Jail?! What jail? Check out my jailcation in Ottawa to find out! 😉
The Capital of a country is usually not the most exciting place (read: Washington D.C. vs. New York City, Beijing vs. Shanghai, and now Ottawa vs. Toronto). However, they still don’t lose their charm. You’d see pretty parliament buildings, many countries’ flags hanging in front of their embassies (and from the building, you could figure out a bit of their culture and political standing in the country, if you know what I mean) and things that reflect the country’s history. In Ottawa, here’s the top 5 places I’d recommend you to go:
1. BYWARD MARKET
It’s one of Canada’s oldest and largest public markets, consisting of museums, cafés, specialty food shops, boutiques, restaurants, pubs, and etc in the government and business district. We had breakfast in one of the diners and it was pretty good. Except the waitress scolded us for raising our hands to signal we wanted to order. She said it’s considered rude in Canada but… I did the same in Toronto and no one thought wrong of it. Hmmm, cultural difference between cities within the same province? Seems a bit strange. You judge!
We went in Winter (January) and so it was pretty quiet sans the outdoor market. But I managed to get myself a cup of boba (bubble tea in North America’s lingo) that I’ve missed since I was there. Also, there were makeshift stalls selling random stuffs, and I managed to get the cheapest deals for my maple syrup everything (read: maple syrups per se in cute maple leaf bottles, maple syrup cookies, maple syrup & ice wine cookies, maple syrup sweets) there. They sell it way cheaper than the shops and those tourist places.
2. SKATE AT RIDEAU CANAL DURING WINTER
also known as the world’s largest skating rink
During Winter, the entire canal freezes and hence turned into a skating rink every year. So you could guess how cold Canada is during Winter. Just that this year happened to be exceptionally cold. The canal is really long, so you could enter from anywhere if you have your own skates.
And after you’re done skating, enjoy some Beaver tails! It’s a pastry that’s made in a shape of a beaver tail and yes, it’s very yummy. 🙂
3. PARLIAMENT HILL
Go for the free guided tour in the Parliament House. It’s one of the most beautiful parliament house I’ve ever seen.
No Canadian can stand and look at this cluster of buildings (…) without feeling that somewhere on this Hill, perhaps by a happy accident, architects, masons and stone carvers have managed to grasp and materialize the beauty of Canada, the vastness of its land, its loneliness, its youth and its hope.
-Bruce Hutchison, The Unknown Country, 1944
4. CANADA MINT MUSEUM / ROYAL CANADIAN MINT
No photos allowed in this one except for…
The 24K gold bar that weighs 28 pounds. Freaking heaving for that small thing, and yes, it’s real gold!!! Also because it was the nearing the lunar new year, they gave us coins stamped with horses we ‘made’ ourselves to mark the Year of the Horse!
Fun fact #1: There are many Canada’s quarter coins that are collectibles in circulation. You’d be lucky if some of them land on your hands!
Fun fact #2: Canada’s one dollar coin is called a loonie and the two dollar coin is called a toonie. No kidding.
5. NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL BASILICA, OTTAWA
There are a few Notre Dame(s) in Canada: I paid for the one in Montreal because they do an audio ‘show’, couldn’t get into the one in Quebec City and got into this particular one in Ottawa for free. 🙂 I’m not an expert at this so I thought they look pretty similar.
6. NATIONAL GALLERY OF CANADA / MAMAN THE HUGEASS SPIDER
Right opposite the Notre Dame, there’s the National Gallery of Canada, and the familiar hugeass spider. It’s actually called Maman, designed by Franco-American artist Louise Bourgeois as a tribute to her mother. It’s supposed to represent contemporary culture. This sculpture also appears in Bilbao (Spain), Tokyo, Seoul, St. Petersburg (Russia) and Havana (Cuba).
Well, basically a photo moment if you don’t actually want to go to the gallery. 😉
7. CANADIAN MUSEUM OF CIVILIZATION
This museum is actually outside of Ottawa and outside of Ontario, and in a city called Gatineau, Quebec. But it’s walking distance from Ottawa and lotsa photo opportunities along the way!
And this museum particularly talks about the First Peoples, or the Natives. Very interesting and informative if you want to learn more about the culture. And from there, the nearest food place that is cheap is McDonald’s – and you get to read the French menu! 😉
Oh have I mentioned that Canada’s McDonald’s is one special McDonald’s with the maple leaf on it?