Faith Can Move Mountains... But Dynamite Works Better

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The City And The Valley

Talli went with the theme of reasons in her blog why she loves London. And so I thought I'd do the same for my home, Ottawa, Gatineau, and the Valley beyond. Yes, once you ignore the politicians (a wretched pack, the lot of them) and the civil servants (soulless automatons), it's a wonderful place to live.

And so, in no particular order, here we go....

Winterlude: Our annual celebration of the winter. From ice sculptures to snow sculptures, from skating to Beavertails (no, not that; get your minds out of the gutter), it's three weeks of a true celebration of the best season of the year. And I really recommend seeing fireworks in a snowstorm with the temperatures well below zero, by the way.

Music: We've got festivals for jazz, blues, folk, and chamber music (though would someone tell the Blues Festival that rap is not the blues?). We have a series of nightclubs and pubs catering to all sorts of musical tastes. We have big acts coming through all the time (incidentally, I'm attending the Great Big Sea concert in a few days). And we have the National Arts Centre Orchestra, led by one of the world's great conductors. In short, something for everyone.

The Byward Market: Ground zero for pubs, shops, boutiques, bakeries, and various forms of entertainment, plus a warren of cobblestone courtyards; it's a frequent stomping ground for me.

Pakenham: A small village to the west, alongside the Mississippi River (no, not that one). A picturesque place, and home to the only five arch stone bridge in North America. I've stopped here on many occasions, and it's a tranquil, peaceful place, and the bridge not only blends in with nature, but enhances it.

The Arboretum: A park near my university, wonderful for walking, photography, and peace and quiet. An oasis of calm in the heart of the city.

The National Gallery: Ottawa has a collection of art galleries, and this one is the main attraction. Home to an exceptional collection of Canadian and international art (my personal favourite is a marble sculpture of a dancer), the Gallery is a great place to spend a day. From the glass enclosed structure to the extensive Group of Seven collection to the Convent chapel faithfully restored in its walls, it's got something for all artistic tastes. And yes, for you Canadians, this is the spot that has the Death of General Wolfe painting you've all seen in school. So there.

Just try to ignore their poor judgment for once spending a million dollars on a painting featuring three stripes on a canvas. Hell, I could paint this:

The Barron Canyon: Up the valley in Algonquin Park's east flank, it's a stunning place to hike, paddle or cross country ski. The rock walls are incredible to behold.

Di Rienzo's: An delicatessan in the heart of Little Italy, it's been a mainstay for decades, and happens to be my primary source of food (okay, so I can't cook). Their sandwiches are consistently rated the best in the city, so much so that people who know of it from further away ask their Ottawa friends to bring some when they come out to visit.

Trillium Bakery: Mmmm, good cookies!

Museums: We have museums dedicated to civilization, aviation, science and technology, war, nature, agriculture, local history, and even a jail museum. If you're fond of history, you can spend days among the collections. Oh, and three of those museums are haunted. I'll let you guess which ones.

Nepean Point: A high point behind the Gallery, overlooking Gatineau, the river, and Parliament Hill, it's an ideal spot to stop on a sunny afternoon and take in the view. It's topped with a statue of Champlain, looking upriver, to the future. Or wondering if he dropped his house keys in Montreal.


The Rideau Canal: A great stretch of waterways from Kingston to Ottawa, it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with boats travelling its length in the summers and skaters in the winter in the city. And of course the tulips can be found along its route in May.

Wakefield: A small village up the Gatineau Valley by car (or a tourists' steam train if you're so inclined). It's a nice spot, peaceful and away from it all. Among its sights are a beautiful covered bridge and the final resting place of one of our best Prime Ministers, Lester Pearson.

The Upper Valley: From Arnprior up to the village of Mattawa, the river has a collection of small towns and villages with real character, extraordinary stretches of water and landscape, and an ever deepening valley. I love the drive up the valley, ending in Mattawa, where the promontories seem to plunge right down into the river.

Gatineau Park: The park offers great opportunities for hiking, swimming, skiing, and climbing, depending on the season. It's outstanding for fall colours, looks beautiful the rest of the year, and in the midst of it all, we've got the Mackenzie King estate, bestowed on us Canucks by the Prime Minister himself.

Canada Day: Every Canadian should make it here at least once for our national birthday. The place goes crazy. In a really good way.


  1. First of all, I'm really surprised PM Harper was not on your list. Your fondness for him is legendary.

    I LOVE the snow sculpture! (But then, all of the photos are beautiful.) The Arboretum made me realize I'd forgotten to include our Botanical Gardens on my list!

    Fireworks in a snowstorm...brrrrrrr!

  2. Great Pics!! I've skated on the Rideau, and eaten Beavertails...and we've been to Ottawa during the Canada Day festivities...of course, this was a long time ago...haven't been there in probably 11 years...

    Oh, and I know that you don't like Harper, but please tell me that you can't stand McGuinty--the weasel...

  3. Okay, those pics, especially of the 5 arch bridge are just really awesome. I have to agree with Norma, that snow sculpture rocks.

  4. beautiful pictures as usual, what kind of camera do you use?

  5. Loved the Barron Canyon picture, but who stuck the big garish fake tulip in front of your museum? Next you'll have plastic pink flamingos and garden gnomes. Wacky Canadians!

  6. @ Beth: of course not! I'm voting NDP in the next provincial election!

    @ Norma: fondness for Herr Harperfuhrer? Where would you get such an idea?

    @ Joanna: they're not my pics, though I've taken very similar shots. I'm still using 35 mm film, at least until my camera dies. I should really scan some of my pics for uploading....

  7. @ Mike: the polar bear's real....

    @ Karla: they've got quite a few of those fake tulips around during the festival, particularly around the international pavillions. Some of them are painted in really interesting ways... and some tend to go for the garish.

  8. No guesses on the haunted museums, huh?

  9. AH! You have mentioned ALL my favourite things about Ottawa - seriously! Especially Wakefield!

  10. Ottowa looks amazing - but do tell us, who painted the three stripes, and do they run classes?

  11. Let's see here... it looks like it could have been done by a chimp, but...

    The artist likely does teach a class called How To Scam Curators Out Of A Million Dollars.

  12. Ottawa is bautiful! What a great place to live; I'm jealous:). But that 3 stripes on a canvas for a million dollars--PLLLLEASE!! My nine year old could be more creative.

  13. Hi William

    Good to read your list of Ottawa hotspots. Your photos are stunning!


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