Our Capital

Ottawa may not be a likely place for a “short city getaway” from Fernie, but that is where I found myself for three days last October, so I grabbed the opportunity to explore our capital city. At the intersection of the Rideau Canal and the Ottawa River, stately Ottawa is home to our Parliament, Senate, Supreme Court, National Gallery, Royal Canadian Mint, Museum of Nature, War Museum and so much more. If you’re interested in the history and culture of our country, this is where it has been recorded in painstaking detail and is presented as a legacy of Canada’s achievements and national community. Canada’s name is derived from the Iroquois word “Kanata” meaning village, while Ottawa comes from the Algonquin “Adawe” meaning to trade. Combined, these two words show the emphasis that Canada puts on community, and while our capital is impressive and refined, it is also friendly and welcoming – traits that Canadians are known for the world over. I have come across few capital cities that have been as accessible or as easy to enjoy as Ottawa. For the Fix’s Community issue, this was the perfect destination to highlight – we should be proud of our own community, but also of our national one.

The weather in October was a crisp, sunny 16 degrees, perfect for walking and biking around the city. Ottawa has a system of Bixi bikes – rental bikes at various locations around the downtown core. Each docking base is conveniently located near a visitor attraction, and bikes are just $15 for two days of access. As long as you return your bike within 30 minutes to a docking station, there are no additional charges. The system was perfect for getting from one attraction to the next. The city is very bike friendly, with bike lanes available in most of the downtown core. There are also beautiful walking and biking trails along the River and Canal.

I had been recommended the Canadian Museum of History (then called the Canadian Museum of Civilization – the name was changed in December last year) and spent a full day there learning of Canada’s founders and pioneers, aboriginal heritage, art, and immigration since the foundation of Canada in 1867. Everything about this museum is stunning – chief architect Douglas Cardinal’s desire was to reflect the landforms of Canada and provide a building that would do more than just house historical collections. The beautiful Grand Hall gives the impression of being inside a canoe, with giant oars holding up the roof. The facility also houses the Children’s Museum of Canada and an IMAX theatre, so it’s well worth setting a full day aside for this visit.

Visiting parliament in session was fascinating. The gorgeous building offers panoramic views of the city from the viewing tower and the pace of the parliamentary discussions was mind-boggling, particularly as the Senate scandals had just surfaced. And while the queues were long and the security thorough, I found the Supreme Court to be more imposing – Parliament belongs to the people, and that’s exactly how it’s presented.

I also explored Byward Market – full of eclectic shopping and unique characters, took in the inspiring National Gallery and saw the Olympic Medals at the National Mint. Strolls along the river and the Rideau Locks on the Canal (A UNESCO world heritage site), and checking out some of the great dining options also took up much of my time. All in all, three days wasn’t enough. There’s stunning countryside surrounding Ottawa and many more places to visit in the city, but it was a great start and a lovely visit to a beautiful part of Canada’s larger community.

Share your travel experiences with me at hall.rebecca.j@gmail.com!