This is part one of a three part series on my trip to Canada. Parts two and three coming soon!
Last month I visited some friends in Canada. A few years ago I spent some time in British Columbia for an internship but this was my first time to eastern Canada. Ottawa is the capital of Canada and yet another country capital I’ve visited before my own. I hope to see you someday, Washington D.C.! Ottawa is a wonderful city and surprisingly small for a capital. It is easy to maneuver and the main attractions are centrally located. The buildings are beautiful and there is a Tim Horton’s on practically every block!
In the photo to the left you can see the freshly rained on streets. The weather was hot and sunny except for about 30 minutes in the afternoon when a freak thunderstorm forced us to stay inside the mall and eat donuts and drink coffee. After the rain, everything was refreshed albeit muggy. Strolling around the city was easy and enjoyable. The sights are all close together and it’s easy to navigate as there are lots of informational signs around giving insight into the city’s history. Here are some of the highlights of Ottawa!
National Gallery of Canada
The National Gallery of Canada is quite possibly the most interesting museum I’ve been to, and I’m not talking about the art inside. The building itself is a piece of art. It’s a building within a building with floor to ceiling windows. The coolest part was the second floor water feature that you could see and sit under on the first floor.
My favorite exhibits were the Inuit art and La robe blanche (The White Robe). The Inuit art was a mix of traditional art like antler carvings and modern watercolors and sketches. There was an impressive antler carving featuring all of the animals found in the Arctic including a line of narwhals along one of the antler offshoots. Shifting gears and touring La robe blanche was a fun exploration into 18th century French and British fashions and especially timely as this season of Outlander has taken place in the French court with its outrageous fashions. The white robe, a simple dress of cotton or muslin, was seen as a rejection of the elaborate and large French dresses. It became very popular in England after the deaths of the French nobility during the French Revolution.
There are a ton of fun (and free!) things to do on Parliament Hill. First, as you almost reach the top stop on the bridge overlooking the canal. It’s a great spot to take in the views and catch your breath. The canal locks are super interesting to look at and make sure to bring some popcorn to enjoy the show when a boat is actually passing through. As I marveled at the lock system (how exactly do those things work?) I couldn’t help but wonder, “how much does it cost to use the canal?”
Once you make it to the top of the hill you’re greeted by Parliament and a beautiful sloping green lawn in front of it. Maybe it’s the American in me but I was expecting security checkpoints just to get on the grounds. Nope. We strolled around the grounds and discovered (free!) tour tickets needed to be picked up across the street. Unfortunately, the kind Canadian university student interns informed us that all the English speaking tours were filled up for the day but they did have French tours remaining….okay, we thought, our French isn’t that good but we really wanted to go inside. We picked up tickets for the Peace Tower and Parliament. The interior of the building was beautiful! I especially liked the library as it was jam packed with books and had a gorgeous rotunda. Sadly, I didn’t get my selfie with Trudeau but I got the next best thing – a selfie of Trudeau’s face on a book! If you’re in Ottawa make sure to pick up your Parliament tour tickets early in the morning. You’ll get your time (and language) of choice.
Ottawa was a blast. We just spent one day there but I wish we had had a few more. It felt nice to walk around in a city at a normal temperature (it’s going to be 120 in Phoenix this weekend!) and enjoy the summertime.