One fact that is definitely true of Canada is its distinct seasons-while they might not be split into equal quarters, each one comes with its definitive ‘sign’ of emergence. The groundhogs of spring, dresses and no jackets of summer, the beautiful colours and dropping bicycle numbers of autumn and, of course, the snow and ice rinks of winter. It is safe to say the while spring and autumn last only a very short time (this year spring was about two weeks) the beginning of each season is always exciting-whilst being excited about what is to come, it also means you have survived the previous season. Both summer and winter can take their toll in Canada-by the end of each you are ready for the other but halfway through and you are begging for the first one back! Temperatures pushing the mercury from -35 to +50 celcius understandably make life hard!
However, few people welcome spring with as much delight as Ottawa residents do, and it’s no wonder why — patios reappear all over town, while the Byward market booms back to life, sightseeing boats return to the Ottawa River and Canal and millions of tulips bloom in beds across the capital. The tulips, for me, definitely mark the end of the long, dark winter and shine on brighter things ahead. Ottawa is said to be one of the coldest winters in the world and boy do you notice those biting winds!
Ottawa’s Tulip Festival is North America’s largest and occurs every year. Thousands of tulip bulbs are sent over from the Netherlands as a token of thanks from the Royal family from the Second World War when Canada protected Princess Juliana and her children, even declaring a ward of the Civic Hospital an ‘international territory’ so the newborn Princess would only inherit her Dutch citizenship. The first three weekends of May completely renew the city. Knowing how many hundreds of thousands of people flock to see the tulips, all stops are pulled out for the city. From the parks being transformed from winter snow/muddiness to luscious green flowering places with lazy fountains to the old soft top cars that are polished and brought out after winter, everyone seems to take more pride in this city. People come out of hiding and the Tulip Festival is the perfect opportunity for the return! The last weekend of the festival often culminates with the Victoria weekend celebrations-coincidently the ‘unofficial’ start of summer. This weekend will see as many people as possible scrambling out of cities to nearby lakes and cottages, canoes on car roofs and flip flops on whatever the weather! Crowds gather all over for fireworks and closing concerts of the festival.
After a brief two, maybe three weeks of horribly wet rainy weather that melted away all the snow, the sun returned once more and summer arrived, bringing with it temperatures up in the 30s once again. Ottawa is happy and alive–for at least the next four months anyway! Canadians certainly have learnt to take advantage of what both summer and winter throw their way, whether its skating on frozen canals, or pedal-boating on the same stretch three months later, they’ll take it. The love the outdoors and strive for all seasons!
Me? I am SO relieved winter is over for now. Coming from England, this ‘mild’ winter of plunging temperatures was certainly taking its toll and I was more than ready for this sunny weather. Already in the last six weeks of summer,numerous festivals have been celebrated all over the city-including Italian fest and rib fest. I can’t wait for weekly activities and festivals that I get to explore again over the summer! I’ll let you know how they go!