Along the Rideau Canal, Ottawa, ON
It's probably ridiculous to admit that I stopped over in Ottawa but really I had only 2 days. My choice of destinations were The International Jail Hostel and The National Gallery of Canada.
Once at the International Jail Hostel in Ottawa, ON, a towering young woman, with a low sophisticated accent and whose Barbie legs sank thigh deep in do-me boots, pointed towards the mall where I could find a currency exchange service. I paid $5 USD to get $99 CAD and began a 2 day solo adventure of this diverse city visiting museum and galleries and sampling coffee houses and fresh market produce.
During the day, proud stone castles stuffed with history guard quiet streets and voluptuous parks, alluding order and respect. I took 4 ½ hours to weave in, around and through the places of Confederation Boulevard, a triangle of immaculate streets, public art and 2 bridges leading around Parliament Hill, connecting to Gatineau by crossing Victoria Island and the Ottawa River. Black squirrels have custody of the parks and are quite entitled-like, following along as if expecting me to offer up my Beaver Tail pastry.
Saturday night I bought a ticket and joined up with The Haunted Walk’s “Ghosts in the Gallows” tour arranged by Ottawa Walking Tours. We started on Sparks Street next to D'Arcy McGee's Pub with our guide, Phil, a theatrical young man in a black cloak. He led us through dark sections of the Byward and a courtyard of back doors. There he told about recent hauntings involving 2 employees seeing a woman’s figure in the windows of their closed restaurant and hearing footsteps inside.
On the grounds of Fairmont Château Laurier, a hotel commissioned by Grand Trunk Railway president Charles Melville Hays, we learned that the hotel is haunted by Hays’ ghost because he died on the Titanic returning to Canada for the grand opening of his hotel, his dream he had finally built, but never saw it finished.
The tour ended at the jail (1862 – 1972), but not without a haunted tour and more ghost stories. My bunk was in a cell with barred doors. I’m not one to be spooked, but with haunting stories in my head, my imagination was awake. This hostel is rated the 7th spookiest place in the world and people come to stay hoping to see a ghost. One story is about 2 German men who insisted on getting their money back because they didn’t see a ghost. While arguing with the hostel attendant a $1 coin levitated from the register to the eye level of the witnesses for 5 seconds, then dropped back into the box. The German visitors picked up their bags and left.
I made it through the night partly by walking around with my camera looking for night shots and partly by returning to my car every half hour or so to tap into the bottle of wine I had picked up in NY. (Oh - my customs experience. That will have to be another post.) After two hours of that, the 2-hour walking tour and an all day city hike, I had no problem sleeping in my cell.
Lobby at The National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, ON
Sunday morning I walked into The National Gallery of Canada, and if I didn’t have to check out of the hostel that afternoon, move my jeep from it’s hiding spot and check in to another hostel across town, I would still be there gaping, mostly because of the art but also because of the sheer enormity of the place. This is a modern palace, I was Dorothy and the hall from the lobby (I first thought this was the actual museum) leading to the galleries was like going to see the Wizard, only 10x longer and taller; literally a block long. The city and sky was visible from all the exterior walls and ceilings of glass.
Lurking outside the museum is a bronze cast of a spider 30ft high and over 33ft wide called Maman (1999) by French-American sculptor Louise Bourgeois, It was fun watching 2 kids run around the spider’s legs but when the boy ran out and away as if being chased by the spider I had to snap a picture.
Information about the exhibits is here – I had enough time to enjoy about half of the general admission version in the 2 hours I was there.