Have you ever done one of those quizzes on Facebook about where you have travelled or what you have done, you know the ones designed to make yourself feel superior to your friends because you have travelled further afar than them? I digress. I was reading one a few months back and looked through all the places to visit in Canada, not to post the results I hasten to add, but to check out all the ‘must do’ things that we may not have done yet and one of them was to ice skate on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa. I was really excited about our trip to Ottawa in January but a little disappointed that the canal doesn’t usually open for skating until the end of January. I was delighted to discover that, due to the unseasonably cold winter we have been having this year, the Canal was open a whole month early than normal and we would be able to skate on it.
The Rideau Canal is famous for being the world’s longest skating rink at 7.8km and is used by tourists and locals alike, locals use it to skate to work and school in the winter, how cool is that!? I admit I didn’t skate an awful lot, the ice was extremely bumpy and not exactly like the ice rinks that I am used to, but I did it. We hired skates, instead of lugging our own all that way, which in hindsight was a mistake as the hire skates were expensive and incredibly uncomfortable. I didn’t last on the ice very long, truth be told, well it was -30C so you can’t blame me! But we did have time to sneak in a quick Beavertail, a freshly cooked flat doughnut like Canadian delicacy and an absolute must for après skating!
Hubbie enjoying a hot Beavertail
What is really strange about the whole experience is this; Growing up in England you are told never to go near frozen ponds or lakes as they are extremely unsafe, yet here we are in Ottawa skating on a frozen canal perfectly safely and the next day I took this shot of downtown Ottawa with the canal in the middle showing, not only skaters but buildings on the canal not to mention the great big truck with the snow plough clearing the snow from the ice.
It’s hard to believe there will be boats floating on here in a few weeks isn’t it!
Across the Ottawa River via the Alexandra Bridge in Gatineau, Quebec is the best museum I have ever been to, the Canadian Museum of Civilization. It charts Canadian history from the First Nations to modern times through out the provinces from East Coast to West. It is Canada’s most visited museum but it is often overlooked by tourists as it isn’t included in many Ottawa city guides due to it being in another Province even though it is actually only about 2 km from Parliament Hill.
View of Parliament Hill from the Alexandra bridge
We arrived as the museum opened and had the place to ourselves in the beginning and even though we walked around it all day long until our legs ached we didn’t get around all of it, the building is enormous!
The First Peoples Exhibits take up the entire ground floor and was my favourite part of the museum and the display of totem poles in the Grand Hall was simply breathtaking.
There was an interesting display on the first immigrants to Canada, this photo in particular made me smile.
And a rather unnerving temporary exhibition on Vodou.
I will not attempt to describe the whole museum as it was so vast but if you are ever in the area be sure to pay it a visit, take the whole day and wear comfy shoes!
On our recent trip to Ottawa we visited the Canadian Museum of Civilization where they had a temporary exhibit of Haitian Vodou objects (also spelt Voodoo). The idea of the exhibition was to dispel myths often portrayed by Hollywood that the religion is all about sticking pins in dolls.
Vodouists do use dolls and human remains in their practices however, they have a positive association because they represent their ancestors. They believe when ancestors are close by, the living can communicate with them and benefit from their help and experience. Vodouists often believe they are being possessed by Lwa (Haitian spirits) or they call on Lwa to help them out of a particular imbalance caused by illness or a trauma for example.
Regardless of the intention of the exhibition I found it really quite disturbing, there was an unsettling vibe in the room that made me shudder and unfortunately my shaky hand lead to some blurry photos!
If you are in Ottawa, take a look and see what you think but whatever you do leave the little ones behind for this particular exhibit!