Posted by: The Starfish Dancer | September 15, 2014

A Much Needed Mini Break: The Ottawa/Gatineau Experience #1

Parliament Hill in the nation's capital.

Parliament Hill in the nation’s capital.

It seems like forever since I’ve been able to get out and take a break. I know I went away for a short break in April, and this is only an even shorter break tacked on to a work trip, but I still am extremely glad to scratch my travel bug itch just long enough to tide me over until I have a real (and long!) vacation in October.  I flew out from Yellowknife yesterday morning. Super early – my flight left at 6:50 in the morning. I’d booked through our new work system for the first time, and when I couldn’t check in online the night before, I got a bit nervous, especially after my last experience at the airport.  I drove myself to the airport (and found parking just fine this time) with more than an hour to check in and resolve problems just in case.  I arrived behind a bus of tourists so it was a good thing I did, even though there were no problems at all checking in at the counter, because the line was long and the extra time kept my stress levels down.

Me on my big king bed with so many pillows.

Me on my big king bed with so many pillows.

Once check through, I went through security and read until I could take my flight.  The plane had tiny overhead, so I had to sky check my carryon when it wouldn’t fit, but other than that tiny snag, everything went smoothly on my way to Calgary with a quick stop in Edmonton.  Once in Calgary, I popped into the Chili’s for a delicious hot breakfast, then went to my gate in plenty of time.  After that, it was straight to Ottawa. I finished two books and started a third on the flight, even though the TV was working, as I am trying once again to read 52 books in 52 weeks (not counting re-reads).  I’m a little behind, but will hopefully catch up over this trip, and then my trip in October might even put me ahead of the game.

I’m staying at the Best Western Plus Gatineau-Ottawa, just across the Alexandra Bridge on the Gatineau side.  It’s a fairly standard hotel, one on the government accommodations list.  I have a lovely view of the river from my room, and while the bathroom is a little small, it is more than serviceable, and my bed is ginormous.  The hotel restaurant is only open for breakfast in this season, so I ventured out to a nearby Thai place for dinner. I debated trying to find something else since I already have plans to eat there with colleagues on Tuesday, but there isn’t a lot of restaurants nearby enough that I was comfortable walking back from in the dark, so the Green Papaya (Papaye Verte) is going to get my business twice this week.  That’s not a bad thing: the prices are reasonable, the food is good (I had Pad Khing, a ginger chicken dish, with rice), the Mai Thai was awesome (and I won’t be drinking that at a work lunch!), and the service and ambiance were excellent. After dinner, I came back to my hotel to veg and then sleep.

One of the skeletons at the Canadian Museum of Nature.  Educational and fun (especially if you just meander and only read half the information).

One of the skeletons at the Canadian Museum of Nature. Educational and fun (especially if you just meander and only read half the information).

This morning, I woke up, brewed coffee in my room, sprung open the curtains and enjoyed a good two hours of lolling about in my king-sized bed, taking peeks at the river.  I made my way downstairs for the buffet breakfast, then walked to the Canadian Museum of Nature because I wanted to do something different today.  Research online showed they were having an exhibit on bioluminescence, and since I love jellyfish and there was also a dinosaur exhibit, I knew I was in.  I bought the package to see the exhibit but also the two 3D movies.  I had a good time and spent more than I expected at the museum. I loved the dinosaur bones even though there was no stegosaurus (my favourite dinosaur), and the bioluminescent stuff was pretty cool (and I still love the glowing jellyfish).  The first 3D movie was about penguins, and it was okay.  The second was fantastic.  I don’t know if it was a better movie, I had better glasses, or a better seat, but the Ultimate Wave (about Tahiti) was amazing. I definitely felt like stuff was right in front of me.

After I’d explored the exhibits (even the one with the bugs and the scary tarantula), the last two half-hazardly because I was ready for a break from the people and learning about things, I walked back on Elgin Street, because on the way to the museum, I’d been struck with familiarity and realized I’d been there before, and there was gelato.  So on the way back, I stopped for entirely too much of the sweet dish.  Then I walked back toward my hotel, figuring I’d take a break before going to dinner.

A Mexican cultural exhibit - a happy surprise on my walk today.

A Mexican cultural exhibit – a happy surprise on my walk today.

Of course, I decided to take a different path back, and got a little turned around. This was, however, a bonus.  Not only did I see some adorable squirrels in the park (since the sun had come out while I was in the museum), but I ended up at the Spark Street Mall (a street closed off to cars) where some sort of Mexican Cultural Event was going on, so I stayed and watched the dancers for a while.  Finally, I made my way back to take the break and get off my feet for a bit.  It was after six by the time I got in, and I wasn’t ready for dinner, so I did some research online until after.  I figured my best bet to have a different dinner was to walk toward the Byward Market, then cab home since the sun was starting to set.  But in the lobby, there was another woman asking about nearby restaurants and being directed to “the chicken place” down the road.

Statue

Across the Alexandra Bridge, you can look up and see this statue. I’m think it is Samuel de Champlain, because of his hat.

So I did the spontaneous thing, asked if she wanted company, then suggested we walk into Ottawa together, since I didn’t want to go alone. All that cruise experience of dining with new strangers every night has totally paid off. Instead of eating at some version of KFC, we both walked to a nice burger joint called Bite, and we got to chat instead of eating alone.  She’s also up for training, though as part of the military (she’s with the navy), and had never been to Ottawa before.  So I pointed out the few things I knew, made some suggestions, and basically had a really good time. The food was also very good.  I had a Gard(e)her Burger, a vegetarian option made with beans and beets, with french fries because my burger was “healthy”. It was very good.  As was the white wine sangria, and the deep fried banana and chocolate spring roll I had for dessert.

After dinner, we walked back to the hotel, and here I am, plumb tuckered out from today’s adventure.  I think I’ll be seeing family friends tomorrow, as well as a former colleague.  But even if all I do is read, I feel like I crammed a lot of adventure in today, and that would be more than fine too.  Until tomorrow!

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