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World of Weekends: A cultural tour of Ottawa with Jason and Nigel

Jun 23, 2017

RAV4 in Blue by the water cropped

In World of Weekends, couples from across Canada take the RAV4 out to play. In Part Four, Jason and Nigel get acquainted with the cultural side of Ottawa.

Across the country, different cities are getting ready to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. As the nation’s Capital, Ottawa is pulling out all the stops for the occasion and organizing a ton of cool events.

Before the Canada Day madness begins, my boyfriend Jason and I decided to hop in the RAV4 to spend a weekend in Ottawa and check out the sights some people travel from all over the world to enjoy.

"We walk through the exhibits bathed in the light coming through the building’s glass façade, admiring the crown jewels of Canadian art on display.

It’s been awhile since I returned to Ottawa, but back in the day I used to work there as a tour guide, leading groups around the city and teaching them its history. Let’s hope I’m not too rusty, I want Jason to see all the best spots! This is the first time since we started dating that we’ve planned a weekend getaway for just the two of us.

Before getting together, we kept close tabs on each other via Instagram, and eventually decided to meet. We connected over each other’s taste and style, which is tangentially related to our respective jobs: I’m the menswear buyer for a Toronto boutique in Yorkville, while Jason is a commercial photographer. We both have a strong eye for aesthetics, and we love finding cool spots around the city that pique our curiosity with unique design - and great cocktails of course! We’re excited to find some cool spots in Ottawa, and who knows, maybe a new coup de coeur!

Jason and Nigel Museum

We leave Toronto on a rainy Friday afternoon before Mother’s Day weekend—don’t fret, we celebrated last week! Since the rain still hasn’t cleared when we arrive, we save our energy and head straight to our hotel, the Andaz in Ottawa’s historic Byward Market district. The place is phenomenal; as soon as we step into the modern lobby, outfitted with floor to ceiling windows and designer furniture, we are offered a complimentary glass of wine. We haven’t even seen the amenities yet, and I already love this place! Once we check-in, we head up to the room, which doesn’t disappoint. Clean and minimalistic, it's an aesthete's paradise.

Saturday morning the weather is still as dreary as on our drive up, but that’s not going to stop us from exploring the capital. We start by roaming around downtown, making it to Byward Market proper where there’s a nice farmer’s market set up. We walk by stalls of fresh produce, fish and local specialties like locally-sourced maple syrup. It’s a bit too early for us to grab lunch, but we make note to come back once our appetite kicks in.

Loading RAV4 Trunk

For now, we head over to the National Gallery of Canada, where we are greeted, as always, by Louise Bourgeois’ iconic sculpture, Maman. Under overcast skies, the spider is a little spookier than usual, but it really is a beautiful piece. We immediately notice the museum was recently refreshed and repainted for the 150th anniversary, and we feel lucky to experience it before the crowd of summer tourists arrive. We walk through the exhibits bathed in the light coming through the building’s glass façade, admiring the crown jewels of Canadian art on display. After our tour, we head back to Byward Market for a light seafood lunch, leaving some room in our stomachs for what I expect will be an exceptional dinner.

Old tourguide habits come in handy on trips like these, and before we left I made sure to research cool spots to take Jason out for dinner. From all the rave reviews, Riviera came out the clear frontrunner. Without a reservation, we were able to snag seats at the bar and enjoy the lively atmosphere. After warming up with a round of winter negronis, we order the burrata to share before moving on to the main course. I choose the rabbit, a favourite of mine, with seasonal grilled vegetables, while Jason has pasta. We make sure to try each other’s dish, as we always do, and in true Canadian fashion, we treat ourselves to the maple cake for dessert.

Brunch Croissant

We had such a great time at Riviera for dinner that we can’t help but wonder what they serve for brunch the next morning! This time we make sure to get seats with a view of the kitchen, where we can see all the action. The service is impeccable and our pancakes and eggs benedict look and taste divine. Since we aren’t too far from Parliament Hill, we stop by after brunch to take the obligatory tourist shots and catch the military salute at the war memorial.

Before heading back to Toronto, we squeeze in one last stop at the Canadian Museum of History across the water in Gatineau. Crazy to think it only took a few minutes on the road to cross over to Quebec! It looks like they also gave the place a facelift for the 150th, even changing its name from the Museum of Civilization. They’re still in the middle of redoing a few of the exhibits, but we still get to admire totem poles, shipped in from British Columbia, standing tall and beautiful in their new home. The craftsmanship on these single, continuous pieces of wood is remarkable, and they seem to have truly stood the test of time with only minor restoration. Speaking of time, I check my phone and realize we should hit the road.

We stop in for a final glimpse of the Andaz hotel and pack our belongings into the spacious RAV4 trunk. All in all this was a successful trip, and we got to experience a gem of the Ottawa food scene not once, but twice! I’m eager to plan more road trips to cool Canadian spots and unearth some not-so-hidden gems, museums and restaurants alike.

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