a peek inside the fishbowl

To review: every other Tuesday is my day off and I’m trying to use this time to recharge my batteries. No work, no meetings, minimal errands. Last time, I biked to Tavern on the Hill for beer and hotdogs! 

When I started being a bit more mindful of how I spent my days off I swore up and down that I wouldn’t work or do groceries, but I almost always end up doing a bit of both. This is what happens when you don’t work a traditional 9-5 job.

So I got work stuff out of the way in the morning so I could grab lunch at the Aquatopia Conservatory Cafe. It’s on March Road as you approach Almonte; a bit of a trek, for sure, but I was looking forward to a peaceful lunch. Here’s what it looks like on the outside, from the parking lot:

Aquatopia Conservatory

When you step inside there are some plant displays here and there, and a long counter and cash register. At first I was at a bit of a loss. Cafe sounds and smells were audible. Should I go straight in? Wait for the staffer to return to the desk? (I hate having to worry about these things, but I do.)

I opted to wait, and a young lady brought me around to the back. I was given a choice of seats and picked one near the back.

Inside the Aquatopia Cafe

It’s a neat idea, that is, to have a cafe in a greenhouse. It’s a tranquil and pretty setting, for sure, with the plants, ponds, and sound of water spilling gently into pools. I had a bit of time to look around and absorb the views.

Sidebar: As I waited for a server to come over I thought a lot about my previous experiences as a solo diner. The way a restaurant treats its solo diners is a real test of their customer service skills. I don’t expect special treatment but I do appreciate when hosts and servers are mindful. For example, in one restaurant, I was seated at the head of a harvest table that stretched across the back of the room, even though there were plenty of other seats available at smaller tables. Newsflash, solo diners usually don’t want to be the centre of attention, eg. at the centre of a room, featured prominently at a massive table for 12, or plopped down next to the washrooms! I also appreciate it when servers whisk the extra cutlery away and pour me a glass of water, and generally speaking, not treat me like a weirdo for eating alone. (“WHAT? TABLE FOR ONE? Okaaaay.” It’s happened.)

But getting back to the Aquatopia Cafe, where I started to feel a bit neglected after awhile. No menu was forthcoming, not even an “I’ll be right with you” nod, which I appreciate and accept. Heck, I know people are busy! It’s a real art, isn’t it? Servers want to give people space and privacy, but it’s a fine line between that and neglect. And it differs from person to person. As a solo diner, my sense of time is distorted because it’s just me, alone. If I’m with someone else there is chatting and joking around, which makes one’s sense of the passage of time very different. Waiting for a menu for 15 minutes is different when you’re alone and hungry to boot.

ANYHOO, once the server eventually came around, my situation improved. I ordered an iced tea to start (it was excellent) and browsed the menu, which looked pretty good. I ordered the Delectable Pear & Brie, which is described as “sliced pear & brie cheese drizzled with a light honey mustard dressing on a dense, artisan cranberry-walnut bread.” Here it is:

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You may or may not recall that I spent a bit of time and effort earlier this year preparing for a 5K race. I diligently followed a training plan that had me running intervals that increased in duration each week, both on the treadmill and on an outdoor route. (Frankly, I am still amazed that interval training works. I suffered, but hey, I GOT BETTER.)

I actually completed two 5Ks this summer: one was the Run for Women (which I wrote about here) and the other was the Ottawa Color Run, which took place the day before we left on our annual camping trip earlier this summer. I enlisted my eldest to do it with me. Promises of cool t-shirts and unicorn medals, and of course, the opportunity to get doused with coloured powders, was exactly the thing I needed to convince her. Here’s me, in my tee, before the race began. (Note how clean the shirt is.)

Me in my tee, at the Ottawa Color Run

As it happened, our run took place on a cool and cloudy morning, which was fine by me. These were perfect conditions as far as I’m concerned.

As someone new to organized races, I can honestly say that my favourite parts are the beginning and end. The excitement as everyone gets ready, is palpable. There is energy in the air, fed by music, and laughter, and it’s completely addictive and powerful. It sizzles through you like fire.

Waiting to get started, at the Ottawa Color Run

The race began, and we were off. I’m surprised there weren’t sparks flying out of my shoes, that’s how good it felt to get out of the starting gate.

I should mention that this year’s Color Run took place at the Rideau Carleton Raceway. It started on the actual race track, which was kind of neat, went over a field, and up (and back and down) a narrow road through the woods. My energy was sapped by sidestepping puddles, but I was happy to be distracted by the scenery and colour-bombing action.

I wish I could have taken more photos because the “colour” part of the Color Run is really is a sight to behold, but I was worried about my iPhone getting clogged with powder. Here was the first colour “gate” we passed through:

The Ottawa Color Run

There are volunteers at each station, throwing coloured powder on people as they run by. I learned early on to keep my mouth closed! I was happy to be wearing old sunglasses too.

Another fun little diversion – and this came later on – the bubble zone:

Bubble zone, at the Ottawa Color Run

It felt like a long 5K, I couldn’t actually RUN 100% of the time, but we did it. Here’s my obligatory “I am a sweaty mess but lived to tell this tale” photo:

Me, a big mess, post-run, the Color Run

As I mentioned, as amusing as it was to get colour bombed, the best part of this run was the beginning and the end. After the race, a DJ was spinning tunes, and for those who didn’t get enough colour, it was an opportunity to REALLY go to town. It was a joyous sight indeed:

Ottawa Color Run

As you can see by this video, people were so excited; they couldn’t wait for the DJ to give the go ahead:

(Here’s a direct link to the Color Run video for mobile readers.)

Thankfully we had towels to sit on for the drive home. We were covered in colourful dust, which, amazingly, all came off in the wash.

But here’s the question I’ve been mulling over these past few weeks: will I continue to train for other organized races? Answer: I don’t think so. I have been faithful to my treadmill and am doing a 30-minute speedwalk almost every day, but if I’m honest with myself I have to admit that I don’t enjoy running. I don’t run and think: “YAY! I AM RUNNING!” I’m just too busy trying to get to the next post or the next tree without collapsing in a big heap. I suppose there is a small sense of accomplishment (e.g. YAY! I didn’t die!) but I sure don’t feel a lot of joy while I am trying to get to the finish line. What I do enjoy, is cycling. (Remember this EPIC and cool bike ride?) I love the wind in my hair, the scenery zipping by, the distance I can go. Maybe I need to switch gears and take this cycling thing up a notch for real now.

12 Aug, 2017

Weekend reading: August 12 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading


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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our two daughters Emma (18) and Sarah (16). I am the managing editor of our community newspaper, the Kitchissippi Times. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger, and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999... which makes me either a total dinosaur or a veteran, I'm not sure which! The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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