By Mario Carlucci
If Canada’s proximity to the United States is, like Pierre Elliott Trudeau once said, akin to sleeping next to an elephant, then Ottawa sleeps between two elephants named Toronto and Montréal. No matter, because thanks to every twitch and grunt from the giants to its east and west, Ottawa has borrowed a little bit from both and boasts so much you can only find here.
This city, made up of an urban core as well as towns, villages, and parkland can be all things to everyone. At the same time. Hike the trails of Gatineau Park in the morning, enjoy a gallery tour by midday, and top it off with small bites on Elgin Street and a show at the National Arts Centre (NAC) by day’s end.
And there’s a wonderfully authentic Italian-Canadian experience in any of the five Nicastro family’s supermarkets peppered throughout the city. Ottawa’s culinary credentials continue to build. There’s Steve Mitton at Brothers Beer Bistro, Marc Lepine at Atelier, Joe Thottungal at Coconut Lagoon, and Adam Vettorel at North and Navy.
When people flee Canadian cities in winter, others flock to Ottawa: the Rideau Canal still holds magical moments under the shadow of Parliament Hill. Not only is it an attraction, it’s a pathway to Ottawa’s lesser known spaces.
A bike ride along the canal in spring, summer, or fall, will take you from the country’s corridors of power to quick sojourns into its many neighbourhoods: embassies of Sandy Hill, shops of the Glebe and Centretown, eateries of Little Italy, Chinatown, and Old Ottawa South.
Psst! Remember to look up. Ottawa artists such as Ryan Smeeton, Christopher Griffin, and Drew Mosley are adding their visual stamp to the city.