This past weekend, I went to the Silver Bay YMCA for a retreat for individuals with leadership positions in my sorority, a small academic and philanthropic based social Greek organization with 13 active chapters along the east coast.
I drove down with two of my fellow sisters, and we chose to take a scenic route rather than a majority of highway driving. We went through New Hampshire and spent a lot of time in the Green Mountains and Adirondack Mountains. It definitely helped pass the time during our 5.5 hour drive with 250+ miles to cover!
After a 3-day retreat, it was time to make the trek back to Maine and enjoy some scenic views again!
Sunday morning I was up around 8:00 AM and off to packing for the trip home. Then, it was goodbye to my Air BNB hosts, into a Lyft, and off to one of Ottawa’s airports.
After the fiasco of getting to Ottawa (shoutout to Porter Airlines, American Airlines, and Vayama for taking my sanity, a day of my trip, $100 extra, and 12 hours on the phone), I was super nervous about getting back to Boston! Thankfully, the first one was only a few minutes behind, but my second one from Toronto got delayed by about a half hour, thankfully that was all! After my trip there, I think I was deserving of a smooth trip home.
I arrived in Portland a little later than expected because the plane was just late enough for me to barely miss the 6:35 bus, but I was on the 7:35 one and back to Portland around 9:00 PM! Then back home to spend time with my family and my doodle.
After the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum, I got lunch and then went to get my nails done! Walking to the nail salon, I walked through The Glebe, a historic neighborhood that is now buzzing with street life, stores, pop-up shops, and more.
After, I went back to my Air BNB to rest before going out. I woke up at 8:00 PM and thought it was 8:00 AM, and then realized it was still evening. I wanted to go out Saturday night as my last night in Ottawa, so I headed downtown to the ByWard Market area, which is the nightlife hub (and tourist hub) of Ottawa, busy day and night. No club or bar would take my credit card, so that’s how that went! I decided the universe was trying to spare my stomach yet again. So, after feeling pretty bummed for coming all the way out, I decided to try a restaurant, Atari..
I enjoyed a drink and a small meal and had time to spend with myself and reflect on the week. It wasn’t exactly what I was picturing for a night out, but it turned out to be a really mindful experience. From there, I went back to my Air BNB for one last night’s sleep in Ottawa!
On my last full day in Ottawa (Saturday, May 26), I decided to go to start the day with the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum. This is another highlight of Ottawa, but one that I only had a passive interest in and wasn’t sure I was going to go. But, when Saturday hit, I wanted to fill the day with more adventures, so I decided to go for it! And I’m glad I did. It was super interesting!
This was another affordable museum. I paid about $10 USD for a college student ticket. One thing I really like about Canada is that I find a lot more college discounts than back home.
I started off with a 45-minute guided tour through some of the highlights. It was really interesting learning about aviation history through a Canadian lens. We saw the first airplane developed in Canada (around the time of the Wright brothers) as well as original fighter and training jets from WWII. Here’s a floor plan and a detailed directory of the aircraft currently on display:
Courtesy of https://ingeniumcanada.org/casm/visit
A lot of this was over my head, and I’m sure people who are more of a history buff or interested in aviation would have learned a lot more and engaged more. But, I definitely still enjoyed it, and I’m glad added it to my list!
The Canadian Museum of Nature is Canada’s national natural history and natural sciences museum located in Ottawa, Ontario. This is another top site in Ottawa and one that I had passive interest in. I was looking for something fun to do on a Friday night, and I decided I didn’t want to go clubbing and spend my last full day in Ottawa hungover, so I decided for something a little more low-key. Upon doing some Internet searching of top nightlife activities and destinations in Ottawa, I found something called the Nature Nocturne. Here’s the description from the website:
When darkness falls, the Museum comes alive in the most exciting Nature Nocturne season yet. Explore galleries after hours, engage your curiosity with amazing activities and enjoy some great music and mingling. It’s Ottawa’s coolest night out—an unforgettable experience that moves the body and stimulates the mind.
This event is held once a month at the Canadian Museum of Nature, and I was surprised that the monthly event for May happened to be on the Friday that I was there! If you’re in Ottawa on June 29 or August 24, 2018, you’ll also have the opportunity to check this out (click links to buy tickets)!
I bought the ticket the day of, and it was emailed to me within 20 minutes (unlike American Airlines who still hadn’t emailed me my ticket within three hours and wouldn’t let me on the flight — #notbitter). I paid $25 CAD ($22 USD) for the night. On a normal visit, tickets are around $11 USD, so another affordable museum!
After I finished at Le Nordik Spa-Nature (see blog post here), I headed downtown to the Parliament Hill area for dinner, and then headed over to the CMN around 9:00 PM.
So I went back and forth on whether or not I wanted to drink, and I finally decided to go for it, but then my credit card wouldn’t work in the ATM because I don’t have the PIN I need, so I guess the universe told me to save the wellbeing of my stomach and just chill out for the night!
I took time to look around some of the exhibits, which was nice. Some people were there in “going-out” attire and very interested in the drinking and dancing, but quite a few people were engaged in the four or five floors of exhibits! The museum has five floors with very in-depth exhibits! I paid special attention to the special brain exhibit and the solar system. I liked the option to switch between (mostly) quiet exhibits and an educational experience and then the nightlife feel of it and the dancing and music.
Photos from various exhibits:
They had two special areas set-up, one with couches and a bar and music for general socialization, and then a big dance floor with a DJ and another two bars right downstairs.
On Friday, I took a trip over the provincial border to Québec to go to Le Nordik Spa-Nature because it was recommended to me by several people, and I felt like a day of relaxation and mindfulness was in order! I first tried to go to Gatineau Park but due to rain, I went directly to Chelsea for Le Nordik. This was by far the most expensive day of the vacation, around $250 USD I would estimate. I got the all-day spa access and decided to splurge on a massage. That came to around $160 CAD ($123 USD) and then I had to buy a swimsuit, rent a bathrobe ($12 CAD), and also enjoyed some food and drinks ($35 CAD). So, an expensive day, but I think it was worth it and was a really great experience. One of the great things about Ottawa is how many of the attractions and sites are free or extremely affordable during the majority of my week. The most expensive ticket I paid the whole trip was $13 USD. Others like Parliament were free, the Mint was only $6 USD, and so forth.
The rate to go to the spa all day (called spa access), including the nine saunas and ten temperature pools and hot tubs is $65 CAD ($50 USD) weekends, holidays, and high season, and $55 CAD ($42 USD) Monday-Thursday. They are open from 9 AM – 11 PM (12 AM on Fridays and Saturdays). Your spa access allows you to stay all day as long as you’d like. Massages (with a choice of 60 or 90 minutes and regular or specialty massages) ranged from $105-$160 CAD ($81-$123 USD). Mine was a traditional 60-minute regular massage which came to $105 CAD ($81 USD).
Lunch at one of the restaurants on site, the Mëzz Café. It’s a mango smoothie and Québec cheese platter.
The big thing about Le Nordik is their thermal cycle. This is where you start in hot (such a one of the saunas or hot tubs) for about 5-15 minutes, and then in a cold pool for about 15 minutes, and then a period of rest.
I didn’t follow the steps exactly. I was okay with short periods in the sauna but couldn’t make it long, and the cold pools were pretty cold! But I did the best I could and found it interesting the health benefits.
The spa is beautiful and is integrated into nature, with some of the pools being in natural rock formations and waterfalls.
Photos courtesy of https://chelsea.lenordik.com/
Downfalls of the day: I got a sunburn!! This was especially crappy because I had just gotten sunscreen! Second downfall, I took a Lyft from Ottawa to Gatineau, but when I went to request a ride back, both Uber and Lyft said they were unavailable in Quebec! So, that was some tough stress to handle! After about 10 phone calls, I finally found a cross-provincial taxi that was around the cost of a ride-share.
This place was so great that I’m actually going back with my mom and a few friends in August! I would definitely recommend setting aside a day to do something relaxing and enjoying this unique spa! I suggest going during a weekday because it’s particularly busy Fridays-Sundays. Also earlier in the day (10 AM – 2 PM) was slower then it got later in the afternoon. I recommend trying to see the place at night because I hear it’s beautiful, but I wasn’t able to stay late enough for the sun to set and see it lit up.
Thursday, May 24th started with a trip to Tim Horton’s and a visit to the store for sunscreen. Then I decided I wanted my hair dye touched up, so I spent a few hours there.
Around 4:00, I headed to the day’s next adventure: Dow’s Lake, which is a small man-made lake on the Rideau Canal.
I headed to Dow’s Lake Pavilion for a margarita and some lunch before heading to the kayak rentals!
I was nervous to take a kayak out because I haven’t been in years, but I really enjoyed it. It was about $20 CAD (about $15 USD) to rent a kayak for an hour, and then $12 CAD for each additional hour. I went for one hour and went on a short loop towards the right side of the lake, rather than farther down the Rideau Canal which can bring you all the way downtown!
After the War Museum, I finally got a chance to tour Parliament! While the tour is free, it can be tough to get tickets. So, I suggest arriving as soon as the ticket office opens!
As a political science student, I really enjoyed studying Parliament and the structure of Canada’s legislature. I learned a lot, and it caused a lot of critical thinking about the various systems and pros and cons of each.
Blocs of Parliament
Video of the inside of the library, which is the only standing part of the original Parliament after a 1916 fire burned the rest of the building.
The next stop on Wednesday was the Canadian War Museum, one of Ottawa’s highlights. The Canadian War Museum is Canada’s national museum regarding military history “from the first recorded instances of death by armed violence in Canadian history several hundred years ago to the country’s most recent involvement in conflicts” (Wikipedia). I paid $13.00 USD for the museum and spent about three hours there.
There are 3,000,000 artifacts and items in their collection and 500,000 annual visitors. The museum has its origins in 1880 where it was a collection of military artifacts. Its current location opened in 2005. “The Museum’s collections are among the finest military holdings in the world, including rare vehicles, artillery, uniforms, medals, personal memoirs” (About the Museum).
Here are a few of the artifacts that I saw that really stood out to me:
Adolf Hitler’s Car
A piece of the Berlin Wall
Weapons used by the Hutus during the Rwandan Genocide
A fragment of one of the airplanes that flew into the World Trade Center on 9/11
The Regeneration Wall was awe-inspiring. “The highest point in the museum is called Regeneration Hall. This strikingly narrow space features angled walls that tower dramatically over visitors. Rising up with a tightly framed view of the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill, Regeneration Hall is a physical representation of hope for a better future” (CWM: The Regeneration Wall).
And here is another round of general pictures from around the museum:
And photos from the LeBreton Gallery, which “contains the most extensive collection of military technology in Canada” (CWM: The Lebrten Gallery).