Travelogue: Ottawa – A true winter wonderland

It’s Family Day long weekend here in Ontario so THIS family decided to hit the road and head to Ottawa to take in the final weekend of the Winterlude Festival in the nation’s capitol.

It’s also a trip down memory lane. My husband and I lived here for 4 years during which BOTH of our girls were born.

As we drove into town we immediately started pointing out all of our favourite places, re-living the good times and noticing everything that has changed (or disappeared) since we were last here, 5 years ago. I can’t believe we waited so long to return.

I can credit living in Ottawa for my love of winter. It’s a beautiful city, full stop. But it REALLY comes alive in wintertime. This is a city filled with people who love the outdoors and know how to enjoy it. Cross-country skiers and snowshoer’s were plentiful in the parks and with the Rideau Canal transformed into the biggest, liveliest outdoor skating rink of it’s kind, thousands it seemed laced up their skates alongside us to enjoy its 7.8 kilometers. For 30 glorious minutes my family was a postcard of Canadian winter perfection. And then the cold temperatures caught up to us….then the whining. Time for poutine and hot chocolate.

Oh, and the pubs! We’ve been here less than 24 hours and already visited 3 of our favourite pubs, The Heart and Crown, The Aulde Dubliner (located in the Byward Market) and Darcy McGees (on Sparks Street, a pedestrian street). You’re never more than a block away from a good pub in this city.

We stayed in the Byward Market area to be close to everything. The market is a hub of activity here, especially on weekends when artisans set up their stalls outside the storefronts of the year-round shops residing inside the market buildings. This is also one of the best spots in town to grab a Beaver Tail, a tasty pastry shaped like a beaver tail. Every Beaver Tail kiosk we saw had a line of people waiting (in -18C weather) to order one. They’re that good.

It was here in the market, amidst all the local artisans and their unique crafts, that we told the girls they could each choose a souvenir to remember their visit to Ottawa. One settled on a dream catcher and the other chose a beaded bracelet – the type you can buy in any Toys “R” Us store. Sigh.

I would be robbing Ottawa if I didn’t at least mention all the other popular attractions here. The National Arts Centre, Parliament Buildings, Royal Canadian Mint, National Gallery of Canada, Casino Lac-Leamy, Rideau (shopping) Centre and the NUMEROUS museums to be expected in a nation’s capital. I could go on, and they all have much to offer tourists but I visited each when I lived here years ago. THIS weekend was all about the great outdoors.

We took it all in and felt particularly Canadian in doing so. Nothing says Canadian like a weekend spent bundled to the nines enjoying classic winter sports and finishing it all off with a cold pint.

Its been 5 years Ottawa but we won’t wait so long til the next visit.

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