Many people might think you were a bit crazy travelling Canada during the Winter, why choose freezing temperatures and mountains of snow above the sunny shores of Thailand, or the lush green pastures of New Zealand? But what they don’t know is the joyous buzz of activities that accompany the flurry of winter weather. Families grab their skis and head out to the hills, rivers freeze over creating natural ice rinks and winter festivities pop up all across the cities.
The first stop of my travels, Ottawa, makes no exception to this. The countries dynamic capital is the home of Winterlude, a 3 week-long festival that celebrates the cities wintery culture and does so in the style of sparkling ice sculptures, snowy playgrounds and winter feasts. Luckily for me I arrived in Canada just in time to catch the tail end of the celebrations and meeting up with family in Ottawa meant I had the perfect tour guides to help me make the most of the events!
My first experience of Winterlude was Brewfest, a hipster beer festival that runs in downtown Ottawa once a year. My cousin had kindly gotten me tickets to go with him, his wife and a friend on my first full day in Canada, as we all figured that beer would surely be the answer to my jetlag!
Now for some reason I had it in my head that this was going to be outside, much to my cousin Jamie’s shock, who explained he wasn’t trying to freeze me to death in the -40°C temperatures and this was in fact an indoor event!
On entry to the venue you get given this pretty nifty mason jar, which you use to go around all the different stalls of local brewery’s, tasting and testing some yummy recipes.
For someone who doesn’t really know a thing about beer, apart from to always have a lime wedge with my corona, this was still really fun.
I tried the Ok Lah!, a crispy blend of ginger and coriander that worked surprisingly well.
Then the Flacatoune which was a nice pale ale and my favourite of the lot! Along with a dark chocolate concoction, a cider (to mix things up a bit) and a bunch of others.
In true Canadian style the ridiculously freezing temperatures didn’t dissuade people from braving the outside, where a bar stall had been set up with exclusive beers that you could only obtain if you braved the cold. Of course me trying to be the brave Brit, with my stubborn Northern routes, decided “hell yeh Jamie I’ll join you out there!” as he ventured out into the plummeting temperatures.
I lasted about 2 minutes.
However the trip was worth it because I discovered an exciting Canadian delicacy called Maple On A Stick, that involved… putting maple on a stick.
The maple is actually patted into snow so that it hardens and becomes this delicious, chewy, sugary stick of mouthwatering goodness. Maple and snow… the two most Canadian ingredients I could think of, ha nice one Canada!
As the evening grew darker, the dance floor grew larger, the DJ louder and the lights transformed the venue into a rather trendy looking club.
At which point, with our session time nearly over, we decided to brave it once more into the cold and go and get some food. A day well spent.