Ottawa is the capital of Canada. It is situated in the east of southern Ontario, near the city of Montréal and the US border. Ottawa gets its name from the Ottawa River. The city has the Parliament Hill at its centre. Its highlights are grand Victorian architecture and museums such as the National Gallery of Canada.
Upon Canada’s official confederation in 1867, several Canadian cities were in the race for the capital city. Montreal, Toronto and Kingston were all contenders. But, Queen Victoria surprisingly chose Ottawa to be the capital city. This was because it was located between Montreal and Toronto, and on the border of English and French-speaking Canada at the time.
The park-lined Rideau Canal is filled with boats in summer and ice-skaters in winter. In fact, you can find the largest ice skating rink in the world in Ottawa. When the Rideau Canal freezes, this canal becomes the longest skating rink in the world.
Ottawa is the home of the first now-famous BeaverTails hut. BeaverTails are essentially Canadian donuts. They are definitely a classic winter-time treat for those skating on the Rideau Canal. The first BeaverTails hut opened in Ottawa in 1980. It is located in the historic Byward Market.
The Canadian Foreign Affairs building is shaped like a modern sphinx. The Lester B. Pearson Building is also known as the headquarters of the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs. It was named after former Prime Minister Pearson, who spearheaded Canadian Peacekeeping missions. His forward-thinking efforts led to resolving the Suez Canal Crisis of the 1950s. That explains why the Egyptian statues of the sphinx were the inspiration for this building.
Located outside the National Gallery of Canada is the famous sculpture of ‘Maman’. It has been created by French sculptor Louise Bourgeois. The sculpture depicts a giant mother spider protecting her 32 marble eggs. It was created to symbolize motherhood. It is one of seven permanent replica sculptures in cities around the world including Tokyo and London.
Here’s a perfect spot to play Chinese Whispers. You can whisper to a friend 15 metres away and they’ll hear you clearly at the Whispering Wall. It was built in 1914 in memory of Robert Baldwin and Louis-Hyppolyte Lafontaine, two Canadian Statesmen. And the wall symbolises the importance of an open and honest democracy, and encourage discussion.
Three Cheers to Tulips!
Did you know that there are approximately 300,000 tulips in Ottawa? At least 20,000 were originally gifted to Ottawa during World War Two, when the Crown Princess Juliana of the Netherlands gave birth to her daughter. In order for a proper heir to the Dutch throne to be born, the grounds where the Princess gave birth needed to be Dutch. The Canadian government declared that the maternity suite would be “extraterritorial” for the birth. This meant that the new born royal baby was completely Dutch.
More Fun Facts
This story has a Titanic connection! The story goes that he Chateau Laurier was the brainchild of Charles M. Hays. Hays was the president of Grand Trunk Railway, which was the major railway in Canada. Hays wanted to build the Chateau Laurier to give visitors to Ottawa an exquisite place to stay.
The hotel was built in 1911. After that, Hays travelled to London, England to buy furniture for the dining room of the hotel. The grand opening of the hotel was scheduled for the spring of 1912.
On his way back from London, Hays was offered a spot in a luxurious suite on the Titanic. Sadly, furniture meant for the Chateau Laurier sank on the Titanic
The Canadian flag on top of the Peace Tower is changed every day. You can get one for free in 100 years. Yes you heard it right: there is a waiting list that is over 100 years long to get one of the flags taken down from the Peace Tower at Parliament. Only one flag is permitted per household. They’re available to anyone who is a Canadian resident.
The sun shines on the Tombstone of the Unknown Soldier at 11:11am on November 11th. This is the Remembrance Day. At the Canadian War Museum, there’s actually a line that is built into the floor of the museum that falls along this same line of the sun.