Ottawa on Canada day is a pretty cool thing.
I’m letting you know this now because you still have a few days to make arrangements to visit Canada’s capital city this weekend… though you will probably have to sleep on the street or in a city park because hotels have been full for months. If you don’t visit this year, you should really consider putting it on your bucket list because it’s a great event to experience at least once in your life.
(Very important side note: My brother-in-law Bruce took all the great shots in this post… you’ll be able to tell which were his and which were mine. You can check out more of his work here.)
While the brochures would say there are hundreds of different things to do, usually you just end up spending the day, walking around, shuffling your group from place to place – it’s a big collection of people in one spot all happy to be together, contentedly moving amongst each other like schools of fish that swim in every which direction. You smile a lot at strangers, and even if you are from out of town, or not Canadian, you get this feeling that you are all in it together.
There is no pretention in Canada Day Celebrations. The downtown area is really homey and intimate… it feels like your backyard, and you are just having some people over for a party. You could set up camp on a lawn chair on a curb in the middle of the city (where usually buses would bowl you over) and just sit. You could probably even cook up some hot dogs on a barbeque and people would assume that you were meant to be there.
The humidity that’s unique to Ottawa will usually be in full summer haze by Canada day. Even if it’s a bit chilly out and you think you need a sweater, when you put it on it will immediately feel suffocating.
There’s usually a British dignitary kicking around. If you’re lucky you’ll be here on a year that hosts the Queen. (Or really lucky and you’ll get William and Princess Kate). If you’re unlucky you might catch Charles and Camilla. They aren’t Canadian, but in Canada we keep in touch with the Monarchy… they are like that great-aunt you might send Christmas Card to.. Or the accomplished cousin & his trendy wife that you track on Facebook.
The year the Queen was here my nieces came to catch a glimpse. We waited for a few hours on the hot asphalt in front of the parliament buildings until she finally drove by. The rest of the day we walked around and ended up napping in a park, which is bliss on any beautiful summer day, but particularly satisfying on Canada Day. The fireworks at night are pretty spectacular even if you have sore feet from a day of meandering.
Another year we made pancakes and kicked the celebrations off at 10:30 in the morning. It’s a good idea to leave the house with a full stomach and a good buzz because the restaurants in the Byward Market are both full of tourists, and have jacked up prices.
The first summer I spent in Ottawa I got trapped in a freakish down pour and huddled against the West Block of the Parliament buildings to try to stay dry. It only lasted a few minutes and afterwards we joined the soaking wet crowds on the open street and followed the stream of water which rushed along the curbs and gutters from Upper Town into Lower Town.
We ended up meandering down Rideau Street, (not drying off because of the dense humidity), towards an apartment that had the best view of the fireworks. We stopped along the way at a chip truck for poutine.
On Canada Day there are a million police officers walking around, and because they are Canadian, they pretend to be annoyed when you ask them to take your picture. But they still do it:
Happy Canada Day everyone!!!