The Rideau canal runs through the center of Ottawa. It was built in the 19th century for defense. Today it carries pleasure boats in the summer, and skaters in the winter. I sometimes imagine trying to explain this to the people who worked and died in the mosquito infested swamps toiling to build the canal. One can only imagine their bewilderment.
It was cold this weekend. Minus 20 with a moderate wind that made it feel significantly colder. This was a good thing, and a bad thing. Bad, because … well … it was cold. But good because the ice was “fast” with very few skaters. On a warm sunny day the canal can be wall-to-wall with skaters.
The Rideau canal is billed as the world’s longest skating rink. I’m not sure if that is true, but it is fair to say that it is long. And of course, when you get to the end, you have to skate back. Into the wind. Fortunately there are a number of food stands along the canal where you can try a local treat. Deep fried pastry, brushed with butter and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. It’s called a “Beavertail” because it’s shaped like – wait for it – a beaver’s tail. They are not exactly low-cal, but with the skating and the cold you easily burn enough calories to come out ahead. To be completely honest, it is the real reason to go skating on the canal.
I’ll close with a picture of a different sort of graffiti, carved into the snow and ice lining the walls of the canal. Come spring, it will be gone without a trace.