In June, my wife Sherry and I travelled to Ottawa, the capital of our great country, for the first time. A domestic Canadian trip after a two year hiatus from travelling due to the pandemic felt like a breath of fresh air. Julie, my wife’s best friend, had also moved to the Ottawa area so that also played a role in us choosing to visit that city this year.
We flew into Montreal and spent a night to rest and enjoy a refreshing dip in a hotel pool. Afterwards, we rented a car and drove up the Autoroute 50, passing through and stopping by small Quebec towns along the way, like Lachute, to sample some rural authentic Quebec cuisine and take in the small town atmosphere. At night, we arrived in Gatineau, a suburb across from Ottawa, to stay at Julie’s place for the rest of our vacation. We tried to be the best houseguests we could!
June was a great time to visit Ottawa with the hot and sunny weather and interesting things to do and places to eat. The city had an amazing array of cuisine from casual eateries like Kettleman’s Bagel and LOCAL Public Eatery to fine dining at Tosca Ristorante and Thali. The Ribfest on Sparks Street was happening at the time, so we enjoyed some delicious smoky barbecue ribs, pulled pork and corn on the cob. We had afternoon tea at the Fairmont Château Laurier and walked around the nearby Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At night, we experienced the nightlife at the Byward Market and The Glebe.
No first-time visit to Ottawa would be complete without touring the Parliament of Canada. Julie, Sherry and I booked tickets to tour the House of Commons at West Block and the Senate of Canada at Ottawa’s historic train station. Currently, both institutions are working out of these temporary locations since Centre Block, Parliament’s main building, is currently undergoing renovations. Seeing and walking around Parliament in-person was an awe-inspiring feeling; amplifying the sense of pride I have in living in a stable and prosperous democratic country.
We also visited several of Ottawa’s national museums. The size and scope of these museums felt truly grand and captured Canada’s history, geography and story well. My wife was impressed with the various exhibits on display. For instance, the War Museum displayed some of the military equipment used in Canada’s wars and peacekeeping missions. The Science and Technology Museum had several vintage locomotives with restored interiors recreating what it would have been like to be on a train of the early 20th century. All the museums we visited told an intricate story of how the Canadian struggles of yesterday laid the foundation for the modern country we live in today.
Ottawa is an enchanting mid-size town whose charm lies in the fact that as the nation’s capital, it serves as a place where Canadian history, democracy and achievements are displayed and celebrated. While walking around Downtown Ottawa and Parliament Hill, my wife and I were awe-struck to be surrounded by the buildings of our country’s democratic institutions. Monuments to the Canadian people adorn its streets and there was always something to learn and reflect on. One day we’ll return and see more of Ottawa, perhaps when the Centre Block renovation is complete!