Ottawa, Canada

  • Visited October 2018

Ottawa, the capital, has been called the most boring city in Canada so my expectations were not high when I visited. However, I enjoyed my time here very much, although I did have the added advantage of having a friend in the city – it was lovely to be reunited with my French-Canadian friend Sophie, who I shared a dorm room with in Jerusalem. I found Ottawa to be an attractive city with welcoming people and lots to do.

Ottawa is an easy city to get around by foot. I stayed near the Byward Market area, a very touristy place, not far from key landmarks such as Parliament, the National Gallery of Canada, the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica and the canal. Surrounding the Market, there are numerous restaurants and bars to enjoy, as well as boutiques and the market stalls. Le Moulin de Provence proudly sells the famous ‘Obama Cookie’ – a cookie shaped in maple-leaf form, with the word Canada piped on in white icing – that Obama requested during a visit to Ottawa, and I can confirm is very tasty! The Irish bar Auld Dubliner is a chilled place to grab a drink and a snack after a mooch round the market. The staff were friendly and attentive when I popped in and the barman took the time to talk through beer recommendations with me (I opted for a pint of Brooklyn which hit the spot nicely…). Currently on display in the Market is a giant pumpkin (weighing over 1,000lbs apparently) which I found quite charming. If you fancy a sweet treat when in this area, get yourself a Beaver Tail. I’ll let you find out for yourself what this is, though I can say it is definitely not a real beaver tail, which my Canadian friend tried to jokingly convince me it was (“it’s a local delicacy”, she said…. ha ha).

The nearby Andaz hotel offers a great view of the city from the rooftop bar and is a good spot to watch the sun go down. Sophie and I enjoyed a couple of proseccos and snacks there one evening.

If you want to catch a movie when in the area, Bytowne Cinema is a cute old-school one-screen cinema that shows latest releases and independent films.

Other highlights for me were my visit to the National Gallery of Canada, the Notre-Dame and the National Arts Centre. Sophie and I had a delicious pre-show dinner at Le Cafe in the Arts Centre complex before seeing a contemporary dance performance of ‘Xenos’ by the Akram Khan Company. A walk by the canal is also very nice and I’m told in the winter it becomes a long ice-skating rink, with places that serve Beaver Tails and hot chocolate along the route, which I’m sure is lots of fun.

Unfortunately I didn’t get to visit inside the Parliament building. Free tours are offered in French and English which you have to book at 90 Wellington (on the street opposite the Parliament building) but when I went along at noon on the day I intended to visit, I was told all of the English tour tickets were taken. As the only way to go inside the building is with a tour, I was invited to do the French-speaking tour but I declined. It was a very foggy day so that may explain why all the tickets were gone but if you definitely want to visit, then perhaps go early to book a tour slot to ensure you don’t miss out.

Selection of pictures from my stay: