10 Things You Probably Did Not Know About Ottawa or You Knew But Just Didn’t Care

1. Ottawaraians (Ottawatonians?) don’t wait for the light to change before they start walking. They do this in a way that would get them killed in places like Rome, Barcelona and maybe Baltimore. And would for sure get them a J-walking ticket in Vancouver.

2. They do this because they’re very cold and so are anxious to get to the next place on their list.

3. You are not required to skate on the Rideau Canal. You’re allowed to walk. As the very annoyed sounding lady who I asked about this told me, “It’s a public thoroughfare! You can do whatever you like!”

People kept telling me to rent skates and eat a beavertail. But it’s ok to just walk and not eat anything at all. That’s what I did.

4. Some people skate to and from work on the Rideau Canal, especially during the current transit strike. The same pissed-off lady told me it’s possible to skate “all the way to Carleton,” and I could tell from the way she said it that it’s a long, long way.

5. People in Ottawa are currently really, really mad at the mayor partly because he gets limo’d to work while everyone else can’t even take the bus. (The idea being, I guess, that maybe if he walked the three blocks to work he’d knock out some mental cobwebs and figure out how to end the transit strike.)

6. The Byward Market is open year ‘round and the lady at the maple syrup place would appreciate it if people would stop telling tourists that the market is closed in winter, thank you very much.

7. Tourists are not welcome to look around in Constitution House. (So I think they should have called it something else, don’t you? “Constitution House” sounds sort of weirdly friendly.) I know because the very pleasant RCMP officers manning the metal detectors asked me to leave once they’d determined I had no business there beyond looking at the pretty moldings and reading the brass plaques. And since I’m not even quite sure what sort of business is going on there, I had to tell them I did not. I wonder this though: why have brass plaques with explanations put up in the foyer of a historic building if no one is going to be allowed to read them?

8. People in Ottawa are pretty blasé about snow.

9. Ottawa is a company town. Everyone you meet is either in the business of running the government or in the business of running a business that supports the government. Or they’re the significant other of some government-connected person or at least know a lot of people involved in government or in the other aforementioned categories. You get the idea.

10. Quebec is right across the river. If you were a really terrific pitcher, you could perhaps throw a stone and hit it. I’m not so I didn’t even try.

Note: The astonishingly terrible photos are from the camera in my phone. I forgot the USB cable for my real phone, so I have to make do with these for now. The top one is the main building of Parliament on Parliament Hill. (Which is not really much of a hill, by my West Coast standards.) The second I took while walking on the Rideau Canal. It was snowing. And much prettier than the crappy photo would indicate.

Tomorrow I’m taking the train to Toronto. Film at 11. So to speak. (Since I didn’t even remember the USB cable for my real camera, you’re probably betting I don’t have a video camera with me. You’d be right.)

I’ve enjoyed my time in Ottawa a great deal. The people are fantastic, the place interesting and the restaurants great, numerous and varied. What else does anyone need?


The Group of Seven Museum just north of Toronto is worth a trip if you have a spare minute. Amazing group of Canadian artists in the 1930s or there about. Some of their work is also in the Toronto Museum along with Emily Carr.

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