This August, bloggers from across the country were invited to Ottawa to experience the new Ford Fiesta courtesy of Ford Canada. The group was a fun and diverse mix of writers, from lifestyle and food to parent blogging, that hailed from Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, and Montreal. We were gathered together to drive Fiestas for a full-day challenge that would take us from Parliament Hill to rolling prairie hills about 45 minutes outside of town.
Following breakfast, teams met in the parking lot of the Hilton Lac Leamy to pick out their cars and made their way to a nearby lot for some closed-course driving. I partnered up with Marc Smith, also from Vancouver, who recently research some of his “30 Day Adventures” in Ottawa so we had no problem navigating the streets of our nation’s capital.
Marc and I took one of the few manual transmission Fiestas, since we were both comfortable driving standard, and then we hit the track for some shifting, swerving, and handling (you can find his humorous videos on Instagram). Once all teams completed their closed-course trial runs, the colourful line of Fiestas left the lot and took the the streets.
With turn-by-turn directions in our challenge booklet, complete with stops of interest, photo ops, and tasks to complete, we navigated around Ottawa and into the neighbouring countryside. Our mission was to collect groceries, which we donated at the end of the day to Moisson Gatineau, from various vendors, farm-gate shops, and suppliers. Here’s how our day played out, in photos:
Stop 1: A quick detour off the bridge between Gatineau and Ottawa found us at a park (I can’t recall the name at this time), dodging squirrels and snapping a few photos by the river.
Stop 2: Parkdale Market at Parkdale Ave & Wellington St W in Ottawa. This market was established in 1924 and it was our first pick-up stop.
Stop 3: Coffee break at Happy Goat Coffee Company.
Stop 4: Byward Market in the heart of Ottawa. Established by Lt-Col. John By in 1826, the ByWard Market is one of Canada’s oldest and largest public markets. This was our last stop in the city before we drove about 20kms north between the Gatineau River and Gatineau Park in Quebec.
Stop 5: We sampled some deliciously flavourful smoked seafood, from salmon to cold-smoked albacore tuna and scallops, at Chelsea Smokehouse in Chelsea, Quebec.
Stop 6: Barely 30 minutes outside of the capital, we found ourselves on a gravel road in farm country. The scenery was spectacular. The roads were dusty but the fields were lush and green.
We stopped a few times on our own to snap some pictures and proceeded to another suggested photo op at the covered Ruisseau-Meech Bridge in Chelsea. While I enjoyed the summer scenery, I couldn’t help but pine for a return in the fall when the leafy landscape turns into a patchwork of fiery oranges, yellows and greens.
Heading back to the highway and over to a river-side route, I spotted something bobbing out in the water. It was definitely an animal that was swimming along and it took me a minute or two to spot that it was a bear. The head was black, its paws were large, and it was just cruising along.
Stop 7: After a brief pit stop at the tourism office near the Wakefield (Gendron) Bridge we plotted a course for Juniper Farm in Wakefield, Quebec.
Stop 8: Our final stop was along the Gatineau River in Wakefield at the Wakefield General Store and Chamberlain’s Lookout. After a refreshing cup of gazpacho, a grilled veggie panini, and fresh raspberry vegan mousse tart dessert, we were on our way back to Ottawa.
Our ride in the Ford Fiesta was extremely fun, from ripping around the closed course to zipping down the highway and bumping along on gravel roads in the country. The event was very well-managed and it was great to interact with other Canadian bloggers, along with the official Ford Bloggers. On top of it all, the food items that all of the teams collected throughout the day filled 7 baskets to the brim and all were donated to Moisson Gatineau.
Once all of the baskets were collected, we got to take turns going up in a hot air balloon. The day just kept getting better and better!
I kept thinking that a trip like this would be so easy to do around Vancouver as well. Within 45 minutes of the city you can get right out to farm country in Langley, Abbotsford and beyond. In fact, John and I have done that a few times. We’ve bought local wine, cheese, sausage, produce, and more to take home and prepare a true locally-inspired meal. Even going to the docks in Steveston or Granville Island for the catch of the day.
All roads lead somewhere. This experience reminded me that no matter how big and spread out our country is, many of our regions have a lot in common thanks to the hard working people who grow and raise our food.