- Kristan Higgins
Updated: May 3, 2022
I had a great time in Ottawa last weekend! I’ve been to Montreal before (once, with McIrish), and Waterton National Park, and a strange little place called Fort McLeod, but Ottawa was new to me. It’s an old city and a new city too—lots of construction on shiny new buildings, but the castle-like Parliament building and cathedrals that made it feel very old-world.
Here are a few things I noticed:
Ottawans don’t jaywalk. They wait patiently at the light for permission. I do jaywalk, and the Ottawans gazed upon me with awe and wonder as I looked left, right, then walked, light or no light, as they remained at the curb, dazzled by my brash American courage (or so I told myself).
Speaking of traffic, a yellow light doesn’t mean slow down and stop in Ottawa. It means, “The poor guy four cars behind me isn’t going to make this light.”
There is no litter. The city is sparkling clean and puts places like Manhattan and Seattle to shame. I didn’t see a single piece of trash.
It’s very flat and therefore excellent for bike riding along the canal. This was such a pleasant experience! On Sundays, the city closes down a few roads, so bicyclists, roller-bladers, runners, and walkers can get out and enjoy.
All the signs and announcements are in English and French. “Fourth floor,” said the elevator. “Quatrieme étage. Fifth floor. Cinquieme étage.” It was like a Sesame Street language lesson. Rideau Canal, one sign said, and underneath that, for the French-speakers, Canal Rideau.
The notion that Canadians are incredibly nice definitely held up. People were happy to suggest restaurants, guide me to the bike rental place, and direct me to the best place for beaver tail. The fact that I was from Connecticut elicited excitement and questions about my exotic homeland (and really, I never get that, being that I’m from Connecticut…we’re not really known for, um, anything). My dinner companions sat back happily to see if I would like their beloved poutine. “Do the cheese curds squeak?” they asked. “It’s best if the cheese curds squeak.” I wasn’t sure if they did, but I can see myself scarfing down more poutine at some happy point in the future.
So if you’re looking for a lovely city to visit for a long weekend, consider Canada’s beautiful capital. And make sure you eat beavertail and poutine! And ride your bike along the canal. And watch out for the birds at Parliament. But that's another story.