Ottawa is a sleepy city. It is one of the smaller and mellow capital cities of the world. So much so that during one trip there with a close friend of mine, we quickly felt we were out of things to do. Returning a couple years later with my family, I found the Ottawa River.
Though the Gothic Revival Parliament building and the changing of the guard was fetching and wild to see in North America, the river was where the life I was interested in took place. High above lies Ottawa including the castle-like Hotel Fairmont Chateau Laurier where I stayed. But, a quick walk down to the river brings with it a sense of being out for a day trip than a stroll in the middle of a city. While most cities, including my own New York, have riverscapes that are polluted or stripped of all natural elements, the Ottawa River is nicely landscaped as it meanders between the city that bears its name and nearby towns in Quebec.
During my walks down by the river,, I spent a good portion of time watching a groundhog get his lunch. Crossing the river to the north side and into Hull, Quebec, I came across a gaggle of Canadian Geese completely unperturbed that I was nearby. I climbed up a tree and sat watching them from just a few feet above. Later, on a tour boat down the river, we came close up to the Rideau Falls, so named because of their definite semblance to a curtain (rideau in French). If you continue on this path, the Ottawa River Pathway, you can end up much further, indeed.
Located only a block up from the river was another daily stop of mine, the unassuming Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica contains a spellbinding beautiful interior with painted blue ceiling with stars and an ornate alter. Usually empty of all but me, I returned several times, falling in love with the almost storybook mysticism feel it held. Ottawa doesn’t exactly provide high-octane excitement, but in those daily walks, I did find contentment.