Monday, October 18, 2010

Celtic Culture in Ottawa

I've returned from Canada, dear readers! Ottawa, to be specific.  Yes, Weretoad and I finally got our passports in order and took advantage of our extreme proximity to our northern neighbors.  Ottawa was an absolutely beautiful city.  I could compare it to other cities I've been to, but that wouldn't be fair.  It would be easy to say how similar it is to London due to the Parliament, references to Victoria, and red-coated guards,  but that overlooks the obvious influence of France, Ireland, the Netherlands, America, and many other countries.  I felt really at home in Ottawa.  There was so much culture!  The city was surprisingly very bilingual.  I've never been to an urban area that was so, so friendly to pedestrians and bikers.  Weretoad and I stayed in a beautiful bed and breakfast owned by a Swiss couple.  It was in an excellent area near the Byward Market - a place similar to Boston's Quincy Market.  We were close to organic/fair trade/local groceries, cafes, restaurants, and boutiques.  I was in heaven.  I want to live there.  Oh if only immigration weren't so daunting...

Some of the ancestors on my father's side, including the woman whose grave I recently visited, came to Ottawa from England and Ireland.  Some of them moved to NY State, but others undoubtedly stayed there and worked on the Rideau Canal.  As we toured the various historical sites, we learned that many Irish immigrants came to Ottawa for work - hundreds died there and were buried in mass graves.  They were honored with the beautiful statue pictured above near the Bytown Museum - a building that many insist is haunted by Irish ghosts (myself included after a frightening incident Friday evening!).

The Celtic spirit was not buried beneath the streets with the bodies.  Although the English and French fusion is often most noticeable, the Irish influence on Ottawa is still alive and well.   Walk towards any destination and you're likely to run into a pub.  I was thrilled to stumble across this lovely little place in the Byward Market area - The Druid Pub. The photo is a bit small on the blog, but if you look you can make out the awen on the sign.  Weretoad and I visited The Druid after dinner on Saturday night.  I had a pint of Harp beer* while Weretoad sipped some coke - we watched a hockey game and listened to a band play - mostly contemporary stuff.  I wish there had been some traditional Irish music - but I suppose we'll have to go back for that another day.  The closest we got to Irish ditties were U2 covers.

Follow Rue Elgin towards the Museum of Nature, and you'll come across The Manx Pub.  Clearly the Irish aren't the only Celts with a hold on Ottawa!  Although we weren't able to visit the pub this visit, I had Weretoad take a photo of their amazing signs.  Look at the Manx cats and the beautiful Manx triskelion!  I definitely want to check this place out next time.

* Guinness isn't vegetarian...

( For My LJ Friends: )


  1. Wow, looks like you had a great trip! can beer not be vegetarian? ~shrug~

  2. Some beers, wines, and liquors are purified using isinglass or gelatin - both derived from animals. Isinglass is made from the swim bladders in some fish. Gelatin is from ground up pig or cow bone.