The world’s longest skating rink turns 50

Me skating in front of a big beaver

One of our true national treasures is the Rideau Canal Skateway. Since skating has always been a passion of mine and I lived in Ottawa for a year, skating on the canal always brings back a flood of memories.

When I was a student in Ottawa, I’d skate to school, skate to the movies, and skate downtown to the bars and back. One of my favourite memories was turning the corner near the Laurier bridge at night right at that serendipitous moment when fireworks were going off over the majestic spires of the Chateau Frontenac to honour the opening of Winterlude.

There’s no better time to skate on the canal than Winterlude, Ottawa’s outdoor winter festival, and yesterday, we spent a cold frigid February day on the canal. Since two sections were still closed—be sure to check the interactive ice conditions map on the NCC website if you go, but they were saying the full canal should be open today—we made our base Fifth Avenue and skated north and south as far as we could go.

My husband and daughter on the ice

We watched them film a Hallmark movie in the little park under the romantic stone bridge (Dave thinks he got in a scene). We watched a guy juggle hockey pucks and sticks—only in Canada! We ate beavertails, which is mandatory if you skate on the canal in case you didn’t know. And we skated, and skated, and skated, until my wool socks chafed at my ankles.

This year, under the Bank Street bridge, the NCC has erected a photo exhibit of 50 years on the skateway.

Juggling hockey pucks

There was a picture of Douglas Fullerton, the chair of the National Capital Commission from 1969 to 1973 who came up with the idea to make it a skateway and helped the canal open in 1970. There were pictures of 7-year old Justin Trudeau on the canal as a boy, and the unsung heroes who flood the ice every night. Since I lived in Ottawa, and skated at night all the time, I would see the NCC workers, huddling out in the freezing cold digging holes in the ice and then using their long hoses to flood it so it would be in pristine condition the next day for the hordes of visitors.

Ice sculpture
You could make your own coloured ice block and add it to this ice sculpture

After we could skate no more, we visited the ice sculptures and interactive outdoor installations on Sparks Street (very cool, pun intended!), and walked past the Parliament buildings, the war memorial and the Chateau.

I can’t imagine a better day or way to spend a winter’s day.

This week’s #HappyAct is to get out and embrace winter, ideally on the world’s longest skating rink. Happy skating!

Snowplows on the ice
The unsung heroes who keep the skateway clear

My daughter on the ice

Girls eating maple taffy
Eating maple taffy as the sun sets on a great day

Watch the world awaken

Darkness out a car window

5 a.m.

Pour the coffee

Pack the car

Hit the road jack

 

The car headlights cut through the fog

Blurred darkness

 

6 a.m.

The world begins to lighten

We pass through sleepy towns with quirky names like Tichborne and Wemyss

 

Signs never seen before

The Battle River Bison Company

10 acre hobby farm for sale

Even the wildlife sleep, save for a lone bat startled by the car headlights

 

The blanket of mist slowly lifts

Revealing silhouettes of Jack pines

Standing guard, protecting the quiet, still dark lakes

 

7 a.m.

Movement.

A few drowsy cows graze outside my car window

A light flickers in a farmhouse

Round hay bales sit forlornly in the fields

Saluted by the stands of corn

 

Daylight.

The fog persists

But another day has dawned

 

Ed.note: I wrote this poem in my head early Sunday morning driving to Ottawa for Clare’s provincial kayaking championships. I’m not a morning person, so you won’t see many “enjoy an early morning happy acts!”, but there is something special about watching the world awaken. Try it (if only once!) The trip was definitely worth it. Clare got a gold, silver and bronze medal.

Find your happy place

saying about happinessA couple of week’s ago, I posted this image on Facebook.

All my life I’ve lived by water. Growing up in Port Credit, I lived by the Credit River and Lake Ontario. I’d spend my summers swimming in the Credit or at one of the many beaches along the lake. (Sadly, the beaches are often closed now due to high eColi readings and only a crazy person would swim in the Credit River anymore).

In Ottawa, when I was studying my Masters degree at Carleton University, I lived by the canal and not far from the Ottawa River. I biked in the summers along the river and canal, and skated to school and downtown in the winter on the world’s longest skating rink.

When Dave and I decided to get out of Toronto, we targeted five areas. The area north of Kingston, with its honeycomb of lakes was at the top of our list, and today I live on a lake and work at an office where I can see Lake Ontario from our offices.

There’s a scene in Happy Gilmour, where Happy’s golf coach tells him to go to his happy place.

This week’s #HappyAct is to find your happy place. Mine is water. What’s yours?

Top 7 gardens to visit

Garden walkway
One of the many beautiful paths at Spindletree gardens

For some people, the thought of spending time in a garden would be a yawnfest.

Even if you don’t like gardening, spending time in a garden can be cathartic. I’ve always found gardens to be peaceful, inspirational places where the wonders and beauty of nature unfold and transform from season to season.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit two spectacular gardens this year: numbers 1 and 7 on the list. For those of you in Eastern Ontario, I’d highly recommend you visit Spindletree Gardens in Tamworth—it is truly a treasure in our own backyard and one of my all-time favourite gardens. They also serve a great lunch.

Here is my top list of favourite gardens to visit and spend time in:

  1. Longwood Gardens, in Pennsylvania: we visited this garden in July. I loved the fountain show and the conservatory, which had one of the largest pipe organs I’ve ever seen
  2. Larkwhistle, the home of garden authors Patrick Lima and John Scanlan’s on the Bruce Peninsula—simply stunning but you may be too late—when we visited it last summer we heard it may be the last season they open to the public
  3. The Rideau canal in Ottawa in May during the Canadian tulip festival
  4. The gardens at Chatsworth Hall, in Bakewell, England: 105 acres of formal traditional gardens and where they filmed my favourite version of Pride and Prejudice
  5. Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens—beautiful in the spring when the cherry and apple trees are in full bloom
  6. The garden atrium and conversatory at the Opryland hotel in Nashville–nine acres of inside oasis
  7. Spindletree gardens and tea room in Tamworth: a gem in our own backyard

This week’s #HappyAct is to spend time in a garden. Find a quiet bench to sit on then look around you. You never know what you may find and where your thoughts will take you.

Flowers in a conservatory
The conservatory at Longwood
Flowers in bloom
My garden