A Weekend in Our Nation’s Capital (Ottawa, Ontario)

We’ve been having a really nice spring and decided to travel by motorcycle to Ottawa to play tourist for a long weekend. Unfortunately, the week before our trip the weather turned cold and the weathermen were calling for rain. So our motorcycle trip became a car trip.

Friday morning at home was a beautiful day even if it was a bit cool. The drive to Peterborough is not particularly interesting for us as we both drive it everyday for work; if you haven’t done this drive, I’m sure you would still enjoy it.  We thoroughly enjoyed the trip along Highway 7 from Peterborough toward Ottawa. Lots to see as we drove along — farms, lakes, swamps, beaver dams, beaver houses, rivers, provincial parks, picnic areas. I was hoping to see elk like we had on a previous trip but no such luck.

Once we got to Perth, we detoured off Hwy 7. We ended up having an unscheduled break in Merrickville as we arrived in town just as the swing bridge on the Rideau Canal needed to open. A couple large boats were going through the locks. It’s always fun to watch the boats go through the locks.

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The Rideau Canal runs from Kingston to Ottawa, a total of 202 kilometres, with 47 sets of locks.

The reason we had detoured off Hwy 7 was to visit Guildcrest Homes in Morewood. Guildcrest Homes makes modular homes (no, not trailers). Very nice modular homes. Al and are considering what we want to do when we retire in about 6 or 7 years. One of the options is to buy a piece of property and have a modular home added to the site. We had seen a couple model homes from Guildcrest at the Cottage Life Show in Toronto earlier in the spring and were curious to see their facility in Morewood. As well as the plant, they have three model homes for viewing. All three were larger than what we are considering but they were fun to check-out. As well, Sean, the sales manager, was quite willing to take us on an impromptu tour of the plant even though it was closed. Apparently the plant closes every other Friday for a long weekend. Nice! I need those hours. The tour was really interesting as Sean explained the manufacturing process, the advantages of a house built indoors, and answered all our questions. We’re not sure that this is the route that we’ll take but we definitely feel more confident about the quality of the build now that we’ve seen it ourselves.

Guildcrest was only about an hour from our hotel in downtown Ottawa so it was a direct route into Ottawa from there. We had booked into Les Suites because I’d stayed there years ago with some girlfriends and knew it was within walking distance of Parliament Hill, the Rideau Canal and the ByWard Market. After checking into the hotel, we headed out to wander around the ByWard Market. What I really enjoy is that you can just keep wandering the streets taking in all there is to see, including the people watching. Sometimes the people watching is the most entertaining.

For the longest time, I had thought the ByWard Market was just one building but it’s actually the whole neighbourhood. It was established in 1826 by Lt. Col. John By as a public market. The Lt. Col. was also the builder of the Rideau Canal.

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As we wandered the Market and took in the sights, sounds and smells, Al declared it “Miller time” as he’s been known to do and we stopped at The Grand, one of the local patios, for a drink. Al tried out a local craft beer called Kichesippin1855 and I had the white sangria. His beer was very good; my white sangria was just okay. Nothing on the menu grabbed our attention so we continued our wander.

After checking out a couple boutique stores, we came across Chez Lucien. This bar had been recommended by a friend and it was obvious why. This place has character. Everything in the place is old and worn. Well worn wood has such an appeal. Smirnoff Ice for me; and a Barley Days Loyalist Lager for Al. You can never go wrong with a Smirnoff Ice but Al said his beer tasted like someone’s home brew. So, he had try another to get that taste out of his mouth. He much preferred the Barley Days Harvest Gold Pale Ale. Since I was on my second drink I needed something to eat (obviously I’m not much of a drinker) so I ordered the brie and phyllo appetizer for us to share. Very yummy!

IMG_3290Once we’d had our appetizer we decided it was time to wander off in search of some dinner. We ended up at the Clock Tower Brew Pub. Very chatty server named Justin recommended the Peanut Chicken Bowl for me; Al had the Canuck Burger with their Red. Nice dinner on their patio and then back to the hotel as the evening was getting rather cool.

Saturday we woke up to rain. We had known this was a likely going to happen so pulled on our waterproof jackets and headed out. Zak’s was our destination for breakfast and it was definitely worth the walk in the rain. Great 1950’s style diner; great food and service.

We braved the worsening weather and headed off to the Rideau Canal to get some pictures of the Parliament buildings. Unfortunately, I quickly learned that my waterproof jacket was no longer waterproof. So we cut our sightseeing short and headed back to the hotel.

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Since we had come to Ottawa without a plan, we took some time to check out some shopping malls on-line after we changed our clothes. Off to the outlet mall we went. We spent a couple hours there wandering around but didn’t buy much. But at least we were mostly dry.

By early afternoon, the weather was starting to clear and we headed back toward downtown with a detour for lunch. Al had heard about a place called the Big Rig Brewery and that became our lunch destination. Big, busy place. Since he was driving, Al was limited to one beer and loved his choice of Orange Peel Session IPA. In fact, he loved it so much he bought a growler to bring home. I, on the other hand, indulged in their Ultimate Caesar. Fantastic! Horseradish really does give a Caesar an extra kick. We shared a very tasty pizza as the food portion of our lunch.

Finally, somewhat clear weather as we headed back out downtown. We took a lovely wander along the Rideau Canal and the St. Lawrence River. At the Rideau Locks, we saw the same two boats that we had seen in Merrickville the day before. One of women explained that they had come by boat from upstate New York. The park along the canal and river is such a beautiful place to walk (or bicycle, if you’re so inclined). Water, trees, ducks, and bridal parties. Interesting views of the Parliament buildings. Ottawa has such a feeling of history. And it seems so relaxed compared to downtown Toronto. Even so, we were surprised to find the Sparks Street Mall (an outdoor pedestrian only shopping area) almost vacant. We stopped at a large outdoor patio for beverages (sampler tray for Al and another Caesar for me) and there was only one other couple on the patio. We wondered if the rain had chased the tourists away.

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Our wander of the downtown area continued and we ended up at Beaver Tails back in the ByWard Market. To me, Beaver Tails epitomizes the ByWard Market. If you’re not familiar with this lovely pastry, let me explain. It’s basically a fried dough stretched to look like a beaver tail that is topped with some sort of sweet. I usually just go for the sugar and cinnamon. There are much fancier toppings but I find the sugar and cinnamon is just perfect. Oh, yum!

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As we continued our walk around the Market, our feet were getting sore and it was looking like rain again. Another quick stop for a drink at a bar that will remain nameless due to their poor beer selection and the poor quality of their white sangria; and then we headed back to the hotel for an early night.

Rain again on Sunday morning. We skipped a big breakfast but did have pastries from a bakery before we started our trip home. A detour into Quebec for cheaper beer (yes, beer really is cheaper just across the St. Lawrence River) and back onto Hwy 7 for the trip home. But, of course, there’s a craft brewery in Perth so that meant one last beer stop. As you know already, I’m not a beer drinker but I did taste Perth Brewery’s seasonal citrus beer and their grapefruit radler. A couple cans of the radler came home for me for the next hot day on the back deck. Al’s choice was their Hopside IPA. Ah, what would we do if we didn’t have craft breweries to visit.

I really enjoyed the weekend away playing tourist in our nation’s capital. Good quality time with my sweetheart. I hope you enjoyed my story of the weekend. See you next month!

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