Adventures in Ottawa

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Montreal students went to Ottawa, Ontario recently, and spent the weekend exploring the capital of Canada. It was a great weekend to be in Ottawa! Despite leaving Montreal during a blistery blizzard, students were able to take the train from Montreal, and enjoy a smooth ride without the challenges of the snow piling up. It was the first time many had taken the train, and it was also a nice experience on the return, as they were able to see the Canadian countryside during the daytime hours. 

 
Upon arrival into Ottawa, the students made their way to the hostel for the weekend. This was also a first time experience for many, as they had never stayed in a hostel, and had also never stayed in a hostel quite as adventurous as this one. This reputable hostel was once an old prison in the city of Ottawa, and the hostel still made reference to this previous establishment by having heavy, rod iron doors, and even incorporating the look of old “jail cells” into the rooms the students stayed to sleep in. At first it seemed a little strange and many jokes about “being in jail” were told, but eventually students realized it was just another room with another bunk bed, where they would rest for the following day. Students were given sheets, blankets, pillows, and towels. There were also several other groups at the hostel that weekend, which led to interesting conversations about experiences of people from all over the world.  

While in Ottawa, students had the chance to visit the Canadian Museum of Civilization, boasting roughly 270,000 sq. ft  of display space, spread over four floors in its Museum Building. The permanent collection features “Canada Hall,” an exhibition created under a 17-metre domed ceiling that provides an incredible walk through the journey of one thousand years of Canada’s social history. The First People’s Hall Divided is also a large striking exhibition space that highlights the cultural, historical and artistic achievements of Canada’s First Peoples and contains more than 2,000 artifacts. Other permanent exhibits include a Children’s Museum (which is quite fun to experience as an adult!), Canadian Postal Museum, Canadian Personalities, and more! The temporary exhibit on display was fascinating, with one of the greatest collections of Vodou objects in the world. 

After grabbing lunch at the well-known “Byward Market” in Ottawa, students ventured to the Canadian Parliament, and through a guided tour learned more about the Canadian government, House of Commons, the Senate, and even more intriguing stories about the history of the actual building. In addition, the view from the high point in the Peace Tower was beautiful that day, as the skies were blue and the sun was shining.
 
 

In keeping with the adventurous theme of the weekend, the students opted to try a food no one had ever eaten before – another first! The group headed to a local Ethiopian restaurant, and learned about injera, a sponge-like crepe that is a staple to Ethiopian cuisine, as it is used as the principal way of picking up the food. It was a fun experience eating with no utensils, and discovering how injera bread was useful, and how spicy some dishes could be! 

 

The weekend in Ottawa would not have been the same without the activities of “Winterlude,” the capital’s winter festival. The group ventured out to the night festivities, seeing some amazing ice sculptures, lantern creations, music and dancing, as well as experiencing some of the freeze of winter activities! With hot chocolate and the first taste of “beaver tails,” the students warmed up back at the hostel. The following morning was also spent in the Winterlude fun, this time skating on the Rideau Canal – the world’s longest ice skating rink! They strapped on their skates, and started down the canal that sunny day. While the ice skating path went on for 6 kilometers, most felt accomplished that Sunday morning by hitting making the four kilometer loop. It was a unique experience, even for those less accustomed to being on blades! 

 

With that, the group packed up, grabbed lunch, and made their way back to the train station, and back to Montreal. It was a weekend full of new experiences with a group that was definitely up for the adventure!