Canada’s capital has become one of my favourite getaways.
At 4.5 hours of driving it’s pretty close to Toronto, it’s
easy to get to and there is always a lot going on. For years I have
been wanting to go to Ottawa during it’s world famous Tulip
Festival, but 2006 was the year I finally made it.
I arrived mid-afternoonish this past Thursday and started my explorations
right away. My first day was totally dedicated to cultural discoveries.
From the beautiful neighbourhood of Sandy Hill I walked downtown
to attend two interesting photo exhibits at the Canadian Museum
of Contemporary Photography: “The Street”, exploring
the interplay of the public and private domain as it unfolds on
our streets, as well as “The Painted Photograph”, huge
photographs by three different photographers that have been enhanced
with painting techniques to create almost surrealistic effects.
Then I had a chance to do a little photography of my own around
Ottawa’s War Memorial and the historic Fairmont Chateau Laurier.
My late afternoon was dedicated to learning about antiquity at
the Canadian Museum of Civilization, Canada’s most popular
museum. I visited the “Petra – Lost City of Stone”
exhibit which taught me about the fascinating desert city of Petra
and the ancient culture of the Nabateans. Then I took in an IMAX
presentation of “Greece – Secrets of the Past”
where I learned about the astounding achievements of ancient Greek
culture and the cataclysmic volcanic explosion of the island of
Santorini. For dinner I had a chance to sample something truly unique:
aboriginal cuisine at Sweetgrass Bistro. I sat down with one of
the co-owners, Phoebe Sutherland, who filled me in on how she came
up with the idea and how she turned her dream of owning a restaurant
into a reality.
After a good night’s sleep and a tasty breakfast at the historic
McGee’s Inn I interviewed two of its owners, Judy Armstrong
and Sarah, her son’s wife. Two generations of Armstrongs - father,
mother, son and daughter-in-law, got into the bed and breakfast
business together and 3 years ago they purchased one of the largest
and most historic bed and breakfasts in Ottawa. Their story of determination
and inter-generational collaboration is inspiring.
Friday was allocated to an exploration of nature. I started early
with an excursion to the Canadian Museum of Nature to explore a
special traveling exhibition: "Fatal Attraction" - the
art of animal seduction. Then I was off to Ottawa’s nature
playground: Gatineau Park, a huge nature area just 15 minutes away
from the Parliament Buildings. It’s a favourite spot for hikers,
mountain bikers, downhill and cross-country skiers, snow shoers,
campers and anyone who wants to get away from the city to explore
In the early evening I started to explore Major’s Hill, one
of Ottawa’s prime public spaces and one of the official Tulip
Festival locations, featuring the International Tulip Friendship
Village, the Artisans Marketplace, strolling entertainers, the Family
Zone and the Get Out! Ottawa Citizen Concert Series. But my relaxing
discoveries had come to an end and butterflies started to set in:
I was going to be interviewed live on air for the 6 o’clock
evening news by Max Keeping, one of Ottawa’s most illustrious
personalities. In addition to being Ottawa’s most popular news anchor,
Max is a real champion of the community and attends about 200 charity
and community events a year. Over the years he has helped to raise
more than $100 million for worthy causes and received many distinguished
awards, including the Order of Canada.
Well, I think the interview went okay after all; Max and his team
were a pleasure to deal with. After all this excitement I went for
a much needed dinner at Bistro 115, one of Ottawa’s favourite
French-Canadian restaurants. I sat down with the owner Suzanne Lafrance
who shared with me stories from her 20 years of experience in the
hospitality industry and how even a devastating fire could not hinder
her and her husband’s entrepreneurial aspirations.
On Saturday I went on an unusual excursion: the Hull-Chelsea-Wakefield
Steam Train, brainchild of a local entrepreneur in Gatineau, just
on the other side of the Ottawa River. An authentic steam engine,
built in Sweden in 1907, complete with coaches from the 1940s, takes
its passengers through the scenic landscapes of the Gatineau River
Valley. I sat back in the luxurious comfort of the Club Riviera
coach and enjoyed the leisurely train ride to the historic village
of Wakefield in Quebec. And during our two-hour lunch break I explored
one of the most historic buildings in all of Wakefield: the Wakefield
Mill Inn and Spa, a former gristmill from the 1830s, turned into
an upscale hospitality establishment. Finally I explored the Casino
du Lac-Leamy, one of the official locations for Ottawa’s Tulip
Sunday I started off with a visit to see the Flotilla on Dow’s
Lake, a parade of uniquely decorated boats along the Rideau Canal,
one of the signature events of Ottawa’s Tulip Festival. Then
I looked for one of the organizers and I found Benoît Hubert,
the Executive Director of Ottawa’s Tulip Festival, who was
able to give me more background on this unique event, incidentally
the largest festival in Ottawa and the largest event of this kind
in the world.
After a lovely stroll along Dow’s Lake I reached my next
destination: the Canadian Agriculture Museum which is also an experimental
farm. I watched the Sheep Shearing Competition and in a meeting
with a number of women who knit, spin and weave, I learned a lot
about wool and how it is processed. I even met a lady who takes
dog hair and turns it into various garments. Then I got a tour through
the Canadian Agriculture Museum which included the cattle barn,
the small animal barn as well as a collection of historic tractors
and farm implements that illustrate the innovations that have made
farming so much easier during the last hundred years.
Throughout my 3.5 days in Ottawa I met a lot of people and talked
with a variety of hospitality entrepreneurs, representatives from
different attractions and event organizers. It’s the collection
of these people who all contribute their expertise and effort in
creating an appealing travel destination. Ottawa has become one
of my favourites since there are always so many things going on
and every season offers new activities.
At the end of my explorations I capped the day off with Ottawa’s
special pastry delight: a Beavertail, in Commissioner’s Park,
another official Tulip Festival location. A fitting ending to a
packed spring weekend in Canada’s capital.
About the Author:
Susanne Pacher is the publisher of a website called Travel and
Transitions (http://www.travelandtransitions.com). Find unconventional
travel information, cross-cultural experiences, interviews with
travellers and other inspiring people. Submit your own travel stories
& win an exciting Amazon River cruise! "Life is a Journey
- Explore New Horizons”
Read more articles by: Susanne
Article Source: www.iSnare.com
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