Lying back in the sun, eyes closed with the breeze from the lake cooling me and listening to the band of crickets and cicadas, it’s hard to believe that I’m in the centre of Canada’s capital city. Living in Ottawa, we are spoilt for choice of where to escape the noises and heat of the city. Parks, lakes, rivers and beaches spread all over, waiting to be enjoyed and discovered. I love exploring these places, which makes it super convenient that I live so close to many of them! However, all that being said, another extra convenience to where I currently live is that I am just off the highway which takes you straight out of the city. While I love living in Ottawa (see my Ottawa post!), and I know we are lucky to have as much open green space as we do here, but absolutely nothing beats getting out of a city for a couple of days. I have mentioned the 1000 Islands region, which I have managed to escape to a number of times, but this weekend I headed in the opposite direction-into the Ottawa Valley. Just an hour outside of the city, you find yourself in the rolling hills of the valley, with water seemingly almost always in sight. With towns with names such as ‘Wilno’, ‘Eeyore Lake’ and ‘Bullies Acre’ you know you are in rural land! (To put it into perspective, the latter town is named after a group of drunken builders…!) Where it feels like there are more stars in the sky than dark, and you can’t hear anything at night, you can’t be more relaxed. Weekends out of the city are always rejuvenating, but also exhausting. You are up early and outside all day — in the water, on bikes, up hills and down rapids, and up late into the night around the campfire.
Stretching a mere six million acres, the Ottawa Valley has something for all ages. Rich in history of fur traders and explorers make for great walks and canoe routes retracing the ‘steps’ of the first European settlers to arrive in Canada as well as up to 5,000 year-old remnants of copper items and spearheads. There is also a huge Canadian military base in the Northern end of the valley at Petawawa.
For the more outdoorsy type there is a huge variety of water activities, including white water rafting, canoeing and so on. Whether it’s rapids, waterfalls or gliding on top of the glassy surface, the routes in the Ottawa Valley are perfect for any beginner or skilful canoeist. Or take to greater heights for the great Canadian bungee or skydiving! The views across the valley and rivers are the perfect backdrop to the ultimate experience. For those looking for a slighter more romantic experience there is the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of a hot air balloon ride! I really wasn’t joking when I said there was something for everybody here. And the journey back to your lodge or campsite is guaranteed to be as beautiful as your day was exhilarating. Whether it’s through the forests or along the bays and beaches it will be interspersed by small villages with many an inviting place to put your feet up and relax with a drink (or three) listening to the local live bands.
Before heading back into the city, be sure to dip into a farmers market to stock up on organic freshly picked fruits and vegetables, homemade pies, pickles, jams and so on. I like to think that however much of a city lover you are and however many hidden spots you have in the city to escape to, nothing will rejuvenate you and relax you as much as a weekend out in the countryside!