My Ottawa Experience

I have lived in London, Ontario my entire life.

I have visited my family in England three times.

I have gone to Florida twice.

Yet, my first time going to Ottawa, the capital of the best country—my country—Canada, was just this past week.

My boyfriend and I first planned to go somewhere tropical for this year’s reading week: Cuba, Mexico—somewhere like that. But as the time passed and we waited for prices to drop, we realized that an all-inclusive resort just wasn’t in our budget. I was pretty bummed out, not just because I wanted to go somewhere warm to escape the Canadian cold, but also because I just wanted to get away. With it being my fourth and final year of my undergrad, I’ve been above and beyond stressed about everything, and I really looked forward to putting everything aside for a week.

We then decided to find an alternative option; it might not have necessarily meant white sand beaches, but at least we would have time together and get to explore. At first we thought about British Columbia (I mean, who doesn’t want to see B.C.?), but between the cost of flights and hotels, plus all of the extra costs that go with traveling, it would’ve been just as much to go to B.C. as it did to go to Mexico.

I continued to search on Airbnb (which I highly recommend, by the way) and came across a few options in Ottawa. I could’ve slapped myself for not thinking of it sooner—Ottawa was the perfect get away. Not only was it a short six-hour drive, it was a place I really wanted to visit. My boyfriend had been a couple times and loved it, so he was all for the idea.

We stayed four nights and three days in the capital city. Our Airbnb was in the ideal location: downtown. Everything was a mere 10-20 minute walk, so we could leave the car behind and not worry about parking. We also got a ton of exercise from walking so much. We arrived on Family Day in the evening, so most things were closed. But after a long drive, we decided to take a walk around the area and check out some of the stores and restaurants.

 

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(View from Parliament Hill)

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Ottawa life is so much different from London. For one, basically everyone walks everywhere. Even at ten o’clock at night, tons of people are still walking to and from places, alone and in groups. Although I was with my boyfriend for the walks, I still would have felt comfortable roaming the streets alone in the evenings, which is something I can’t really say for London.

Another thing that is completely different from London is the fact that every sign, advertisement, billboard, etc., had both the English and French translations. Probably about 40% of the people walking around the city spoke French and almost every person who greeted us said “Hello. Bonjour.” I was lucky enough to witness a question session involving the Prime Minister and the liberal representatives, and 50% of the discussion was conducted in French. Yes, it was puzzling for someone who speaks hardly any French, but it was really fascinating to see the strong mixture of different languages and culture.

On the second day of our trip, we decided to go to Parliament Hill. The buildings were nothing like I imagined them; they were so old and traditional, yet so beautiful. The architecture was astounding. Inside was also amazing; it felt like a scene straight out of Hogwarts. We decided to go up the Peace Tower, which involved us traveling to the very top of the clock tower, and looking out and over the entire city. It’s not nearly as high as the CN Tower but I was definitely shaking (I guess I have a newfound fear of heights). Either way, when you go to Ottawa, this is a must see—the view is fantastic!

 

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(Check out that view! Sorry for the iPhone 5s picture quality)

I’m not really into politics; to be honest, I don’t know much about the Canadian government (I know, I really should, but politicians make me angry). But going into the House of Columns and seeing Prime Minister Trudeau in person was pretty fricken cool. The discussion session that took place felt more like a roast, though. In fact, by the end, it felt like a bitch fest. Either way, it was an interesting experience. Would I do it again? Probably not. But at least I can say I’ve done it.

 

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(Anyone else getting Hogwarts vibes?)

Another great thing we did was visit the War Museum; if you are a history buff or are interested by Canada’s past warfare, this place is a must see. I’m usually not into historical museums, but I really enjoyed this one. There are so many different kinds of machines, tools, technologies and tactics on display, and each are given a substantial description. Honestly, I probably learned more from my walk through the museum than I ever did in a high school History class.

 

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While the War Museum was great, my favourite was the Canadian Museum of Nature. I am a huge nature fan, especially when it comes to animals, so I was really excited walking through this particular museum. The museum consists of four floors with two major sections on each floor. These sections consisted of fossils, displays of animals and their descriptors, insects, reptiles, interactive simulations (e.g. make your own volcano), the universe and Earth facts and displays, and/or videos. In short, it had everything imaginable (even dinosaurs). Now, if you’re a lover of animals, I must warn you: the animals on display are “stuffed.” It can be a little disturbing but it’s an effective way to show the different traits of different species.

 

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I sadly did not get the chance to visit the Rideau Canal (I know, what’s the point of going to Ottawa if you’re not going to skate on the canal). Unfortunately, because of the mild weather over the past week or so, the canal was deemed unsafe to skate on, so it was closed for the duration of my stay. But I fully intend to visit again, so I will get my chance some day.

There’s honestly so much to do in Ottawa; my four-day stay just wasn’t enough time to do even a quarter of the things I wanted to. I will definitely be returning soon, probably sometime in the summer just to experience the change in season, but I will be back for a winter getaway. If you want to go somewhere but you’re on a budget, go to Ottawa—it’s so worth the trip.

*All the photos used in this article are original.