Ottawa’s Compliments & Complaints Department is a featured column supported by the Apt613 Fellowship Program. The aim is to spotlight locals from different hoods of the capital, letting them celebrate this city and share their constructive criticisms.
Since July, I have been going from neighborhood to neighborhood around the downtown core of Ottawa interviewing locals–on the sidewalk, in parking lots and inside independent shops, under sun and rain, braving the wind and cold–asking them for a single or a series of complaints and compliments about the hood they’re in. What I learned was that Ottawans are as expressive as they are reserved. It was not always easy to find someone willing to have their photos taken and their opinions made public, even as I tried to entice them by telling them that the C & C Dept. was much like the famous “Humans of New York” blog.
Many people were uncomfortable with verbalizing a public complaint about Ottawa. Sensing their reluctance, I translated the word into something positive: constructive criticism. The blog was always meant to generate discussion and celebrate the city. From Beechwood village, through the Market, Centretown, Westboro, the Glebe and Vanier, to name a handful of the hoods I visited, people mostly complained about the endless construction noise, OC Transpo and fear of careless gentrification.
They celebrated the food, from gourmet restaurants to awesome sandwich places to the best doughnut spot in town (you guessed it, SuzyQ). Ottawans stood in defense of independent businesses which they love and are proud of. What a great way to introduce my last interview with Michelle, chef pâtissière at Quelque Chose Pâtisserie on 274 Montreal Road, in the heart of Vanier, a neighborhood that’s been changing and is being changed by the presence of this sweet bakery that specializes in French macarons.
About: From Venezuela, Michelle came to Ottawa to study at le Cordon Bleu, a culinary school from which she graduated in June. She is a chef pâtissière at the bakery, Quelque Chose Pâtisserie, on 274 Montreal Road. Her sister opened the shop two months ago and Michelle loves working there.
Complaint: It would be interesting if Ottawa had a metro coming through Vanier so that people from outside the hood–from as far as the suburbs for example–could come here and explore the area. It would be great if there were more independent businesses; it would revive the neighborhood.
Compliment: Vanier is growing up pretty fast and we want to contribute to that growth with our shop. The Wabano Centre on Montreal Road is architecturally splendid and culturally significant. McArthur Lanes is a pretty cool retro place, the kind of bowling joint that makes you think of the sixties.
Recommendation: Parliament, because it’s pretty. Ottawa is a tourist-friendly city. If my family were visiting from Venezuela, I’d take them for a beaver tail. I would also take them on a double-decker OC Transpo bus for a free tour of the city. Whether it was winter or summer, I’d take them to the canal, either for a skate or a stroll.