Ottawa – A Snowy Week in Canada’s Capital

After our pet sit in Charleston Lake Provincial Park we had just over two weeks before we needed to be at another pet sitting assignment. So we backtracked a little and headed to the capital of Canada, Ottawa.

I’m not sure why, but whenever I used to think of Ottawa I used to think of a boring city. However, after our week there my thoughts had completely turned around.

From Charleston Lake (A) we drove not quite two hours to Ottawa, it was around midday when we arrived and our Airbnb townhouse (B) (read our review here) wasn’t going to be ready until much later. So we found ourselves some lunch and then headed indoors to an amusement/arcade centre, Funhaven, to keep warm and have a bit of fun while we waited.Roadtrip Map 19Upon researching about Ottawa we learnt that a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site and historic Rideau Canal was a must. The canal was opened in 1832 as a precaution in case of war with the United States, it is 202 kms in length and is the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America. In winter it becomes the world’s largest natural ice rink; ‘The Skateway‘ winds it’s way through the heart of the capital, over a total length of 7.8 kms. Logan was keen for us to go ice skating. I have tried ice skating only once in my life, in my teenage years, and it didn’t go well, so I was more apprehensive. There were a couple of skate hire places right on the canal but with a little more investigation we found a cheaper hire option less than 100m from the canal. Cyco’s does bicycle and ice skate hire and servicing and were a much more reasonable price for our two hour hire (a total of $48.60 CAD/$54 NZD).

We were staying about a 20 minute drive out of the centre of the city so we drove in, found some free parking right outside Cyco’s, rented skates for all of us and a balancing frame for Braxton and then walked to the canal. There are many entry points down onto the canal with seating and open storage for your shoes while you skate. We laced up and started to get our bearings and balance on these thin blades.Rideau Canal Skateway_Ottawa_Ontario_CanadaMany people use the skateway, whether it’s part of their daily commute, exercise routine, skating along while pushing a stroller, a school sports class or like us, they’re just out for a bit of a skate. We saw many people out and about and we definitely weren’t the worst, Logan is actually very good and Lincoln also picked it up pretty quickly. I managed quite well and surprised myself, but I kept things pretty slow and steady and stuck close to Braxton with his frame.Rideau Canal Skateway_Ottawa_Ontario_Canada_1Dotted along the canal are handy rest spots, they have tables and chairs, heated changing rooms and toilets and vendors selling refreshments. We managed to skate over 1 km down to one of these areas and enjoyed a nice break with hot chocolates and beavertails. These are a deep fried, cinnamon and sugar, beaver tail-shaped pastry invented in Ottawa in 1978. Very tasty, but very sweet.Rideau Canal Skateway_Ottawa_Ontario_Canada_2We had a beautiful sunny day, only -11°C and I have to say, it was a very enjoyable couple of hours and still one of our favourite days. And apparently there’s nothing more Canadian than enjoying a beavertail on skates on the skateway in the winter, so we must have been fitting in with the locals pretty well!!Rideau Canal Skateway_Ottawa_Ontario_Canada_3Ottawa is right near the border of Ontario and Québec, and our next winter adventure actually saw us travel into Québec and try our hand (or foot) at snowshoeing. We drove 30 kms from our townhouse to Camp Fortune and hired some snow shoes (a total of $50.60 CAD/$56.22 NZD). Camp Fortune was buzzing with mostly skiers and snowboarders but we found our way to the snowshoeing trails. There were many trails to follow but we found that most of them were so well used that the snow shoes were more of a hindrance than a help. They were fine if you went off the trail where the snow hadn’t been walked over but the boys weren’t that keen on it and decided that ice skating was a better activity, even with the ‘falling onto hard ice’ part. But you never know until you try and we all got a good workout from it.Snowshoeing_Camp Fortune_Quebec_CanadaDuring our stay we found another free winter festival, Winterlude, which ran from 1-18 February. The festival was spread out over a few different locations around Ottawa and across the river in Québec, in nearby Gatineau. During the weekends there were free buses between each area so we made use of that great service. We parked in a underground city carpark and walked to ByWard Market, the location of the international ice carving competition and other festival activities. As it was opening weekend the carvings weren’t yet complete, but some were already looking pretty amazing.Winterlude Winter Festival 2019_Ottawa_Ontario_CanadaWe found a bonus of free hot chocolates and coffees from Tim Hortons (Canada’s original coffee shop brand and affectionately referred to as “Timmys”) and free hot dogs from Enbridge (a gas company). Next stop was over in Gatineau, Jacques Cartier Park and the Snowflake Kingdom – a giant winter playground. There were many snow slides, snow sculptures, human foosball, volley pong and lots more to keep us entertained.Winterlude Winter Festival 2019_Ottawa_Ontario_Canada_1Another incredible day, the snow fell around us all day but thankfully it wasn’t too cold, only about -12°C and no windchill.

One of our last days in Ottawa was also “Super Bowl Sunday” and while we didn’t have any real affiliation with the sport (besides a game we went to in New Jersey) or for either team playing, we decided that while we were still in North America we would embrace the day. And what better way than by making some of the top ‘Super Bowl foods’. Including, nachos, buffalo chicken dip, pizza, buffalo wings and for some Canadian flavour, poutine.Super Bowl Sunday_Food_Ottawa_CanadaAfter a fantastic week, doing some amazing activities in Canada’s capital, we were now heading to Ontario’s provincial capital, Toronto.

Average Daily Spend for 8 nights – $181.02 NZD ($106.48 under budget per day)

– Paula

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