Oh, Ottawa!

Oh Canada you're looking good for 149 and with Justin on the Hill it's only getting better, keep it Trudeau Canada!
Oh Canada you’re looking good for 149 and with Justin on the Hill it’s only getting better, keep it Trudeau Canada!

We had mixed feelings as we left Toronto and made our way to Ottawa, the penultimate stop on our road trip (the last stop would be an overnight stay close to the airport in Montreal). We had been traveling for almost a month and were a bit homesick, but we also were having a great time and didn’t want the trip to end.

Our Airbnb apartment in Ottawa was definitely the nicest one we experienced on our trip. The host, a young, self-described “day-trader” who owned several apartments in the building, was helpful and very welcoming. The apartment was clean, quiet, nicely decorated, and well-located. Once we parked our rental (free parking was included – bonus!), we were able to walk everywhere we wanted to.

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Parliament Hill is the political and cultural heart of Ottawa. The Gothic-style government buildings overlooking the Ottawa River are open for free guided tours (the tickets are first-come, first-served, so get them early). Our tour of the Centre Block building ended with an elevator ride to the top of the Peace Tower which provided sweeping views of the city and the river.

Another tourist favorite during the summer months is the Changing of the Guard ceremony, which takes place each morning on the front lawn of Parliament Hill.

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The Rideau Canal is the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America. There are 45 locks along the 125 mile (202 kilometer) length of the canal. It was completed in 1832 as a precaution in case of war with the United States and remains in use today primarily for pleasure boating (and ice skating in the winter). The canal begins (or ends, depending on the direction of travel) in Ottawa where the large wooden lock doors are opened and closed using hand cranks. The park surrounding the locks was beautiful and we spent a relaxing few hours just watching the process of the boats making their way up through the gates.

Standing on very spindly legs next to the world-class National Gallery of Canada is the Maman sculpture by Louise Bourgeois – a 30-foot bronze cast of a spider.  The title is the French word for Mother, which explains the sac on her belly containing 26 marble eggs. Similar Maman sculptures can also be found at art museums in the UK, Spain, Japan, South Korea, and the US.

We also enjoyed exploring the historic and trendy ByWard Market, one of Canada’s oldest and largest public markets. It was just a few blocks from our apartment and the four-block area was full of shops, cafes, pubs, and galleries.

As we left Ottawa after only a few days, we once again felt that our too-short stay only allowed us to scratch the surface of this beautiful city. I’d love to return some day and explore all that we missed this time around.

Author: Janis @ RetirementallyChallenged.com

My blog is about travel, relationships, photography, and whatever else pops into my head (even, sometimes, issues surrounding retirement and aging).

26 thoughts on “Oh, Ottawa!”

  1. Your trip was a wonderful adventure. Reading about everything you saw and did made me feel like I was along for the ride! Thank you for sharing!

  2. I am greatly enjoying your posts on Canada, Janis. I went to University in Ottawa. It truly is an amazing city.

    1. Of the three main Canadian cities we visited (Montreal, Toronto, and Ottawa), it’s hard to pick a favorite – there were all so different. But I think Ottawa resonated with me the most. It had the history, the culture, the beautiful vistas, and the walkability we love.

  3. Janis, my oldest son and I did something similar a few years ago and we loved Ottawa. It is a neat place. We fortunately caught a BBQ festival on one of the walking mall areas between shops and had a lovely day. Thanks for sharing the pictures. Keith

    1. Canada seemed to be in the festival mode when we visited. Although we didn’t experience the BBQ festival (I notice Ottawa is putting on the Baconpooluza festival this weekend), we enjoyed art shows, craft fairs, food festivals, and dance fests. Any excuse for a celebration!

  4. I know the ying and yang of a month long trip. The excitement at the beginning and the homesickness at the end even while experiencing wonderful things. I did notice that most of your posts ended with something like “we need to go back and see more of this wonderful place.” Always a sign of a good trip!

    1. Two or three days just isn’t enough time to really experience a city. I know that I’d encourage anyone visiting my home town to allow for at least a week. My husband and I have talked about altering our travel plans in the future to include fewer (maybe just one or two) stops, but for longer stays.

    1. You would absolutely love Ottawa! Fun fact about the Library of Parliament: a fire in 1916 that destroyed the original Centre Block building (to which the library was connected) was prevented from spreading to the library because a library clerk thought to close the connecting iron doors. Thank goodness his fast-thinking saved the beautiful building!

  5. *sigh* You hit on all the reasons why I want to go back to Ottawa. It’s been *decades* {whispers softly} since I was last there. The library is definitely very, very high on my list of places to visit.
    I’m suddenly starting to get the inspiration that maybe Ottawa should be my Plan B October destination 🙂

    1. I think Ottawa would be a great Plan B destination! I bet it’s beautiful in October. How about kayaking (or hiring a boat if your shoulder won’t allow kayaking) up the Rideau Canal? Making that 125 mile trip may be on my bucket list. If you want the Airbnb info, let me know.

  6. Your inspiring posts of Montreal, Toronto, and now Ottawa make me want to plan a future trip to these grand Canadian cities. The architecture and history alone could take months to begin to appreciate.

  7. just want to say…I appreciate you reading my 9/11 post since it’s been quite ignored. You don’t even live here yet your sensitivity is felt. I really appreciate that. Susannah Bianchi

  8. I am learning so much about all these Canadian cities thanks to you, Janis. So much to see and so much to do! Ottowa seems like a capital with punch. We’ve been to a few US capitals in different states and not much was going on… Interesting that there are locks as well. And, so nice that you are able to walk everywhere in the city from your AirBnB. You guys organized and executed this trip really well!! 🙂

    1. I’m glad you have enjoyed the posts! We really enjoyed walking just about everywhere we went – it’s such a nice way to get to know an area. I guess Ottawa would be more like Washington DC than a state capital… and there is a lot going on in DC!

      You’ll be staying close to another state capital soon, right? I think you might enjoy that one 🙂 There is a lot to do.

      1. I can definitely see the comparison with DC, one of my favorite cities. Good to know that Sacramento has some potential for explorations as well! 🙂 I don’t remember whether you follow Sue’s blog Travel Tales of Life, but a little while ago, she posted a blog about the maman in Spain. Such interesting sculptures!

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