Many Americans have never thought of visiting Canada unless it might be to fish in one of its remote, wilderness lakes or perhaps take a ski vacation at Banff or Whistler in the Canadian Rockies. They generally think in one of two ways – Canada either seems rustic where they must hire a dog team and live in a wigwam or, on the other hand, a first class holiday resort. They never get acquainted with the REAL Canada.
For instance, we live in South Carolina, near Charlotte, NC, a “driveable” 921 miles from the beautiful capitol city of Canada (NO! not Toronto or Vancouver, which are often guessed as the capitol city) but Ottawa, nestled into the fork of the Ottawa and Rideau Rivers.
Ottawa, a city of one million, is situated about two hours northwest of Montreal and four hours northeast of Toronto. Between the months of May and October, Ottawa is one of the best visits you can have without going abroad. January and February are also a wonderful time to visit if you like ice carnivals and skating on the twelve-mile-long Rideau Canal that winds north to south through the city. Great food, shops, museums, and on and on it goes. Within reach are the two other major Canadian cities, Montreal and Toronto. Montreal is primarily French speaking and one would have to fly to France for a similar cultural, food, and architectural experience.
Still, without the drive to another city, the countryside around Ottawa is dotted with charming Irish and Scottish influenced hamlets dating back to the 1600’s. Driving through the rolling hills you will come around a bend to see a placid lake or perhaps a farmstead with log or stone home, red frame or log barns. I recommend it all as a relaxing way to spend some time and it is, as they say, right next door.