer organization that holds private and public games. It’s a great way to show your friends how much you love them by bumping them and watching them roll in what looks like a hamster ball, across the field. Across the bridge in Hull you should check out Axneo 7. A friend of mine, Sasha Vreca (a very talented artist), produced a brilliant installation that still resonates with me. Honestly, some cool art coming out of there and some cool artists I’ve never heard of, but who are very talented and humble.”
Do you have a special non-profit or initiative that’s close to your heart right now in Ottawa?
“I have a few… I’m really loving the 1 square foot project and all the events they are running to help build Ottawa’s only downtown skateboard park. I also love Bicycles for Humanity and Trips for Kids.”
Thanks so much to Zara for sharing so many cool things she loves about Ottawa! For more information about XO VELO: www.xovelo.com
A young mom and her son, photographed at The Youville Centre.
With Mother’s Day right around the corner, we wanted to shed some light on the courageous young moms who are attending high school at Ottawa’s Youville Centre. Youville is a non-profit centre which helps teen moms complete their high school, while having their babies and toddlers safely cared for in the on-site daycare. The centre also offers the girls valuable resources and support in this very important stage of their lives, allowing them to reach graduation, raise their children with dignity and learn valuable life skills.
In the month of May, Youville reaches out to the community and asks for help to raise funds for the much needed resources they require to keep the centre strong and growing. With the partnership of five Ottawa businesses, they will provide fun, spring events and promotions in celebration of Mother’s Day while raising money for Youville. These very generous partners include Flowers Talk Tivoli, Ottawa Fit, Shepherds, Urban Element and Whole Foods. We want to share this lovely opportunity with our followers and ask anyone interested to lend a hand to this most generous organization. For more information or to to donate directly to The Youville Centre, please visit: www.youvillecentre.org/ways-to-give/help-us-grow
Executive Chef Kenton Leier, photographed in the Westin Ottawa’s kitchen.
As long as I’ve lived in Ottawa, I’ve always known the Westin Ottawa to be a beautifully appointed hotel with a great location and supported by a quality international brand. Now that they are sponsoring our loveOttawa project, both Anita and I are getting to see more behind the scenes, and we’re learning it’s a hotel with heart and a very hospitable team who consider themselves a big family!
The other week we were fortunate enough to meet and photograph Kenton Leier, who’s been the executive chef for the hotel for the past five years. Kenton told us how much he loves the excitement and pace of the Westin’s kitchen. He especially enjoys working with his closely knit team. “We serve everything from very large gala dinners for hundreds of people to small VIP functions. We cater outside the hotel as well, so it’s a huge challenge to plan and execute it all at a very high level and that’s what I love about it.”
Kenton loves that Ottawa has all the great things a big city offers…“great dining, entertainment, shopping and culture without the hassles of a really big city. I also love that there is so much green space, parks, trails with such easy accessibility.” Kenton appreciates how much the city’s dining scene has evolved over the past 10 years. “We can definitely compete with any other city for the number of quality places to eat and everything from very low key and casual to upscale and formal. There is lots of culinary talent here in Ottawa!”
Kenton’s favourite places to eat in Ottawa are quite varied. “I love the sandwiches at La Bottega in The Market and Pho at a number of places in Chinatown. Murray Street is a favourite restaurant, as well as The Cheshire Cat Pub in Carp, breakfast at Sconewitch, Baker Street Café or Wilf and Aida’s.”
Thanks so much to Kenton Leier for showing us around the kitchen at the Westin and for sharing some of what he loves about Ottawa! Please follow Kenton on Instagram at @chefleier to see what he and his team are working on in the kitchen!
At loveOttawa we are happy to support FIFA’s #100ballsFWWC giveaway. With just over 2 months to go before the tournament starts, Susana will be hiding ball #64 in memory of her son, Tomás, who passed away recently, and who was a passionate soccer player and supporter. Her children Alicia and Javier will be joining her in hiding it in a place dear to their hearts! Follow us on Twitter and Instagram tomorrow for hints!
Patricia Sanchez and Jono Partridge photographed in Confederation Park.
Ice skating is a passion and a profession for Patricia Sanchez and Jono Partridge. Both are skaters with the Disney on Ice “Frozen” North American tour. Although Ottawa was not a scheduled stop, this lovely couple took one day from their busy calendar to visit our city.
Patty, from Madrid, Spain, had spent five consecutive summers in Ottawa, as a teen, learning about our country and studying English. Her dream was to one day return in winter and skate on the canal, as well as to visit her host family and friends and, of course, to show off the nation’s capital to her skating partner and boyfriend, Jono, from London, England. We spent a couple of fun hours with them, and were mesmerized by their jumps and twirls as they skated happily on the world’s longest skating rink. We got a fascinating insight into what it is that captivates both returning visitors and first time tourists to our great city!
When asked what they most liked about Ottawa, Patty recalled the first time she visited the city, as a young teen, and asking for directions to get to her English academy. She asked one person, who in turn asked another and another, until a group of people accompanied her safely to her destination! As she says, “By the time I arrived at the reception desk I was with eight people who helped me find it. I will never forget that day!” Jono was also drawn to Ottawans’ kindness. “This was my first experience in Canada, which I’d heard so much about. The typical Canadian is seen to most foreigners as being polite, courteous and kind. The residents of Ottawa really lived up to this and it made my first experience a thoroughly enjoyable one.”
The Rideau Canal definitely exceeded their expectations. Both have skated on numerous icy surfaces but the feeling of “openness” that it allowed them was unforgettable. As Jono explained, “This was such an amazing adventure which really can’t be put into words. It was my first ever experience of a naturally frozen canal. It took my eyes a while to believe what they were seeing! The other surprising thing is how great the quality of the ice surface was. I had always been told that natural outdoor surfaces aren’t great but once I stepped onto it, I found that I could glide far further with one push that I could dream of doing on almost all the man-made ice rinks I had ever skated on.” Patricia, on the other hand, had seen the canal countless times, but surrounded by flowers and trees. “I just loved it! I used to skate indoors during my summers here and would always be told to come to the canal in the winter. After spending five summers in Canada, I finally got the chance to skate on it. It was my dream come true!”
As was to be expected, Patty introduced Jono to BeaverTails! He recalled later, “I was feeling full from lunch but Patty was trying to convince me to get one. I told her that I was still feeling extremely full so we should get one to share and I would just have a few bites. After my first bite, I realised how good it was. The next time I looked down at the BeaverTail, I had eaten most of it and had to pull out a great apology as to why there were only a few bites for Patty left!”
Thank you, Patty and Jono, for posing for our loveOttawa camera and sharing your fond memories. We hope to see you again soon, so that you may experience the exhilarating “feeling of skating on what seems like an endless ice surface with the wind behind you!” And, perhaps, while eating a BeaverTail!