• Meghan Bartok

Off to Ottawa!

Updated: Apr 13, 2021

My sister had her fall break from school a couple of weekends ago, and I happened to have a day and a half off, so we decided to adventure up to Ottawa for a little sisters’ getaway and some exploring! We picked Ottawa because it’s only about a four-and-a-half-hour drive from where I live, so it was a perfect distance for the amount of time we had.

We stayed at the HI Ottawa Jail Hostel in a private room, and it was such a cool experience! The hostel is in an old prison, and I made sure we were in one of the old cells (they also have rooms that are in a newer wing, and are just normal rooms). The room was actually two cells with the wall in between them taken down and was still quite small. I can’t even imagine actually being in a three-foot by nine-foot cell. There were also posters everywhere with little tidbits of the history of the prison. I can easily say it was one of the most interesting hostels I’ve stayed in!

Twenty four hours was the perfect amount of time to see the city for our first time – as, with any city, it’s always nice to have more time to really settle in, but I’ve found that some cities you can see really well in a short amount of time, and Ottawa was definitely one of those cities! We started our evening off with a trip to the Canadian Museum of History because it’s free on Thursday nights – gotta love saving $20! This is the most visited museum in Canada, so I figured it was worth a visit. This place is huge, and could easily take half a day if you actually wanted to look at every exhibit. They also had a children’s museum that, while I felt too old to look around in there, I would definitely take my own children to someday! We definitely learned a lot about the history of Canada from the beginning until now. I especially liked that it was the history of the whole of Canada, and not just Ottawa or Ontario. However, we were fighting off hunger pains at this point, so we decided to go in search of dinner. We ended up at Le Foubrac, which is across the river from Ottawa in Gatineau, Quebec, where I had the yummiest mac and cheese.

Then it was off to the Nordik Spa, which was definitely the highlight of the trip. Allison and I went to the thermal baths in Budapest back in 2016 and loved it, so we were excited to do something like that again! This was definitely a lot more of a spa-type environment with calming music and some great landscaping, and we had a great time hopping from sauna to hot tub and back again. It was also a great place to relax, recharge, and reconnect. The place was beautiful, and no phones were allowed – it is a spa after all! – so I linked the website above if you want to check out pictures. It’s already on my list of places to go back to! Plus it was only about $45USD for entry that is good all day, definitely not a bad deal!

The next day was a morning of sightseeing around Ottawa, which was quite easy because the city is super walkable. We started at the National Gallery of Canada, which was definitely one of my favorite art museums that I’ve been to (and I’ve been to a lot of them!). When we were content with the amount of art we had seen, we walked across the street to see the Notre Dame Basilica. A beautiful place for sure, with the delicately carved altar and blue and gold ceiling. Then it was off to Byward Market for lunch at one of the many pubs and a poke around the shops in the area. I loved how much fresh produce there was available, and it’s all from local farms! Ottawa is actually known for its multitude of farms nearby.  

The last bit of our day was spent walking around Parliament Hill, which provided some spectacular views of the city over into Quebec, and down the Rideau Canal. It’s only too bad it’s not ice skating season yet, as the canal turns into an almost five-mile ice rink in the winter.

Overall, Ottawa was a great little adventure, and having some sister quality time is always good! I feel that Canada is a great but often understated country, who is often overshadowed by the United States. This makes it a bit of a hidden gem, and I’m excited to explore more of Canada soon!

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