Ottawa Part 2 – Day 3&4

Day 3

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So it turns out that a lot of things are closed on Mondays in Ottawa, so my plan of hitting up my last museum was squashed. But parliament tours do run on Mondays, and although I wasn’t originally planning on doing this because I’ve done it 2 other times previously, I figured why not, it is free after all. Turns out it was a good choice to do because we learned that this fall they are going to be starting construction on Center Block (the main part you see when standing on Parliament Hill) and will be closed for tours for the next 10-15 years!! On this day, there was an open question forum happening so there were people and camera crews everywhere inside, and we were given the option to sit in on the debates after our tour, but I opted out of that.

Brewery Tour

IMG_9782If you know me, you know that I like craft beer, so one of the things I’m most excited about when travelling is checking out local breweries. Since all the museums are closed on Monday, what better use of time than a Monday Brewery Crawl. I started out at Flora Hall Brewing, the newest of the 3 I checked out. This bright, open concept area was pretty popular for 4pm on a Monday, and appeared to be full of locals and regulars, many of which were sitting at the bar on laptops working while enjoying a beer. This place didn’t offer flights so I was forced to decided on one beer (trust me, it’s a hard choice), and I went with North East IPA, an IPA with fruity undertones. Flora Hall also has a small selection of guest brews, and one of these happened to be Collective Arts Cider, so it felt like a small piece of home had followed me up to Ottawa.

Next stop was Tooth and Nail; turns out on a Monday there also aren’t many breweries open (I don’t understand why not), so this one was a bit of a trek to, but luckily it was a fairly warm day and the bus ride and walk were actually enjoyable. Tooth and Nail was smaller than Flora Hall, but had a totally different vibe, one of a small local pub where people come to drink, eat good food, and play board games (they had a selection to choose from). Now I had to opposite problem here and they offered small pours and I had no idea how to decide which ones to get! I ended up with Warhorse (winter ale), Tenacity (pale ale), and Fortified (stout); the first two I really enjoyed, while Fortified, at 10.2% alcohol was just too strong for me! The food here was also amazing and they even had a vegan sandwich option, so you know what I got!

At this point I was really feeling the beers, so I took a quick pause to head back to the hostel to drop off some of my camera gear and took a spin around the mall to ‘sober up’ a bit.

IMG_9814IMG_9819After a brief shopping spree, I walked over to Lowertown Brewing, located in Byward Market. This is more a restaurant that happens to also brew their own beers, but they had 7 beers on tap, so I had to try them all! All of the brews were great, so I’ll just list them all off: Lowertown Lager, Dark Lager, Shooting Rapids Pale Ale, Red Fife Wheat Beer (Red Ale), Timber Slide IPA, Nitro Dry Stout and Lowertown Dubbel. Most of the time I’m a good vegan but sometimes I just can’t say no to a soft pretzel and cheddar dip. The whole night I was checking in my beers via the UnTapped App, [and app that let’s you see what your friends are drinking and where and track your drinks as well as earn badges in categories such as styles and location; the social media of beer drinking! (If you don’t have this you should download it, and if you do, add me ctaylor94)] and I got a badge for 12 beers in one day, and that was my cue to go home and go to bed!

 

Day 4

Museum of Nature

The fourth and final day! I had one more museum left on my passport and I picked the Museum of Nature. Feeling super lazy and short on time I took an Uber to the museum. This definitely is a kid focused museum, but let me tell you, these are my favourite! The first exhibit was dinosaurs. DINOSAURS! Needless to say I spent the majority of the time around here. And here was another museum showcasing works by first nations, this time in an exhibit called Inuinnauyugt: We are Inuinnait. When you initially enter there’s giant ice blocks that are actually real, and the exhibit continue with tradition art and history as well as interactive exhibits, one of which showcasing the extreme cost of food up in Northern Canada; it was very eye opening.

The special exhibit while I was there was a butterfly exhibit but I opted out of this one. In the basement of the museum was an exhibition of winning shots from a National Geographic Canada including a section by kids and man those were some talented kids!

Byward Market

IMG_0309After the museum, I still had some time to kill before my train so I walked over to Byward Market. My mom had requested an ‘Obama cookie’ which are the red maple leaf sugar cookies that apparently Obama was photographed eating one his trip here, and they’ve since become famous. Turns out they now have a version with Justin Trudeau’s face on it, so I got one of those!

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After a quick stroll through the market, it was back to the hostel to pick up my bags and make some food for the train home (you know, the part I missed doing on the trip here), and then to head to the train station.

The ride home was very uneventful, I accomplished zero of the work I said I would, and finally got home around 11:30 PM and then went to bed cause I had to work at 7AM the next morning!

 

Looking Back

Things that I learned from this trip

  • You do not, and should not, back 3 sweaters for a 3 night trip because this takes all your luggage
  • Bring your own containers for bringing lunches to go so you don’t end up with a sandwich just wrapped in paper towel thrown into a backpack
  • Two camera lens should be good enough, anything more becomes too heavy of a bag.
  • Do a final lap of the house before you leave, make sure you bring all the camera batteries with you and not leave them still plugged into the wall at home
  • Even when you plan on using a day backpack, it’s still a good idea to bring a small purse in case you go out at night

Ottawa Part 1 – Day 1&2

Day 1

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This trip started off a little rough, and by rough, I mean we celebrated my birthday the night before and there was definitely more beer and tequila than anticipated. But hangover aside, there was nothing that could slow down my first trip of the year. I’m still trying to figure out whether I prefer a backpack or a duffle bag, so I picked backpack for this trip and headed for the GO Train station to get me to Toronto. Once in Toronto at Union station I switched from the GO Train to the VIA Rail.

Travel

I’ve taken the Amtrak to NYC twice before but I’ve never actually taken VIA so I had no idea what to expect, but it was the cheapest option to get to Ottawa, and only took about 4.5 hours. Also due to aforementioned hangover, I forgot to pack a meal, but luckily there was a vegan wrap option so I at least got some food on board. This part of the journey was uneventful and I just watched movies on my laptop, even though I told myself I would do school work.

Ottawa has a great public transit system and there were plenty of buses from the train station to downtown (which is where my hostel was), and the one I took let me off right in the University of Ottawa campus; I told myself I would come back and explore the campus a little at some point but never actually made it back.

HI Ottawa Jail Hostel

This whole trip really was based around the fact that I wanted to stay at the HI Ottawa Jail Hostel; yes, it was a legit jail. There’s going to be a whole other blog post about the jail, but the brief history is that this was a fully functioning jail right up until 1972, and 6 months after closing it was reopened as a hostel. There are a bunch of room types including normal style dorms, or you can opt to stay in an old cell, ranging from 3×9 solo cells, to larger and more private options. The hostel itself has 9 floors, with the basement being the kitchen and dining area, and the 8th floor being mostly historic with tours through the old death row cells.

When booking I just picked the cheapest option which ended up having me in a 4 person tradition dorm. There wasn’t anything exciting about this room, it was on the 9th floor, and there are no elevators so I definitely got a leg workout. It was actually kind of spooky because my room was right beside death row and you could hear people touring around. I was the only person in my room the first night which also was spooky. Fast forward a day, I ended up changing into a single person cell and paying the difference for my last two nights because I figured, where else would I be able to do the same thing, without having my parents forever disappointed in me.

Pure Kitchen

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After I had dropped off all my stuff, I headed out into town to grab some dinner, and I picked a vegan restaurant called Pure Kitchen. I’m usually all about taking public transit when an option, but at this point I was so done with large, crowded vehicles, so I “splurged” and took and Uber. At Pure Kitchen I had the most amazing vegan poutine with coconut “bacon” and a beer from Flying Monkey Brewery called Juicy Ass. Like actually that was its name and the waiter laughed just saying it so I knew I had to try it. Name aside, it was a very good beer.

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Pure Kitchen was only about a 25 minute walk back to the hostel so I decided to take the scenic route and walk down to Parliament before heading back. Got back, texted my mom that I was back alive, and called it a night!

Day 2

Day two was a very gross and rainy day outside; perfect for museum hoping. A tip when travelling is to look for discounted passes for attractions and transit, both of which I opted in for today. Ottawa museum’s have a passport that’s good for 3 consecutive days and gives you access to your choice of 3 of the 6 museums, and costs about $35. Ottawa transit also has day bus passes which give you unlimited rides for $10.50.

Canadian War Museum

The first museum that I visited was the Canadian War Museum. The last time I was at this museum I was on my grade 8 school trip, and as interesting as it was then, it didn’t really have the same impact that it did now after actually understanding what’s going on in the world. This museum is set up in sections by war era and details both Canada’s and the world’s impact. There were two major points that I realized from here: 1) although Canada is a peacekeeping country now, they’ve done some very questionable things in previous wars, and 2) there has never been a time of total world peace in my entire lifetime.

There were also two special exhibits on; the first is called Canadian Forces Artists Program- Group 7, which showcased art (mostly photography) from active members of the Canadian Forces during deployments and training missions worldwide. The second was one of my favourite, and I actually did it first and then again at the end of the museum; called She Who Tells a Story and showcasing photography from 12 women from Iran and then Arab world. The photos tell storied of life for women in the Middle East, the highs, the lows, and the changes. Unfortunately this exhibit is over now but the works are available in book form.

National Gallery of Canada

After the war museum, the rain stopped so I decided to walk to my next museum, the National Gallery of Canada; Google Maps claims this is a 37 minute walk, but I am easily distracted by buildings and anything that I can take a photo of, so I’d say I was at least an hour. (Side note: I wasn’t wearing my FitBit but I could estimate that I was reaching 30,000 steps a day easily). I don’t know what I was thinking there would be in the National Gallery, but I honestly was not expecting that much old art (clearly I don’t read websites), and I definitely am not a person who appreciates this kind of art the way it should be. BUT, there was a super cool exhibit on the history of photography and the gold and silver that used to be used to develop photographs, as well as showcases of some of the first photos every taken, so that was really neat. And there’s also an extensive section of modern art, so when all else fails, you can find my staring at straight lines on a wall; this part I actually did enjoy. I was not raised to appreciate art, so I apologize for anyone reading that thinks I’m absurd, but basically my views on old art is ‘yeah you’re really talented and that is a very realistic painting or a person/tree/fruit/etc.’ but when it comes to modern art, while I still don’t understand at least I appreciate that someone’s brain had to come up with this super complex concept. And if you’ve ever been to this museum before, you will know that the whole thing is basically a maze and I only got lost about 6 times.

Something that I really appreciate about this museum was the massive amount of Indigenous art they showcased. From contemporary art by Indigenous peoples to traditional painting styles from groups all over Canada, there’s so much to see and learn about here.

Night Life

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I got back to hostel after my two museum adventures to find out that a bunch of the hostel staff were heading to a local trivia night, which they do every week, and anyone from the hostel was welcome to join, so I went along with them. The bar that was hosting  (Kat & Kraken) actually was next door to Pure Kitchen where I was the night before for dinner. I somewhat successfully contributed to three answers: 1) about something medical related, 2) a Harry Potter reference, and 3) A Kardashian reference; just trying to make my family proud. We ended up coming in third and I convinced someone in out group to try the Juicy Ass beer from the night before also, so I’d say a pretty successful night over all.

After trivia a few of the group was heading to a local open mic night as one of them was performing so I tagged along with them to the really cool upstairs, local bar, called The Rainbow Bistro. They only stuck around for the first few acts but I stayed until about midnight just listening to the local talents. Before leaving the host asked my where I was from, and when I told him Hamilton, he responded with “ooooh like the Arkells hometown!” so there you have it, our one and only claim to fame!

More posts to follow including:

  • Day 3/4
  • All About the Jail