As Canadians we can sometimes be remiss in exploring our own country. It’s not a lack interest or a lack of understanding of how much Canada has to offer for travellers, but rather tied to the fact that other destinations might seem more exciting. I admit to falling into this category. My original vacation plan for summer 2020 was to take my two boys to England.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 meant that was not going to be possible. After four months in isolation and home schooling my seven and nine-year-old boys while also working, I started to toy with the idea of a domestic road trip.
By mid-July, virus cases were dropping in Canada and some travel was opening, so I decided to book a trip to Ottawa for the August long weekend. The trip ended up being one our best yet.
It all started with the drive. The toughest part of a road trip for a parent is the drive. The chorus of “are we there yet?” and sibling bickering while battling traffic tends to make things a little stressful.
This drive was nothing like that. l have never had such an easy drive on a long weekend, there were no traffic issues at all which meant boredom was kept to a minimum and we arrived at our hotel, the Fairmont Chateau Laurier without incident. We had taken advantage of their Stay Closer Promotion that offered two-for-one hotel nights, which made staying at the iconic hotel great value.
Hotel Stay During COVID-19
The Laurier did a wonderful job of making us feel safe. Only guests were allowed into the hotel and there were temperature checks every day. We were required to wear a mask indoors and this was strictly enforced. Social distancing stickers had been placed throughout the hotel and there was ample hand sanitizer available. In terms of room services, a light breakfast menu was available, and rooms were only scheduled for cleaning on the third day of a stay. Despite this I was assured, “Of course, Ms. Saraga, should you need anything please don’t hesitate to ask,” by hotel staff.
The hotel lobby bar was closed to limit gatherings and contact but their famous Le Terrasse Restaurant with unbeatable views of the parliament was open. The pool opened during our stay and guests could book in for an hour a time. At the end of the hour, the pool area and change rooms were cleaned. We felt safe and well cared for throughout our stay.
In a normal year over 11 million visitors tour Ottawa. This year with Canada closed to international travellers, we had the capital practically to ourselves! One evening we went for a walk around Parliament Hill. Social distancing wasn’t an issue as we hardly passed anyone along the way, and we had the stunning views of the Ottawa River to ourselves. It was easy to get a spot on a patio in the By-Ward market and the Beaver Tail truck never had more than two or three people in a socially distant line. Similarly, there wasn’t a wait to take the boys’ pictures with the giant Ottawa sign.
We enjoyed a relaxing afternoon at Dows Lake fishing. The pathways around the lake were well used by cyclists and walkers but by no means were they crowded. While many of the museums weren’t yet open, we did get tickets to the Canadian War Museum who were running a special summer program. As only a limited number of tickets were available, there was no issue with parking and no line up. We simply arrived at our booked entry time and ambled into the building. Each time slot began with a tank presentation outside. We sat on a grassy slope as the museum team drove tanks out into a mud pit and showed off their power. I can only imagine how the crowded grassy area must be normally, but when we were there only about six other families were dotted around.
More Than I Had Hoped For
This trip was really meant to give my boys a change of scenery and for me to contribute in my own small way to the struggling Canadian hospitality industry. It turned into so much more. The lack of crowds meant we were never rushed. It was easy to get around and I wasn’t stressed about being able to maintain social distance. While there were adjustments from how we might have normally travelled these adjustments weren’t any different from the ones we make every day at home going to the grocery store and getting outside in our neighbourhood.
Most importantly I came from this road trip refreshed. I had a great time exploring the capital with my boys and was reminded of how much there is to experience in our great country. I can’t wait for our next Canadian adventure.
Happy Canadian Traveller!