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 Château 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

be wrong.

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

American connection.

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 Québec Rock. Something I’m not at all

into, but others may be. Theódore Fontaine, Deux Saisons,

and Okoumé 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

quite good.

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 überfab 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

Festival site.

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

Ticketmaster by

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.

The National

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

Ottawa X-Press

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,

Eugene Haslam.

It’s Improv night(s?) at Le Café 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 Café 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! 🙂

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.)

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 Montréal, 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

was 14.

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.