During the winter of both 2014 and 2015 I had the opportunity to travel to Ottawa with the youth group from my church to celebrate Winterlude (an annual festival in Ottawa and Gatineau to celebrate wintertime), but I wasn't able to follow what turned into my annual tradition in 2016 because of conflicting exams.
Knowing it was something I was always looking forward to, Steven had planned on surprising me by taking me there to celebrate my birthday. The keyword here is planned — I was in the dark about it until he accidentally told me one night over the phone. I didn't really care about it not being a surprise; I was just happy to be going to one of my favourite places.
We left early in the morning (if you are one to consider 11 a.m. early) on February 10th and headed for the Capital. The drive was scenic and pretty, and we stopped in Brockville alone the way to get a view of the bay bordering the city! We didn't realize how cold it was until we were actually outside — it was something like -25 degrees — so we decided to keep our walk short so we didn't freeze to death.
A few hours later we had arrived in Ottawa and made several wrong turns trying to get to the hotel. We finally made it there after a bit of confusion and brought our bags to our room. Of course, we had to jump on the bed. For supper we went to Bâton Rouge, a fancy restaurant right downtown where I ordered — in a classic Ryan move — a burger with sweet potato fries. We had to wait between 30-45 minutes just go get the table that we had reserved and then the waiter took another half hour come to our table to take our order. The food was quite good but I'd go back, but at a less busy time.
We had to park down a side street because the only parking close to the restaurant was pay parking and on the way back to our vehicle we got lost again. Luckily I bookmarked the location of Steven's van in Google Maps because it led us right back to it.
I'm not even going to pretend that we woke up early the next morning. We had some leftovers for breakfast, then I made my first trip to the LCBO because I was finally 19 (even though my birthday was a week before)! Then we headed downtown to explore the city, got stuck in gridlock but managed to find a parking garage that wasn't completely full — an almost-impossible feat that took us a while to find. The first thing we did was go to the tourist centre at Parliament Hill to sign up for a tour. Then since we had some time to kill, we wandered around but ended up standing in front of the Centennial Flame where we tried to stay warm in the cold weather.
Once inside the tour got underway. We saw both the House of Commons and the House of Senate along with the library and Peace Tower.
Next, we set off for the Rideau Canal, which is an awesome place to skate around in during the winter. Beware of the fact that it's always crowded there, no matter the weather. I never had the opportunity to take skating or hockey lessons as a kid, but that doesn't mean I'm not a good skater (even if the only way I can stop is by crashing into something)!
For supper, we went to a super fancy place called Canal Ritz, and the food was so good! We couldn't find parking at first, so we asked someone in a vehicle that said City of Ottawa on it, who pointed to the street and said parking was there. We started off with the soup of the day and bread and then decided on our main course from there. I got some wine that I really liked, and since then, have never been able to recall what it was called. The restaurant was located right on the canal and though it was nighttime, the view was still really nice!
Once we were done eating we paid, tipped, and went to get the van. We had a slight problem, however: the van wasn't there. We went around asking people if they saw it until we found a city employee who told us it was probably towed and told us where to pick it up. Turns out there was a parking lot somewhere else for the restaurant that the first person didn't tell us about. After a hour bus ride, which we could afford thanks to our PRESTO cards, we arrived at the tow yard. The fine wasn't cheap, and came to a couple hundred dollars. We paid and promptly left.
The next morning we had to check out of the hotel, but we had a couple more stops to make before we left the city and headed back to Toronto. First, Steven wanted to check out Carleton University to see what the campus looked like, and then we had to go to the IKEA Ottawa location before we left.
Then, we began to drive home. The weather was incredibly bad and I think there might've been a snowstorm warning so we had to drive a lot slower than the speed limit (it took us from 1:40-8:15 pm just to get from Ottawa to Ajax, then another hour to get to Toronto). I decided to take a time lapse during the ride home, and in my footage captured a vehicle going into the middle of the road.
Once we arrived in Ajax we were both really hungry, so we stopped at Buffalo Wild Wings before continuing to Toronto. Then, after seven and a half hours of driving, we made it back to my place.