A Weekend in Ottawa

Napping from Montreal to Ottawa

Our train to Ottawa left at 9am on Saturday. We arrived with time, both of us a little tired. I slept most of the two hour trip to the nation’s capital. We got into town just after 11, caught a taxi to the hotel and checked in early. I’d booked us a Best Western hotel as it came in cheaper than a hostel. It was a little further out of town that we probably would have liked but on the plus side it was near the restaurants on Elgin St, and the Museum of Nature, and really wasn’t that far a walk to Parliament Hill. The room was also comfortable, with tow double beds, a big TV, free wifi and a big free continental breakfast included. I wear happy.

We dumped our luggage then went to find lunch up Bank St, discovering we were near Ottawa’s gay village, something I didn’t know the city had. After a few attempts we finally found a Thai/Vietnamese restaurant that was open on Saturday lunchtime (a rarity, I assure you). I had chicken pho with chicken spring rolls; Donna had Thai tofu red curry with vegetable spring rolls. We were stuffed by the end. We’ve certainly been eating well on this trip.

Back at the hotel, we napped for a bit, then Donna went for a walk, while I slept some more. In fact I slept most of the day away. It was great. We both woke up around 8pm or so then went to a Mexican restaurant called El Camino which was only a few streets away. We got a table straight away, seated on either side of the bar. I had salt and pepper squid (which was a massive serve for just $9) and a crispy fish taco (which didn’t have any taste to it) and we shared a green papaya salad while Donna had an eggplant taco. The place was nice, busy, good service and most of the food was tasty. We then went home to bed.

An Ottawan Sunday

Breakfast at the hotel was surprisingly decent. Even though it was billed as a continental breakfast, it still included bacon and eggs. We loaded up on carbs too and then walked up the quiet city streets to Parliament Hill, arriving just in time to join a tour of the parliament.

I’d been on one before but tagged along anyway, mostly so I could see the library again, which is a really impressive part of the building. Our guide was great (Julia I think her name was) and best of all, this time we were going in to see the Senate, something we didn’t see last time. Julia’s focus was more on the art in the building, which was great as I learned a few new things, such as the stained glass windows in the House of Representatives depict the provincial flowers – and that Newfoundland is the only province with a carnivorous plant as its emblem (a pitcher plant).

We saw the library, the senate and the lower house, then were free to go up the Peace Tower and into the war memorial. Learnt something new this time too. Above the door to the war memorial is a commemoration of the animals used in World War I. We saw this last time but this was the first time I noticed the caribou…which were used for meat. There were also canaries and rats, which were used to check that the tunnels were safe to go through. (Rats were used one canaries ran out.) Yay for learning.

We then walked to Byward Market, had a nice Moroccan lunch, then continued on to the National Gallery to see the Escher exhibition. Turns out the national gallery has the world’s third largest collection of Escher prints. Plenty of iconic prints, including some of his early work. Donna and I were both impressed with his night scenes, especially when our attention was drawn to the fact that it’s difficult to render night in a scene, yet Escher does it really well.

We zoomed around the Jack Bush exhibition, looked in the gift shop, then, our brains full, walked back through Major Hill’s Park and returned to the hotel. Donna then went to the Museum of Nature, but I’d already seen it and didn’t really want to go again.

For dinner (yes, more food) we walked south and over the bridge to a restaurant called Green Door, recommended as one of the best vegetarian restaurants in Ottawa. The place was busy for a Sunday night, and I was surprised at how many people were looking for a vegetarian meal. Everything is served buffet style and you pay according to weight.

There was a big selection of hot and cold foods and everything was fresh and tasty. We loaded up our plates, gorged ourselves, and then, because we didn’t want to miss out on dessert, took some away with us. I highly recommend this place, even if you’re not a vegetarian.

Back at the hotel we whiled away the evening trying to find something to watch on tv. The Sound of Music was playing (it was the singalong version too) but we chopped and changed. Eventually Outrageous Fortune downloaded onto my iPad and Donna and I watched this old family favourite with a sense of nostalgia – and shock that we were allowed to watch such a movie as young children. I think I watched it when I was six, though I remember not having a clue about half of what was going on. Once it was finished, we went to bed.

Early return to Toronto

Donna and I changed our train tickets so we’d leave Ottawa early and get back into Toronto sooner. There are still things in Ottawa I haven’t seen but I wasn’t really fussed about checking them out and neither was Donna, so rather than wait until 3:30pm to leave, we managed to get on a 12:30pm train out.

We ate breakfast late, then returned to our room. I finished reading a book, then we caught the bus to the train station, and boarded our four and a half hour ride back to Toronto. We sat opposite two sisters who were on their way back to Barrie for the Christmas season. It was funny listening to their phone conversation with their younger sister as they’d missed the bus yesterday and were a day late coming in. The sister took this to mean they didn’t want to come for Christmas, rather than it just being an accident. Such fun.

The train was stinking hot. We couldn’t open the windows and they couldn’t adjust the heating. Donna lost a few kilos I think. She read and slept, I worked. Time dragged but eventually we were home. Glen was already home when we arrived. We unpacked, ate dinner, did the washing and vegetated.

And so ended our weeklong expedition.

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