Ottawa is a very popular tourist destination in the spring and in summer and people come from all other the country to see what the national capital looks like. I have been living in Ottawa since 2002 so I know the city pretty well. Coming to visit this summer? Here are ten quick tips!
Browsing: Traveling In Canada
All packed and ready to go, we drove to Ottawa Airport this morning and learned that our flight to Toronto had been cancelled. Well, not just our flight—all the flights to Toronto. Apparently, approximately 600 flights have been cancelled at Pearson International Airport Tuesday afternoon because of the cold weather, thus Wednesday travelers like us were bumped for that Tuesday travelers could catch their flight.
On our way back from Belleville, we stopped in Gananoque. It had been a while: the last time was in May 2012, and I was five-month pregnant then. We took the exact same picture, by the lighthouse, this time with Mark!
We drove to Dunes Beach and discovered a sandy bay encircled by huge dunes dominating the scenery. By the time we got there the rain had mostly stopped. The clouds were gorgeous and the little stretch of sand, right at the edge of the woods, was deserted. I could see the dunes right beside us and spotted a paved path.
Niagara Falls. This amazing natural wonder of the world is on the bucket list of most travelers—everyone want to see them at least once. But how many people come back for a second, a third or a fourth visit? Well, more than you’d think.
After a stop in Alexandria Bay, we decided to cross the border back to Canada at the Thousand Islands Bridge and to follow the parkway along the St. Lawrence Seaway. I do miss living by the ocean but I have to say that the Thousand Islands region is pretty awesome—peaceful, scenic and, despite being a popular tourist spot, it doesn’t feel crowded or tacky.
Even though I’m very much a city person and can’t imagine living in a place with a population of less than 500,000, I’m in love with Canadian small towns. Over the year, we visit quite a lot of small towns, mostly in Ontario but also in the U.S. Some were just a stop on the road to or from somewhere, some were a getaway, but most of them were simply lovely.
The trip back home was tiring. It always is. I sometimes dream of flying door-to-door but it’s not going to happen as long as we live in Ottawa. Our airport sucks: it is barely bigger than a Wal-Mart and it has very few direct international flights. We always have to transfer in the U.S. or in Toronto.
On the weekend of November 11, I packed a small bag, left my computer and my city life behind and headed to Bourget, a small village in Eastern Ontario. It only took a forty-minute drive to get there but as soon as we hit Vars, we entered another world of farms, straight roads and no traffic. Welcome to the countryside.
When I first came to Canada, I used to laugh at what locals considered “historic”. These stores boasting to have been in business for a mere twenty years and these “old” buildings dating back to the 1950s didn’t exactly impress me. The apartment I grew up in in France was at least a century older!
This is not to say that there aren’t interesting pieces of history in the region—Watson’s Mill is one example, and it’s actually pretty old, dating back to 1860.
Standing on the lakeshore, wind blowing in my hair and producing whitecaps on the lake, the horizon just a flat line in the distance, I felt like I was at the seaside. Only the heady iodine smell of seaweeds was missing.
Balm Beach, the first beach we stopped at, seemed to be stuck somewhere in the 1980s with a few old-fashioned beach toys stores along the sand. Feng and I bought an ice-cream and a drink and the total came to $1.75—not quite Toronto prices! On the beach, people played volley-ball or were reading and not a single person had a cell phone in hand. Canadian take the outdoors seriously and most cars in the parking lot either had a canoe strapped to the roof or a boat in tow.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is much quieter than Niagara Falls and most tourists are here to enjoy historic buildings and good wine, not haunted houses and family entertainment. Antique shops, art galleries and golf courses replace fast food joints and touristy attractions.
The Sunday was gorgeous and drove to Niagara Falls. It was my fourth visit there (last time was in the middle of the winter) and definitely a busy time of the year for the region.
The contrast between the tacky main strip and the beauty of the falls always amazes me.
During our Labour Day Week-End trip to rural Ontario, we spent a couple of night in Deep River, a small community located on Highway 17, between Pembroke and Matawa, opposite the Laurentian Mountains. The population is only about 4,000, and most residents work in the nearby Chalk River Nuclear Research Laboratory, 10 km away. But it is still a small Canadian town, with a few dirt roads, dense patches of forest and wild animals.
Upon arriving in Deux-Rivières, a small community located in Renfrew County, Highway 17 narrowed and seemed to plunged right into the Ottawa River. The River was pretty wide and we felt like on a small island. Except for a seasonal ferry access to Québec and an abandoned gas station/ convenience store, there wasn’t much. The scenery was beautiful though: the grey asphalt matched the dark stormy sky, but contrasted with the deep blue of the River.
After Pembroke and Rapides-Des-Joachims, we followed the Trans-Canada Highway, looking for places to explore on that rainy week-end. As soon as I saw a sign saying “Head, Clara and Maria”, I wanted to check out the place. What a funny name!
The townships stretch along 60 kilometers of Highway 17. All the activities are located nearby the road, the rest is mostly wilderness.
After Pembroke, we headed to Deep River and spent the night there (more on that later). The following day, the weather was a little bit better, albeit chilly. We drove to Rapides-Des-Joachims, a small village located on an island in the middle of the Ottawa River.
To celebrate the last long week-end of the summer (Labour Day was today), we decided to take a short trip to rural Canada. We hit the road on Saturday morning and followed the bumpy Trans-Canada highway. Our first stop was in Pembroke, Ontario, 150 km from Ottawa.
After a few days in Toronto, we had decided to drive to Niagara Falls on January 1st. I was curious to see the falls in the winter. Because the weather had been relatively mild in Toronto, we had forgotten how cold it really was in the rest of Canada. An hour away from Toronto, it started to snow. In Niagara Falls, it was cold and windy and there were huge chunks if ice here and there in the water.
I will always remember the first time I came to Toronto.
It was in 2002, after our crazy long trip from Mexico to Brazil. I had never been to North America before and I wanted to see Canada, so I flew back to Toronto with Feng. It was February and I didn’t have any warm clothes after a few months in Latin America. The only jacket I had was a thin leather jacket I had bought in Argentina during the Peso crisis. Feng had warned me: it was going to be cold.
In Ottawa, we have the Rideau Canal. In Toronto, local polish their skating skills on Nathan Phillips Square, where the New Year celebrations took place.
Torontonians seemed to have a blast with friends and family as they were skating around the man-made ice rink that covers the square. I wanted to try it, but the queue at the skate rental was huge!
Dundas Square, located at the intersection of busy Yonge Street and Dundas street, is famous for hosting public events. This is one of the busiest intersection in Toronto. The square is surrounded on all sides by gigantic commercial billboards, which is fairly unique (and controversial) in Canada.
Past Chinatown, we ended up in another cute multicultural neighborhood: Kensington Market. The eclectic shops and cafés are stuck between Spadina and Little Italy. We spotted Latino, European, Middle-Eastern and North African small businesses and vintage stores in old Victorian houses.