Jan 27, 2014

Posted by in Blog, Canada, North America, Ontario, Photography | 0 Comments

Haggis, Numbing Nighttime Photography and a Night in Jail: 24 hours in Ottawa

We were in the Montreal Central Station and had just finished eating after arriving from Halifax. We had waited in a ginormous line for an extra hour and as we finally made our way to board the train that would take us to Ottawa, the scanner made that troublesome sound as the clerk scanned my ticket. He pressed some buttons and then waved me through. So far as I knew, everything was sweet, so I carried on.

That is, until we got on the train.  We were directed to the correct assigned car, but I’d failed to take notice of the assigned seating arrangements on my ticket. That resulted in us unknowingly occupying someone else’s allocated seat. Easily fixable, we moved to the seats on our tickets, 10C and 10D – the seats I now noticed assigned on our tickets – and settled in with all of our gear… only to have another man announce we were in his seat. Investigating our tickets once again, the lady states that I am not a registered passenger, and will have to be issued a new ticket. As in, be charged to buy a new one? I don’t think so.

I discover that while we’ve been waiting for and have boarded the 657 to Toronto, my ticket says train 59 seat 10C departing two hours later, and Thom’s ticket, the one on top that we had been looking at, was for train 657 and seated in 10D. So when I booked our tickets back in November, the agent changed our seats around so we’d be sitting together, but neglected to put us on the SAME TRAIN.

Thankfully, the VIA staff saw what happened, and rectified the situation without making me buy a new ticket.

Arriving in Ottawa, we were greeted with frigid temperatures of -19 and windchill of -26 as we waited for our bags, the last to be offloaded.

Getting a taxi was another adventure in and of itself, with our extra hockey bag. The first cabbie haphazardly threw it in his trunk, and then said “it won’t fit” as it stuck out the back. I could see that it wasn’t working, and tried to turn it sideways.

The security marshal promptly told us we had too much luggage. As helpful as Captain Obvious’ statement was, I asked him what he suggested we do. He replied with “you’ve got way too much luggage.” I asked if there was a way to get a bigger car, and the cabbie how was still moaning about the hockey bag, said we’d have to take TWO cabs; not a favourable option for us travellers on a budget.

Thankfully, the cab driver that was pulled up behind the first one took the hockey bag from me, fit it into his larger truck, and put the extra bag in the front seat.

“Whew” I breathed a sigh of relief as we made our way from the VIA station to downtown, a $15 cab ride including a tip for the kind man. We checked into our very first accommodation of the trip, the Ottawa Jail Hostel.

For two dorm beds in a 6 person co-ed dorm, we paid $72.36. The rooms were actually former jail cells. Luckily, it was 2 with the wall knocked out and a door covered up to allow just enough room.

The atmosphere within the hostel was a bit eerie, but definitely a cool vibe.

We were both feeling a bit grotty after spending more than 24 hours on the train, so showering was a priority before we ventured out to find some dinner. The lovely Vanessa from Turnipseeds Travels had given me a great list of her favourite places to eat, so we had lots to choose from.

A hop skip and a jump from the hostel and we were in the Byward Market, the heart of downtown Ottawa. We decided to try the Highlander Pub.

Arriving just after 5, we were pleased to find that the ‘happy hour’ prices were still in effect. So we split an appetizer of deep fried chicken fajita wraps.

IMG_7423A flight of 4 sampler beers cost the same as a pint, so I tried 4 different Scottish beers, and Thom got real brave and went for the Haggis. I tried a bit too, and  it was pretty tasty. We still have to go to Scotland in order to compare it to the real thing.
haggis at the highlander pub in ottawaFrom the pub we made our way up to Parliament Hill. The first time I set up my tripod and the darn thing snapped in the frigid winter temperatures. It still works, it’s just in two parts.

Since it was only four days after Christmas, the Parliament Building was still festively lit up.
I played with the exposure on my camera a bit, taking different shots and even getting a few of us.
ottawa - parliament lit up in december
My favourite photo was this one, of the building off to the right of the main parliament building.
ottawa - parliament lit up in december

We hadn’t been out wandering long, but we were freezing. The wind was cutting through our pants, and I was wearing TWO pairs!

On the way back, we walked past the Rideau Canal, which had just frozen over, but was not yet open to the public. Its freshly groomed ice looked gorgeous with the lighting along the canal.
ottawa - rideau canal lit up in decemberOnce we got back to the hostel and checked the weather online, I learned that we’d been out roaming around in -19 degrees Celsius; with the windchill, it was -26!

The next morning, we got up and went to the complimentary breakfast in the common area. Fresh fruit and cereal awaited us. Supposedly there were bagels, but we may have missed them.

We checked out and had 2.5 hours to kill until we needed to be back at the train station. The staff kindly allowed us to securely store our bags in the excess baggage cupboard downstairs, giving us the freedom to go out and explore some more.

We walked back downtown, back to the canal and actually right down beside it. It wasn’t open yet. We continued under the bridge, to the locks, where we’d spent a lot of time in the summer, watching the many boats travel up. Now each gate sat opened, and the water inside frozen.

We walked down past the Bytown Museum, right down to the river.  We made our way back to the Market to meet Vanessa for a coffee. I indulged in a vegan chocolate brownie, which was absolutely divine, and a mocha. It was New Years Eve, after all so staying up past midnight was the name of the game.

We called a cab from the coffee shop and then had to practically run back to the hostel. It was there waiting for us. Our 24 hours in Ottawa had officially gone way too fast. We piled our gear in, and took off for our next adventure…


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