Capturing the beauty if fall colours is a yearly challenge.
It all comes down to luck and timing, the window of opportunity is small.
In Ottawa, summer—or rather Indian summer—can last for a while. Sure, nights are cooler and it’s good to have a sweater handy for chilly mornings but trees are still green and leafy. But as soon as you spot some red or yellow, you have to act fast. A day of gusty winds can ruin fall foliage, a night of rain can make them fall before they fully develop colour.
You have to pick your spots carefully as well. Each neighbourhood displays fall colours according to a mysterious schedule, wind exposure and altitude. For instance, trees always turn red and yellow earlier in the Gatineau Hills than in downtown Ottawa. Locals do trade tips online and we have several official “fall colours reports” and “fall foliage maps.”
Finally, pray that you’re ahead of the 45,000 tour buses full of visitors with super long zooms. Fall colours tours are a major attraction in Eastern Ontario.
“Eh, Feng, if we lose each other, just look for the only Westerner in Rideau Hall,” I joked at the massive entrance gate. We were surrounded by Chinese tourists from Canada or overseas shouting to each other in Cantonese.
“Is this a big park?” Mark asked.
“By French standards, it’s huge. By Canadian standards, it’s just a big backyard.”
The top fall colours spot in Ottawa is usually Gatineau Park, just across the river. But going to Gatineau Park on Thanksgiving weekend is for masochists or early birds only—in fact, for the second day in a row, one of the main entrances was temporarily closed due to heavy traffic.
Gatineau Park covers 361 km2, yet traffic was exceeding network capacity. That’s how popular fall colours are.
So we headed to Rideau Hall, home of the Governor General. Some trees were stunning but I found colours hadn’t peaked yet.
At 5 p.m., the Chinese tourists and the three of us were kicked out—the park was closing.
We walked down the street and found two absolutely perfect trees behind a wall on Alexander Street.
Remember what I said about luck and timing? Sometimes, the most picturesque trees are not in parks but just outside, a block from a major road.
“Which way now?”
“Don’t know… when in doubt, go to the river, as the Canadian saying goes.”
So we kept on walking through the embassy district towards the Ottawa River.
“Holy shit… I think that’s exactly why everybody loves Canada,” I muttered to myself.
I had totally forgotten how stunning the view is from this spot where the Rideau River meets the Ottawa River.
Picture the Rideau Falls dropping into the Ottawa River, a fall rhapsody just across in Quebec, a single boat on the water, soft late-day sunlight…
Actually, don’t try to picture it, just scroll down. I captured the moment.
Right place, right time.