Thursday 29 Dec 2011
What a shock to the system to be waking at 4am! We had to be out of the house and on the road by 5am in order to make it to the train that Robyn and I were booked on to Ottawa. We had an emotional farewell with Colleen and Zoli at Union Station in Toronto – it’s been a wonderful week with them in the countryside in their lovely home enjoying their company and their hospitality.
The timing was perfect at the station – the train to Ottawa was about to board. We took our allotted seats and settled down to use the VIA Rail free wi-fi. Other passengers seemed to think they could sit anywhere regardless of what was on their ticket – activity that caused inconvenience, confusion and disruption further down the line when other passengers boarded. Perhaps this is uniquely Canadian train behaviour.
The train was about half an hour late into the main Ottawa station and there was an uncomfortable crush as people with baggage, like us, tried to retrieve it from under other bags and cases that had been put on top of it. There was a bit of pushing and shoving that seemed uncharacteristic of the Canada we had encountered so far.
Things went a little downhill for a while after that. Robyn discovered that the code she needed to top up her mobile phone would have been on the grocery store docket from where she bought the top up card – a fact that had not been made clear to her at the time of purchase – and since she had not kept the docket she was unable to put more credit on her phone.
The lift down to the bus stop wasn’t working so we had to lug our baggage down some stairs. Two number 95 buses stopped only briefly with insufficient time for us to realise that was the route we wanted and to get ourselves and luggage out of the bus shelter and onto the pavement. However, third time lucky, and the bus stop downtown was just opposite our hotel, plus other passengers were most helpful in pointing out where we needed to go and assisting us off the bus.
The Capital Hill hotel is well-located but we had a few requests to make – there was no jug or kettle for boiling water for tea (you can get hot water out of the coffee-maker however it is heavily coffee flavoured), and only one packet of ‘creamer’ to whiten the tea. And later when we ordered in some takeaway Indian food it came without cutlery, so we had to ask reception for some. The receptionist’s answer was the same each time – ‘we’ll send one/some up’. By the time the cutlery came the food had cooled, and since it was not the most flavoursome Indian food, dinner was not the best we’d had (maybe we’d become too used to all the tasty home cooked meals at Colleen’s). However, we were hungry, having subsisted on muesli bars and leftover pecan pie (Colleen put some in a tin for us) since breakfast, and the salad at least was good.
Anyway, we persisted in trying to get some enjoyment out of the day, and booked a couple of tickets to a comedy show nearby at a place called Yuk Yuks, which bills itself at Canada’s original and best stand-up comedy venue. We arrived early, courtesy of another bus and some more helpful directions from a fellow-passenger, and picked ourselves a good spot not too close to the microphone but with a good view. Yuk Yuks was much like a similar venue I had attended in St Kilda in Melbourne, and like places Robyn had been to in Brisbane – a bar with dark décor and patrons partaking liberally of alcohol. There were 4 performers, the MC (quite funny), a young man who looked like Beavis (mildly amusing but still definitely an amateur), a young woman with an unpronounceable and unspellable surname, and the main show, a young man named John Hastings. Unfortunately, all seemed to prefer ‘toilet/penis/vagina’ humour rather than the clever humour that can be just as funny. I guess we got what we paid for, and we did laugh a lot.
We wanted to take a bus home however it would have meant waiting for about 20 minutes so we decided to walk home – oh my, was it cold at -18 °C. However, we were back before a bus going our way even came along. We revived ourselves with hot tea before crawling into what turned out to be very comfortable beds.