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.
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!
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).