Ottawa Canada is a company town with one major industry. And that industry is government. It is also the heart of our arts and culture with an exciting new culinary scene. Enticement enough for a weekend vacation.
Time spent at the National Gallery is an enriching experience. A feeling of pride and awe at the depth and breadth of our culture comes upon me slowly as I meander through the new presentation: Canadian and Indigenous Art from Time Immemorial to 1967. Recent acquisitions include a mid-19th century ceremonial coat by an unknown Naskapi artist and Emily Carr’s sketchbook from her trip to Alaska in 1907. We reconnect with David Milne, Jean-Paul Riopelle, Joyce Weiland, and others. There is never enough time, and like most visitors, I depart saying, “We have to come back tomorrow.”
Strolling through ByWard Market, we pass the giant Ottawa sign and the Dancing Bear in Jean D’Arc Court. Pauta Saila’s work is the first public art by an Inuit artist from Nunuvat to be placed in Ottawa. Fitting, since this morning, a black bear wandered from the woods into the open-air Market. We stroll by the Chateau Lafayette House, Ottawa’s oldest tavern, opened in 1849. Oh, if these walls could talk, what truths we would learn! And the Highlander Pub boasts a special service, Husband Day Care Center, while you do your shopping, at no extra charge.
Read more about Ottawa Canada in our Capital Cool article.
Lunch at Jackson, the restaurant in the Ottawa Art Gallery, is inspired by the major collection of A.Y. Jackson and other artworks in the Gallery. Small and pretty tasting sharing plates are the service style at lunch. Vegetarian and Pescatarian are the focus, and if the tuna crudo is on the menu, that would be my choice. Sparkling with freshness, these ruby slices are splashed with Chia dressing and puffed rice, and partnered on the plate with a tangy salad of cucumber ribbons, pickled ginger, and jalapeno. We’re ready to explore the gallery and have some hands-on fun with textiles in an artistic workshop. The assignment: choose bits of textiles from huge baskets and make a collage of your journey to Ottawa. Cool. I take mine home to show my grandson.
The afternoon ends at the Alt Hotel, the affordable luxury brand for Group Germain Hotels. The lobby lounge is like one huge cocktail party where people gather to meet, play pool, and socialize. Seems that this is the place to be.
It feels so good to return to the serenity and loveliness of the Le Germain Hotel. Good taste and intelligent design, as well as common sense and caring attitude, set this hotel a cut above. There is no set checkout time, they understand that guests have lives that don’t conform to standard rules.
There is a Lexus courtesy car available to drive on our own or to be chauffeur-driven. And these are just a few of the unique benefits. Artwork created by Canadian photographer Julie Couture adds to the ambiance of gentle comfort and the ultra-cool Le Germain style.
A mixology class at the Norca bar sounds exciting. This man knows his stuff, as he adds smoke to cocktails, rims glasses with tiny flowering herbs and spices, garnishes with fruits and vegetables and gives us showmanship that makes every cocktail a visual and delicious adventure.
Dinner at Norca is a culinary rollercoaster simply because the premise here is to use only products that are grown or raised in the area. No lemons or olive oil are grown in Canada, so the chef has brilliantly sourced ingredients that fit the criteria. A whole fish, stuffed and roasted, comes to the table festooned with flowers and greens as if it was going to the prom. We’ve seen the meat aging locker during our kitchen tour, and now enjoy a huge sliced, well-aged steak with morels and fronds of crunchy herbs that elicit juicy flavours. Looking around the dining room, it’s clear that hotel guests, first-timers at Norca, are thrilled. Dessert is a picture worthy of framing. A frozen, pink confection covered apple, is set in a yin yang of crumble and raspberry sauce on a bed of fresh pansies that peer out at us invitingly.
Back at the hotel, the Lexus awaits to whisk me to the airport and bid adieu to my capital affair.
For more info, check out Ottawa Canada’s Tourism‘s site.
Sara Waxman, OOnt, is an award-winning restaurant critic, best-selling cookbook author, food and travel journalist and has eaten her way through much of the free world for four decades, while writing about it in books, newspapers and magazines. She is the Editor in Chief of DINE and Destinations magazine.