The last trip I took before the COVID-19 pandemic grounded my travel plans for the next 21 months… was to Ottawa for a little family reunion with my brother and his family. At the time he was living in Waterloo, Ontario and neither of us had ever visited Canada’s capital… so we decided to make the most of their proximity and I flew out to join them for the Family Day long weekend.
Having grown up on the West Coast, I’m not acclimatized to the typical Canadian winters that the rest of the country experiences but I did my best to dress for the -15°C temperatures and was determined to tough it out. And to my delight I held up rather well for our outdoor activities.
Skating on the Rideau Canal
We really weren’t sure if the weather would be cold enough (I can’t believe I’m even saying that) to be able to skate on the Rideau Canal but we were super lucky and had ideal conditions to check off this iconic Canadian activity. My brother is actually a very good skater from his childhood hockey days and it was really fun to get back on the ice with him. I ended up pushing my niece for most of the time in her little sled which I low-key loved because it definitely kept me balanced when those uneven bumps came out of nowhere. We also made sure to grab a famous Beaver Tail and Hot Apple Cider to enjoy from one of the convenient snack huts on the ice.
I really wasn’t expecting to enjoy visiting parliament as much as I did. The one hour tour was actually a really interesting peak inside our government. I especially enjoyed getting to visit the interim House of Commons that has been constructed inside the courtyard at the centre of the West Block, which even has a glass roof sealing it off from the outside but still allowing lots of natural light. Architecturally, it was really unique and interesting and I’ve read that it’s quite eco-friendly too.
Crossing the Border to Gatineau
Ottawa is actually just across the river/bridge from Quebec, and when combined with neighbouring Gatineau, form the National Capital Region. We took advantage of the beautiful sunny day to visit the Snowflake Kingdom at Jacques-Cartier Park and enjoy the family friendly activities like snow tubing and interactive ice sculptures. This was definitely the trip highlight for my niece, if her squeals could tell the story.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but after this trip I wouldn’t get to see my family for a year and a half due to pandemic travel restrictions. And while that time of separation was heartbreaking, I was so grateful that I had made the extra effort to visit them in Ontario one last time before they moved back to BC. Among many lessons the pandemic has taught me, one that always rises to the top is to make the most of every opportunity. You never know when your time with loved ones will be cut short or taken away and I will never regret making these memories.
So, thanks Ottawa, I’ll always remember you.