A New York Times article about Ottawa recently came through my feed, and seeing that Ottawa was now an awesome place to visit for 36 hours, I decided that I should revisit my home city and see what’s changed in the last couple of years.
Ottawa Train Station, 11:30 a.m.
It’s easy to just hop on VIA rail and zip into Ottawa from most any city in Canada. Enjoying Pringles that the VIA staff will grudgingly sell you, you can look out the window at all the beautiful scenery speeding by, and then, when the train mysteriously stops, you can invest some more time in trying to connect to VIA’s Wifi service. (Note to self/savvy travellers: avoid “Children Travel For Free” promo day!)
Arriving at the station, it is -72 out. In spite of a queue of angry, freezing cabbies, my mother — who thought I looked pale and “certainly hadn’t changed for the better” — picked me up and drove me to my lodging (my parent’s home).
The Dominion, 4:00 p.m.
This venerable drinking space is an awesome spot to unwind, especially when feeling stressed after spending a couple of hours with your parents. Stay till close, then take an Uber home — or at least I think it was an Uber. Those Ottawans sure are friendly!
Parliament Hill, 11:30 a.m.
As it is Canada’s 150th birthday this year, it’s a good time to visit the office of sexy Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau! If you’re lucky, he might do the plank for you. Take a guided tour and think about what a wicked paintball facility it would make.
National Art Gallery, 2:30 p.m.
Like Parliament Hill, you will also notice that the National Art Gallery would make for an awesome paintball facility. Check out many of the closed exhibition spaces and wonder if maybe they’re actually open and you just don’t “get” modern art.
Bar Politics, 6:30 p.m.
All manner of government worker and dressy alcoholic descend on Metropolitain for Hill Hour (4-7 weeknights) to gossip about Justin Trudeau and his singing wife. By 8:00 though, they have all poured into any one of a multitude of Irish themed pubs in historic Bytown Market in order to seek out their Tinder dates. It’s kind of like Mardi Gras, only with government ID passes around people’s necks instead of beads (and no nudity).
Food Banks, 9:45 p.m.
Head down to Elgin Street were you’ll find a galaxy of similar-feeling restaurants, all catering to the type of urbanists who haven’t yet figured out that the word “foodie” is an insult, not a compliment. If you see an ex-girlfriend having an intimate dinner with a bearded man you don’t recognize, you might feel weird … the kind of weird that stays with you for a long time. You might end up in a fight with some drunk people on the street and not remember why.
Rideau Canal, 11:30 a.m.
For several days of every year, the historic Ottawa canal is frozen and open to the public as a rink. If you are lucky enough to find one of these days, and survive the extreme cold as you skate through the wind trench, you will be honoured by the locals with the title, “Diable d’eau glacée.”
Ottawa General Hospital, 1:00 p.m.
Experience Canada’s excellent health care system in this charming and modern hospital where they will treat your mild frost bite for free. The majority of prescription medications are paid for by Justin Trudeau! Sunny ways, indeed!
The Other Half, 3:00 p.m.
Take a complicated bus route across the historic Alexandra Bridge to Gatineau, the Francophone half of Canada’s National Capital Region. This is Quebec, and they sell beer and wine in the corner stores here, as well as boasting a casino where you can make all your dreams come true. So you might want to linger, even if your mother keeps calling to remind you not to be late for your train departure.