An April 2002 trip
to Ottawa by Re Carroll
Quote: Canada's capital city has a lot for visitors to see and do and it's all within a small area which makes it easy to explore.
Ottawa has many attractive historic buildings from the 1800s with plaques detailing the date they were built and their history. As well as the impressive Parliament Buildings, the extensive Chateau Laurier forms a major part of the Ottawa skyline. It was built to resemble a French chateau and is the premier hotels in Ottawa.
There are some first class museums, many either free or close to it and I was lucky to get to a number of them, especially the outstanding Museum of Civilization just across the bridge in Hull, Quebec.
There was also no shortage of good places to eat, especially in the Byward Market area which is full of restaurants, delis, stores and people because the area is popular with locals as well as tourists.
My room included a kitchen area with fridge, hot plate and all the pots, dishes and cutlery necessary to prepare meals. I didn’t use it but the fridge came in handy for storing cold drinks. There was also a full size couch and a small table with a couple of chairs in which to sit and read the morning paper which was delivered free to the door.
The tiled bathroom floor was heated which was a nice treat on cold mornings. Just
outside the bathroom was a large, well lit makeup mirror and hairdryer. Surprisingly, the bathroom had an indoor lock which might not be a good thing for parents traveling with small kids.
As well as laundry service through the hotel, there are washers and dryers on a couple of floors and detergent and fabric softener is available for purchase at the gift shop.
The hotel gym was small - just a couple of treadmills and bikes so it was much more fun to exercise outdoors by walking along the canal which was only 1/2 block away.
The hotel has its own restaurant and although I didn’t eat there, the prices were moderate and even the room service menu was quite reasonable.
The hotel is located in an area of apartments and other suite hotels. It is just 2 blocks from Elgin Street where there are a number of restaurants and even a small grocery store if you want to take advantage of the in room cooking facilities.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on April 28, 2002
Hotel | "Ottawa International Hostel"
Most of the rooms are actually the old jail cells and still have steel bar doors. Inside, 6 beds (3 bunks) take up most of the space and the lighting is pretty dim - just one overhead light bulb. Tiny bathrooms are at one end of the hall and shower stalls are at the other.
I preferred the "Thomas" room, one of two larger rooms located on the 7th floor. They
used to be part of the offices for the jail and there is much more space and lots of light since there are two spacious windows and overhead track lighting. The bathroom is next door and is also much bigger and brighter than the "cell" floor bathrooms.
The hostel has a large kitchen area and TV room with comfortable, oversize leather
couches as well as a small library.
Breakfast isn’t included but there are lots of restaurants nearby - including those at
Byward Market and the large food court at the Rideau Centre.
The hostel offers various activities, from pub crawls to spaghetti dinners to tours of the jail. Staff are very helpful and there is a small travel store in the hostel to purchase books, travel gear, etc.
Sleeping bags are not permitted at the hostel but they’ll store them for
you until check out. There is an extra charge of $2.00 for sheets and another $2.00
charge is a refundable key deposit. Check out is 11 am and there are lockers available for $1.00 to store luggage after that time.
The hostel has its own parking lot and the price is $5.00 per day for members. Even if you don't have your own car, it's easy to get to and from the train or bus station by cab or city bus which stops across the street at the Rideau Centre.
I was pretty lucky to be here before high season - one night I had a 6 bed room to myself and the other night I shared with only one person. I don't think this would normally happen so I'd recommend making a reservation.
The hostel is open year round and check out is 11 a.m. Price is $19.95 for members, $23.95 for non.
Ottawa Jail Hostel
75 Nicholas Street
Restaurant | "Oreganos Pasta Market"
The menu is typical Italian - pastas, chicken, etc. and
prices are in the $10 - $15 range for an entree. They offer Table D’hôte dinners - appetizer, soup or salad, main meal and dessert for a set price such as Striploin with steamed vegetables for $14.95.
A very popular feature is the All you can eat
Salad/Pasta/Pizza Buffet and at $10.95 per person, it’s a very good deal. The buffet
includes a number of cold salads (pasta, Caesar, green, mixed vegetables and more) as
well as 4 different pastas, 2 types of pizza, garlic bread, soup and buns. The buffet pastas were a mixed bag - I really liked the fresh basil in cream sauce and the meat sauce but the tomato bacon cream was just ok and the pasta primavera was far too bland. I never did get to the pizza since there was just too much other food on the buffet but overall, this is a good deal for the price, especially for those with a big appetite.
In summer they also have outdoor tables.
Note: prices are listed in CDN. dollars.
74 George St
Ottawa, Ontario K1N 5W1
+1 613 241 5100
Main dishes were just as varied - grilled quail ($16), prawns baked with feta cheese ($12), Mediterranean chicken breast with fresh okra ($13) and lamb, prepared in the standard
ways (chops, roast, rack, souvlaki), as well as baked in filo pastry with Greek cheese and
tomato sauce ($17). I had chicken souvlaki and it was delicious. The chunks of chicken
were moist and tender and interspersed on the skewers with peppers and tomatoes.
Included with the meal was a basket of fresh garlic bread, roasted potatoes, rice and Greek
salad. The salad was served like it is in Greece - with just a slice of creamy feta on top rather than grated throughout. The price was $13. and there was more food than I could eat. This meant that I had to pass on dessert which included chocolate cake, cheesecake and freshly made Greek desserts like baklava.
The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, 7 days a week. There is parking beside the
restaurant. Papagus is not wheelchair accessible - although there are only 3-4 steps from the street to the main door, the bathrooms are down a full flight of stairs which would make it very difficult for those with mobility problems.
Note: prices are listed in CDN. dollars.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 28, 2002
Papagus Greek Taverna
281 Kent St (At Cooper)
Ottawa, Ontario K2P 2A3
Restaurant | "Blue Cactus Bar & Grill"
Their margaritas were voted the best in Ottawa so I tried a Blue Cactus, made with blue
curacao to give it the colour and I must admit - it was pretty good.
The menu is a mix of Cajun, Southwestern grill and more. Some of the items included catfish, ribs, fajitas, steamed mussels, grilled shrimp, gumbo and specialty dishes like voodoo chicken, with a creole mustard sauce and angry chicken wings featuring "hot sauce with a bad attitude".
One friend had thin crust veggie pizza that was topped with tomatoes, zucchini, peppers
and cheese. Another friend went for the "Big Mouth Burger" which included fries with
gravy for dipping and coleslaw. I had jambalaya fettucine and it was a large portion of pasta, chicken, sausage, mussels and prawns in a spicy, tomato sauce. We all agreed that
the food was plentiful and very tasty.
The drinks were a bit pricey - my margarita was $5.95 for a regular size and jumbos were
$9.50 but the meals were average - under $10. for the burger and pizza and jambalya was
Don’t come here for a quiet, romantic dinner but do come if you’re looking for good food
and good fun.
(Note: prices are listed in Cdn. $$)
Blue Cactus Bar and Grill
2 Byward Market
Ottawa, Ontario K1N 7A1
It’s very upscale and the parking lot boasted a
Lexus, a couple of Mercedes and a Porsche.
The first thing you notice when walking into Giovannis are lots of pictures on the wall of
famous people who have eaten here - lots of Senators (Ottawa’s NHL team), Ralph
Lauren and others. Sophia Loren is in almost all the pictures. My friend and I were very
impressed - obviously, Sophia really likes this place if she is here all the time. Actually, the woman turned out to be the mother of the restaurant’s owner but she is the spitting image of Sophia Loren.
The restaurant is very tastefully decorated - dark green wallpaper and peach stucco walls
with two tiers of tables.
As well as pasta, the menu has a number of chicken, veal and seafood entrees, including
grilled sole and mussels in a garlic and wine broth. There is a full page of appetizers,
including traditional antipasto.
The food is artistically presented - my friend’s Insalata Cabreeze consisted of boconcini, ripe red Roma tomatoes, artichoke heart and raddichio, fashioned to look like a flower and lightly topped with an olive oil and vinegar dressing. The minestrone soup was packed with vegetables, pasta and beans.
I had cannelloni, stuffed with sausage, spinach and cheese and topped with a cheese and
tomato sauce and it was delicious and very filling.
We shared tiramisu, sort of an Italian cheesecake, for dessert and it was incredibly light and creamy.
Prices are reasonable - lunch for two was $40.00, tip and taxes included and many of the
pasta dishes are $10-$12.
The restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner. We didn't need reservations at lunch but I would recommend them for dinner.
Note: I've quoted prices in Cdn. $$.
362 Preston Street
(613) 234 3156
Attraction | "Museum of Civilization"
There are four floors of exhibits. The first floor or Grand Hall, is devoted to west coast
native history. As well as totem poles, there are 6 different traditional houses,
representing the different Aboriginal cultures. Each house has displays inside that explain the specific culture and tradition. One of the highlights here is a large sculpture by native artist Bill Reid, titled "The Spirit of Haida Gwaii".
Level 2 has an IMAX theatre, The Childrens’ Museum and The Canadian Postal Museum
with a replica of a postmaster’s office. There are also special exhibitions such as "The
Country Within Me". It was a display of musical instruments throughout the world,
including videos and audio clips of the instrument in use. I watched and listened to
music in Africa, Vietnam, Romania, Haiti and Canada, just to name a few.
part of the museum was the Childrens’ Museum. The theme is multi national and there are
children sized booths and displays that represent various countries throughout the world. Kids can board a Pakistani bus, wander into a pyramid or desert tent, check out a Greek market, play with artificial flowers and wear wooden shoes in Holland, sit in a French cafe and lots more. Each exhibit includes traditional dress (kid-sized) that they can wear over their own clothes. They can get a free passport and stamp it as they visit each
"country". There are also places where they can stage a puppet show or take centre stage
to entertain doting parents. It’s a noisy, lively place, filled with kids, parents and all the young at heart.
Level 3 features Canada Hall, a journey across Canada and through the ages. There were
replicas of a 16th century whaling station, 18th century New France town square, a 19th
century lumber camp, a 20th century grain elevator and more. All life size and open for
Level 4 has special exhibits such as a large collection of dolls throughout the ages.
The museum has a snack bar on level 2 and a restaurant on level 1.
Admission rates will be increasing as of 1 May. The museum is half price on Sunday and free from 4 to 9 pm on Thursday. Count on spending at least 2-3 hours because there is lots to see.
The museum is fully wheelchair accessible.
Canadian Museum of Civilization
100 Laurier St.
Ottawa, Ontario J8X 4H2
(819) 776 7000
Attraction | "Museum of Nature"
Inside, there are 4 floors of exhibits with lots of hands-on and interactive displays. The
main floor has life size replicas of dinosaurs and information on the earth and how it has
evolved. Kids will enjoy participating in "Animal Athletes" where they participate in
warm up events, athletic events and learn about healthy eating. Each event relates to a
different animal and they compete against pretend kangaroos in jumping, elephants in
Floor 2 showcases birds and mannals that are native to Canada. The displays are life size
and very well done. There is also a large display on rocks, metals and minerals found in
Canada as well as a replica of a mining shack.
Floor 3 holds the popular "Creepy Critters", displays of live insects, rodents, reptiles, etc. I didn’t spend much time here since it’s definitely not my thing!
Floor 4 had a small conservatory as well as an interesting display of plant life as it relates
to health issues and there were many plants and herbs that are used in today’s herbals
medicines. There were some sample bottles with scents like lavender and thyme and
information on their healing properties.
As well as a gallery guide, you can ask the admissions clerk for a sheet detailing the
supposed ghosts that inhabit the Museum. It’s a rather tongue-in-cheek account of
possible ghosts and ghost sightings that have occurred since the building was opened in
The museum is open daily from 9:30 to 5 pm in the summer (closed Mondays in the winter). On Thursday, it’s open until 8 p.m. and admission is free from 5 to 8.
Canadian Museum of Nature
240 Mcleod Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 6P4
613 566 4700
Directly across from Chateau Laurier on Rideau Street, the Contemporary Photography
Museum is a modern, two story building. The ever-changing exhibits are part of the
Museum’s extensive collection. During my visit, the featured exhibits included black and white Inuit photographs from the 1940s as well as scenes of Paris and Havana.
Admission is by donation only and the museum is open Wed. to Sunday until 5 p.m.
Behind the museum, Major’s Hill Park is a lovely green area that is bordered by the canal and Parliament Buildings, the museum and Chateau Laurier, The U.S. Embassy and the
National Gallery. There are statues of famous people, including Col. By who built the canal in the mid 1800s to serve as a supply route. There are benches and pretty floral gardens, including a massive tulip display and it’s a great place to take a break or have a picnic lunch.
At the far end of the park is The National Gallery, a modern glass structure that holds an ever-changing display of paintings, sculpture and other art by a wide variety of artists. Canada’s Emily Carr, Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven are represented as well as artists like Gainsborough, Rubens, Monet, etc. Admission is free.
A block behind the National Gallery is a fortress like structure that houses the Royal
Canadian Mint. You can visit the gift shop and see pictures of some of the
commemorative coins but the best way to visit is to take a tour - $1.00 on weekends or $2.00 during the week. That way, you can actually see and understand all the various
stages of production. The mint no longer makes general currency but is still busy with
commemorative coin work - including Shrek, Harry Potter and the Queen’s Golden
The Byward Market is just a few blocks from the National Gallery and it’s a great place
to take a break from touring. It was established in 1826 by Lt. Col By, the same man who built the Canal and it is one of the oldest and largest markets in Canada. As well as restaurants and coffee shops galore, there are one of a kind galleries and stores to browse in and a large open air market featuring produce, flowers, Canadian souvenirs including lots of maple food products and artisans selling hand made jewelry and crafts. There are a number of bakeries and cheese shops in the area and they’re always a good place to find
Abbotsford, British Columbia