By lunchtime on Monday morning, we set our foot on Canadian ground for the first time of our lives, after landing in Ottawa. Even from the air, you could actually see how different it is from the USA. The flow of the traffic was different, with much fewer cars, and there were bike lanes running next to the major roads.
Even at the airport, the atmosphere was very different. OK, Ottawa Airport is *much* smaller than O’Hare, so maybe I shouldn’t compare. But people were so quiet, there was no running or shouting and no one seemed to be in a hurry.
As we found the bus, we were the first to arrive at the bus stop. We were very surprised–and amused–to see that people were forming a very formal and strict line behind us! Totally different from both the US and Sweden. We had to take a picture. 😀
The bus got very crowded after a while, and I had to stand up and squeeze my bag into a narrow space beside a man who was there with his wife and their young daughter. As he brought out a pack of chewing gums for his wife, he spontaneously offered me one as well!
The bus ride turned out to be a very interesting trip since we didn’t realize the bus had passed our stop–it was actually called something different than we thought. Canada was still showing its best side, though, since the bus driver offered to take us back for free, after a quick bathroom break at the final stop!
Eventually we made it to the hotel, “Hotel Indigo” in downtown Ottawa, and checked in. The hotel is in fact really nice, and it’s definitely not called “Indigo” for no reason–even the phones are blue, and the lobby is beautiful. The only drawback is that the doors are a little thin.
After dropping off the bags, we took a little stroll along what appeared to be the main street. We realized that we were probably in the middle of the business district since most of the finer restaurants we passed were only open for lunch. In fact, most of this part of the city seemed to be asleep after 7 pm! Eventually, though, we found a place called 79th North, and had our long awaited dinner. It was really nice sitting outside, since this was a very hot day–28° C even after 5 pm!
On Tuesday, we rose early and went down to the lobby where Barbara, a woman I know from the William and Elyse’s due South forum met up with us to show us around in Ottawa. After grabbing a quick breakfast we headed off towards the parliament to see the changing of the guards. It was very impressive as the old guard entered, led by a number of bagpipers. In a few moments, the new guard entered, along with a marching band.
In the midst of the ceremony, however, the rain started pouring down and just wouldn’t stop. We did stick around until the end, but by then we were so soaked that our clothes were clinging to our backs. After a change at the hotel room (Barbara borrowed a sweater from me) we headed out to something I’ve been looking forward to seeing for a long time–the Royal Canadian Mounted Police stables in Ottawa!
Unfortunately, most of the horses were away on tour with the Musical Ride, but there were still some Mounties and horses left at the stable. You could see them riding a few of the horses inside an outdoor paddock about a hundred meters away, but since the rain was still pouring down, you didn’t really feel like going down there (I doubt they’d allowed us to get that close anyway).
Instead, we walked around in the museum and took a guided tour around the stable. Unfortunately, we weren’t allow to cuddle the horses, but we passed very closely near their stalls, and there were some Mounties in there too, taking care of their horses. You could clearly see the bonds between the horses and their masters; it was truly heartwarming.
The horses must have been some of the biggest horses I’ve seen–I reckon most of them are just a little under two meters at the withers. But they all seemed very gentle, well groomed and naturally curious.
What I found a bit odd is that some of them actually have standing stalls where they can’t lie down at night. Apparently, this is rotated every two weeks, so they all get bigger stalls once in a while, but in Sweden, it would have been unacceptable; our laws are very strict when it comes to stall measurements, even if the stalls are rotated. I’m not in any way suggesting that the RCMP are mistreating their horses, but it’s just a fact that the rules differ between countries.
After the visit at the stables we headed back to the city center and found a really nice restaurant, thanks to Barbara, that offered wood fired oven made pizzas. Since it was still raining, we made it a rather early night and returned to our hotel room, where we mostly watched the Robin Williams memorials (I was so shocked to hear of his passing! 🙁 ) and some e-mailing with people attending the convention.
On Wednesday, Barbara met us at the lobby at 11, and after grabbing a quick brunch at Starbucks, we took a stroll around the War Monument and the Rideau Canal.
Barbara insisted she should pay for our late lunch/early dinner at another really nice restaurant called “Black Thorn Bar.” I had a fantastic lamb burger with a caesar salad on the side.
After saying goodbye to Barbara and dropping off some stuff at the hotel, I and Erika went out for another evening stroll. Unfortunately we’d forgotten that there was actually a fireworks contest going on this evening, so we missed it. But we could hear it from our hotel!
I also bought a very cheap souvenir (CAD $2.50! 😉 ) which definitely fits into my suitcase. 😉
Ottawa is such a beautiful city!!! We both feel that we really could have needed a few more days here–there’s just not enough time to see everything! And we’re so grateful that Barbara took her time (actually, she took two days off!) to show us around! There are so many amazing sites–including, of course, the RCMP stables–that we’d never would have found (or thought about!) without her! 🙂