Ottawa Trip Part 3: A Tourist in Ottawa

Ottawa, ON
Gatineau, QC (Map)

Winter 2010.


In Ottawa, one of the things I was most excited for was finally skating on the Rideau Canal.

The canal has always been used as an unofficial skating rink, but it was in the 1970s that the city finally accepted it as a tourist destination & began clearing 7.8km of ice surface for skaters.

My feet hurt a bit because the booth didn't have any skates my size, but it was still fun to skate full speed for kilometre after kilometre.

That is until you hit the patches of snow where everyone stops at the food stands. I narrowly avoided falling down the first time, but completely fell face-first at the second snow patch (they're hard to see).

Thankfully the nearby group of teens were more shocked by my fall than amused. I'm not a big fan of being laughed at when I'm in pain.

My Ottawa friends insisted that I have a Beaver Tail while I was out skating. It's a fried pastry thing, with spices sprinkled atop, and it was pretty damn good.

I had two.

It was also funny when the Beaver Tail girl figured out I had never been to Ottawa & tried to console me, "it's okay. Some people just aren't really into traveling & don't get to very many places."

"That is true," I replied, before continuing back to the start of the canal.

Nothing better than a 16km(10mi) skate.

I believe my friends expect me to find the abandoned buildings in whatever city I find myself in, but I couldn't find all too much in Ottawa.

The above picture is of a mill I found online. It was under renovation & about 20 workers were climbing all over it.

Legal graffiti wall near my hotel.

Ottawa could have a lighthouse along the Ottawa River...and actually, there are lighthouses upstream from Ottawa.

That being said, getting to the Ottawa lighthouse doesn't involve walking along the river's shoreline. It involved going to the OC Transpo website to figure out bus lines & timetables.

After 20 minutes of bus riding & 5 minutes of walking, I found myself in front of the Cape Race Lighthouse.

Wait, the Cape Race Lighthouse?

Attentive readers of this website may remember the fact that I've visited the Cape Race Lighthouse in Newfoundland. You see, this is the 1856 Cape Race Lighthouse, which was built by the Trinity House (Britain's navigation authority). Now in 1907, this light was moved to Cape North in Sydney, Nova Scotia, after they built the second Cape Race Lighthouse back in Newfoundland. Some time after, the first Cape Race Lighthouse was moved a second time, from Nova Scotia to the front lawn of the Canadian Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa.

Whereas the other museums I saw in Ottawa were situated in pleasant settings, the Cape Race Lighthouse sits with its museum in an area of strip malls, 4-lane mini-highways & golden arches®.

It was a funny thing to be walking down a typical busy, non-inviting, Ontario road...and then spot a bright, checkered lighthouse ahead.

Afterward, I knew I was a good distance from downtown, but decided to walk it anyway. This didn't work out for me though, as I made a wrong turn in my walk & ended up walking about 14km (8mi). Most of it was through harsh strip malls & heavy traffic like the above picture - so it wasn't as if I hurt my feet walking through interesting areas.

The next night I walked over the bridge & into Quebec.

Over in Gatineau, the Olympiques were taking on the Quebec Remparts at the Robert Guertin Arena.

The Robert Guertin Arena was built in 1952 and it was exactly what I was searching for.

Drummondville's arena was a step in the right direction, but Gatineau was the old barn which I sought. With every community constructing a soulless, megacomplex of an arena nowadays; it was magnificent to walk into Gatineau's palace and witness old time hockey.

I initially circled the arena while checking out the handrails, then found the entryway on the parking lot side of the building. Through a set of 8 doors, the ticket windows were right there and the crowd was thick. Many fans already had their tickets & moved along; meanwhile I picked up my reserved tickets & was eventually past the ushers myself. Down a few steps there were small food stands & the Olympiques store. The leftward hallway seemed to lead to official areas & the other hallway remained a mystery because of congestion. Walking straight, I immediately found the ice surface itself. Up the seating area stairs & it wasn't long before I was atop the concourse and near the ceiling - people were jammed just about everywhere. I had a big, dumb smile on my face.

I had seats in the 3rd row, right at the end.

A frenchman, who made have had a few pops, was sitting in front of me & would throw his hat in the air after every Olympiques goal. As his hat was in the air, his hands would turn into imaginary six-shooters and he'd fire away at the airborne target.

In addition to his entertainment, the value of the game was also added to by how many people around me seemed genuinely interested in the game. This didn't seem like a "there's nothing better to do in Gatineau" crowd, but more so a crowd which went out of their way to see the Quebec Remparts lose tonight.

Of course I had to have the customary QMJHL poutine.

Gatineau's was too small, but it was really good. Let's give it a 7/10.

The other thing worth mentioning is that I thought my backside would hurt from sitting in wood seats for 3 hours, but Gatineau's seats were actually fantastic in terms of space & legroom. I've been far more uncomfortable in seats 40 years younger than these.

Also, if you're surprised by the antiquity of those seats, you should have seen the bathrooms!

Anyway, once the game ended I took my time leaving, as I figured it would be a long time before I returned to Gatineau...and now I read that this may certainly have been my last time at the Robert Guertin Arena, as Gatineau is working to get a 5000-seat facility built on the site.

It's a shame, maybe my problem is going to see too high of hockey leagues.

When I woke the next morning, my feet hurt as a result of walking back from Cape Race, and to Gatineau.

I could rest when I was back in Newfoundland though. I needed to walk around Parliament.

Two and a half years after seeing America's capital, I finally saw Canada's.

There are enough imposing buildings & architectural details to spend hours walking around the Parliament area.

The main entryway to Parliament was particularly kickass - especially as Ontario's coat of arms was atop the archway, where it belongs.

I also had to laugh when I found a Newfie protesting gay marriage outside Parliament.

I limped another 3 kilometres up Elgin Street to the Canadian Museum of Nature.

Hearing the museum was housed in Ottawa's only castle, I knew I certainly wanted to see it. That's one thing I learned from Washington, is that national capitals preserve more buildings because of their prominence & all of the government money.

I didn't visit the actual museum, but I did walk inside & check out the lobby/vestibule.

You better believe I was particularly infatuated with this panel of bird-themed stain glass windows.

(...although mine would go Oystercatcher, Oriole, Cardinal, Night Heron in my own home.)

Returning towards downtown, I was wearing my Bruins jersey today since I had to leave my belongings in hotel storage since I wasn't staying another night in Ottawa. It was because of this that I had to eat at some boring bar, as I questioned how a certain basement establishment would have taken to my non-Senators pride.

The only incident of note was some guy coming up to me & telling me that we got Kaberle & Chris Kelly (it was trade deadline day).

Leaving the forgettable bar, I limped another 4 kilometres over to the Canadian Museum of War, then limped around there for a couple more hours.

The above picture shows Hitler's Benzo that we confiscated at the end of the war.

Overall, the museum wasn't half bad & I actually learned a couple of things.

I also found it funny when I noticed a picture of a Windsor school that I biked at in Mortar.

(There was a display about General Brock & all of the things named after him.)

Leaving the museum, the sun was falling lower in the sky as I walked back downtown yet again.

I went a different way & ended up on a trail near the Ottawa river. I couldn't complain as I emerged from a tunnel and found a great view of the breathtaking Parliament Library (which is on the back of Canadian $10 bills).

Although it was a beautiful day & I would have loved to have continued exploring, my feet were done. I found a Chapters and sat down to read BMX magazines and the newest Esquire.

Eventually a couple of hours would pass & it was time to get my tickets. I went to the sports store which sells them and the girl looked confused when I gave her my name, "there's only one ticket?" she inquired.

"Yes, yes. There's only one."

I found this all very humorous and went outside to wait for the bus. The sea of black & gold sweaters was heartwarming & we might have actually outnumbered Sens fans.

Also, if you're wondering why I didn't make my way over to the arena while walking around downtown, it's because Ottawa's brilliant politicians decided to put it out in Kanata, Ontario (about 25km away from downtown).

Scotiabank Place was your standard 1990s ice hockey structure.

Boston won the game & we all left happy - and if they wouldn't have lost in Buffalo at New Year's, I'd now be 6-fot-6 at seeing Boston win in NHL Arenas.

It was also neat that Kaberle made it into the game & I witnessed his Boston debut firsthand. Chris Kelly also made it, but he only had to leave the Sens dressing room & move to the visiting Bruins room. The Senators played a nice tribute for Kelly.

After the game, our bus driver found himself double parked in like a dumbass. After 25 minutes of that, we finally got going & made it back downtown in 30 or 40 additional minutes.

From there, I went to the hotel, retrieved my luggage, rolled it on its broken wheel for 2km to the Greyhound station & rode the Greyhound down to Toronto to hang out with Ingram & A.I. for the weekend.

The above Sunday picture shows a greasy "Texas Omelette" of chili, cheese & omelette; which was mucho needed after beers the night prior.

I rode the subway with Ingram, then boarded the bus to the airport, then walked to my plane.

I didn't think I'd like Ottawa, but it surprised me. I almost could see myself living there. It's not in my top 10 favourite cities, but it made enough of an impression that I would consider relocating there. It's not a bad place.



1 - Wikipedia - Rideau Canal

2 - Wikipedia - Robert Guertin Centre

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