Back when I interviewed Heather Nicholds of Healthy Eating Starts Here, she gave me some great sight-seeing recommendations for her beloved hometown, Ottawa. As soon as I read her detailed list, I got the exploration bug.
Yet, I still wanted to see it all! Ever had that happen? You go straight into maximizing-your-vacation mode when what you really want to do is curl up in your hotel room and read a good book? Speaking of…
We were also at the end of our budget and decided to go cheap. Meaning camping.
Cue the ominous music… because camping in a city means an entirely different thing than camping in the country. Picture a dozen trailers, no other tents, and a truck yard next door where the drivers start up at 6am. Nothing like camping on the beach at Pancake Bay.
That’s okay. I love every not-so-amazing experience because it guides learning and becomes a valuable part of the story. Anyways, before we even pulled into the campground, we decided to check out one of the recommendations on our list for dinner. That’s right. I had limited time, and I wanted to get down to business.
When we stepped into Cafe My House, we were a little anxious to find we could only order off their higher-priced evening menu. (Our bad, of course, for showing up for dinner). But what a lovely place – I would have loved to come back to celebrate a special occasion. Very quaint atmosphere, unpretentious yet classy.
Yet, at that point, we were unshowered, wearing travel clothes, and not as chipper as usual. Probably would have been better if we had gone to a diner or some place less classy. But sometimes the foodie drive is stronger than common sense!
So, we decided to order anyways and try to turn it into an impromptu special occasion. We weren’t disappointed.
Stomachs properly full, we headed to check out our campground and try to get a bit of a walk in. The cool thing about our campground and Cafe My House locations was that they took us into a different part of Ottawa. Far less urban and more suburb-y than the downtown area we explored the next day. In fact, it felt a lot like other cities in Canada – Winnipeg, Regina…
When we woke up, we had breakfast at the campground – Raw Apple Pie Bowl – and headed to recommendation #2, The Wild Oat coffee house, to relax.
Jay bought a bunch of vegan muffins and cookies because that’s his weakness and he can use up calories like nobody’s business. I even had half a mango coconut cardamom muffin. Pretty rare for me. Couldn’t resist that flavor combo. I ate it leisurely with a cup of their homemade chai tea (sense a trend started in Montreal?) as we sat and took in the bustling atmosphere.
I like the area around The Wild Oat, known as the Glebe. It felt hip with a lot of character, much like a neighborhood you’d find in Toronto. Walkable and charming.
A little ways up Bank Street and we came to Heather’s favorite market, The Herb and Spice Shop. After spending some time just perusing this great shop (sight-seeing for me extends to groceries), I picked up a vital ingredient for my lunch – romaine. The grocer was kind enough to wash it off so I could take it to the car and made a salad right there and then.
Next, we wanted to explore the area around the nation’s capitol.
We did the lazy man’s sight seeing and drove by a lot of the pristine architecture on Parliament Hill. Driving further north, the road travels right along the Ottawa River with some amazing scenery interspersed with official buildings. Conclusion: the federal government loves nature!
Then we headed back downtown and got out to explore on foot. Starting with… can you guess? Byward Market, an outdoor/indoor area covering a couple of blocks.
Time for another meal, so I picked up some fruit and veggies from the vendors, and we sought out a nearby park with a great view.
Next on our list was the locks. We were right on time to see them in action as they let a boat through.
Basically, the locks connect a lower water level river to a canal that sits much higher. The boat enters the first (lowest) tier then the attendants open the flood gates to let water into the first tier until the water level raises enough for the boat to enter the second tier. This continues at each tier until the boat finally enters the canal. It takes awhile – we left to walk around and check out Byward again and when we came back they were still at it. Fascinating though.
Being burnt out, what we really needed was a connection to nature and some peace. Ottawa delivered. It has a much slower pace than Quebec City or Montreal.
We spent our last moments walking along the river near the locks. There is a path there, and we soaked up some sun as we strolled. A final recommendation from Heather and a good way to wind up our day.
By this time we knew we didn’t want to spend another night camping – we just wanted to get back to our home base and lay low for a few days. So though Ottawa was lovely, we decided it was worth it to hit the road that afternoon and arrive in Toronto late that night.
Too much birthday! (Did anyone else grow up with The Bernstein Bears books?) We made a final trip back to The Herb and Spice Shop for some food on the drive home and booked it. Next stop… Toronto!
Your turn. What’s your favorite capital city? Of any country.