The great Ontario to Quebec VIA Rail 2012 biking adventure – Day Four
[If you missed any of the previous or subsequent articles in this series, there’s a list of all the articles with hyperlinks here at the end of Day Ten.]
With my fluorescent yellow rain jacket and all my gear in plastic bags, the rain isn’t going to hold me down this morning. It’s the day of the Ottawa VeloFest downtown, and there are some sites I definitely want to see.
Heading downtown, I’m already impressed with the number of bike lanes everywhere. I had heard that Ottawa might be the best biking city in Canada, and with over 300 km of special bikepaths available, this is looking pretty nice.
It’s too early for the VeloFest, so I head down the Rideau Canal toward the Ottawa Locks. At the bottom of the locks sits the Commissariat Building which now houses the Bytown Museum. Originally constructed in 1827, it served the men building the canal. Now, the museum explains about this truly amazing feat of engineering that saw the creation of 24 lockstations over six years in the middle of the Canadian wilderness.
Raining harder now than when I went in, it’s time to head for city hall and the VeloFest. Read my separate article about the Ottawa VeloFest event including:
- Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson pedaling a bicycle-powered blender to make his fruit smoothie.
- Bicycles for Humanity – where bikes can save a life
- Bike polo – one more way to enjoy your bike
Leaving the VeloFest, all that thinking about playing bike polo made me hungry. It’s off to Byward Market in Lowertown. Established in 1826, this is one of Canada’s oldest and largest public markets. Managed by the City of Ottawa since almost the beginning, it serves residents and vistors alike with over 500 retail establishments. From flower and fruit vendors to upscale arts and crafts, there is sure to be plenty of interest for any shopper.
I wheel up to the counter of BeaverTails, home of a huge pastry typically covered with cinnamon and sugar. Going for something a little different, I ordered the Maple Butter BeaverTail, which is almost like eating a hand-held pancake, dripping with melted, maple icing. Yummy. Messy. Yummy.
Recharged, it’s off to see Rideau Falls. Heading east on Sussex, I cross the Rideau River (separate and distinct from the Rideau Canal) and pull into the park to get some pictures. The twin set of waterfalls resemble a curtain, which in French is ‘rideau’, which gave the river its name. Falling 30 feet into the Ottawa River, it is a highlight for many tourists who take river cruises. While I was there, one of the cruise boats navigated itself within just an arm’s length of the falls so tourists could be covered by the mist while trying to snap a water-logged photo.
Picking up another bike path, I’m heading for Rockcliffe Park, overlooking the meeting of the Ottawa River and the Gatineau River (from Quebec). Some information boards at the look-out tell the story of the Trans-Canadian Highway (of water.) Did you know you could follow the rivers and lakes of Canada all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific – over 8,000 kms and then up to the Artic. That my friends is one helluva highway.
Heading east, next stop was Rideau Hall- home of the Canada’s Governor-General. Originally it was built as the home for the masonry contractor who had the contract to build the locks on the Rideau Canal back in the early 1800’s.
Today, this 11-room mansion sits on 32 hectares (79 acres) of beautiful wooded grounds. Modeled after a typical English country estate, there are multiple paths, formal gardens and over 10,000 trees, many of which have be planted by visiting heads of State, members of the Royal Family or other dignitaries.
Pick up a brochure and give yourself a self-guided tour. Don’t miss one of my favorites, the Inuksuk (pronounced inook-shook) just inside the gate to the left It’s a massive stone monument, popular in the artic for messaging and wayfinding. More recently, it was the symbol of the most recent Olympic games.
It’s starting to pour once again, so it’s off to the Courtyard, pack up and head out on my next leg of the VIA Rail bike train adventure to Montreal. Looking forward to participating in their 50 km Le Tour de L’ile de Montreal. Stay tuned.
If you’ve biked in Ottawa, leave a comment below with your thoughts about their bike path network.
Future posts may be slightly delayed as I’m having a hard time keeping up with the posts now that I’m one to Jonquiere on a train without Wi-Fi.
Did you miss any of the days of this Canadian VIA Rail bike adventure? The links are here if you did…