Posts Tagged ‘Canada’


Ottawa – Gothic revival time


Capital cities have a reputation for … how shall we say it… being boring! Mostly deserved, but not Ottawa. This place rocks and the reasons are simple. Ottawans in the cold north have to make their own fun; so they do. They’ve created a great city, cosmopolitan in nature with outstanding museums, a clutch of world-class parks and the very grand National Arts Center. Set on a picturesque river, Ottawa makes the most of its water location with miles of bicycle and jogging paths. There’s a busy little bar and cafe scene, lots of late night entertainment and some rather fancy restaurants. (Who says public servants aren’t well paid!)

is quite unique for Americans as you’ll hear as much French in the streets as you do English. The food takes a French spin as well, as do the drinking laws.

Wherever you stay in Ottawa, you’re just minutes away from the major attractions. Downtown is home to Parliament with its gothic revival buildings. They’re spectacular from afar and even more impressive as you get up close. The tours are free and you’ll get an amazing view of the surrounding vistas from the Peace Tower. If you’re there in the evening, there’s a fabulous light show using the buildings as a backdrop.

The must-sees are the National Arts Center and the National Gallery of Canada. Both have outstanding exhibits. The Museum of Nature is close by and if you have time, check out the Canada Science and Technology Museum.

The best part about downtown though is the funky street vibe. Plenty of people call the inner city home and there are several cool shopping meccas, including the pedestrian Sparks Street Mall and the Rideau Shopping Center. For something a little more artsy, head for the Glebe, running alongside Bank St, this little area has some nice specialty shops and cool coffee shops.

The Byward Market does a roaring trade in specialty boutiques, great restaurants and, as night falls, the area’s bars and nightclubs take over. This is your party place and if you’re in need of a big night out, the Market is where you’ll find it.

Let’s drum up some visitors for Ottawa.


The Stampede city is ready for you!


The cow town of Calgary, Alberta is a bustling place of some 1,000,000 souls. It’s bigger than you think and has much more entertainment within the city limits than a simple old stampede! Up until the early 1900s Calgary was indeed a simple cow town, home mostly to settlers and farmers. Between 1896 and 1914 settlers were offered free land to build a home upon. Thousands heeded the call and agriculture took off as the primary industry. Then oil was discovered in 1902 and people began drifting in to town. When a massive reserve was discovered in 1947 Calgary really took off.

Today it’s the nearest airport to the beautiful Banff National Park and home to the Stampede. It’s a place where you can indulge yourself in one of the finest spas in North America. The Sante Spa does the whole wellness, massage, facials thing really well, so after rustling a few steers, that’s your destination.

Calgary’s Heritage Park is a great day out for families; 127 acres of amusement park including train rides, boat tours and more. It’s all about the past, so if you want to see living history, this is the place to go.

But we can’t forget Calgary’s big claim to fame. The Stampede is 10 days of cowboy heaven every summer. You’ll see the rodeo every day, chuck wagon races and a grandstand show and fireworks every evening. There’s food galore (think prairie oysters) and pancakes aplenty. There’s lassoing demos, blacksmithing, trick riders and more – plus plenty of free entertainment.

For a good view of Calgary, get up the Calgary Tower – get your bearings and understand how big this little city is.


Where you will find Paris in North America?


Head north to Montreal and there it is. French is the city’s official language and it’s spoken by 60% of the population. Montreal is set against the back drop of Mont-Royal, the triple peaked hill that can be seen from most sections of the city. This is Montreal’s summer and winter playground, although winter tends to be a tad chilly – the average temp is around -5C! As such, during winter Montreal is an underground city. A vast amount of shopping and entertainment is available without setting foot above ground. Access is via shopping malls and the subway system.

If you’re there during summer though you’re in for a treat. Montreal is boutique cafes, little pubs and bars and a thousand little restaurants serving sweet Parisian fare with a North American twist. Sophisticated Paris types may well turn up their noses at the description but for the rest of us it’s a gastronomic treat as you explore foods not found elsewhere in North America. Think (but don’t necessarily eat) Steak Tartare, snails and Croque Monsieur.

If you’re in town for a few days, then Old Montreal is your destination for a day. Old Montreal is a beautiful, cobble-stoned slice of history. Walking the streets here is a treat for anyone who loves older architecture. The fierce winters provided real incentive to build well and the building look it – solid, thick edifices with a 1000 year look about them. Roam the cobble-stoned streets and wander past the Cathedrals and churches, the quaint bars and theatres. The local government recognised the drawcard it had long ago and the old city is well maintained. You can cruise around in a horse-drawn carriage or hire a bike for the day.
The one thing you must do? Go to an ice hockey game at the Molson Stadium or the Olympic Stadium. If you’ve never seen ice hockey live, it’s a blast; full of crash or crash through encounters and very exciting to watch.

So for all things Parisian… in North America, head to Montreal.