The First World War is regarded as a watershed moment for Canada
during which it became a full member in its own right of the
international community. This war especially transformed our nation,
culture, economy, and identity. In Canada, Vimy Ridge has the same
national resonance as Gallipoli does for Australia and New Zealand.
One of the most dramatic sites in Ottawa, especially on Remembrance
Day (November 11), is the National War Memorial — just a few steps from
Parliament Hill. And the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, inaugurated in
recent years thus completing the memorial, makes a universal statement.
The article "An
Unknown Soldier" was written after a visit to Ottawa in search of a
family member who was killed in the First World War.
A world-class arts
As a national capital, Ottawa is an
archive unto itself. Museums, art galleries, theatre, music,
architectural centrepieces (of all kinds and eras) are to be found
within the core of the city, most within walking distance.
The Ottawa Symphony, The National Gallery
of Canada, the Bytown Museum, the Canadian Museum of Contemporary
Photography, the Museum of Civilization, and the National Arts Centre
are just a few examples.
Ottawa is also a city of festivals
including: Canada Dance Festival, Canadian Tulip Festival, Central
Canada, Exhibition Association, Cisco Systems Ottawa Bluesfest, Hellenic
Community of Ottawa-Greekfest, National Capital Race Weekend, Ottawa
Chamber Music Festival, Ottawa Festival Network, Ottawa International
Jazz Festival, Winterlude.
Two of my favourite cultural institutions
are the National Gallery of Canada
(stupendous architecture and a collection that is of international
importance) and the Canadian Museum of
Civilization. The latter is actually in Hull on the Québec side of
the Ottawa River (more evidence of Ottawa's strategic location). The
former hosts travelling exhibitions that are often seen only in a few
cities on this continent. An example is the upcoming Leonardo,
Michelangelo and the Renaissance in Florence exhibit.
The Canadian Museum of Civilization is a
unique institution that is also one of the finest examples of the new
world of interactive museums dedicated to exploring the diversity and
commonality of human civilization. The article "Out of the
Bogs at the Canadian Museum of Civilization" was written after a
visit to this museum. The exhibit was an example of the universal and
human significance of such travelling exhibits.
Special times in Ottawa
Ottawa is a city for all seasons. Click here for a full calendar of
events The following are especially noteworthy and enjoyable events
in Canada's capital city.
Out and about from
Ottawa is also a "hub city." There are
many excursions that can be planned using Ottawa as your home base. And
each of these recommended secondary destinations will give you an even
broader perspective on the state of affairs in Canada.
Outaouais region and the Gatineau Hills; The Laurentians; Montréal:
Francophone Festival City and Paris of North America (Destination
Canada, July 21, 2004); Kingston; Upper Canada
Those in the
Local residents are often the best
resource for a destination. Here's what friends in Ottawa have to say
about the city.
"We really like to do the antique shows and think they have great
appeal to Americans because the prices are so great."
"There is a popular Ottawa painter who has painted many Ottawa sites.
His name is Ben Babelowsky
He's worth checking out."
"We have always said that the one of best things about Ottawa is its
proximity to Montreal."
"We re-discovered the Hill this summer when our son was visiting with
his girlfriend. We spent the whole day there … many things to do … the
Famous Five is a great photo op. [Known as the "Famous Five," they were
a group of women who won the right for women to be recognized as
"persons" under the law when Canada's Supreme Court said women couldn't
sit in the Senate because constitutionally, they weren't considered
people. They took their fight all the way to the British government and
on Oct. 18, 1929, they won. Their achievement is commemorated with a
bronze monument on Parliament Hill.]
"The best things about Ottawa are the cordon bleu restaurant La
Signature and the wonderful scenery. And if you cross over the
bridge, there is of course the Lac Leamy Casino with its excellent
"The Chamber Music Festival in July … the excellent skiing facilities
in the winter ... the tulip festival in the spring and the great bicycle
"The most unique experiences in the Ottawa area would be a hike in
the Gatineau Hills in mid-October when the leaves are at their most
spectacular, a trip to Winterlude in February (bundle up!) to see ice
sculptures, skaters and other events on the Rideau Canal, the world's
longest natural skating rink, or a visit to the Tulip Festival in May.
Visitors should also see the Museum of Civilization, the National
Gallery, the Parliament Buildings and the Byward Market area, and take
in a play or concert at the National Arts Centre."
"There are many beautiful and interesting churches in Ottawa. One
almost unknown "gem" is the Chapel of the Bruyère Convent, 25, rue
Bruyère (attached to the Bruyère Hospital). It's actually very large ...
holds 950 people ... is much bigger than what we usually think of as a
"chapel". It was built in 1935-36 in French Gothic style. Ask at the
reception desk at 9, rue Bruyère for hours when it is open. It would be
worth going to a Saturday or Sunday mass just to see the place ... or
attend one of the concerts presented there occasionally."
"As a university student here, what I like about Ottawa is Ottawa at
night, when it doesn't pay you any mind. It is a quiet city. And when I
walk home from work at eleven o'clock at night, all is shut down on the
Hill. I walk past the silent monuments and empty buildings still looming
large. For me their symbolic value in daylight is totally altered by the
fall of darkness; they become a mythical landscape. I feel free. At this
time of night I don't reflect on any broader historical or social
perspective of the place where I am, but instead I reinvent it, project
onto the path a personal sense of wonder, an intimate encounter with the
sublime in the still quiet of downtown Ottawa at night. This is not the
feeling in other cities I have known where there is always something to
scan, to be aware off, to be on guard against. This is the environment I
think that The Haunted Walk of Ottawa draws on, which by the way, is an
excellent way to experience Ottawa at night. A lantern-bearing guide
takes you around downtown Ottawa to various sites reputed to be haunted.
The stories are factual and based on actual testimonies. There is no
attempt to spook the spectator, only to explore local myths in
Essential links to get you going
... to Ottawa
I recommend the following:
Oh my gosh! I almost forgot to mention
the Château Laurier.
You do not want to miss this.
The Château is as centrepiece of Canada's national capital. As part
of the Fairmont Hotels and Resorts chain (formerly Canadian Pacific
Railway hotels) it is an elegant structure that manages to communicate
opulence, dignity, charm, history, and continuity without appearing
self-indulgent or excessive. Like so many in the Fairmont chain, it is
in many ways a public venue where guests, locals, and tourists mingle.
At the same time, it is where visiting royalty, celebrities, heads of
state, and high-ranking politicians stay and work. There are many
stories in the Château Laurier. If you can find it, the book Meet Me At
the Château by Joan Rankin is a terrific read. The book tells the inside
story of a hotel in which Canadian political and social history are part
of the amenities. Often referred to as "the gateway to the nation's
capital," the Château is at the heart of this elegant capital city and
within walking distance of Parliament, key historical sites, and some of
the most important art galleries and museums in Canada.
For more information, see the Destination Canada report Châteaux
in Canada: the Great Railway Hotels and scroll down to the Château
Laurier link. Also, "Life in A Canadian Château" at then end of that
webpage will tell you more about this unique property.
Meet you at the Château!