To celebrate accepting a new exciting job, Luke and I took a three day weekend to Ottawa. Our last few planned trips had all been sidetracked for one reason or another, such as a wildfire closing Yosemite or the new job canceling a long weekend adventure to Arizona. As a result, I was experiencing the travel bug to an extreme. Ottawa had caught my eye quite a while ago as a result of their stunning Library of Parliament. After some further research we were excited to find out that the Montreal Canadians were playing at home the weekend of our trip and were only a short train ride away. With our trip now taking shape we were eagerly anticipating what would prove to be a fantastic whirl wind adventure.
After work Friday, we left as soon we got home for the airport. It should not be surprising to anyone who knows me well that as we were walking out the door I came to the realization that I’d somehow lost my credit card during the progress of the day. It was my go to travel card, Chase Sapphire Reserve, which doesn’t have foreign transaction fees, so my absentminded forgetfulness couldn’t have happened with worse timing. Thankfully, we were able to use our Apple Pay that was linked to my Chase account for the majority of our purchases in Canada from Uber rides to restaurants, limiting the fees we incurred. That mini crisis worked through, we arrived at the airport with plenty of time before our flight, eventually getting into Ottawa, specifically the Lord Elgin Hotel around midnight as a result of our plane being delayed. We’d selected this elegant old hotel for the location for our first night due to its convenient proximity to Parliament, which was our target for Saturday morning. Waking up early, we meandered to a Tim Hortons for donuts and coffee, the perfect way to begin any vacation in my husband’s opinion, before heading to the Parliament Hill to get tickets for the free tours. Arriving fifteen minutes early on a chilly Saturday morning we were surprised to find a line already extending out the door to get tour tickets. The ticket office was located directly across the street from the Centre Block and was impossible to miss with the big sign advertising the free tickets. Upon getting our tickets for the next possible tour we headed across the street to Centre Block where we passed through two levels of security before reaching the tour start. Centre Block is currently gearing up for major renovations and updating causing the building to close in January for 10-15 years. I was thankful we hit the ever narrowing window for this construction project as the Library of Parliament, which is located in Centre Block was a key motivator for Luke and I selecting this particular destination. I’m couldn’t find information regarding if the Library would still be accessible during the decade long closure, however what I can find indicates the Block will be closed to the public.
Tour of Parliament
Our tour guide, Noah was fantastic, breaking the ice immediately by cracking jokes and being chock full of facts. You’re warned before to the tour departs that depending on the activities currently taking place in Centre Block the tour might bypass some of the rooms depending on the governing body meeting. Thankfully, since our visit was taking place on a Saturday morning our tour was able to pass through all of the key rooms resulting in a tour of approximately 50 minutes.
House of Commons Foyer
House of Commons Chamber
It should be no surprised that my favorite part of probably our whole trip was the Library of Parliament. As there were other tour groups waiting we only spent five minutes in this remarkable room, where I could have likely hunkered down all morning. The Library has a very different feel than the rest of Parliament, as the result of the 1916 fire in which Centre Block completely burned but the Library was saved due to some quick thinking individuals. The photos speak for themselves as to the level of carved detail spread throughout this breathtaking library.
Click here for our post on the Library of Parliament!
Following our tour we wandered around the exterior of the Centre Block. We couldn’t complete a full circuit as much of the area was roped off for the construction that was gearing up for the January closure date. The river and canal view along with the exterior of the library were well worth the walk in the biting wind, despite all the barricades we had to navigate around.
After giving into the chilly wind, we turned around and headed back to the hotel where we packed and checked out for our Montreal day trip. I’ll save the Montreal trip for its own post but I’ll detail our amusing walk to what I thought was the train station. After checking out of the hotel I typed in the address for Ottawa Central and we set out on our twenty five minute walk to the station. We stopped along the way to pick out delicious cookies for the train ride from Boko Bakery and also to get lunch (aka warm up from the cold walk). Sadly upon Googling Boko Bakery for a website we learned after the fact that the store closed November 25th! I’d love their S’more cookie recipe! When we finally arrived at Ottawa Central Station I was less than amused in my semi frozen state to have Luke pointing out the lack of train tracks anywhere around us. After some quick Googling and much laughing I realize I’d directed us to bus station instead of the train station, which we needed to take a taxi to get to. Thankfully we’d arrived early enough that even with this unforeseen delay we avoided any stress and made it to the train with time to spare.
Click here for our 24 Hours in Montreal highlights!
After adventuring around Montreal for 24 hours we made our way back to Ottawa Sunday afternoon. Throughout our visit we’d observed many, many people wearing poppy pins to commemorate Remembrance Day. We missed the majority of the events (parades and speeches) surrounding this holiday while in Montreal however after dinner we made our way to the National War Memorial where tradition has people leaving their poppies and wreaths around the base of the monument, creating a somber and touching scene.
Afterward we continued to the Centre Block again where falling poppies were actively being projected against the front facade of the prominent building. Thoroughly chilled to the bone at this point we headed back to the Byward Market area where we popped into the Lowertown Brewery. Always excited to try new breweries, we were treated to some mediocre beer at best while we warmed up. Afterward, we ventured out into the cold again to take the obligatory touristy of the illuminated Ottawa sign before escaping back to the warmth of the hotel.
We did treat ourselves to a delicious Ottawa must-have before we called it a night, the beaver tail! Translating the beaver tail to Michigan terminology, this dessert is an elephant ear covered in your choice of topping. We personally went with the apple pie filling and were not disappointed.
Our hotel Andaz Ottawa Byward Market was ideally located in the heart of Byward Market area and afforded stunning landscape views of the heart of Ottawa. The hotel itself was modern and chic, while providing beautiful views. From our hotel window we could see Byward Market, Parliament Hill and Ottawa’s Notre Dame Cathedral. The top floor of this hotel contains a patio and space heaters that we didn’t discover till the next morning.
Following a good nights rest, Luke and I got up early for some more exploring around Ottawa. As it was our last day in this capital city, we only had a loose idea of what we wanted to accomplish after getting breakfast. As an avid enemy of any thing resembling a spider making our way to the Maman statue outside the National Art Gallery was a must. There was active construction taking place around the statue and the museum itself was closed so we continued aimlessly walking, which couldn’t have worked out more perfect. By following the path around the National Art Gallery we made our way to Nepean Point, which provided a fantastic look out of Parliament Hill.
Ottawa’s Notre Dame Cathedral
Nepean Point Views
After making our way back we crossed the street in front of the National Art Gallery into Major’s Hill Park, where we were treated to even better views of Parliament. From here we meandered up along the Locks which took up along the Fairmont Chateau Laurier. In a few months the canal will be a buzz with activity as it will be turned into the world’s largest skating ring. Alas, we missed the cold weather snap (not that I’m complaining) and it appears as though construction is taking place on the canals resulting in current lower levels, marring what for the majority of the year is a most picturesque scene.
Following this morning walk we made our way back to Parliament Hill and beyond where we continued past to the Canadian National Library. Unfortunately, the bulk of the library is closed to the public, although we were able to thaw out in the front lobby for our walk back. From here we made our way back to the hotel to check out before getting lunch at The Grand Pizzeria.
After lunch we took one more leisurely walk down Sprinkle Road and along Parliament Hill before stopping for coffee and calling an Uber back to the airport for our flight home. Thoroughly enjoying our trip, we already have new Canadian adventures in our near future from Halifax to Calgary!