I’d been back in Toronto less than 48 hours before I went off to my next new place, Ottawa! Me and Nyssa were heading up to spend some time with her sister, Kathleen, and her boyfriend Kurt. I wasn’t sure what to expect of Ottawa, most Canadians who I’ve mentioned it to have responded with “meh, its ok I guess” or something to that effect. Nevertheless I’d been eyeing it for an excursion since the beginning of my trip. We were based at the Chateau Laurier, right in the middle of the city and perfect for sight-seeing.
We spent our long weekend going around a host of characterful little spots, nearly all of which revolved around food! On our first day we managed to hit up a tea house, an Ethiopian restaurant, 2 pubs, an escape room, and a secret underground bar! Our second day started with an awesome breakfast!
That afternoon we went to look at Parliament Hill. This was pretty much the main tourism aim for me for the trip, to see where it all happens. Canada’s government buildings are split into blocks that surround a large open square. It was first used for the government in 1859 and I found walking around the square that it had a real colonial feel to it. I could imagine it as an outpost of London, with it’s Gothic, European, style buildings among the wooden buildings of early Canada.
In the middle of Parliament Hill is Center Block, and the Peace Tower which towers over the square and offers a great view out over the city, Ontario to the south, and Quebec to the north.
We didn’t get to see inside until the next day (after a swing class, and some rather good tacos) when we took a free tour of the tower and a few rooms at the base. The view on the day we were there was great, we could see a very long way, helped by the fact that Ottawa has limited the height of buildings around the city to close to the level of tower.
We spent our final evening at Kathleen and Kurt’s for dinner and board games, and then on our final day, we all went to see a Canadian institution, a sugar bush! (It’s where maple syrup is made.)
Upon arrival I got to try a traditional Canadian treat, Taffy! This is made by dribbling warm maple syrup over snow until the syrup is stiff like treacle and can be eaten like a lolly pop.
After some pancakes, smothered in maple syrup of course, we took a wander around one of the trails through the trees to see the actual extraction of maple syrup from the trees. In the old days syrup was extracted by tapping a tree and hanging a bucket off the tap to catch the sap, nowadays the taps are connected together by pipes allowing the syrup to be piped back to the farm straight to be processed. “Raw” maple syrup is almost as thin as water, so its quite simple to transport. It was very interesting to see, to feel the weight of the pipes, and actually see the sap moving through the lines towards the farm.
Our visit to Ottawa was a really important travel lesson for me – Local knowledge is invaluable. Kathleen and Kurt have been living in the city for years, and without their suggestions we probably wouldn’t have found any of the cool little places that we visited, especially the secret bar, which is not common knowledge. (You’ll also have to find it yourself!) Now that I’m back in Toronto I’ve had to find a new place to live, and get to know a new neighborhood of my own. Hopefully I can find a few more hidden gems in my last few months here.