A few months ago, my PhD-student husband told me he would have a conference to attend in Ottawa and asked if I wanted to come along. I said yes without hesitation; I’m one of those people who likes to travel anywhere. We spent 5 nights in Ottawa where the conference was held and then took a train to Montreal to explore the city for a day before heading back home.
Ottawa is the national capital of Canada. I’ve been to a few capital cities–Madrid, London, Lisbon, Rome, Paris, and D.C.– so I guess I sort of assumed that Ottawa would be a bit more oriented for tourism. It’s not that it’s a bad city, but just not a place one would chose to go just to see the sites. There’s also no subway system, which surprised me considering the freezing weather. We still had a fantastic stay! We visited the Canadian Museum of Nature and the Canadian Museum of Civilization, which includes a fantastic, around-the-world Children’s Museum. We also made a few trips to the indoor mall that was conveniently located across the street from our hotel. The hotel we got to stay in was the iconic Fairmont Chateau Laurier, which overlooks the now nearly frozen Ottawa River and is next door to Parliament Hill. We could also walk to the quaint little dining district known as Byward Market. Overall I have to say that Canadians are the nicest and most helpful people I’ve encountered. From holding doors open for me and my stroller to offering directions when I looked confused, people went out of their way to be friendly. I was truly amazed!
I’ve had the experience of traveling alone, with my husband, and now with my family and all three are quite different! This was the first real trip we’ve taken with our son. He will turn 2 in February and so far, he’s been on lots of visits to see family but never stayed at a hotel. While I loved staying at the Fairmont, I think it would be more practical to stay in a hotel room with a kitchen and living room while traveling with kids. Having the second room makes naps and bedtime easier. And with a kitchen I’m free to go buy groceries that I know he will eat and fix at least some meals in the room. I’m one of those travelers who hates spending money on food. I hate that feeling of roaming around for food while hungry and not having any idea where to eat– or what your kid will eat!
My son is going through a picky eater phase (I hope it’s a phase) but that’s really been the biggest obstacle in traveling with him so far. He’s otherwise been quite compliant. He allows me to dress him in a layer after layer of clothing, he sits in the stroller, naps on a schedule, and doesn’t touch when I say not to. I’ve even gotten him to pose for some photos. We did have one terrible experience walking home one afternoon in Ottawa. It was a few degrees below freezing with a cutting wind and I think he was just frozen sitting in his stroller. He wanted to be carried and he wasn’t going to stop crying until I did it. But we eventually made it and once the feeling returned to his tiny extremities he was bouncing around the room like usual.
In Montreal, he got to see a proper bit of snow on the ground. It was icy and snowy for most of our 2-night stay, so we ended up heading over to the Biodome for most of the day. The surreal thing about Montreal was that everyone spoke French. I knew it was in French-speaking Quebec, but it was still surprising to the ears! I was also amazed at how effortlessly they switched to English when my lack of French skills became apparent. Now I’m curious to learn how bilingual education works in the province!
Have you ever been to Ottawa or Montreal? What were you favorite things to do? How old was your little one when you brought them on a vacation?