It turns out that Ottawa is not as dismal as I thought. Don't pick the Marriott on Kent Street; its quite nice, but the neighborhood is barren because the hotel is deep in Government Row. Find a hotel instead in the area of William and George streets, near the ByWard Market. Though I did like it when the clerk at the hotel's Starbucks complimented me on my French (pretty good for Pennsylvania, she said after asking where I was from, and while that could be a sly snideness, I took it as geez, you're not as bad as I'd have assumed). That was nice.
The people are quite nice, too, particularly if you are fortunate enough to get to watch them doing some activities that they've never heard of here where I live, such as learning to fight with swords, and maybe a bit of martial arts. These was a fun group of deadly serious people, and I liked them. I also liked the woman who pumped gas for us and was eager to tell us that she had ridden a motorcycle from Ottawa to Nashville. I told her that she was tougher than me. The gas prices seem absurdly low until you remember that they're per liter, and there are about 3.8 liters per gallon.
If you're driving, how to tell when you've crossed from Ontario into Quebec? The
red/yellow/green traffic lights are vertical in Ontario, horizontal in
Quebec. And watch out, I mean really, for bicycles. They're everywhere. So are Tim Horton's, which we fell in love with.
Rideau Canal is delightful.
The Canadian War Museum is amazing. I had no idea Canada had been in so many wars, or how involved they were with us, back in 1776. The bottom floor is absolutely crammed with tracked and wheeled vehicles of all kinds, mostly tanks and APCs. It looked like the NRA Dream Parking Lot. I told the friendly guide my one tank story, and he was nice enough to laugh. He also told me that I could buy some of the tanks (gun disabled totally) for only about $150,000. I had to pass, though getting it through Customs might have been fun.
The Museum of Fine Art is a striking building, much more interesting to me than the contents (though my daughter was intrigued by the fifteen foot high leaning naked man, neither of us could figure out what it was trying to say, let alone understand the single cable going diagonally across one otherwise barren room, or the elevated basketball court with symmetrical holes punched in it, or the room with music stands that had blank sheet music on them. But we both liked the airplane with the boulder smashing it. We felt that it said something. Which was take the train.)
For beauty, look outside. The area around Ottawa is freaking gorgeous.