The first time I was in Ottawa, I remember sitting on the grass in front of Parliament Hill thinking how amazing this place is. A magnificent neo-gothic building with a 98 meter tower, whose tip reached to the intense blue sky, and all of this surrounded by historical buildings.
I thought it was sort of like my hometown, Lima, which has a main square called the Plaza Mayor, a sort of central meeting place very common in Latin American cities. Another famous example is the Zocalo, in Mexico City.
On the contrary, a place like Parliament Hill is not found elsewhere in Canada. I have been in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and other cities and I haven’t seen anything as majestic as that found in Ottawa. Or am I wrong? Let me know, please.
That’s why Ottawa impressed me, and much more, when the very same day, after Parliament Hill, we were having a picnic by Meech Lake in the Gatineau Park, just 30 minutes from downtown. Historical buildings, and exhuberant forests and lakes, just half an hour apart. That was really something!.
Fast forward, two years later, my Canadian husband, who had been homesick of Canada, after spending more than 20 years of his life in Latin America, asked me where I would like to live in Canada: Toronto? Vancouver maybe?, or Montreal?.
The idea of leaving Peru and moving to Canada had been in our minds for months. Life had became really stressful in Lima. Lots of traffic (taking my children to school was a daily nightmare), crime (our house was robbed in 2015), and pollution (Peru’s capital has the second most contaminated air in Latin America) made us crave for a better quality of life.
So after thinking for a bit, guess what I answered my husband. Yes, I said Ottawa, and here we are! We have been living in Ottawa for two and a half years. And even when we had the idea of moving to Montreal if Ottawa didn’t fullfil our expectations, we stayed and we feel happy here.
Our lives have changed enormously. Literally they made a 360 degree turn! No more stress every morning to take my kids to school. No fear that somebody is going to break into my house when we are not home. Stress-free driving (I find drivers in Ottawa are very polite), and no air pollution (I love the fresh smell of the forests that surround the city!)
That’s why I fell in love with Ottawa inmediately, and it feels like home, my new home. It’s like I have two homes now. My chaotic and stressful but dear home that is Lima, and my beautiful and kind, and cold home, Ottawa. But the truth is that I like my Canadian home even with its cold winters.
Why not Toronto or Vancouver?
My husband thought that I might choose Vancouver as our dream destination in Canada, because it is the city with the mildest winters in the country. Since I am a Lima native, where we never experience temperatures much below 15 degrees Celsius, that line of thinking was very reasonable.
Another reason: Vancouver is on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, just like Lima. My husband thought that with me being a beach lover, I would certainly never miss the ocean if we lived in Vancouver.
The first thing I considered though was not the climate nor the beaches, but the traffic. I’ve been in Vancouver and I know how awful the traffic can be. Besides, there is the ridiculously high price of property. It is difficult to afford a decent house in Vancouver. Your best bet would be to live an hour or two from Vancouver. And fight the traffic to get to the city? No, thank you!.
Besides there is its peculiar weather. Although winters are mild, the rain in Vancouver is a serious thing. My mother-in-law told me once that she HATED that there was so much rain in Vancouver. As for the ocean, the beaches in Vancouver are not like the beaches in Lima, nor the summers. I found that Vancouver summers were kind of cool, not like hot Lima equatorial summers, so it would never be the same.
So I decided Vancouver was not my option, although it’s a gorgeous city. As for Toronto, I discarded it as an option because it also has a problem with heavy traffic and the high prices found in the real state market. As you can see, when I left my country, I was fed up with big cities!
After all those considerations, I was certain that Ottawa was our best bet. And we hit the bull’s eye. It is a medium sized city, very manageable in terms of traffic and with an affordable real state market that is growing steadily. (And that make us dream of buying a house here!)
I like the feeling that Ottawa doesn’t seem like a big city nor a village lost in the middle of nowhere. I love Ottawa’s downtown- I like the city’s multicultural vibe, its vast green areas, its historic Rideau Canal, the Ottawa river, its cleanliness. (Ottawa is really one of the cleanest cities in the world), and many other things.
As you see, I am a super Ottawa fan and I am eager to talk about it, and to share my experiences of how it is to live in Canada’s capital. If you are from Ottawa or you have lived in Ottawa, or would like to move to Ottawa, please leave a comment. I would be very happy to start a conversation. Take care.