Ottawa’s little piece of paradise

I’m not a city girl. That simple. I’m just not impressed with skyscrapers and huge shopping malls. Last September, when I arrived in Ottawa, I quickly realised that adjectives such as “big” and “small” are relative. I was born and raised in a small town of 7 385 habitants (“it’s not a town, it’s a village!”. says some of my friends in Ottawa) in northern New-Brunswick called Campbellton. The majority of Campbelltonians call the region “un trou perdu” (French expression that can be translated to “this place sucks!”) because at first glance, all you can see are traces of the recession: businesses closing, youth leaving, lack of entertainment and nothing but trees all around. I was raised with a different pair of glasses. As a kid, my parents constantly reminded me to appreciate the smallest things and gave me the gift of wonder: every stream and river was mesmerizing, leading us to yet another adventure, the sunset slowly kissed goodnight the mountains to let the stars shine in the deep blue sky, snow covered the forest like frosting on a cake and we slid down the hills with exhilarating speed.

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My dad was particularly fond of the region and he taught me its secrets. From unknown lakes to hidden beaches, to caves and broken bridges, I often thought that we were destined to find a hidden world such as Narnia. So this past fall, when I started my first year at the University of Ottawa, I had a hard time adjusting to my new “big city” lifestyle (I write “big city” because according to the students from Toronto, Ottawa could as easily be called a village as Campbellton). I hated waiting to cross the street, riding the overly packed bus every day, walking to work and never even making eye contact with the hundreds of pedestrians all wearing cold business clothes, not knowing anyone anywhere, not being surrounded by trees everywhere… it just wasn’t Campbellton! Through my need to get in touch with nature and get as far from the skyscrapers as I could, I started a quest to find a safe haven that I could escape to whenever I had “city anxiety”. Thankfully, I found one, and it became by far my favorite place in Ottawa. The Dominium Arboretum is a botanical garden situated at the south end of the Rideau Canal and is home to around 1 700 species of trees and shrubs. The first time I visited, I felt like I was in a fairy kingdom. The trees are pristine, my favorites are the wimping willows and I always choose a spot next to them when I’m reading just because I feel like I’m in one of these movie scenes where the main character spends a beautiful day having a picnic with his/her lover under a wimping willow rooted on a perfect little hill in the countryside. Birds and bees, occasionally dogs, are the only things breaking the silence. Peaceful. Beautiful. Magical. These are the words that best describes the Arboretum.

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