A week of wander in Ottawa


It’s been a while—ten years, in fact!—since I have ventured down this way. As you know, several things had intervened against such a move in the interim, but they are now of no concern. However, there were some unexpected events along the way.

“Ce chrisse de pile a décâlisé mon tabernac de char!”

I knew that the first challenge was to get through the GTA before the morning rush hour started to take its daily toll. Last Monday, though, saw several extra mishaps that really slowed the traffic down. First of all, an accident on the 401 just before the Guelph Line backed up eastbound traffic all the way to Highway 6 (which did not move again for an hour), and then the radio announced that a tractor trailer jack-knifed near Leslie Street, which shut down all the express lanes. As it was approaching 9am, and having been on the road since 6:15, I pulled onto the 400 and onto Finch to grab a breakfast at the first Tim Horton’s that I would come across, which was at Jane and Finch. When I returned to the car, I discovered much to my chagrin that the battery had died! Groan…

I called out for a tow truck. The first vehicle to arrive was equipped for battery charging only, and that did not work. The real tow truck was then called, which took me to a Canadian Tire at Dufferin below Finch. Analysis revealed that it was indeed the battery (original, and almost ten years old) and not the alternator that was at fault. And, by the way, the serpentine belt was about ready to go as well! Oh well, it had to be done.

Once back on the 401, construction persisted throughout Durham Region, as well as between Mallorytown and Brockville. I did not begin to relax until I got on the 416 for the last stretch to the Capital.

A relaxing couple of nights

I had booked into a bed-and-breakfast in Sandy Hill, just east of downtown. Quite a nice location, as you can see.

There were three bedrooms: one double and two queen beds, all fully booked. I had the double, which was nice and quiet. The Byward Market was about ten blocks to the west, or about 20-30 minutes’ walk. Most tourists were in town for the tulip festival, but my ambitions went further afield.

The watering hole for the next two nights was the Aulde Dubliner in the Byward Market. Great ambience, cheerful staff, good beer, and little mention of politics at all around the tables—even then, only US politics were being discussed, with much shaking of heads. That was good, as I did not want to find myself in any places being occupied by the Grits and other Ottawa junkies! After all, this was a vacation!

Tuesday was spent trekking through the downtown, starting at the National Gallery and ending at the Canadian War Museum, wandering around through each one:

There were stops along the way at Parliament Hill, the Supreme Court of Canada, and the National Archives. I didn’t take a tour on the Hill, as you have to get tickets offsite and then go wait in line. The Supreme Court had English tours every hour on the hour, but I just missed the one for that hour and felt like moving on.

There’s a lot of construction on the Hill these days, with the West Block being refurbished and both the West and Centre Blocks’ exteriors getting a thorough cleaning. I hear the Centre Block will be closed after 2017 for massive interior work to be done. Most statues have been removed on the Hill right now, or access to them has been blocked because of the construction activity, but some interesting ones are still available. The best example is the one of Mackenzie King by Raoul Hunter, who was once an editorial cartoonist from 1956 to 1989 at Le Soleil in Quebec City:


Wednesday found me exploring the various parkways maintained by the National Capital Commission, where you feel compelled to follow the speed limit so as not to miss any of the wonderful views. Afterwards, a visit to the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum:

Into Québec

Wednesday and Thursday were spent wandering through Gatineau Park, admiring the various lookouts and winding roads throughout:

And, of course, there is Kingsmere, where Mackenzie King lived and retired. His retirement cottage, The Farm, is off-limits as it is occupied by the Speaker of the House of Commons, but the other two establishments (one from his younger days, as well as the later one built when he became Prime Minister) are open to all, although the black flies are now starting to come out:

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Wednesday and Thursday nights were spent at the Comfort Inn just off Boulevard St-Laurent. Relatively cheap, in the middle of an industrial area. It has seen better days, but it was OK for a short stay.

You are in the French-Canadian side of Ottawa here, as well as where most of the recent immigrants have settled. It’s quite a different flavour from downtown, but still revealing in its own right.

And so to home…

Friday came too soon, but it was time to head back, and I was determined to avoid the 401 as much as I could. The itinerary I assembled worked out this way:

  • 416 to Johnstown
  • Highway 2 through Prescott and Brockville
  • Thousand Islands Parkway through to Gananoque
  • 401 to Highway 15, and then down to Kingston
  • Highway 33 along the lake and through Prince Edward County
  • Highway 2 through Brighton, Colborne, Grafton, Cobourg and Port Hope
  • up Highway 28 to Rice Lake
  • across the top of the Great Oak Ridge to Highway 35/115
  • generally along Taunton Road and then up to Highway 7 until Brock Road
  • along the 407 to the 401 just before Trafalgar Road
  • off the 401 at Milton, and then going along the Campbellville Side Road, up to the Aberfoyle Road, jogging up to Highway 24 west of Guelph, and then along the Kossuth Road and Fairway Road to Highway
  • along Highway 7/8 to Stratford.

Definitely much less stress on the return trip, although the construction of the 407 East extension through Durham has really muddled up that part of the drive.

Considering all the cheap excitement in my life this past year or so, this was a well-deserved break!


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