Sometimes I do things other than eating.
It makes me happy to know that after four years in a city I can still discover places I know nothing about.
This is my Sunday afternoon.
Mild temperatures and moody skies entice me into an afternoon of bicycle exploration. To be fair, it doesn’t take much convincing. Adventures on my two-wheeled steed are one of my favourite ways to spend my day.
What starts off as a short loop around Sussex turns into four hours of solo, cycling serenity. An afternoon of discovering all things old and older in Rockcliffe Park.
I first fell in love with this heritage neighbourhood when I was assigned to cover the area for my third-year multimedia journalism class at Carleton. The beautiful brick houses and sprawling lawns drew in my eyes and imagination, and I loved the twists of the parkway balanced just so on the side of the Ottawa River escarpment. Away from the history and homes, the area is breathtaking and raw.
I start in the actual Rockcliffe Park, wedged between ambassadorial residences and the river. It’s the park with the Rockcliffe Pavilion, where I picture endless nights of midnight picnics.
I’m about to head on my way when I see a faint trail through the trees and shrubs. It leads off the road and into some pretty looking forest area. Obviously I investigate.
I drag my bike over the oak leaves and mossy stones. I wonder if this mesh of decomposing vegetation and fresh new life beneath my feet has been seen this season. My head darts around with every clumsy branch snap, my imagination too active from nights of reading and watching The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones. I make a promise that I will return to this place next with friends. (editor’s note: the picture below is from my Wednesday afternoon spent in such place).
Returning to my bike, I weave my way through the backstreets of Rockcliffe and end up in another park area where tiny flowers have sprouted out of the grass. Post-adventure research tells me that I was in the Rockeries. A group of children run around a strange set of ruins – a pair of columns that have begun to crumble to the ground. They’re all that remains of Ottawa’s former Carnegie Library.
The path I take next is one I stumble on accidentally – a steep decline off the left of the paved NCC bike path. The gravel path is clearly well loved by families, joggers and handholding couples. I ding my bell at all three as I cruise by.
I eventually get to an old brown cottage emblazoned with the Rockcliffe Yacht Club logo. On this day when rain sits heavy in the skies, the boating launch pad is almost completely abandoned. Here, I’m living a writer’s cliché, camped out on the yellow grass with my Moleskine, listening to the river lap against the ragged rocks and broken branches. I don’t care. The only thing that reminds me I’m still in Ottawa is the occasional jet ski whizzing by or the whir of traffic on the parkway a few hundred metres away.
It is the discovery of these almost-secret, new-to-me places that make me want to seek out others. Not just in this city, but beyond. I think that’s the best part about getting lost – it’s wonderfully satisfying no matter where you are.
So please, explore.