Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica in Ottawa (By Steven Goff/Washington Post)

For me, writing about soccer also means writing about the journey, whether it’s the scene in the Central American city with the highest murder rate, the Caribbean vibe, the road from Johannesburg to Durban or the warmth of Belo Horizonte.

This summer’s Women’s World Cup does not have such exotic offerings. It’s Canada. I love Canada. But an American from a big city visiting big Canadian cities is like visiting the cousin you’ve known since your were kids. It’s family.

That said, I have compiled a few thoughts and observations from the past few weeks north of the border …

Every World Cup has an underrated host city: For me, it was Montpellier (1998), Jeju Island (2002), Hamburg (2006), Hangzhou (2007), Durban (2010) and Natal (2014). And this summer, Ottawa wins. On a heavenly summer day, ByWard Market, Rideau Canal, Parliament Hill, National Gallery and a waterside stadium were glowing.

Ottawa’s Lansdowne Stadium is bracketed by new commercial development. PetSmart overlooks the field, Whole Foods is a block away and, on the older strip of Bank Street, Kettleman’s is making Montreal-style bagels.

I am scheduled to visit five of the six Canadian venues. I did not make it to Moncton. I would like to have seen Montana, er, Moncton (hat tip to Sam Neill).

I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by saying Winnipeg in the winter is probably not a pleasant place to visit.

Love the city nicknames: E-Town, Hub City, The Peg, Vansterdam, O-Town, La Metropole.

Toronto would have been a great venue for many reasons, but mostly to fly into an island airport on Porter Airlines from Dulles.

Artificial turf in a natural wonderland like Canada makes as much sense as “Ted 2” playing at an art-house cinema.

There is an actual grain elevator museum outside of Edmonton.

I love watching the speedometer in a rental car hit 110, even if that’s not what I think it means.

Women’s World Cup created some buzz here, but it’s no NHL draft.

When it comes to credit card transactions, Canada is the NHL and the United States is the WHA. Embedded chips and portable processors are the way to go, America.

I’m a Marriott guy, but Sandman is a great name for a hotel chain. Elevator music furnished by Metallica.

Blue recycling bins in hotel rooms. Smart.

Air Canada doesn’t mess around when it comes to acceptable carry-on luggage. Might as well check it.

Maple candy. Yes.

Poutine. No.

While in Canada, one does not eat at restaurants with names that include Boston, Texas or Arizona. Maybe New York.

Restaurant shout-outs: L’Express (Montreal), Chez Lucien (Ottawa), Fusion Grill (Winnipeg), Maki Maki (Edmonton). I know it’s a chain, but I do love Cora’s. Vancouver to come …

The sun never sets on the British Empire — or on Edmonton during summer solstice.

The West Edmonton Mall has applied to become Canada’s 11th province.

My belief that all Canadians are respectful was shattered by someone in Winnipeg driving 3 or 4 mph over the speed limit.

It’s an election year in Canada. Judging from omnipresence of signage, I believe that Tim Horton‘s will win.


ByWard Market in Ottawa. (Steven Goff/Washington Post)