Don't Pass Go, Don't Collect £200

Ben Collins blogs about his round the World travel and adventures from the Canadian capital, Ottawa

I had sort of expected to at some point to have a run in with the law but never thought I'd end up in jail... and yet here I was... not even a month after leaving home, drunk and in solitary...

But roll back the clock 12hrs and after a few kind words John got back in to his car and leaving me in the very same spot he picked me up from two weeks earlier he pulled out on to the highway and headed back home for Tweed.

But as John drove out of my life, the Greyhound drove in and within minutes of saying goodbye I found myself sat on the coach to Ottawa beside a toilet that I could only presume somebody had died in the week previous.

Anyway, two and a half uncomfortable hours later, I arrive in to the Canadian capital where I begin nervously make my way downtown heading straight for the Jail where I planned to spend the night. I should though probably make clear at this point that the jail has not been run as such for 30 years and since 1972 has in fact been operated as a hostel and retaining many of its original cells used to house inmates on death row I felt I had to check it out.

My dorm room at the Jail Hostel in Ottawa
Ultimately though, spending the night in jail was not my first choice as having not paid for a single night's accommodation since leaving my flat back at the end of February (some 51 days ago!) I was determined not to spend the money if I could help it. But whilst I was able to find a Couch to surf for both Saturday and Sunday night, try as I might, I had no choice on Friday but to pay up if I was going to avoid sleeping on the streets.

So after checking in and dumping my stuff I headed straight back out and made the short walk up to Parliament Hill where to my bemused amazement I found sat directly in front of Parliament perhaps five or six thousand people, most of which were openly high as a kite and smoking pot. And with a backdrop of police officers surrounding the front of the Parliament building I have to say it was a somewhat strange and bewildering sight. I later found out this this was in fact an annual event, 4/20, where at 4.20pm on April 4th, people gather to share a joint in the face of the Nation's politicians with the aim of apparently encouraging the decriminalisation of marijuana.

Canada's Parliament Building in Downtown Ottawa
From the fun up on Parliament I took a walk around the downtown area before returning to my dorm room where I had hoped to find company with whom I could look to make plans with. However, my dorm room remained much like the rest of the hostel - earily quiet - and so in need of something to do I turned to my trusty phone to help me out.

Within just two hours I found myself sat in a busy Irish pub where with a band playing behind me I sat and enjoyed a refreshing beer bought by new Ottawan friend, Dean.

But hang on a minute... how did my phone get me from sitting in solitary to knocking back beers with a guy I've never met? Well the answer is Grindr...

...Perhaps one of the cruder phone apps out there Grindr - officially - is "a simple app that uses your mobile device’s location-based services to show you the guys closest to you who are also on Grindr." What this effectively means on the most part is that from your bed, your sofa or your toilet you can send crude photos to nearby men and invite them to your place for a quick, loveless encounter that I am sure leaves both parties feeling just on top of the World. But don't mistake my tone for not liking this app as with a little patience you can discover the odd hidden gem like Dean.

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Speaking of which, ten or more pints later Dean and I are still going strong and after taking me to a large Irish pub that boasted of having not 1 but 7 individually themed bars we headed half an hour across town to one of the apparently few gay-friendly establishments in Ottawa, where joined by a few of Dean's friends we continued to drink for several more hours. Eventually though the bar did close and as Dean and his friends headed one way for pizza I it seemed was destined for jail.
As Dean and his friends headed one way for pizza I it seemed was destined for jail
After having a shower and 4 cups of coffee I shunned my hangover and transformed myself in to a willing tourist where my first stop for the day was a full tour around Parliament. Guided by Chantelle, the tour took me and a hundred or so others around the House of Commons and the Senate where Chantelle was quick to point out that the political system in Canada is very similar to that back home with the only major difference being that the role of the Queen is carried out instead by the appointed Governor General.

The highlight? Well that I think would be a cross between the Parliament library and Chantelle, both of which displaying great charm and personality - I very nearly fell in love with them both.

Inside the Parliament Library
From Parliament my next stop was the Canadian Museum of Nature where upon entering quickly came to realise I had bitten off more than I could chew. 

Having rediscovered my hangover, I quickly became both tired and hungry from the walk across town and as I mooched about the various halls I struggled to muster any interest for anything. But not in the mood to fight it, I decided the best thing to do was just let it take hold and with that I abandoned the exhibitions and instead opted for a kids 3D animation with which for 45 minutes I could use my 3D specs as the perfect disguise for a sleeping and hungover foreigner.

The rest of my weekend in Ottawa was spent with Sarah and Henry - a lovely couple in their early to mid twenties who I found to be great hosts. Whilst stopping with them I got to watch my first full hockey game, got to go to my first proper rock-metal gig (and associated after party) and got for the first time since arriving in Canada the chance to leave the Province of Ontario and visit french Quebec where on the Gatineau River I ended my weekend watching a collection of bands playing in the Black Sheep / Molten Noir.