Winterlude in Ottawa, Ontario

My winter jaunt to Ottawa, Canada’s capital in the Province of Ontario, presented an icy vision in the form of ‘Winterlude’, a festival dedicated to all things white, cold and frozen. Visually arresting whilst perilous to fingers and toes, the festivities have an aura not unlike some of the scenes from ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ (minus the big scary lion. Oh, and the evil snow queen – although the frosty receptionist at my cheap hotel could give her a run for her money…).
Ottawa at dusk

We opted into an igloo building workshop at the Jacques-Cartier park (the Eskimo life isn’t for me, clearly) and wandered around dozens of immaculately carved ice sculptures, from detailed polar bears through to a Scotsman, resplendent in full regalia.  Youngsters squeezed themselves into mini igloos whilst others launched themselves off a human snow slide, hurtling down the ice with fear and excitement.  Occasional ‘teddy’ mascots wandered around, Disney style, ready to pose for pictures and administer cuddles where necessary; I did debate ensnaring one myself but he looked so dejected and fed up, I left him to wallow in his lunch break, choosing instead to hunt down a drink (served in an ice glass, from an ice counter, to drink on an ice chair, obviously).

skating on the rideau canal

In winter, the Rideau Canal (a UNESCO heritage site) becomes the Rideau Canal skate-way, the largest ice rink in the world at nearly 8km long: a must-visit during Winterlude. If intending to go sakting on the rideau canal in full, the starting point lies near the parliament buildings and leads you (exhausted and traumatised from nimble children) to a youth gallery on Dows Lake.  As I laced up my (slightly too large) skates tight around my ankles, blocking out the flashbacks to bumps and bruises from my teen years, three kids jostled past, excitedly regaling horror stories of people losing their fingers whilst their mum chipped in with ‘Well, keep them out of the way then, because I didn’t bring my sewing machine’. My comrade and I agreed to cling onto each other for dear life, if one goes down, you both go down.  The skate-way is fettered with rest stops for the weary to re-fuel via a gamut of sugary goodies and to observe an army of humans trying desperately not to lose balance (and face) on the frozen canal. Small children in sleighs gleefully squealed, oblivious to their grumpy carer towing them along like reindeer, whilst romantic (if somewhat hasty) kisses of hand-holding couples were glimpsed as we tucked into an enormous bag of sweets.

winterlude in Ottawa

Dining out in Ontario, until my final night, had mostly been of modest fare, however I couldn’t resist the allure of ‘Garlics’, a more upmarket restaurant promising to offer garlic in its starters, mains and desserts. Over a decadent couple of hours, I slurped a roasted garlic and onion bisque, cautiously tucked into a main of elk (no it doesn’t taste like chicken!) and braved the house-churned ice cream concoction of roasted garlic, bee pollen and honey. A fun experience to end a unique trip, I’m not sure the unfortunates seated close by on the plane shared my love of the whiffy vegetable…

ottawa countryside with snow

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Author Bio: Scarlett Redman

Scarlett is a postgraduate social researcher with a heavily stamped passport, an empty bank account and a desire to eternally dodge the rat race…

Had you heard about Winterlude in Ottawa? Been there? What was yout favorite part of it? What would you recommend future visitors don’t miss? Share your thoughts below, and this post too if you liked it!

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