During the Summer I escorted five product managers on a fam to the city of Ottawa. It was my first trip to the Canadian capital and I along with the rest of the group were looking forward to an itinerary that would showcase Ottawa’s cultural attractions, eclectic gastronomy scene, nightlife and outdoor experiences.
The Air Canada flight departed Heathrow late morning and took less than seven hours, having us arrive in Ottawa mid-afternoon. Ottawa’s airport is conveniently compact and located just a few miles from the city. From touch down to arriving at our city centre hotel took less than 45 minutes.
We stayed at the luxurious and contemporary Westin Ottawa, which is ideally located near the historic Parliament Buildings and is just a stone’s throw away from the bustling ByWard Market district.
That first evening we ate at the fashionable Social Restaurant, about a five minute walk from our hotel. The décor oozed cool and sophistication, while the food was a delicious mix of European and traditional Canadian fare. Washed down with several helpings of locally brewed craft beer, by the end of the meal I felt the group had gotten to know each other and I could tell they would be great travelling companions!
The first full day was spent exploring the beautiful Parliament Hill and nearby Rideau Canal, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We learnt about the founding of modern Canada and found out how Ottawa was chosen as the capital city. The architecture is truly stunning and the British colonial influence is clearly visible in the gothic structures. My favourite part of our guided tour was a visit to the Library of Parliament. The impressive chamber is only part of the Parliament Buildings that survived a catastrophic fire in 1916 thanks to a quick thinking librarian. Later that day we enjoyed a fascinating ‘Aboriginal Experience’ on nearby Victoria Island. Here we learnt about First Nations customs and cultures through imaginative story telling.
The next day we took part in a cultural tour that included some of Canada’s finest national institutions. As the capital city, Ottawa is home to countless would class museums and galleries, to rival those of London or Paris (but without the huge crowds!). We visited the impressive Canadian Museum of Nature, The National Gallery and my favourite, The Canadian War Museum. Then that night the group met back at Parliament Hill to watch the impressive ‘Northern Lights’ laser and light show, which runs nightly during the summer months.
We spent the next couple of days exploring Ottawa’s outlying neighbourhoods, markets and restaurants. I was really impressed with Wellington West, a cool and quirky district that reminded me of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury or London’s Hoxton. Peppered with boutique shops selling antiques, vintage clothes and second hand records, it was a real contrast to downtown Ottawa.
On our last day we went white water rafting. The whole group embraced it and were up for traversing all the white knuckle twists and turns. The thing that I really loved about it was the stunning scenery, just a few miles out of Ottawa’s city centre and it felt like we were in picture perfect wilderness!
Before flying home we had a chance to check out a local football game, as Ottawa Fury took on Edmonton at nearby TD Place. It was an impressive stadium, and unlike back home, rival fans were enjoying the game together. It created a great atmosphere and real party like buzz. Despite leading 2-0 at half time, sadly Ottawa Fury ending up drawing the game!
The whole group fell in love with Ottawa, as did I. Beyond the stunning museums, galleries and beautiful architecture, we realised that there is a whole other side to this diverse and welcoming city just waiting to be discovered.