Winter has got me reminiscing about warmer days and the understated luxury of T-shirt weather. What better way to beat the winter blues than a trip down memory lane, to sunnier times? My family took a trip to Ottawa in the summer of 2021, our first time there. The city made an impression on me in that quiet understated manner of a city that is beautiful without trying too hard. Come along with me as I recount the experience.
We got there by…
Train. We took the Via Rail train from Union Station in Toronto, making a few stops along the way, and disembarked at the Ottawa Via Rail station. Travel time is an average of 4 hours 30 minutes, but we spent nearly 6 hours on the train due to a one hour delay at Oshawa. Anyway, it was such a scenic route! I particularly enjoyed the picturesque beach views along Coburg.
We stayed at…
The Business Inn & Suites, downtown. My top priority for accommodation on this trip was proximity to the Nigeria High Commission, as we had business there. After checking out a few places online and reading more reviews than I care for, I settled on this place. It was nothing fancy, but I’ll rate it a 10/10 based on a few factors;
Firstly and most importantly for me, cleanliness! To know me is to know how squeamish I am about germs. At this hotel I felt truly comfortable with the level of cleanliness, a rarity for me. Secondly the layout. Just like the name, the target guests are business travelers looking to stay a few days and the layout reflects this. Each suite has a decent-sized kitchen, and an office setup equipped with a computer and printer at no extra charge! Breakfast was included, there were so many options and you could take as much as you wanted back to your room. The location was within a walking distance to the Parliament Hill and much of the downtown attractions. The price point was also right for my pocket, so win-win.
Out and about…
We got to our hotel at about 7pm and did not step out until the next morning. Our first point of call was the Nigeria High Commission to renew our passports. Not the best experience, but also not the worst. The queue to get in was long and a tad disorganized, but once you got in everything moved smoothly.
With business out of the way, up next was the fun part. What better way to begin a tour of Ottawa than a visit to the Parliament Hill? We explored the grounds, and the architect in me was delighted! The buildings and surroundings felt like something out of a charming European city. Renovations were ongoing and there were no guided tours of the buildings unfortunately.
The Parliament Hill overlooks the stunning Ottawa River, with views of Gatineau in the Province of Quebec. The sunset views were everything! The Escarpment Stairway connects the Hill with the River, and provides visitors with a stroll through a forest with up close views of the River. We didn’t take the stairway because we had our toddler in a stroller, but it’s definitely worth exploring.
We also visited a suburb in Kanata on the west side of the city. This was pretty uneventful, we just stayed at a neighbourhood park and let our son play.
On the morning of our return, we decided to cross over to the Quebec side and explore a bit of the French-speaking Province since Gatineau was only a short drive from the hotel. We checked out of the hotel and took an Uber to Jacques-Cartier Park in Gatineau. The park was closed due to ongoing maintenance, but we visited a trail along the River with views of the Ottawa side.
What began as an uneventful visit to Gatineau turned into a nerve-wracking moment for me when I tried to book a taxi to the train station and realized ride-shares like Uber and Lyft are not permitted in Gatineau! With barely 30 minutes to our train’s departure time, we searched frantically for other options. We finally were able to call a taxi, not without explanation over the phone a few times that we do not speak French. I really should take my French lessons seriously.
We got to the train station just in time, and were one of the last people to board. I’m so glad we didn’t miss our train, as much as I enjoyed Ottawa I was excited to head home to the hustle and bustle of Toronto.
My thoughts about the city…
Ottawa has my heart! I didn’t spend enough time to explore much but I think the city is laid back in a way that suits my personality. Maybe it’s the busyness of Toronto that has me yearning for more calm, but even the air felt different there. It comes across as a pretty boring city if you’re all about that city life, but I can see why it would be a nature-lover’s paradise.