Ottawa is just 2 hours away from Montreal, looks like a perfect place for 1-day trip. For my first trip there I decided to focus on essentials and most popular spots – Canadian Parliament building, city center, and the Rideau Canal.
Getting to Ottawa by car is fairly easy. Autoroute 40, also known as Autoroute Felix-Leclerc, goes directly from Montreal to Ottawa, about 200 km journey. It was first-ever trip for me outside of Quebec. Well… Ontario is different, but for a one day I did not feel big difference. The biggest difference for me was English language, lower sale tax and fuel prices 🙂 I am sure this topic deserves more in-depth study.
We arrive to Ottawa at about 11 am, and immediately the GPS got lost. First it missed our turn, then wanted us to make a U-turn in a middle of a highway with a concrete barrier between opposite lanes. Maybe it was a version of navigation for monster trucks. Anyway we found our direction towards the parliament hill, took the first exit from the highway and navigated through city traffic. We circled around in a search of a parking. We have seen 20 bucks/day parking, some fancy underground parkings, some of them closed on weekends, but finally stopped at big open parking lot where a sign was saying $12/day. Just as we wanted to pay, a nice man was rushing to us telling us not to do it. He told us he paid for parking of his pick-up truck, but the machine did not give him a receipt, so when he came back he had a $75 fine on his windshield. Thank you nice man for saving us these money and directing us to another parking just around the corner for $8/day at weekends before 4 pm.
We parked the car and went to see the parliament building. It is impressive!!! It is much much bigger then I imagined! It is really huge!!! Pictures do not reflect its real size.It was originally built in 1859, but was destroyed by fire in 1916. Only library survived and still exists in its original form. The building itself was rebuilt in 1927.
As we were walking around we discovered that there are free excursions available! We went to get our tickets, there were two excursions available: in English, in 3 hours (all others were full), and in French, just in 30 minutes! Of course we took the french one, That is another benefit of speaking multiple languages!
They do not allow inside the building with bags, so we had to leave our stuff at special bad drop-off points, again for free. Also you need to pass a metal detector when entering the building, just as at the airport. The excursion was supposed to take about 60 minutes, but I feel that at least 20-25 minutes we spent waiting for everyone to pass the security check. But its okay. The security personnel was very nice, and the security girls… Cute blondes in nice uniforms 😉 Maybe I should marry a girl who is a police officer? (Especially I was thinking about it later, when I’ve seen a mountie girl…)
The parliament building inside is really impressive. It has amazing architecture and many small details, that you can easily miss, but that impress when you notice them. A lot of referrals to Canadian history, former prime ministers. I wish I had a full day to explore the building itself!
We wanted to get an elevator to the top of a tower, but the queue was just too big 😦 We had to wait about an hour to get there. Next time.
After visiting the most famous place in Ottawa we went to see the Rideau Canal. It is the oldest continuously operated canal in North America, that was opened in 1832. It was built for military purpose, as a precaution in case of war with United States, and connects Ottawa river to the Lake Ontario. The section in Ottawa contains amazing wooden locks that are still opened and closed manually. It is still in use by boats and pleasure crafts. I really want to see it again in winter when it freezes and becomes world’s biggest skating rink.
Ottawa left a very good impression. I have seen just a tiny part of it, but it feels that it is much more quiet and calm city, comparing to Montreal. I have heard from many different people that there is not much to see in Ottawa and you can see it all in a single day. I totally disagree. I find Ottawa and its region a very interesting place to visit, I have not seen ever a quarter of what I would like to see there. I will definitely come back to see it again. I want to see more interesting places, not only tourist-crowded areas in center. It is a short and pleasant drive from Montreal, definitely a good destination for multiple single-day or weekend trips.