The beach

Kita Szpak shares one of her favourite ways to while away an Ottawa summer’s day

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An early riser, I make my way to Britannia Park. Little traffic and extensive free parking this time of day are a bonus.

Depending on the weather and my energy level, I usually run along the promenade that juts out past the main beach area, then make a right turn to jog toward Andrew Hayden Park. When I was training for my marathons, I would run right into the park and back again. Now re-entering Britannia’s jurisdiction, I retrace my steps to the outlet where the long-distance swimmers, wind surfers and paragliders typically hang out doing their thing. My ritual continues as I strip down to my bathing suit all the while liking the feel of the small, round pebbles on my feet — an instant foot massage. Though the water is still “fresh” so to speak, I wade out, do a silent count down, and dive under the surface. It’s the only way to get in, as far as I am concerned.  Depending on my cool factor, I stay in as long as I like — but nothing close to the fish-in-water types. I’ve always liked and thrived in the heat.

Fortunately, the sun is already hot. Wrapping myself in my towel, I sit on the beach-pebble carpet and watch the panorama unfolding before me. It’s delightful to see the couples and young families now making their way to this part of the park. Because the shoreline is shallow and sandy, it’s ideal for small kids. And as I’ve just described, it’s great for big kids, too. The big rocks that make up the breakwater on both sides of the inlet are fun to climb and are a forgiving obstacle course to the point extending into the Ottawa River. Sometimes I do this mini trek either by myself or with family.

Soon I hear a familiar signal; my stomach is growling. I don’t eat before I run/swim in the mornings so I’m ready to oblige with pleasure. A wonderful coffee shop within walking distance of Britannia Park beckons me where I’ll order an extra-hot (what else?) coffee of choice with a scone or muffin. I always have something to read. Having everything I desire, I plant myself in one of the colourful Adirondack chairs outside and relish the wonderful time I have to indulge in this simple but always immensely appreciated pastime.

Why, you ask? I remember the busy days when there were no moments like this. The choice and freedom to take time as you like it for how long you like it, is such a gift. It is a gift I will always cherish, especially in this season of glorious summer.