Pedal Past Dark with Tour La Nuit

September 24, 2015 11:58 am
Capital Velo Fest 2

All photos courtesy of Ottawa Vélo Fest.

Every cyclist knows the dream of having an entire main road to themselves. There really isn’t anything like flying down Colonel By Drive on Sunday Bike Days or turning the art gallery corner to find the Alexandra Bridge completely empty.

This Friday, Capital Vélo Fest plans on capturing that feeling for hundreds of local cyclists with their fifth annual Tour La Nuit.

“I went to the Tour La Nuit in Montreal about six or seven years ago and it was just a delightful event. And I thought that Ottawa could have a similar festival,” says Vélo Fest founder and executive director Dick Louch.

In the Tour La Nuit, Louch’s organization will be blocking off 20 kilometres of road between City Hall and the experimental farms to allow the cyclists to enjoy ‘a night under the stars without any cars.’ The riders are encouraged to show off their most elaborate array of bike lights and enjoy some great food, drinks and music.

Capital Velo Fest

The Human Powered Vehicle Operators of Ottawa’s bicycle freight-train.

One group called the Human Powered Vehicle Operators of Ottawa really goes all out with their decorations. A few years ago they brought a tandem-recumbent bike pulling a trailer and lit the whole thing up to look like a freight train.

“One year they came towing an organ behind them, and we had someone playing,” Louch recalls. “Last year they were towing a hot-tub that was filled with stuffed animals and kids.”

Other cyclists carry speakers in their baskets or in carts behind them, giving the ride a roving soundtrack.

Louch’s first goal with the night is for people to have fun, and the second goal is for people to take that fun to the streets and enjoy city cycling, especially night cycling, more often.

“Many people have said to me that they don’t feel comfortable riding at night,” Louch says. These riders are often concerned about not being seen by cars or not seeing other potential dangers.

“By coming out in this environment where the roads are closed…they can hopefully feel safe and see that it’s not so bad,” says Louch.

Capital Velo Fest 3Adult admission for the ride is $20, and most of the money goes to paying for the non-profit Vélo Fest’s operational costs. Running the Tour La Nuit requires money for the police to close roads, insurance and the venue rental at City Hall among other expenses. The event’s sponsors include cycling groups and eco-companies like Citizens for Safe Cycling, RightBike and EnviroCentre. The $20 entry fee buys you more than just admission into the ride. Everyone who signs up for Tour La Nuit will receive a free light that fits over their tire valve and lights up the wheel with a band of colour.

“Most bikes have a light on the front and back, but there’s not a lot of visibility from the side,” says Louch. “These lights really make you stand out because they’re a bright glowing neon colour…it not only makes you very visible, but you look totally awesome.”

To find out more about Friday’s event, check out the Capital Vélo Fest website here.

CityFolk Impressions

September 22, 2015 3:52 pm
The Sheepdogs - Photo by Michael Wing.

Ewan Currie from The Sheepdogs plays at CityFolk. Photo by Michael Wing. 

This year’s CityFolk festival swept into the new venue at Lansdowne Park on the perfect weekend. It was warm and sunny most days, with as little rain as anyone could have hoped for. The festival line up was one of the best yet, boasting a combination of international stars with Canadian up-and-comers. Our writers Katie Hartai and Eric Murphy made it out to the festival Thursday and Saturday nights and – spoiler alert – they had a great time.

Thursday Night

By Eric Murphy

I’ll admit it, I was a bit nervous about the festival’s move from Hog’s Back Park near Carleton University. I loved Hog’s Back’s feeling of privacy and separation from the city. Lansdowne surprised me though. I was expecting stone streets and busy patios but the park delivered a sweeping grassy field with people relaxing on lawn chairs and a hill you could sit on to see the entire audience and the Rideau Canal winding in the distance.

07 Walk Off The Earth

Sarah Blackwood from Walk off the Earth. Photo by Michael Wing.

Burlington, Ontario sensations Walk off the Earth took over the stage after seven with a dazzlingly elaborate live-performance. They started off wearing black in a drumming circle, surrounded by enough instruments to keep a band ten times their size busy.

WOTE built their career with YouTube hits, but Thursday’s show put the band’s originals, mostly from their recent Sing It All Away album, front and centre. “Rule the World” has been dominating Ottawa radio lately, and the band absolutely nailed the song onstage, jumping from instrument to instrument with a joyful intensity.

Seriously, each member seems to be able to play enough instruments to start a one-man-band. Their stoic, lumberjack-bearded keyboardist ‘Taylor’ switched from playing the keys to the xylophone to the trumpet faster than I can switch television channels. Singer Sarah Blackwood was front and centre with her powerhouse vocals and ukulele, proving once and for all that ukuleles are just as cool as guitars (full disclosure: I play the ukulele).

The band finished up their hyperactive set with ‘Sing it all Away,’ a song they’d been training us to sing along to all night. The audience delivered, and the sound of hundreds of people singing along with the chorus has been stuck in my head all week.

About a half hour later, South Carolina’s Avett Brothers sauntered onto the stage and immediately matched WOTE’s intensity. They didn’t have the same stage set up, no smoking drums or army of stagehands, but the brothers made up for it with relentless energy and amazing chemistry. They played each song like they were trying to break their instruments, and their second song was intense as most band’s finales. The brothers’ cellist Joe Kwon danced around the stage like his cello was weightless, and I don’t think the instrument’s end pin ever touched the ground while he was playing.

The Avett Brothers maintained this pace with a few strategic breaks. In one song the group lay down on the stage while the drummer soloed for a few minutes, John Bonham style.

A few minutes later the lights went low and Scott Avett strolled onto the stage, alone but for his acoustic guitar. He fell into to a heartbreaking rendition of the already beautifully morose ‘Murder in the City.’ I’ll admit I teared up a bit, but so did everybody so it’s fine.

When the band finally left together it wasn’t long before the audience’s pounding roars of ‘encore, encore!’ brought them back out. Seth Avett quietly walked up to the mic and said ‘we’d be happy to. Thanks for asking.’

WOTE really blew me away with how much work went into each song. Their performance was like a joyful ballet, great to watch and clearly well choreographed. I didn’t get that same sense from Avett Brothers, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. Their show was more like a group of old friends playing to a couple thousand new friends.

Saturday Night

By Katie Hartai

Illuminated by spotlights, the descending rain shimmered like glitter Saturday night as it fell over a full audience at Landsdowne Park. High winds and showers made for a nippy night. Some wrapped themselves in thermal blankets to keep warm while others made an extra trip to the beer tent. My soaked socks were quickly forgotten about when Of Monsters and Men hit the stage with the haunting song ‘Thousand Eyes’ from their sophomore album, Beneath the Skin.

Nine people dressed entirely in black dispersed themselves across the stage around lead singer Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and her counterpart, singer-guitarist Ragnar “Raggi” Þórhallsson. Ominous electronic sounds mixed with pounding bass drums, flashing lights and Nanna’s emotive voice instantly swept over the great lawn. Their striking level of showmanship continued throughout the evening. With an extended band that included acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, a trumpet, trombone and even accordion, the band recreated songs to sound as detailed as their studio recordings. Some of the most memorable tracks from the evening’s setlist include ‘Empire,’ ‘King and the Lionheart’ and Of Monsters and Men’s biggest hit ‘Little Talks.’ I couldn’t have been beaming any brighter when the band began playing my personal favourite song, ‘Dirty Paws,’ as part of their encore performance. Hundreds of fans added new harmonies to the chorus and joined in on the chants of “hey!”

Humbled to be performing in Canada’s Capital City, the Icelandic neo-folk group promised to come back. Surely we’ll hold them to their word.

Happily, CityFolk’s talent wasn’t confined to the stages. The Aberdeen Pavilion hosted a variety of vendors selling unique products from stylish fashion accessories and crafts to tasty treats.

Clay Whisperers was one of the displays that caught my eye. Colourful pottery and ceramic jewelry lined the set up accompanied by two smiling faces – artists and business owners Doug Moir and Zuzana Voska.

I ended up purchasing a daisy imprinted ceramic yoga bracelet for $15. It was handmade by Zuzana using various materials including a daisy from her own backyard. The blue and purple silk ribbon wraps comfortably around my wrist and ties in a knot at the back.

Watch out for the Clay Whisperers at their next sale on November 27-29 at the Ottawa Guild of Potters Holiday Sale.

Another memorable merchant was Vinyl Clocks Canada. All of their clocks are assembled by hand in Montreal using authentic vintage records. What a way to show off your favourite band!

Lowertown Canning Co. also had an intriguing setup. Using all natural ingredients, the company works toward building a sustainable local economy with their tasty products like spicy pickled asparagus, tomato pecan jam and chocolate apple butter.

ACO and the Legacy Project

September 15, 2015 10:03 am
ACO location

The ACO’s new address on 19 Main Street.

The AIDS Committee of Ottawa (also known as ACO) is a community-based, non-profit, social justice organization that provides free, confidential services for people living with, affected by and at risk of HIV/AIDS in Ottawa.

ACO started as a small group of gay men and lesbians in 1985. During its 30 years, it has grown to include many participants, volunteers, staff members and community partners. ACO’s goals include reducing the stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV, and enhancing the quality of life people living with HIV/AIDS experience.

Ottawa Life Magazine had the chance to tour the offices ACO. The two story office, now located on 19 Main Street, houses ACO’S administration services, along with educational and prevention services, and areas referred to as the Tool Shed and The Living Room.

Warm and welcoming, ACO strives to create a space in which the human rights and dignity of people affected by HIV/AIDS are respected and valued.

ACO’s Education and Prevention team works within the community to reduce the spread of HIV transmission through multiple facets. The team looks to empower people living with HIV/AIDS to be central in their work, collaborating with local grass roots initiatives through community development, as well as providing outreach at local bars, bathhouses and special events.

A unique space called The Tool Shed provided by ACO is a part of its harm reduction program. It offers harm reduction services and education. It is a community partner to Ottawa’s Needle Exchange Program and Safer Inhalation Program.

The Tool Shed works with the community in challenging the stigma and discrimination of people who use substances, as well as providing information regarding safer substance use.

The Living Room is another fantastic resource at ACO. It provides an array of free, confidential, practical and psychosocial services for its members.

The Living Room provides advocacy resources, as well as crisis intervention, holistic health promotion, a food bank, a soup and sandwich program, bus tickets, laundry facilities, Internet and fax, as well as subsidized YMCA gym memberships.

Other resources include: complementary therapies supported by qualified therapists, referrals to health/social/legal and immigration services as well as multiple socials and groups.

Ottawa Life Magazine had the opportunity to meet with Khaled Salam, the Executive Director of ACO.


Khaled Salam, Executive Director of the ACO.

Khaled Salam has been with ACO for over 12 years. He works as their the Executive Director, and within seconds of meeting Salam, it’s clear that he takes pride in ACO’s services as well as the new location.

“We wanted to bring together our past and our future. With the Living Room, we wanted to create something that was very homey and cozy, not very institutional. People can come in and feel that they are in a home.”

ACO’s new space opened on December 1, 2014, coinciding with World AIDS Day.

When asked if he feels that the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS has lessened over his time with ACO, Salam feels strongly that the stigma is still present.

“30 years ago the stigma was different in that people were dying. There was very little information and a lot of fear. Because of this, there was a different kind of stigma. The stigma has changed in certain ways, but it’s still there.”

Salam does admit that information has become widely and readily available. However, there is more work to be done.

“I feel that (the stigma) is still there because of how HIV/AIDS is transmitted. Sex and drugs are the two primary modes of transmitting and both are highlight stigmatized in our society. Until we take out the stigma from sex and drugs, the stigma of HIV/AIDS will always be there.”

This stigma and discrimination have been of ACO’s biggest challenges.

“I had this moment when one of our founders (who was being interviewed for the Project) was talking about securing office space because stigma was running rampant. Believe it or not, while we were in the process for finding space, we faced similar challenges 30 years later.”

The Legacy Project was born out of an idea to combat the stigma related to HIV/AIDS.

The Project celebrates ACO’s milestone 30th anniversary. One component of the project includes the coffee table book ACO XXX: Our Words Our Stories Our Lives.

The title was a wink to the three decades ACO has been a non-profit, as well as hinting to a message of sex positivity that the group upholds.

In what Salam refers to as the “heart and soul” of the book, ACO XXX contains 38 interviews and photos of founders of the movement, people living with HIV/AIDS, as well as people who have been affected by HIV/AIDS.

All those interviewed and photographed are citizens of Ottawa.

Quite appropriately, the book ends with looking ahead at ACO’s future. Salam feels that the book sheds light on who is impacted by HIV/AIDS, how it feels to be stigmatized and was written in a way that people can connect with.


Another component of the project is a digital copy of the book that can be viewed on the website. The website will also showcase video blogs of those featured in the book.

On September 19, the interviews will be live on the website, providing an up close and personal look at those who are willing to share their story with the world.

The final component is a fundraiser.

“We are not attaching a dollar value to the book. We want to put the book out there as much as we can. If people feel that we have done some level of justice to the HIV/AIDS movement, or we have been able to succeed in providing some level of awareness to HIV/AIDS, then please donate back to our services and programs of what you feel is appropriate,” says Salam.

Along with donations, ACO has partnered with Value Village to create the 30/30/30 project.

The 30’s reference the number of days the deal with Value Village will be (from August 19 to September 19), to the number of pounds of clothing suggested to drop off, to the number of years ACO has been in action.

ACO encourages those who need to do a little closet cleaning to drop off 30 pounds (or approximately 2 garbage bags full) of donations to Value Village. If you say “ACO” when you drop off your donations, you will receive a 20% off coupon for Value Village.

The limited time offer ends on September 19, 2015.

Salam hopes that the community will be proud of the project as a whole, and that it is also important to recognize that the HIV movement is very difficult to recount, due to the multiple deaths related to HIV/AIDS.

“This is our humble attempt at doing some kind of justice,” he says.

Authentically Urszula

September 10, 2015 1:52 pm
Giraffe Trio FINAL

Photo courtesy of Urszula Kozak

Photographer Urszula Kozak was born in Brenna, Poland, a former communist town near the Czech border. Surrounded by farms, animals and familial love, Kozak’s childhood was an extraordinary one. At the age of eight, Kozak arrived in Toronto with her family in November of 1984. Canada has since become her home.

Photo courtesy of Urszula Kozak

Photo courtesy of Urszula Kozak

Crediting her mother’s partner for her introduction to photography, Kozak picked up her first camera at the age of 12. She soon began snapping photos of anything and everything that she could. After moving to Ottawa in 2004, Kozak made photography her full time job.

Kozak’s gallery series Authentic Africa presents an intimate look at Africa’s creatures, both big and small. Shot entirely in black and white, Authentic Africa will be presented at the Alpha Art Gallery from September 9th to October 10th.

We sat down with Kozak and discussed her favourite locations to shoot, her adventurous trip to Africa and future plans.

The interview has been edited for clarity.

Ottawa Life Magazine: What are some of your favourite shooting locations?

Urszula Kozak: I have been to over 30 countries. I would say definitely Africa, in Kenya. One of the biggest life changing moments was travelling there. The people, the animals, the light, it’s incredible. I always encourage everybody to go and to experience that. I especially love the animals, because every year there is less and less of them.

I love South East Asia… the people, the culture there, and the food. I love shooting the water in Hawaii. Europe too, I love the little towns and the architecture.

OLM: What inspired Authentic Africa?

Urszula: The animals… I wanted to do something that took away the colour and focused on the animal. I wanted to shoot them like how you shoot a human being. I wanted to get into their souls and capture that, get people to look and feel for the animals. I wanted to raise more passion and awareness.

Photo courtesy of Urszula Kozak

Photo courtesy of Urszula Kozak

I loved shooting the lions. They were very fun, especially the cubs. When you watch them interact with the adults it’s incredible. The giraffes, too, I spent a lot of time with them. Ironically, the hippos were very fun. They aren’t the prettiest of animals, because they’re rough and tough. But they have character and they are very interesting.

OLM: I was looking through the photos and they were just so crisp.

Urszula: Wait until you come to the showing. I have about four prints at like 40 x 60, and they are still crisp. I saw them at that size and even I was blown away. Especially the lion head, it’s bigger than life.

OLM: Was the trip planned specifically for the showing?

Urszula: I went to Africa with the intention for the gallery. It was really planned around that. I went with a specific guide, my own vehicle and my own tent. If I wanted to spend all day with the lions and the cubs, then I could.

At one point during the trip, I got really, really sick. There was a moment where I was curled up in the fetal position by the Mara River thinking “If I’m gonna die here, at least I’ll be eaten by lions.” Then my guide told me to stop taking my Malaria pills because it wasn’t a bad area there, and nobody else was taking them. Soon as I stopped I was fine.

Photo courtesy of Urszula Kozak

Photo courtesy of Urszula Kozak

OLM: Did you have any crazy adventures along the way?

Urszula: I had a wild experience there (in Nairobi). The guide that took me was experienced and well known, and he’s able to go off the paths and into spots that a tourist can’t go into. At one point there was a couple of big lions against the tree, in the shade. He told me to get out of the truck on the opposite side and take photos from underneath the truck.

I also got out of the car around hippos. They are really, really dangerous. My guide was watching me shoot them along the river. He said, “If I say run, drop your stuff and run.” I take those moments very seriously and do them quickly.

OLM: Would you say that pressure makes you preform better?

Urszula: It does. I find when I have something new and exciting and I’m learning in the process, it gives me an extra ‘oomph.’

OLM: What will be your next series to shoot?

Urszula: I would really like to return to Africa or Tanzania. We’re planning that for next year. I really, really loved this trip. India is on my list as well. It’s all about timing.

You can find Urszula on her website, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. You can also find out more information about Alpha Art Gallery as well as the exhibit here.

Cue the Cure!

September 3, 2015 11:08 am

This time two years ago, Jennifer Mielke and Jennifer Mulligan probably felt like cancer was coming at them from every angle. In August 2013 Mielke found out that a lump in her breast was “indicative of cancer.” A month before that, Mulligan lost her mother to pancreatic cancer.

Jen,Jen 2

Vixens’ executive directors Jennifer Mielke (left) and Jennifer Mulligan (right).

In the face of all this trauma, they decided to fight back. Later that year they created Vixens Victorious, a non-profit dedicated to raising money for cancer treatment.

“We were friends for 35 years,” Mulligan says, explaining the decision to partner up. “We’ve gone through life together.”

Mulligan proposed a film festival, and that event, Lights! Camera! CURE! is happening October 22. The films they’re showing are decidedly cancer-free.

“We don’t have any with a cancer theme,” Mulligan says. “It’s more about entertainment.”

The closest thing these films have to a theme is that they are often centred around women. In a lot of ways, they’ll help viewers forget about cancer for a night and dig into some different kinds of stories. Many of the films are animated, and some deal with the issues aboriginal Canadians and people who identify as gay, bisexual or transgender Copy-of-TGposterare facing today.

One unique film is Alisi Telengut’s Tears of Inge, a hand-painted modern retelling of a Mongolian nomadic story. Trapped girl by Catherine Fordham tells the story of a young woman who becomes stuck in her own wash room after the doorknob falls off. In one of the most interesting animated pieces, Little Goddess, Mother Nature’s daughter plucks Earth out of the sky and uses it like a toy. For a more complete list of films, you can find their lineup here.

The night will also feature snacks, a silent auction and raffle prizes. During the films’ intermission, Ottawa singer/songwriter Ferline Regis will take the stage to keep guests entertained. Funds raised will go to the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation.

To find out more about the night’s events, check out their website here. Lights!Camera! CURE! will be taking place October 22 at Algonquin Commons Theatre on 1385 Woodroffe Avenue.

Gorgeous Glasses for Vision and Adorable Dogs

September 2, 2015 10:07 am

On September 24th the Merivale Optometric Centre is hosting the ultimate win-win event. During their second annual ladies night, they’re offering exclusive discounts on all glasses & sunglasses, and each sale will raise money for cute, and incredibly important, Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Aside from the great prices, the event will also feature some food and drinks, mini-manicures, makeovers and cosmetic samples.


Joelle Zagury, the owner of Merivale Optometric Centre.

“Fall is a big time for fashion,” says Joelle Zagury, the Optometric Centre’s owner. “So we thought it was a great time to do a ladies night.”

Many of the glasses and sunglasses they’ll be selling come from top designers like Jimmy Choo, Kate Spade, Celine and Marc Jacobs.

“A lot of them are brands that are not typically available in Ottawa,” says Zagury, referring to brands like Jimmy Choo and Celine. “You need to find them in bigger cities like New York or Montreal.”

“The quality is really quite lovely,” she adds.

At the end of the event, $25 from each pair of glasses sold will go to the Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind.

“It usually works out to quite a sizeable donation,” Zagury says.

Joelle 2

Joelle and part of her team handing over the cheque after last year’s event.

Last year the Merivale Optometric Centre was able to raise enough money to sponsor the upbringing and training of one guide dog, which is enough to completely change a visually impaired person’s life. That tangible benefit is a big part of why Zagury chose to donate to Canada Guide Dogs.

“If you can safely leave your home just because you have one of these wonderful animals…that changes everything about the way you live your life,” Zagury says. “It can be really lonely losing your sight.”

Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind is actually a local organization. They keep their national training centre in Manotick, and you may have seen trainers walking the dogs downtown. The fact that the organization is local is part of the reason Zagury prefers donating to them.

“We just feel really, really strongly about supporting local organizations doing wonderful things,” she says.

Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that there will be any actual guide dogs at the event, aside from cute-but-plastic one that raises money in front of the office. It’s also important to remember that as beautiful as most guide dogs are, you should never pet or talk to them, they are working after all.

The Merivale Optometric Centre’s ladies night will last from 4-8p.m. on September 24th. The address is 1547 Merivale Road, and you can RSVP at You can find out more about the event on their website here.

James Leclaire: The Sing-a-Long Sounds of Storytelling and Sorrow

August 31, 2015 11:00 am
Leclaire 2

Album cover by Brett Clarke.

James Leclaire’s fourth album, These Weights, combines the soulful storytelling of folk and country music with the anthemic energy of punk, to create a sound he calls ‘dirt country.’

“There is a country twang to it but it’s got an edginess that is a little more aggressive,” he says.

Drawing inspiration from folk storytellers and singer/songwriters like Steve Earle, Bob Dylan and Townes Van Zandt, the Renfrew native has that low, raspy voice that can take you on a musical journey. Leclaire says he prefers writing the more serious stories.

Leclaire 1

Photo by Wellington Sanipe.

“If you meet me, I’m a very happy person and every time people hear my stuff, they are like, ‘Wow it seems so opposite of who you are,’ and that’s the storytelling of it. It’s kind of escapism into another world,” he says.

“Stephen King, for instance, may write horrific novels of terror and fright but he’s a normal guy. It doesn’t mean that’s his own personality.”

Each song on the new album, even the upbeat and catchy tunes, have a message that can seem bittersweet.

That Door,” for example, is an unexpected love song describing the ups and downs of a relationship.

Making Good Time”, one of Leclaire’s favourite tracks, is a great song for a road trip sing-a-long, but there is more to it than that.

“What I like about ‘Making Good Time’ is it’s about someone who has had the hardships but has finally seen the right path and is focused on getting where he is supposed to be,” Leclaire explains.

“That one is the most exciting for me to play and to sing.”

According to Leclaire, the song really fit well with the album’s overall theme.

Leclaire 3

Photo by Teo Ciara.

“As the album started to progress, each song felt like it was a song containing the baggage that we carry. It’s either at the beginning of our journey or at the end. Something we are trying to conquer or something we have conquered. These Weights really wrapped up that feeling,” says Leclaire.

To round out his full and folky sound for the album, Leclaire worked with the Cable 22s, a band consisting of Michael Hunter on drums and Christopher McLean on bass, both of whom hail from Leclaire’s hometown.

Runand “She Blew Me Awayare two fantastic, foot-stomping tracks if you are looking for that upbeat tempo. On the other hand, “The Signsand “These Weights,” the title track, are slow, low and sure to tug at your heartstrings.

That emotional connection is what Leclaire hopes his listeners take away from the album.

“If people can walk away from it and have a connection to the story, that to me is the most important,” he says.

“I’ve had incidences where people have come up to me after a show and told me how much a song affected them, and that’s the greatest reward.”

These Weights launches Sept. 17—the same day Leclaire will be performing at Ottawa’s CityFolk Festival. Make sure to buy your copy of the album, which is available for pre-order here, and then head to Lansdowne Park for 7 p.m. to see the real thing. Leclaire will be playing a second CityFolk show that same night at House of Targ, he’ll be taking the stage around midnight.

You can find out more about James Leclaire on his website.

Top Five Alternative Things to do in Ottawa

August 21, 2015 11:00 am

Instead of taking a trip around the world and picking out the best things to do in foreign lands, we’ve decided to stay closer to home this issue and highlight some of Ottawa’s finest things to do.

ottawalifeHowever, in the interest of variety, we’ve decided to stray slightly from the beaten track and outline some of the less obvious gems dotted around the city. From extreme highs to quiet drinks, or snapshot guide to alternative Ottawa should give you more than enough to do regardless of how long your visit is.

Photo by rick ligthelm 

Sundance Balloon Rideottawalife2

Photo by Jamiriquai 

To really get a feel for the topography and geography of Ottawa you need to head upwards. Balloon tours are one of the best ways to see the city and Sundance offers some of the best trips. Leaving at sunrise or sunset, these trips will fly you gently over a variety of landscapes and give you a real sense of what the city is like. Although you’ll need a head for heights, we suggest you take the early morning flight and use it as a way to orientate yourself (as much as that’s possible) before heading off for your next adventure.

The Haunted Walk

ottawalife3Photo by Dita Actor 

Continuing the theme of activities that keep you moving, our next suggestion for alternative things to do in Ottawa is the ghost walk. Now operating in various cities across Canada, The Haunted Walk offers you a glimpse into the ghoulish past with series of interactive tours.

The now legendary Ottawa tour is where the company first started and as you stalk through the streets by lantern light, the guides do their best to illuminate the dark underbelly of the city. As a tip, before you go on the tour make sure you do a bit of research into the places you’ll be visiting (such as the Fairmont Château Laurier) so you can get a real sense of the history of the place.

Manx Pub Drinking

ottawalife4Photo by Bernt Rostad 

After gliding through the air and walking through the streets you’ll no doubt want a rest and a drink and there are few better places for a quiet pint than the Manx Pub. Located in Elgin Street, this basement pub screams traditional thanks to its copper-top tables and endless walls of velvet. Aside from the setting, one of the most attractive features of this pub is the selection of microbrews. Sourced from the best small producers in the country, these ales will certainly set you up for a night on the town.

Ante-Up at Casino du Lac-Leamy

ottawalife5Photo by aresauburnâ„¢ 

An evening of excitement for anyone, Ottawa’s main casino is not only a place where you can roll the dice and flirt with lady luck, but an all-round entertainment venue. Indeed, from drinks and dining to shows in the Le Théâtre du Casino, this place really is a one stop shop for all your entertainment needs.

Of course, with more than 1,500 casino games to choose from you’ll no doubt want to have a flutter; however, it’s always best to proceed with caution. As a tip, we’d suggest going online and playing some virtual casino games before you visit Casino du Lac-Leamy. The iGaming world offers a variety of free games and free cash offers so you can ante-up with a minimum amount of risk. One of best ways to find the most suitable place to play is by checking out some of the online casino bonus guides here.

Whether you’re in Ottawa or abroad, you can always play free casino at

Bytowne Cinema Experience

ottawalife6Photo by Leo Hidalgo (@yompyz) 

After a day of activity and a night of adrenaline fuelled action, the best way to bring your trip to Ottawa to a close is by catching a late night movie at the Bytowne Cinema. Found in the centre of Ottawa’s indie district on Rideau Street, this place has been screening independent and international movies for more than 60 years. So, if you like your films as alternative as some of the activities we’ve outlined in this article then we suggest we end your whistle-stop tour of Ottawa with a trip to the cinema.



Boater’s Paradise Heads to Auction

August 18, 2015 1:50 pm
Eagle Point 1

Eagle Point mansion has customized landscaping, two gourmet kitchens, a spa with a stone waterfall, and of course, a killer view of the water.

Located in the Thousand Islands, this gorgeous 15-acre estate is going up for auction on August 22. Previously listed for $22.9 million, the mansion will be sold to the highest bidder through Platinum Luxury Auctions with a reserve price of $7.9 million.

Eagle Point 2Made in-part from the rock it stands on, Eagle Point’s 13,975-square-foot main residence has been gorgeously maintained.

“I hate to sound cliché,” says Trayor Lesnock, Platinum’s president and founder, “but you could eat off of the floors.”

The main building has six bedrooms, six full and five half-baths, while the 5,761-square-foot guesthouse has two bedrooms and two full baths. The two buildings also share six oversized garage bays. Their interior perks include a snowmelt system and in-floor heating for the winter, a high-tech security system, a two-story grand salon, a home theater, an elegant spiral staircase and multiple fireplaces.

The estate is also a boater’s paradise. The Thousand Islands regionEagle Point 3 is full of beautiful escapes and hidden treasures, and Eagle Point has 16,000 feet of shoreline along it. You can find the estate’s enormous concrete dock in Buck’s Bay, an easily accessible doorway to the open water.

“In the Thousand Islands, boating is an integral part of the lifestyle,” says Lesnock. “In fact, quite a few of the island homes there are only reachable by boat.”

Once home to smugglers and the notorious William “Pirate Bill” Johnston, the water is now quiet and calm, with roughly 1,864 islands to discover and explore.

For outdoor fun on land, Eagle Point comes with two levels of covered patios, a waterfront fire pit, summer kitchen and cabana shower. There’s also plenty of extra space where you can host outdoor barbeques, or put up a putting green.

Eagle Point 4With its enormous residence and beautiful natural setting nestled into the quiet waterfront, Eagle Point is a perch you’ll want to settle down on.

To find out more about the upcoming auction, and the property, check out

Lanark County Connections is a Nostalgic Walk Through Memory Lane

12:01 pm
Lanark 3

In her latest collection of short stories, author Arlene Stafford-Wilson remains loyal to the past; faithfully reconstructing the rural Ontario of her childhood. She has crafted these stories, once again set in Lanark County in the 1960s and 70s, with attention to detail. In Lanark County Connections, people and places, lost and gone in the real world, remain alive on the pages.

Lanark 1As the book begins, the reader is invited to step back in time to enjoy some carefree summer evenings at a country dance hall on the Rideau Lakes, known as Antler Lodge.

Perth is the setting for another story, where the reader is transported back to an elegant mansion in the 1960s. In this sprawling home, the secrets and scandals of its wealthy inhabitants are revealed.

Also, in this collection, the author shares an eerie encounter on Gore Street, were a restless spirit walks the halls of their childhood home. In one of the more light-hearted tales, the author takes the reader on a laid-back bus tour, set in the 1970s, as it weaves its way through Drummond, Ramsay, Darling, Dalhousie townships and Lanark County’s back roads, meeting some delightful local characters and visiting some lesser-known scenic gems.


Arlene Stafford-Wilson.

The lives of ordinary people sing out from these historical stories, which take place over two decades of closely observed regional life. As in her previous books, the author weaves the names of local people throughout the stories, and includes each name in an index at the back. You may even find your own name in the book!

The Book Launch for Lanark County Connections, is Saturday, September 26th, 12 p.m. until 3 p.m. at The Book Nook at 60 Gore Street E. in Perth. On Saturday, Oct. 3rd, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Arlene will be showcasing her books at the Perth Chapter – Ottawa International Writer’s Festival at the Crystal Palace, Perth, Ontario.

Stafford-Wilson is also the author of Lanark County Calendar, Lanark County Chronicle, Lanark County Kid and Recipes & Recollections.

To find out more about the author and her books, visit

Lanark 2

The Safe Water Project: Clean Water for the Community

August 7, 2015 1:00 pm
Dryden exterior

Above: The Keewaytinook Centre of Excellence

All photos courtesy of Keewaytinook Okimakanak

The issue of drinking water and boiling water advisories in First Nations communities has been a prominent concern for many years.

A report released by the Council of Canadians indicated that as of January 2015 there were 169 drinking water advisories in 126 First Nations communities across Canada—of those 79 were in Ontario.

Keewaytinook Okimakanak (KO)—the Tribal Council serving Deer Lake, Fort Severn, Keewaywin, McDowell Lake, North Spirit Lake and Poplar Hill First Nations—understood how this issue affects their communities and sought to improve the quality of drinking water on reserve.

The Keewaytinook Centre of Excellence provides training to both First Nations and municipal water plant operators, but KO decided to expand their work on this issue by investing in technology that would efficiently monitor the quality of community water on an ongoing basis.

The result: the Safe Water Project.

The Safe Water Project in Fort Severn First Nation

The Safe Water Project in Fort Severn First Nation

On August 12, there will be an open house at the Keewaytinook Centre of Excellence to raise awareness about the project and illustrate its success thus far.

“This project is the first of it’s kind in Ontario and it’s been very well received by the communities,” explains Isabella Tatar, president and CEO of CIITO Strategies Inc. “And so we are hosting this open house in order to make people aware of the project itself.”

The quality of water is monitored 24/7 with tests taking place every 10 seconds and reports issued every two minutes. If a contaminant is detected, a warning is issued via email or text message. The water can also be monitored remotely. By logging into a computer from anywhere, you can observe the quality.

“Instead of having to wait for manual testing to determine if there is a problem, it is giving immediate results and has already had a pretty significant impact on the communities and their confidence in the drinking water system,” Tatar explains.

Although the project has only been operating since May, it has already helped to minimize—and even prevent—boil water advisories.

Tatar emphasizes that this open house can be informative and useful beyond First Nations communities.

“This is not an issue just for First Nations communities, the Council of Canadians report was very clear that boil water and drinking water advisories are issues for many communities and many municipalities,” she says. “It’s a chance for this Tribal Council to demonstrate its success to not only other First Nations communities but also other municipalities as well.”

The open house will take place on August 12 between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. at the Keewaytinook Centre of Excellence in Dryden, Ont.

For more information, visit or go to the open house Facebook page.

Adrenaline Junkies Rejoice: Cliffhanger is Back

August 4, 2015 3:40 pm
Cliffhanger_Ines BR3

All photos by John Enaje

Are you looking for an adventure? A challenge? A thrill? Well, look no further, you can get all three right here in downtown Ottawa on August 20.

The YMCA-YWCA is bringing back their Cliffhanger event for a second cliffhangeryear. Put your helmet on, strap in and get read to rappel down the 16-storey Taggart Family Y building.

“We’ll have professionals onsite showing you how to do everything. Everything is very safe. No experience required—just a little bit of bravery,” explains Events Manager Amber Brannan.

There are only two things you need to participate in this heart-pumping event: you must be older than 18 and you must raise $1000. All of the funds will go towards the Y.

Last year, the inaugural event raised about $22,000, sending 22 people over the edge. This year, Brannan says the Y is hoping for more growth, aiming to have about 30 people.

Brannan says this year’s event will be a little different, focusing more on participant involvement.

Kathy Godding in her fabulous costume at the 2014 Cliffhanger event.

Kathy Godding in her fabulous costume at the 2014 Cliffhanger event.

“We’ve got prizes for best costume. Everyone who reaches a certain fundraising level will be entered into a grand prize,” she says. “We’re encouraging participants to bring out a lot of spectators—just create a little bit more excitement around the event.”

It’s an energizing way to support the community. The YMCA-YWCA is a non-profit, charitable association that promotes healthy living, provides programming for youth and community members, helps those in need of support and so much more. From housing to summer camps, the Y is there. This is your opportunity to raise money for those programs that help so many people in the Capital.

Although the fundraiser might seem a little unconventional, the Cliffhanger event really ties into what the YMCA-YWCA is all about.

“The YMCA focuses on community, getting out there, getting active. We have a lot of programs that support this,” Brannan says, noting the example of Camp Otonabee at the Bonnenfant Y Outdoor Education and Leadership Centre. “At our camps, there is a high ropes course, so it kind of tied in. It’s something that our campers experience from a young age and then as they grow, they progress from course to course.” The Cliffhanger event is fun, exciting and active—great for anyone looking for an adrenaline rush.

Brannan says the Cliffhanger challenge could become a signature event for the Y.

“The first year is new and exciting and this is the year we’ll decide if this is something that we’d like to further develop down the road,” she says.

Cliffhanger_Jennifer3For many, the Cliffhanger event is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“You can’t just go off the side of a giant building every day,” Brannan says. “It’s a way for people in our area to get involved, to raise some money.”

Don’t think you can raise the $1000 on your own? No problem, you can sign up as an individual or as a team to work together and achieve your fundraising goal.

Registration is now open! Click here to sign up and act fast because spots are filling up quickly.

To learn more about the YMCA-YWCA, visit

Gino Vannelli at Casino du Lac-Leamy for One Night Only!

July 31, 2015 12:05 pm
Gino Green Valley Promo PhotoXX

The year is 1978. It’s the year Grease hit the big screen—a year of big hair, disco dancing and great music. It was also the year “I Just Wanna Stop” by Gino Vannelli topped the charts, hitting no. 1 in Canada (and no. 4 in the US). The track’s album, Brother to Brother, reached the Top 10 spot on the Billboard Top 100 that fall and would go platinum in ‘79.

Throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, this Canadian sensation became a household name and a standout talent in the music industry, receiving four Grammy nominations and 7 Juno wins for his work.

Now it’s time to put on your dancing shoes and get ready for a trip down memory lane because Vannelli is back and coming to Casino du Lac-Leamy for one night only!

Don’t miss your chance to see Vannelli perform some of those greatest hits you know and love on Nov. 8. It’s going to be a busy night, and Vannelli will be performing along with seven other talented artists.

Get pumped for the big performance and listen to “I Just Wanna Stop” here!

This is by no means Vannelli’s only hit song. You might also remember “People Gotta Move,” “Living Inside Myself,” “The Wheels Of Life” and “Black Cars”—all of which you can still hear on the radio today. Vannelli released six albums between 1974 and 1978. His first album, Crazy Life came out in 1973. Five of those six albums reached the Billboard Top 100.

Born and raised in Montreal, Vannelli grew up in a family of music lovers. He developed a love for jazz, classical and pop music.

Tickets for Vannelli’s performance go on sale August 1!

Click here to buy your tickets online. Tickets can also be purchased in person at Le Theâtre du Casino de Lac-Leamy’s box office.

To learn more about Gino Vannelli, visit his website at

A MARVELous Must-See Performance!

July 29, 2015 10:01 am
Photo courtesy of Feld Entertainment

All photos courtesy of Feld Entertainment

Grab your cape, mask, helmet or hammer and fly on over to the Canadian Tire Centre! Marvel Universe LIVE! is coming to the Capital for six thrilling performances at the CTC from July 31 to August 2. This spectacular and technologically advanced touring production brings more than 25 of your favourite Marvel heroes together with an original plot that will put you on the edge of your seat the entire time.

“I think this is the most exciting show that I’ve ever done,” says Chris Nobels, director of show operations. “It’s also, I would say, the most technically complicated show I’ve ever done.”

Projection mapping, car chases, motorcycle and aerial stunts, martial arts, advanced pyrotechnics, and the largest flying system on a live tour; this show has it all and more!

“We’re really breaking in new ground on a new genre of family entertainment, something that really encompasses the entire arena and really immerses the audience into the show,” Nobels says.

“We kind of took from all of the properties under the Feld umbrella: the Ringling Circus, the motorsports division, Disney on Ice, and Disney Live! and took everything we learned from the last 145 years and put it into this new, spectacular event, drawing on the latest technology all at the same time,” he says.

It’s every kid’s dream: all of their favourite superheroes battling it out right in front of their eyes, bringing the comic book characters and blockbuster bad guys to life.

Matthew Elm, who plays the role of the evil and manipulative Loki, says being in the show reminds him of playing make-believe in his backyard as a child.

“It takes me back to those days,” Elm says. “Its fun to be evil and say and do things I wouldn’t do as the person that I am.”

But Elm says this show isn’t just for kids to enjoy. It’s an “exhilarating thrill ride” for all audiences.

Nobels agrees: “The show is for the moms, the dads, the grandparents and the boys and the girls. There is really something for everybody.”

The show is also great for both the big-time Marvel fans and newcomers.

“I feel that we did an excellent job bridging the gap between those two types of fans,” Nobels says.

The story is an epic battle over the ever-powerful ‘Cosmic Cube’. Thor destroys the cube, but his brother, Loki, finds a way to replicate its power, threatening the universe. The Marvel heroes must work together to reassemble the pieces of the cube in order to defeat Loki and his fellow villains.

Both Elm and Nobels note the show is all about teamwork.

“The only way that all of our superheroes are able to defeat Loki and his other evil villains is to come together and work together,” Nobels says.

Teamwork is not only important for the characters, but for the cast and crew of this extremely intricate and complex production as well.

“We have 49 crewmembers and 53 performers and it takes every single one of them to make the show happen. Not one person could do it alone,” Nobels says.

Elm says the whole group has become very close.

“Heroes and villains alike, we’re there for each other as family,” he says.

The team has worked incredibly hard to make this show come to life. It took nine months of research and development, plus three months of demanding rehearsals to bring it together.

Recalling the rehearsals, Elm says, “It was definitely an exhausting experience, but definitely one that I would never want to change.”

“It’s such a thrilling accomplishment,” Nobels says. “All that hard work, watching it pay off, it definitely makes me happy.”

Elm says he hopes the audiences walk away from the performance feeling inspired.

“I want them to feel like they saw their favourite heroes out there and feel like they can be a hero themselves.”

Buy your tickets now at or call 613-599-FANS (3267) or 1-877-788-FANS (3267). The show will have six performances, each last two hours with a 15-miunute intermission.

For more information on Marvel Universe LIVE!, visit

A Fashionable Round of Lawn Bowling for Cystic Fibrosis

July 28, 2015 10:01 am

All photos courtesy of Kara Taylor

Imagine being 13, and finding out that you only have 20 more years to live. Imagine nearly facing your death every time you catch a cold. That’s only a glimpse into Maxwell McGuire’s life with Cystic Fibrosis.

As guest of honour and returning champion, he charmingly shared his CF journey with the Lawn Summer Nights Ottawa  crowd last week. And while Max spoke, the poshly dressed teams patiently anticipated their next round of lawn bowling.

The event took place Wednesday, July 15, when the Elmdale Lawn Bowling Club hosted the 3rd annual Summer Nights tournament in support of Cystic Fibrosis Canada. This 4 week event is held in 7 major cities across Canada each July, and raises nearly $500,000 a year.

Cystic Fibrosis is the most common and devastating genetic disease diagnosed in children, mainly affecting their digestive systems and lungs. There is no cure. Life expectancy is now at an all-time high of 50 years. Survivors like Max, who were given a total of 30 years to live, have beaten their odds through innovative treatment methods. Max, a filmmaker and Cystic Fibrosis ambassador, helps raise awareness and funds around the world for CF research.

In the light-hearted retro tournament, CF doesn’t just stand for Cystic Fibrosis, but rather Canadian Fashion! Players are encouraged to dress their best and find a creative theme for their team. From Parisians and flapper girls, to Florida cool and lady prepsters, players don classic fashion looks from all decades.


This year, the Ottawa chapter hopes to raise $50,000. They are currently just $15,000 shy of their goal, sitting at $35,000.

To support the Lawn Summer Nights Ottawa initiative, donations can be made online here.

9th Hour Brings Comedy and Conflict to the Stage

July 27, 2015 1:00 pm

Above: Johnny Eaton, Mary Beth Pongrac, David Plouffe, George Dutch, Benoit Trudel, Robin Guy. Photo credit: Andre R. Gagne.

The Ottawa premiere of Arthur Miller’s The Creation of the World and Other Business is here! 9th Hour Theatre Company is bringing this thought-provoking production to the Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre from July 23 to August 8 with a big top twist. Don’t miss your chance to catch some truly amazing summer theatre! Last year, 9th Hour received critical acclaim for its stand out production of The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. This season, the company celebrates brilliant American playwright, Arthur Miller, on stage.

The Creation of the World and Other Business is the story of the “first family” like you’ve never seen it before! Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel are certainly familiar names but these characters come to life in a totally different way in Arthur Miller’s interpretation. Turning the traditional story on its head and playing with the theme of good versus evil, Miller takes the audience on an entertaining ride.

Raising questions about justice, humanity, motive and the Divine, this play explores a variety of perspectives. Humour, comedy, silliness are all part of this tale, but it is so much more than that. Drama, conflict and critical thought are equally important to the story. It is a compelling plot for all audiences—you don’t need to know the Book of Genesis to enjoy the performance!

Benoit Trudel and Robin Guy. Photo credit: Andre R. Gagne

Benoit Trudel and Robin Guy. Photo credit: Andre R. Gagne

“We decided such a seemingly familiar story needed a fresh approach, which is why we chose to present the play as a play within a play, a troupe of traveling circus performers telling a story. The physicality of the show is unparalleled to anything 9th Hour has ever done I would say, and so difficult bits of dialogue and heavy text passages come alive with “other business”, infused with a semblance of pseudo-circus imagery and interspersed with live musical interludes,” says Director Jonathan Harris.

But, wait! There’s more…

Eight post-show discussions will take place with “expert” panelists and artists from the production to discuss the content and themes of the play. Look out for Rabbi Reuven Bulka (Congregation Machzikei Hadas), Reverend Mark Whittall (St. Alban’s Anglican Church), Imam Mohamad Jebara (Cordova Spiritual Education Center), Alexandra Bender (Masters in Conflict Studies), and Gillian Wallace (Phd in Psychology of Religion).

You can buy tickets at the Great Canadian Theatre Company box office in person at 1233 Wellington Street West or by calling 613-236-5196. Click here to buy your ticket online.

For more information, click here.

Politics, Perogies and Celebrating Ukrainian Heritage

July 24, 2015 2:57 pm
Ukraine Fest 2

Photo courtesy of Lemon Bucket Orkestra.

This weekend, the first ever Capital Ukrainian Festival is bringing a handful of amazing bands and about 16,800 perogies to Ottawa.

Aside from celebrating Ukrainian arts and heritage, the events will shine a light on the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict and the country’s long struggle to remain independent of its neighbour to the east.

The festival kicks off Friday night with back-to-back shows from bands that were formed in Canada, but inspired by Ukraine. The first to play will be the Lemon Bucket Orkestra, Canada’s best, and only, balkan-klezmer-party-punk-super-band.


Fifteen members of Lemon Bucket Orkestra. Photo by Eamon Mac Mahon.

“It’s a mix of like, really intense set performance and stage pieces, and then off the cuff sloppiness,” says Mark Marczyk, describing the band’s live act.

Marczyk is one of LBO’s multiple singers and violinists. A year and a half ago, he went to Ukraine to take part in the 2013 protests that led to former president Viktor Yanukovych fleeing the country. Marczyk also stayed for much of the subsequent conflict.

“It was pretty intense,” he says. “Friends of ours that we had known in different contexts, whether they were IT technicians, or musicians, or writers…all of the sudden they were on the front of a war.”

Marczyk stayed in Ukraine for some time, volunteering to help civilians and fleeing refugees who needed supplies to survive the winter. He also played music to inspire Ukrainian soldiers, and met his future wife.

Marczyk could say a lot about the political situation in Ukraine, but this weekend he’s going to let his music talk for him.

“Playing the repertoire that we do play is a political act in and of itself,” he says, adding that “the main message is to enjoy this culture and enjoy this music. And if you do enjoy it, and if you’re moved by it, then you should definitely look into the place where it’s from.”

Jane Kolbe, one of the Ukrainian festival’s organizers, takes the same approach as Marczyk.

Ukrainian Fest

Photo courtesy of the artist.

“We want to respect the gravity of the situation,” she says. “Primarily though, we’re celebrating the culture and the history.”

That celebration extends across three days filled with music, dancing, food and crafts. The Lemon Bucket Orkestra is playing twice, sharing the stage with local acts like Ukrainia on Friday, and Ukrainian jazz-fusion band DoVira on Saturday.

Sunday is the community picnic, where they’ll have an enormous sing-along and a multi-faith prayer for peace in Ukraine.

Although the conflict overseas certainly influenced this festival’s creation, next year marks the 125th anniversary of Ukrainian settlement in Canada. Kolbe believes that the anniversary alone is worth a good celebration and a look at how many former Ukrainians have influenced their new home.

“We helped weave Canada’s historical fabric,” she says.

Finally, one of the festival’s biggest highlights will be the thousands of perogies, all hand-made by festival volunteers using traditional recipes.

“Something magical happens when you do it (by hand), I don’t know how I convinced everybody,” Kolbe laughs.

Friday’s pub night takes place at the Ukrainian Orthodox Hall at 1000 Bronson Avenue. Admission is $20. Both Saturday and Sunday’s events are free and will be held at St. John the Baptist Shrine at 952 Green Valley Crescent. You can find out more at

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