Great Canadian Tour 2015: Ottawa museums galore

One of the best things about Ottawa is all the museums. There are so many that, growing up there, it’s commonplace, almost boring, to go to a museum. But lucky for us, fresh off 3 years of no museum visiting in Indonesia, the kids still think it’s pretty cool! It’s not so cool for the pocketbook, but hey, we’re on vacation, right?

The first museum we decided to visit was the Air and Space Museum. The kids were keen, but I’ll admit that I also pushed for it because it was the one I have visited the least often myself, so it was still a fresh experience. And, of course, who doesn’t want to look at awesome old planes and rockets? And maybe there was a chance that Chris Hadfield would be there, right? (He wasn’t.)

We saw everything from old-timey flying (and hilariously non-flying) contraptions to slick air force jets, a huge bomber, rescue helicopters, courier planes, cushy 50s passenger planes. And the space section was lots of fun, with some hands-on activities and neat artifacts from Canadian space missions.

But, really, I think we had the most fun taking photos of the kids in the photo board cutouts. These things are classic:

We also visited the Canadian Museum of Civilization History. We are well aware that our museum timing is limited to only a couple of hours, so we have to triage. B and I can never get enough of the First Nations hall and the Inuit art in the basement (which is always shamefully undervisited), and we made a point of visiting the special exhibits rather than the permanent ones, keeping in mind our triage decisions. The exhibit on Greece was very cool, and I was able to crack into the depths of my undergraduate brain and read a lot of the ancient Greek writing. B was uber keen on the “Confederation” exhibit, which was a bit tedious for the rest of us non-politicos until we found a table where you could wear a top hat and pretend to be one of the fathers of confederation! And we also saw a Terry Fox exhibit, which was timed for the 35th anniversary of his run. It was great to share this important Canadiana with the kids, even if B did spend most of the time just photographing close-ups of all the hockey jerseys in the room.

And of course there’s a great Children’s museum that we needed to visit. We also decided to watch an IMAX movie about Lemurs. Lemurs are cool, but for some reason this film was a bit too over the top, and felt like it had been made 10 years ago, despite being recent and narrated by Morgan Freeman. It was missing some kind of legitimate messaging, like “lemurs are good, deforestation is bad” is pretty trite, even when you’re targeting a young audience… But we had a good time over all. We even ran into the kids’ cousins who were at the museum with a summer camp trip, so that was a nice surprise.

The final museum on the list was the Billings Estate Museum, which is a manor right in the heart of the city, the home of the original settlers of the area. In fact, I didn’t visit for the museum itself, but for afternoon tea. My mom and I escaped for the day and spent a lovely few hours enjoying tea and snacks overlooking a beautiful outdoor garden. Probably my favourite kind of museum trip!


Great Canadian Tour 2015: Ottawa fams & jams

Whenever we head home to Ottawa, our main vacation goal is to see all the family. And visiting in the summer means hot days and sticky nights, farm-fresh strawberries and corn, barbecues every weekend, backyard sprinklers and downtown festivals. Unfortunately, it also means a lot of family & friends are away on vacation. So we never get to see all the people we hope to see. This summer was no exception. I think we managed to see maybe 6 friends in total? Sorry, everyone else! But you can always *cough cough* come to Switzerland *cough cough*.

We still had a glorious few weeks enjoying the summery summertime in Ottawa. It’s the season when everything is bright and awake, with the sun suspended high in the sky for 18+ a day, and everyone spends their evenings on the patio with a drink in hand to soak up as much of the sunset as possible.

B and the kids arrived a few weeks before I did and got to enjoy the first strawberry picking of the year, visit some kid play zones and splash on the beach. It was a great chance for them to catch up with Grandma L, who left shortly after to spend the summer on the east coast.

Once I arrived, we tried to fill our time with some more ‘touristy’ activities, since we were on our own most days while our parents or friends were working or otherwise busy. B and I managed to catch a show at the Ottawa Bluesfest – Dropkick Murphys and The Tragically Hip. It was great music… but we were totally, absolutely 100% rained out. I have never been so cold and soaked in my life. I think my body actually forced a reset at one point during the concert, because I fell asleep standing up for like 2 songs and didn’t realize it. But it was worth it!

B also took the opportunity to enjoy a football game at the new Ottawa stadium. He took about 400 pictures and short video clips, which I narrowed down to just two. You’re welcome.

One of my favorite things about Ottawa in the summer are the downtown festivals. One weekend, it was RibFest, which is exactly what it sounds: a bunch of rib stands selling copious amounts of ribs. We had a great time stuffing ourselves, and the kids discovered their love of grilled meat…

But visiting is always bittersweet. All we’re left with are a few photos with the family, trying to keep our memories fresh while we wait for the next time we can see each other. But still, it is always worth it!


Winter holiday highlights: Ottawa

Our Christmas holidays were lovely. It had been over a year since we last visited home, and even longer since we had seen winter! The plan was to spend almost a month relaxing in Ottawa with family and friends, making the most of wintry days playing in the yard and wintry nights sitting by the fire.

We headed out of Jakarta on an early Saturday morning, laden with suitcases full of gifts and only the bare necessities – since none of our current wardrobes were at all suitable for the weather in Canada. Luckily we had managed to buy some long pants and a few sweaters in Bogor, so we could at least make it from the airport to the house when we arrived. But wearing socks for the first time in two years was a bit weird.

The flights were relatively smooth, other than a few panicked hours in Hong Kong when we thought our flight would be late and we would miss our next connection in Vancouver. But it turned out fine, and the 35 hours passed like a breeze. A very long, very boring, incredibly painful breeze filled with hours of cramped seats, terrible movies, inedible food and whining children. But we made it.

Our first week home was also filled with boring things like visiting the dentist. Twice, for the family members who had a cavity. Three times, for those with two cavities. And we battled jet lag for quite a while, waking up to watch movies at 2 in the morning. Ah, who am I kidding – it was the holidays – we probably would have done that anyway!

It snowed just when we arrived, and the kids were so excited. We took them tobogganing. J cried the whole time, complained that LittleB was “throwing sand at her” and went to play at the snowy swing set instead. LittleB face-planted at the bottom of the hill and sprawled there for the rest of the time. BigB smacked his knee on some ice riding down the hill on a kiddie saucer and limped for the rest of our trip. But I had a good time, though!

Obviously the big ticket item was Christmas. My sister and her family came to stay as well, and we had a busy schedule of visiting friends and family throughout the week. Christmas is always a busy time for us, since we have so much family in the same city – and we have to carefully plan our days to get in a dinner and presents with all of them. The upside is that we get dinner and presents with all of them. We also visited an old-fashioned Christmas village, where we got to meet Québécois Santa, see thousands of Christmas lights on old-timey buildings and eat toasted marshmallows at the firepit. We also managed to see a number of good friends.

Before we left the city, we decided to do some tourist activities so we didn’t feel like we had wasted our entire vacation sitting around drinking Bailey’s (that doesn’t sound too bad, actually). Of course, on the week we decided to take the kids to the museums, they were all closed for annual maintenance. We did manage to visit the art gallery for an M.C. Escher show, which was very neat. But it was on the coldest day of the year so far (-37 C with the windchill). We made the poor kids walk about 10 minutes to the gallery – that was a mistake. J started crying uncontrollably and LittleB had a panic attack when he saw BigB’s mustache getting ice on it. But we stopped for beaver tails and hot chocolate, which every Ottawan knows is the only cure for a cold day in Canada. Everything worked out fine.

The night before we were meant to leave, the whole family came down with a stomach bug. We managed to change our flights at the 11th hour and got a whole extra weekend of time. So we headed over to the Nature Museum to see the dinosaurs and stuffed birds and stuff. We also managed to squeeze out a few more restaurant trips and extra goodbyes.

Too soon it was time to head home for real, to the home that has all our stuff. The highlights I carried home with me, other than a bunch of new underwear and kids’ medicine: easy shopping, nice restaurants, driving on the wrong side of the road, new babies, craft beer, personal space, silent snowy nights, ham, and bacon.

I think my only regret is that I didn’t get any one-on-one time with my sister. Our kids kept us both busy, and we had too many family gatherings eating up our days and nights. Luckily, we just planned a last-minute Thelma-and-Louise trip to Paris in a few weeks, so I guess that worked out for the best!!

We miss you, Ottawa. See you next time!

Christmas in Canada

We had an old-fashioned canuck Christmas at home this year. Visits with Santa (twice), snow, sledding, Christmas village tours and sleigh rides, dinners, friends, presents, caroling. I hope all your holidays were as merry and bright!

Happy New Year!

-The Cayas

O Canada: part three – Ottawa

Our time back home in Ottawa was a whirlwind of visiting, shopping, doctor’s appointments and what seemed like an awful lot of driving around the city. We are blessed with many family and friends, but it meant we had someone to see or somewhere to be nearly every day and night. (Seriously, I had an hourly appointment chart for the week.) It was great to catch up with everyone and see how the past year had treated them. I was especially happy to see my old colleagues and school friends. And we had a great moving party redux. I think that’s going to become an annual event, so mark your calendars!

Our time with family was short and precious. Even though we only had a few hours with the Caya/Hinz crew, it was memorable for an especially great meal, great conversation and a great game of pick-up hockey. A lovely evening-slash-almost-sleepover with Brainslie and the smalls was also perfect.

My sister and her kids followed us to Ottawa, so we were able to spend the week together. I would have liked more free time to spend with them, but we were able to have a few fun outings, including the Red Bull flugtag and our family tradition of Sunday Dim Sum.

Some highlights – last-minute trivia night with a gathering of friends and a tasty dinner with the same group at a bbq joint a few nights later. I will never complain about platters of meat followed by gelato! I was also lucky to enjoy multiple outings with my best friend, and B had the chance to do some kind of hockey/man things with his buddies. (I assume these man gatherings mostly involve drinking and trading insults about …) I capped off the week with a girls’ day out with my mom. We had a great time at the spa and a delicious lunch in the Byward Market.

It was a great week and I wish it had been at least one hundred times longer!

Turning to a bit of introspection, there’s something vaguely strange about returning to a place that used to be home but isn’t really anymore. Of course it was nice to see our family and friends – and that was the main reason, other than doctor appointments, why we went back. It’s comforting that we were able to slip back into our old lives and routines so easily: driving around the city without a map, knowing where to shop for the things we want, eating familiar foods and easily doing everyday things like laundry and cooking. But we also unexpectedly felt a bit out of place. Maybe it’s because we don’t really live there anymore, so we had to depend on the kindness of our relatives to get us through. Maybe the fact that it was so easy is what was unsettling. I think I assumed that during our time abroad we would have substantially changed in some obvious way, but I guess we didn’t and that was what seemed weird. How could we have moved so far away and lived such a different life yet stayed so much the same? Or maybe that’s really a blessing. Despite everything, passing through all the challenges and trials, we come out the same on the other side.

Anyway, we are looking forward to our next visit! And to all of you who we didn’t get to see for one reason or another – sorry! I hope we can meet up next time!


O Canada: photo highlights!

Our trip back to Canada is nearly over – other than a rather large airline hiccup that has stranded us in New York for a few days. Irony, thy name is air travel!

In the meantime, enjoy our photo highlights!

Moving party

In order to get the most bang for our buck, we decided to invite everyone we know to a moving party a few days ago. Thanks to the four of you who showed up!

No, but seriously, it was fantastic to spend some time with the important people in our lives. And to drink a lot of beer.

Enjoy the following action shots:

The countdown is on

Well, we’re flying out in T minus 3 days, and it’s coming up quickly! The past week has been filled with many “last times” and an awful lot of goodbyes.

We took the kids to parliament hill for the first time (and last time, at least for a while)
We took the kids to parliament hill for the first time (and last time, at least for a while)
We also said goodbye to some special cousins!
We also said goodbye to some special cousins!

Our friends and family joined us for a fantastic going-away party. That post is coming up next!