Hi everyone, Nelson here again. We’re well into June now and the weather’s perfect for outings. Our family loves a good road trip, so we all started getting the itch for one a few weeks ago! Since my parents are here, I thought it might be a perfect time to visit our Nation’s capital, Ottawa.
It’s possible that we love road trips so much because we grew up taking road trips with our families. I remember my parents talking about our trips to Ottawa. It was a nice memory after we moved to Portugal. My mom loved talking about her favourite part of visits to Ottawa – the changing of the guards in front of the Parliament building.
So it was decided – we would go to Ottawa!
Where to Stay?
One of the great things about a trip to Ottawa is that it’s only 4-5ish hours away from us (yes, in Canada…at least in busy cities…we measure travel distance in time–drive here some time and you’ll understand). Well the nice thing about the distance is that it’s far enough that we feel like we’ve gone traveling, yet close enough that we can visit for just a couple of days.
This time around we decided to try something new; I booked our stay through Airbnb. If you haven’t heard of Airbnb, I highly recommend you check it out (click here for $23 off your first booking). The concept is genius… list or rent a room, apartment, a whole house or even a castle! They have listings in 34,000 cities and 191 countries. It’s basically a world wide, easy to navigate database of private rental places. In our case, we booked a house, since there were 6 of us. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but our hosts Jim and Sue were super friendly and the house was fantastic! It was the perfect size for our family, it was extremely clean and it was conveniently located not far from the city centre.
A Long Walk on Friday
Once we settled in on the Friday, we decided to walk to the Parliament area. It was a good 35-40 minute walk, but the weather was so nice, we couldn’t resist! We did a short stop at Parliament and then headed over to Sparks St., a historical street in Uptown Ottawa that was converted into an outdoor pedestrian street. Since it’s closed off to vehicles, it’s a perfect spot to walk around, checking out shops and restaurants.
Lots of Plans for Saturday
Saturday started off with a bit of rain, but it cleared up just before we headed back to the city centre. First thing on our schedule was a tour of Parliament. I thought the kids might be bored to tears, but they actually loved it! My parents seemed to really enjoy the tour as well–even my mom who didn’t understand a word the tour guide said. During the tour we got to see the House of Commons, the Senate and the library. So much history! I couldn’t stop thinking about all the important decisions that have been made there over the years. If you live in Canada or plan on visiting Canada, this is a great stop! …and the tour is free!
Next on the list of fun things to do… the Lady Dive Amphibious Bust Tour! This is Liz and my second time trying this out–but it was new for my parents. It’s a bit of a cheesy touristy thing to do, but we had fun. On the tour, we got to know a bit about the history of Ottawa; we saw some of it’s main sites; and then the bus drove down a ramp and right into the Ottawa River for a wonderful trip on the water; getting a beautiful view of the other side of the Parliament building up on the hill. It was funny to watch my mom… she was loving it but she was quite nervous about the bus maintaining it’s float while we were on the river. It’s not everyday you get to go on a boat ride in a bus 🙂
We closed off the afternoon with dinner and a visit to ByWard Market. It’s a fun and lively outdoor market in the centre of the city. We went a bit late, but we still got to see most of the market vendor’s booths. For me personally, the “icing on the cake”… or should I say, “The sugar on the pastry” was the BeaverTail I shared with our son. If you’ve never had one…um…you really should go find one…seriously!
One Last Stop Before Heading home
On Sunday we packed up and tidied up before heading out. I wasn’t feeling like our trip should be over just yet. We decided to do one last stop. Kingston is another city in Ontario that happens to be on the route we were taking home. It’s a nice old city with a large university and lots of military history. We couldn’t really stop for long, so we drove around a little and then stopped for a late lunch/early dinner–“lunner”. There are probably many great restaurants in Kingston, but we have a traditional stop whenever we visit the city. We almost always eat at Wooden Heads. They make fantastic pizza in a wood-burning oven. After having their pizza for the first time, it was so memorable that we decided we’d try to make it back there every time we happened to be traveling along the highway that goes through the city. Call us creatures of habit… but we like to think we know how to enjoy a good thing!
We had a lot of fun this weekend. But as with most trips, it’s always nice to get back home. After so much eating out, I was in the mood for some home-cooking. My mom made this pork chop recipe shortly after she arrived and it stuck in my head. It’s not in the book of memories, because it’s a dish she started making more recently. She passed on a few simple instructions, and off I went to the kitchen! The recipe doesn’t use many ingredients and it’s quick and easy to make. The chouriço adds a really nice smoky flavour. Also, because of the wine sauce, it doesn’t feel like a “whipped together” dish. I can see myself making this often in the future. The family loved it!
My parents hadn’t been to Ottawa in over 33 years, so it was nice to see them enjoy themselves; to chat about old memories; and of course, to create new memories with us and their grand kids. Go see something new, or re-see something with fresh eyes…create some new memories and always eat well, friends!
- 3.3 lbs or 1.5 kg pork chops, patted down with a paper towel
- 7 oz or 200 g Portuguese (or Spanish) chouriço, sliced in thin wheels
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 2 bay leaves
- 2½ tbsp tomato paste
- ⅔ cups white wine
- 1½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- In a measuring cup, whisk together the wine and tomato paste until fully dissolved.
- Sprinkle the salt and pepper evenly over both sides of the pork chops.
- Heat the oil in a large pan, on medium high.
- Once the oil's hot, carefully place the garlic and bay leaves in the oil.
- Using tongs, carefully add the pork chops to the oil. These can be on top of the garlic and bay leaves. All the pork chops will likely not fit in your pan. Cook these in two portions.
- Let the chops cook for about 4 to 5 minutes.
- Once the edges are looking browned, turn the chops over to continue cooking.
- Let them cook another 4 to 5 minutes or until they look nicely browned.
- Set the pork chops aside and cover with tin foil.
- Remove the garlic pieces and bay leaves.
- Add a drizzle of olive oil if the pan is getting dry.
- Add the chouriço into the pan and cook for about 2 minutes.
- Use a slotted spoon to move the cooked chouriço over the pork chops and cover again with tin foil.
- Pour the wine/tomato paste mixture into the pan and mix well.
- As soon as the liquid comes to a boil, turn off the heat.
- Take the tin foil off and pour the sauce over the prok chops and chouriço.
- Serve them hot with your favourite sides