Ottawa, Canada – May 1999
Ottawa’s hopping over a friggin’ flower? This city with
a boring reputation is actually having a big shindig worth
Cool! Sign me up!
Check out the Parliament Buildings, the ChÃƒÂ¢teau Laurier,
and the Byward Market while you’re at it. Also take a bike
ride down the Ottawa River and see the terrific views of
So what is up with all the tulips? Do we fancy
ourselves as Dutch? Well, nearly. Sorry if the history stuff
bores you, but the Tulip Festival is pretty much the biggest
tourist attraction in Ottawa. Three million tulips can’t
In May 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands and the Royal
Family fled soon after. Queen Wilhemina ended up in London,
but her daughter, the then Princess Juliana, came to Ottawa.
Whilst there, she became pregnant. It would have been
scandalous (pff…not sure about that) if the heir to the
Dutch throne was born on foreign soil, so the wing of the
Civic Hospital where Juliana’s daughter, Margriet, was born,
was made part of the Netherlands for one day.
Add to that the fact that Canadian troops were largely
responsible for the liberation of Holland, and you’ve got
a reason for the Dutch to be so grateful as to bombard us
with tonnes of tulip bulbs every year.
To be honest, the Festival is not very Dutch, apart from
the flowers…sort of. Tulips are of Asian origin, but hey,
I’m not going to delve much into that issue.
Last year, the festival was a celebration of Japan. Whatever.
Anyway, this year’s theme is “Between Friends”, a celebration
of our friendship with the UNITED STATES! Wha….?
Celebrating the new Embassy, I suppose. It shouldn’t be
celebrated. It’s a monstrosity that blocks the view of the
Parliament Buildings from the Byward Market.
Most events are at Major’s Hill Park, behind the Chateau
Laurier, sorta, or across the street from the National Gallery.
You can see it from Parliament Hill, too. It’s hard to explain,
so follow the crowds.
Admission is $5 per day (free for kids under 12) or about
$15 for the week and tickets can be bought through
But if you don’t want to pay that, the Experimental Farm
(Between Carling and Baseline and Merivale and Holland(ish))
and the parkways along the Rideau Canal are best for Tulip
Generally the festival has a few free concerts, usually
up-and-coming Canadian bands or those waning in popularity.
This year has a better line-up, but I’m not clear on the
Highlights are the Party on the Rock II (May 15), which
is a Celtic show to celebrate 50 years of Newfoundland as
a province of Canada (insert your own Newfie joke here).
The Irish Descendants, the Ennis Sisters and others are
playing and it should be a good time.
May 16 features QuÃƒÂ©bec Rock. Something I’m not at all
into, but others may be. TheÃƒÂ³dore Fontaine, Deux Saisons,
and OkoumÃƒÂ© will play.
On May 17, the granddaddies of Ottawa indie rock, Furnaceface,
headline a show that also features Punchbuggy, Everender,
Starling, and Werbo (among others). Go see what Ottawa has
to offer musically…and don’t worry, some of them are actually
Jim Cuddy headlines on May 18th. He’s the singer/guitarist
from Blue Rodeo.
The show on May 19th is called, wait for it…Hip Hop
Through the Tulips. Go, if only to hear the ÃƒÂ¼berfab Dubmatique.
On my birthday, May 21, Prairie Oyster’s playing. Into
country music like I am not? Check it out.
The very cool Philosopher Kings are playing on May 22nd.
May 24th, the closing day, is 54-40 (popularity waning,
I guess). They’re named after “54-40 or fight!”, which was
a slogan when British Columbia was debating with the US
over what latitude the borders should be at. Blablabla.
Anyway, local singer Tammy Raybould is one of the opening
acts. She blew me away at Lilith Fair last year.
Also featured this week are an exhibition on Native Culture
(always fun and very interesting); Swing night; Up With
People (ungh); and a Cajun party.
Want MORE information than that? Go to the Tulip
On to other matters:
The Senators made the playoffs! You’ll notice that Ottawans
are REALLY obnoxious when the Senators do well. You’ll see
“Go Sens Go!” posters, ripped out the local tabloid paper,
posted in car windshields, house and office windows, on telephone
poles, and anywhere else that they can be easily displayed.
Unfortunately, at this time, I’m not sure if Ottawa will
advance further than the first round against Buffalo, so
I can only say that if the best-of-seven game series requires
a seventh game, Ottawa will be playing at home on May 2nd.
Check out the Senators
site for more information. Tickets can be bought through
calling (613)755-1111. OC
Transpo runs special buses to the Corel Centre when
major events are happening. Parking is a real pain, so you
might as well use the shuttles.
Meanwhile, if you’re into baseball, we have a minor league
team called the Ottawa
Lynx (farm team for the Expos).
They have series against Rochester Red Wings May 1st and
2nd , the Norfolk Tides from the 3rd to the 6th, the Indianapolis
Indians from the 15th to the 18th, the Syracuse Chiefs from
the 20th to the 23rd and the Durham Bulls from the 28th
to the 31st.
Okay, so it’s not a Yankee game or anything, but it’s
a fun night out and it’s REALLY cheap. It’s about $8.50
to get in and tickets
can be ordered by calling (613) 749-9947 or 1-800-663-0985.
Jetform Park is at the St. Laurent East exit off the Queensway.
I think you can get there taking the #3 bus (like most,
it runs down Rideau street), but I’m not sure because the
bus maps aren’t that clear. I don’t think Transitway buses
go straight there, but the 95 does go to the train station
which is within sight of the park. Unfortunately, the Queensway’s
in the way, and only a moron would try to cross it on foot.
The Canadian Museum of
Civilization (take the #8 bus to Hull) has a few new bits,
but most of the big stuff is from last month’s birth of Nunavut.
Check out Iqqaipaa;
Inuit and Englishmen; and
Nunavut: Jewel of the Arctic.
Inuit Art is all kinds of cool.
On May 7, “Celebrating
Newfoundland” opens. Also, take advantage of the views from
the Zen Garden…take a picnic lunch. It’s a grand place
to chill out.
The Canadian Children’s
Museum (in the MoC) has cool activities that even adults
will enjoy. One of the highlights this month include the
Hatter’s Tea Party on May 30.
Also, there’s an exhibit called “Bayanihan – A Window
on the Philippines” until May 24 and an ongoing exhibit
on the Inuit called “Siqinig: Under the Same Sun”.
The Canadian War
Museum (mere blocks from the bus hub that is the Rideau
Centre and next to the National Gallery) has a few cool
things going on. One of their mottos is “War is not glorified
here but presented as integral part of our heritage. We
can all learn something from this story.” Cool.
The “Airforce at 75” opens in mid-May. It’s an outdoor
display with presentations by serving members of Canadian
Forces. Supposedly, a CF-18 will be on display…but with
the ongoing crisis in Kosovo, it may be needed elsewhere.
“Blockhaus: Fortress Europe in Photographs” is a travelling
exhibition from the Imperial War Museum in London by Peter
Mackertich. It runs through mid-June. Not sure how exciting
concrete shelters would be, but who am I to judge?
“A Garrison Country: Newfoundland and Labrador in Canadian
War Art” celebrates Newfoundland’s efforts during the Second
World War by displaying twenty-four paintings.
Canada had a tough time recruiting soldiers in Quebec.
“Les Pur Canayens: Canadian Posters of the First World War”
displays Canada’s propagandic campaign posters from that
And, of course, “Athena“, an exhibition on the Canadian
Women’s Army Corps. Excellent. GO!
The Canadian Museum of
Nature (take the #6 bus from downtown) is free after
5pm on Thursdays. Some fun stuff there includes Arctic Odyssey,
Creepy Critters, and Nature’s Pharmacy.
Gallery of Canada has a whole lot of stuff closing May
2nd, including sculptures by Liliana Berezowsky and French
Prints from the Age of the Musketeers. Not much new, either.
Ongoing stuff includes “Uqqurmiut: Drawings and Prints
from Pangnirtung” (Inuit Galleries) and “Rodney Graham:
Vexation Island and Other Works in the Video Gallery”.
Ottawa has a slew of smaller galleries. Check out the
for more information on their exhibitions, as well as on
Other Things To Do
Ottawa’s two main music venues, Barrymore’s (Bank Street.
Take the 1, 7 or 11) and Zaphod Beeblebrox (in the Market),
are represented at the website run by their creepy owner,
It’s Improv night(s?) at Le CafÃƒÂ© Des Artistes in the market
from Thursday to Saturday. Banking on the success of the
American “Whose Line is it Anyway?”, I guess.
Can’t get enough of Karaoke? Call the Karaoke Hotline
(I kid you not) at (613)824-4137.
Sorry, I’ve run terribly long this month. Enjoy the tulips,
then fetch a coffee at CafÃƒÂ© Wim on Sussex Drive. “A Touch
of Dutch” is their motto. Go during the day, though…at
night it’s full of Star Trek fans and wannabe Goth children
(and true Goths trying to avoid them).
Go to the Royal Oak Laurier, I might just be there! 🙂
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.)
Unfortunately, as of this writing, there’s still plenty of snow
on the ground. Of course, this’ll disappear soon as it has been
t-shirt, albeit long-sleeved, weather for the past few days.
The snow is crap for attempting most winter activities right
now, but some ski areas are still open.
Spring skiing is quite liberating, so you might want to check
it out. Mont Tremblant, which is about 1.5 hours in the direction
of MontrÃƒÂ©al, makes snow until May 1st. Check out this
site for more details.
Once the snow’s melted, take advantage of the many, many bike
paths around the city.
Beware if you have mold/spore allergies because melting snow
makes everything really damp. The pong of some parks is appalling
until the ground dries up a bit.
Go here for more on recreation in the city.
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:
My boots are Doc Martens. They’ve been my favourite since I
When I’m not dreaming about travelling, I’m a student at the University
of Ottawa. I’m currently on a Co-op placement at Parks Canada.
Here’s her website.