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Trip Report Trip Report - 2 Spring days in Ottawa

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It’s been two weeks since I returned from a quick 2 day getaway to Ottawa. I’ve been meaning to write a brief report but have been swamped since returning. However I’ve noticed a couple of new posters asking about things to see and do in Ottawa so hopefully this may be of use to them as well.

This was my 5th visit, and therefore not so heavy on the tourist sites or museums, most of which I’ve done before. The purpose was essentially a mini break from a thesis I’m writing, to meet with a visiting French chef who is assisting me with a section of my thesis, to visit family and friends and a new baby in the family, and to simply enjoy this beautiful city which is my nation’s capital.

The train rides from Toronto and back were efficient, on time, comfortable and uneventful. I spent the outbound 4.5 hour journey working online (thanks to free VIA rail WiFi) and the return ride reading David Leibowitz’s ‘The Sweet Life in Paris’ , who I met in that city last Oct. Not a deep book, but suitable light reading for a train journey.

While Toronto was enjoying temperatures in the mid20s C, Ottawa was still in the low single digits and I was glad to have taken layered clothing. It rained heavily on my first night, but thankfully no more for the remainder of my stay. On my last day, the afternoon warmed to a sunny 18C.

I booked my accommodation through Hotwire, which doesn’t tell you the name of the property until after you pay, and was given the Extended Stay Suites. I’d never heard of the place before but it seemed to get good reviews on Tripadvisor and elsewhere. I was pleasantly surprised. My suite was enormous with a large living room, a cooking area and service for 4, comfy dark wood armchairs and a sofa pullout that seated 4 comfortably; same wood sliding panels to a huge bedroom, king bed and separate bath and toilet, and sink and counter - each in their own room and access. Two 40 inch flatscreen TVs in cabinets, lamps and windows galore, a balcony and free wifi. The room and public areas were clean, front desk service very helpful, and the amenities included a restaurant, a weight room and whirlpool that was better equipped than other bigger hotel chains I’ve stayed at. Amazing value for less than $80 per night.

The location was perfect, at Elgin and Cooper streets, and close to a host of other hotels such as the Lord Elgin and the Chateau Laurier. Best of all was the short 12 minute walk north on Elgin to the Byward market, the river and other attractions nearby, such as the Parliament buildings and the Supreme Court of Canada, both of which I ran/jogged past one morning. Just for fun, I also rode the #55 bus into Gatineau (12 minutes) on the Saturday afternoon, stopped there for about an hour to look around and grab a sandwich and a beer, and then took the next bus back to the Market area, all on the same fare. Good to know that on the weekends, the transfer tickets are valid for over an hour, provided you use the same transit line.

In between my commitments, meals were enjoyed at :
- Whalesbone (platter of oysters, delicious trout and salmon fish burgers),
- Signatures at Le Cordon Bleu (gouda, duck breast and octopus all in a sandwich, with a tomato lollipop),
- Saturday morning breakfast at Arc The Hotel (steak and eggs done their way),
- a take away thai dinner from Som Tum, and
- scones from ‘Scone Witch’ a favourite little bakery that my niece introduced me to several years ago.

For the journey back to Toronto, I bought some Quebec cheese (Le Migneron de Charlevoix), old fashioned dry ham, multigrain bread hand-sliced from a loaf, a pistachio macaron and a bottle of Orangina from various small shops in the Byward market for a picnic on the train.

All-in-all, I had a wonderful time. It was also the St. Patricks Day weekend and young green revellers were out in full force enjoying the first warm Saturday in the bars, streets and patios of the city. I spoke French and English equally and found everyone to be pleasant and helpful as they've always been. It was a great mini break lasting exactly 48 hours in Ottawa, and one I’d happily repeat once my project is complete.

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