By John Connelly (GPROG ’21)
Opportunities arise frequently for the student body here at Montreal to get together for events, and this time we were lucky enough to go out to Ottawa to see all of the cool sights of Canada outside of Montreal. On the trip, we got to experience historic sites, museums, government buildings, Ottawan cuisine, and a taste of anglophone Canada.
We opened up to a busy Friday, where we hurriedly boarded our bus to embark on a two and a half hour journey to the heart of Ottawa. After another short city bus ride, we made it to our temporary housing, a “haunted” jailhouse that had been converted to a hostel. The jailhouse was the main jail in Ottawa, and several public executions happened there, making it quite the macabre place to stay for a student outing. On top of all that, a very famous execution happened there, the execution of Patrick James Whelan, who was accused of assassinating Thomas D’Arcy McGee, a member of parliament. Patrick was judged guilty on nothing but one eye witness who thought they saw him in the dead of night, so it is hypothesized that he may not even have been guilty. So for that reason, the hostel believes that his ghost, along with many other wrongfully executed prisoners of the jailhouse may still haunt the hostel. All of this and more we learned on the tour of the hostel that happened the next day after our arrival to Ottawa.
Anyways, following our brief check-in at the hostel, we went for food at a pub, where they featured classic pub food, alongside very interesting menu items such as a burger stuffed with cheese curds. The food was great and a big help to our attitude after spending nearly three hours on various buses and commute. After food, we beelined to a comedy club to enjoy the remainder of the night. I have never been to a comedy club, so my only experience I had prior was from various tv show segments or word of mouth, and man did that first time leave an impression on me. I can say that me and pretty much everyone in my vicinity was dying of laughter before the first act even got on. It was honestly one of the highlights of the Ottawa trip for me, because even though it doesn’t really represent Ottawa much, it was just a blast.
After a long night and a nice slumber alongside some spooky ghosts, it was time for another exciting day. In the afternoon there was the hostel tour mentioned prior, where we went around to all the jail cells not being used as rooms, and got to see cool places like the gallows and death row. We also got to see rooms used as solitary confinement, which still had engravings from when the place was still a jail. Then, we broke for lunch before reconvening at a famous spot in Ottawa, BeaverTails. For those who don’t know what a Beavertail is, it’s very country fair-esque food. It’s basically a long flat slab of fried dough with various toppings, and it resembles a beaver’s tail. I had one that was covered in a maple syrup sauce and chocolate drizzle, and boy was it sweet.
After lunch we went to the National Gallery, which is a big art museum with a glass exterior and a big spider sculpture out in the front. We got to see multiple eras of art and see some really interesting pieces. Our tour guide took us to various pieces and explained various aspects of the art that made it unique, and even someone like me with little to no experience in art had a great time learning history behind all of the art we got to see. There was this one sculpture that was a whole bunch of different styles of lamp posts mashed together, and it was so cool I had to snatch a photo of it. By the end of the day, exhausted from walking around all day and from multiple tours, we were quickly refreshed by being treated to an all you can eat buffet.
On the final day we all checked out in the morning so that we would be ready to leave by the time lunch came around. Our trip wasn’t over yet however, because the day’s adventure would lead us right to Parliament, surrounded by many gorgeous government buildings. The inside of Parliament was pretty neat, including the portraits of many royalties as well as governor generals. We were able to enter the room where they all convene to discuss bills and legislature, which was cool because the carpet was red and covered with leaves. Also the room was complete with the plaques of all the provinces and territories of Canada as well as the seats of which the Governor General and Queen would sit when meetings are in session. An interesting tidbit we learned was how the Parliament building was new, and had been converted from an old metro station, of which the clock remained in the same place.
After a quick meal, it was time for our brief adventures in Ottawa to come to an end. We had only a few days, but we made the most of it, getting to see a bit of everything, art, government, and food. It was really nice to go visit another city in Canada, because Montreal is a very unique , so it was cool to see all the differences that exist between the capital of Canada and one of the most populated cities. I had a blast and highly recommend any students who go abroad to visit when they get the chance.