Ottawa, Canada – June 1999

Got Poutine?

Want to experience the joy of feeling your arteries clog as you eat! Try poutine.

It’s probably Canada’s most famous (ha!) dish. It’s actually just about the closest thing to a national dish we have – even thought it’s more of a Quebec thing. Ottawa is, as you should know by now, just a bridge away from La Belle Province, so poutine is plentiful.

What is it? Repellent…though my friends would probably tell you otherwise. French fries, cheese curds (often replaced with grated cheese) topped with gravy. Yecccccch. Best place (if you’re interested) is a chip wagon…Ottawa’s downtown is chock-a-block with them. For the less brave, most burger joints (including Burger King and Harvey’s), as well as many pubs (including my second home, the Royal Oak Laurier) have it too.

Warning! Despite its abundance in summer, poutine may be a little to heavy to take on a thirty degree day.

Didja know that Ottawa is a popular place for bikers? Motorcycles flood the Byward Market (the centre of the universe as far as Ottawa tourism is concerned) every night in summer. Have no fear, these ain’t Hell’s Angels (hellooooo Montréal).

As for other bikes of the human-powered variety, the Ottawa River Parkway (the road part is a semi-extension of Wellington Street along the river going West out of downtown) is fab for cyclists as it closed to traffic on Sundays. Woohoo! There are some great views along the way too.

Working in hotels for a bit and keep hearing over and over “It’s tourist season! Why don’t people book in advance?!?” Yes, why don’t you do that? A couple of suggestions for cheapcheap accommodation are the Ottawa Youth Hostel and the

Lebreton Campgrounds (within 15 minutes walking distance of Parliament Hill). Call (613) 239-5000 or (613) 236-1251 for details on the latter.

Sports

Well, the Ottawa Senators season is over. We were eliminated in four games of a best of seven against Buffalo. Oops. There’s always next year….and you can always catch a game of baseball instead. Here’s the Ottawa Lynx (Triple A farm team for the Expos) home schedule for June (unless otherwise stated, game time’s at 7:05):

  • June 1-5 against the Columbus Clippers

  • June 14-17 against the Toledo Mud Hens (game starts at 12:05 on the 17th)

  • June 18-21 against the Charlotte Nights (game starts at 2:05 on the 20th)

    Festivals

    Tis the season…

    I’ll be brief, because there’s lots going on.

    June 2-6 is the Children’s Festival.

    It takes place at the Canadian Museum of Nature (the Castle Museum! Take the #6 Tunney’s Pasture from Rideau Street). The übercool children’s performer Fred Penner will play. Call (613)728-5863 or go their website for more information.

    June 11-20 is Italian Week!

    Corso Italia (a.k.a. Preston Street, take the 14 Iris, 6 Tunney’s Pasture or 85 Bayshore from Rideau Street) is the centre of things for the 25th anniversary of this festival. Ottawa really does have a thriving Italian community…this should be a lot of fun. Call (613)729-9518, 726-0920 or 224-4388 for more details.

    June 18-20 is the Strawberry Moon Festival at Saunders Berry Farm. Celtic music and strawberries, who could ask for anything more?

    Well, Ottawa’s Arts community is not the most famous in the world, but it’s pretty darned good. The Ottawa

    Fringe Festival has it all: art, dance, drama, and buskers.

    Canada’s one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. Our way of celebrating is the Carnival of Cultures which runs from June 25-27. Lots of dancers, singers and musicians from all over the world will be performing at the Astrolabe Theatre (behind the National Gallery). Call (613)742-6553 for more details.

    This I’m disappointed to miss…The National Capital Dragon Boat Race Festival from June 26-27. Admission is FREE and the events start at Mooney’s Bay. Take the 87 or 146 South Keys from Billings Bridge or the 3 Nepean Centre from downtown. There are free shuttles from a few locations.

    Traffic Disruptions

    Lots of anti-NATO protests happening, there’s one nearly every day. Key spots are the British High Commission (on Elgin right at Confederation Square), the American Embassies (old on Wellington, new on Sussex) and, of course, on Parliament Hill.

    Of course, this is NOTHING compared to the obliteration of the roads around Confederation Square. This is right in the centre of the action near the Château Laurier, NAC, and Parliament. It’s murderous driving around here, so bus if you can.

    Need a place to unwind and relax, but still remain near the action? Across from the National Archives on Wellington is a beautiful park that’s quiet and a great spot to just sit and read and mellow out. The Garden of the Provinces is so called because all the provincial coat of arms are displayed along with the provincial flower for each province.

    Museums

    Quickly, to Museums (check websites for more info)

  • Celebrations of the North (hellooooo Nunavut) continue at the Canadian Museum of Civilization (take the #8 Hull from downtown).

  • Iqqaipaa (“I Remember”) is a celebration of Inuit Art.

  • Inuit and Englishmen tells the tales of Sir Martin Frobisher’s first attempts to colonise the new world in the 16th century.

    No matter what arrives at the museum, the Grand Hall is my favourite exhibit. It’s a re-creation of a Pacific NW First Nations Village…totems included. The Zen Garden outside the museum is beautiful.

    The National Gallery has a few options, including Van Gogh’s Irises and a Daumier exhibit. Exhibits are

    written up here. Also, check out the Group of Seven collection.

    The Canadian War Museum has some ongoing exhibits, but the star of the show is

    Vimy House. It’s located on Champagne Street and is opening 7 days a week starting June 5. It is the depot for most of Canada’s old war memorabilia, including plenty of war art.

    Also check out:

  • Canadian Museum of Photography (next to the Château Laurier),

  • Museum of Nature on McLeod (take the #6 Tunney’s Pasture),

  • Aviation Museum,

  • Museum of Science and Technology (take the #85, I believe), and

  • Diefenbunker (in Carp).

    Outdoorsy Options

    River rafting! In Byson, Quebec try Ottawa Adventures ($42 a day for adults).

    In Forster Falls, 90 minutes in the direction of Pembroke is Owl Rafting, which is quite well regarded.

    As is Wilderness Tours in Beachburg (again, close to Pembroke). The latter also claims to be Ontario’s only bungee site. It also has a kayak school.

    Gatineau Park (about 20 minutes drive or so from downtown) is made up of the former bases of the Adirondack mountains. If you’re in good shape, it’s great for biking. There are also tons of lakes and rivers with beaches. It gets VERY crowded at weekends.

    As usual, check the FREE Ottawa X-Press newspaper for more goings-on. Contrary to popular belief, Ottawa’s nightlife is not dead and Hull is not the place to party. “The Strip” in Hull is now made up of mostly boarded-up old clubs and underage alcoholics.

    Yes, I’ve ranted. I’m off for 10 weeks in the UK (hooray for Summer School! Uh…), so I’ll be reporting only on stuff I can find before I go…sorry!

    General Info on Ottawa

    Okay, so Ottawa-Hull is probably not the most action-paced place in the world. Most visitors say things like “It’s pretty”, “It’s clean” or “It’s pretty clean.”

    Its biggest distinction, apart from being the capital of Canada,

    is that it’s home to the world’s longest skating rink, the Rideau

    Canal, which was originally built for some long-forgotten defence

    scheme in the nineteenth century.

    Ottawa’s full of beautiful gothic-style government buildings

    and some butt-ugly modern ones (the Provincial Courthouse and

    the Regional Headquarters are the best examples of hideousness.)

    Despite its reputation as a boring town full of even more boring

    civil servants, there really is a lot to do here and in the surrounding

    area, particularly in the winter (Winterlude), late spring (the

    Tulip Festival), and in the festival season in the summertime

    (not a patch on Edinburgh, I’ll bet.)

    Contrary to popular belief, tobogganing isn’t a spring activity here.

    It’s blinking hot in summer (up to 38 degrees Celsius), so the snow

    tends to melt (ha!).

    There’s tons of stuff to do in summer…we even have beaches on the

    Ottawa River. Westboro and Britannia are both on the Ottawa River bike

    paths. The river is not great and is often cold well into summer…and

    the beaches are closed for two days after rainstorms so people won’t be

    swimming in dog muck that had washed into the water from the bike

    paths. Ewwwwwwwwww.

    If you want somewhere clean to swim, there are tons of wading pools for

    the young’uns all over town.

    A favourite spot for biking to (and only 20 minutes or so from my

    house…I’m so lazy) is Champlain Island off the Champlain Bridge. The

    bridge crosses the Ottawa River at Island Park Drive (it’s

    well- marked). The island itself is quiet and shady and gives FANTASTIC

    views of the city. It’s also a mini-Mecca for kayakers…an activity I

    hope to take up one of these days.

    Taxis are insanely expensive and drivers (especially for Blue Line) have

    dubious reputations. Consider yourself warned.

    For travel information, always check out OC Transpo. Our bus service is pretty nifty…you can

    even call an automated system to see when your bus will show up!

    Woohoo!

    Here’s a sad, but mildly amusing spring activity. Head to Parliament

    Hill and start a game of Frisbee. It’s amazing how many tourists’ll

    take your picture.

    Or, go to the visitors gallery at the House of Commons and see

    how immature parliamentary debates really are.

    A Little About Megan

    Megan leaves on her first big adventure abroad on June 18 with her brown Doc Martens in tow. She’s blowing all the money she’s earned as a government slave to go study Archaeology, Film, and History in Edinburgh. She also might venture to Bergen for a few days…advice on cheap flights from Scotland is welcomed! She is disturbed by writing about herself in the third person.

    Here’s her website.

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