Whenever I have the chance to accompany my husband on his business trips, I usually take full advantage. When he’s working, I typically spend the days and evenings on my own. As a true introvert, this doesn’t bother me at all. Plus, it’s always great to have a change of scenery. Recently, I had a chance to visit our nation’s capital; Ottawa. Although I’ve been there several times, I was excited to go back.
Unfortunately the weather wasn’t the best while I was there. In fact, it poured rain the entire time! I guess this is to be expected in April. So, instead of touring around, I decided to turn it into a “self-care” trip. In other words, I chose to focus on exercise, retail therapy, reading, writing, a visit to a day spa and of course, healthy eating. Although I work from home, there’s something very relaxing about staying in a hotel. Can you relate? For some unknown reason, I’m so much more creative and inspired when I travel.
To make the most of my time, I decided to come up with a plan of Non-Touristy Things To Do In Ottawa:
8-9 a.m. 45 minutes of Cardio in the hotel gym
9-10 a.m. Breakfast Buffet in the hotel restaurant
10:00 a.m.-11:45 Get dressed and catch up on emails/writing in hotel room
12 noon: Manicure at Beauty and Sussex
2 p.m.: Lunch
2:30-4:00 p.m. Shopping at the Rideau Centre
4:00-6:00 p.m. relax/read in the room
6:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m. Workout #2 (weight training) in the hotel gym
7:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. Dinner
Where to stay:
We stayed at Ottawa’s historical Fairmont Chateau Laurier located near the ByWard Market. I highly recommend this beautiful 4-star hotel. However, it is on the pricey side. So, if you are on a budget, you may want to look into other options. But I have to say, the Chateau Laurier is an experience in itself — it has so much charm! Although it is an older hotel, the rooms, lobby and restaurants have all been updated. Plus, the staff members are welcoming, friendly and knowledgeable. I felt right at home.
Where to workout:
You never know what you are going to get when it comes to hotel fitness facilities. But I must admit I was pleasantly surprised by the Fairmont’s gym. Although it was located on the lower level of the hotel, it had a very cozy and inviting feel. The top-notch equipment included: machines, cables, dumbbells, a squat rack, bosu balls, stability balls and medicine balls. Definitely not your typical hotel gym! It exceeded my expectations by far. In fact, word has it that many local residents use the facilities, including some members of parliament.
Interesting fact: the gym has a personal trainer on staff that specializes in creating custom plant-based diets.
Ottawa is a fantastic place to enjoy the outdoors. Although the weather wasn’t the greatest during my trip, I still managed to get outside and walk around (the hotel provides complimentary umbrellas). The scenery was beautiful, even in the rain!
If you are an exercise enthusiast, you may also want to try:
Grit + Glory Strength and Conditioning
They run several intense, bootcamp style classes throughout the day. There are no machines. The workouts incorporate minimal equipment, which means “you” do all the work!
The Perks: This facility is conveniently located next to Beauty & Sussex. So you could sweat it out and then head to the salon for some well-deserved pampering!
A boutique-style fitness studio that offers 45-minute workouts. Their high-intensity method is intense as it is intended to burn fat while preserving muscle.
The perks: Not only do they have a shake bar, but they also provide complimentary espresso and towel service.
For a full gym experience, you could try GoodLife Fitness at the Rideau Centre.
The Perks: Since this gym is conveniently located in the mall, you can have a workout, do some shopping and grab a healthy lunch at Green Rebel! Plus, if you are a current GoodLife member in another Canadian city, you may get free access (depending on your membership type). GoodLife offers a variety of classes, equipment and amenities.
Where to get a manicure/pedicure:
In Toronto, I have my go-to spots for manicures. Since my nails were past due for a clean up, I thought this would be the perfect place for a fresh mani. Thanks to google, I discovered “Beauty and Sussex,” a beautiful salon located just a few hundred metres from the Fairmont Hotel on Sussex Drive. For those who don’t know, Sussex is the name of the famous street where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family live.
The esthetician (Tanya) did such an amazing job. In fact, she introduced me to a new kind of polish called “powder” by OPI, which uses a dipping technique. It’s similar to shellac in that it’s a long-lasting polish. If you are visiting Ottawa or live in the city, I highly recommend this salon. Everyone was so friendly, knowable and skilled. It’s the kind of place you would want to go to get pampered, hang out and drink espresso on a rainy day.
Unfortunately, the Fairmont did not have its own spa. I thought this was strange for a hotel of this caliber. However, if you are looking for a full-service day spa, you could also try:
York Street Spa
This upscale spa/salon is located on Ottawa’s beautiful “York Street” (in the ByWard Market area).
This is a full-service spa that uses natural/organic products.
Where to shop:
Since it poured rain the entire day, I decided to go to the mall. I know — not that exciting. But it was a great way to spend the afternoon. I never get tired of shopping. And it’s always fun when you are in a different city. The Rideau Centre has everything you need. I purchased a beautiful navy blue trench coat from Michael Kors, some makeup from the Bobbi Brown counter at Nordstrom and a beautiful ivory scarf to wear for an upcoming event.
Although I didn’t venture outside of the mall on this trip, I have compiled a list of boutiques that I will be checking out next time. Since Ottawa is located close to Montreal (which is known for its amazing fashion) you may find some unique, one-of-a-kind pieces in these stores.
Where to eat:
Eating out can make it difficult to stay on track. As a figure competitor, I try to eat clean or healthy most of the time. I have a few tricks up my sleeve to help me out when I travel. This comes in handy when there aren’t great food options. For example, to ensure I am eating every 2-3 hours, I bring protein meal replacement shakes and a blender. When I am away from home, I typically stick to protein and vegetable-based meals. Fortunately, Ottawa has a lot of great yummy salad options!
Breakfast: The breakfast buffet was included in our room package. I had coffee, an egg white omelette filled with veggies and a side of fruit. I love buffets because you can pick and choose what you want to eat. It was great that the hotel offered their buffet on a weekday. This is not something you see very often.
Lunch: I learned quickly that if you want to find the “good spots” in a new city, ask a local! The esthetician at the salon told me to check out Green Rebel in the mall for a healthy lunch. Although this would be considered fast food, it was perfect for me. There were a variety of healthy salads with the option to add your choice of protein. The cost for a salad was approximately $15. This may sound steep, but it was delicious and kept me full for hours. The best part of all — they care about the planet. If you purchase one of their reusable bowls and bring it with you, they will fill with salad and take 50 cents off your bill. It’s a small perk but every bit counts.
Dinner: After plenty of google research, I came across an interesting restaurant concept that I was eager try. This is the kind of place I go to when my husband is working. He prefers a solid piece of meat when we eat out (like steak)! Mad Radish is a new restaurant that gets great reviews. It’s located in Ottawa’s Financial District; a short 10-minute walk from the Fairmont.
Mad Radish is a healthy fast food concept that’s based on delicious, fresh, chef-inspired salads. Although this restaurant is exclusive to Ottawa, there are plans to expand across Canada in the near future. I absolutely loved it and I can’t wait until it arrives in Toronto. The chicken is farm-fresh from Quebec and roasted in-house. And the vegetables were beyond fresh! With more and more people concerned about their health, I think this new concept will be very successful.
Interesting fact: Mad Radish is owned and operated by David Segal who started the well-known Canadian company, David’s Tea. According to sources, he recently sold his chain of tea stores to launch this new business concept. David currently resides in Ottawa.
Since the weather was so mild and I was already out, I decided to walk towards the ByWard Market and check out one more place after dinner. It was already dark, but I felt completely safe. This is the reason why I think Ottawa is a great place for a girls’ trip or a solo retreat. Like any other city, however, you definitely want to me mindful of your surroundings at all times.
As a cupcake fanatic, I was told to visit the Cupcake Lounge. Although I was doing my best to eat healthy, I really could not pass up the opportunity. I was beyond curious to try one!
When I arrived 30 minutes prior to closing, there were only 2 cupcakes left on the shelf. Yikes! (My first clue that this place was good). Then I found out that the remaining cupcakes were vegan. But they were vanilla flavoured with vanilla icing — my absolute favourite. Honestly, this was the best cupcake I’ve ever had — hands down! The frosting was thick and creamy and the cake was so fresh.
Interesting fact:The cupcake lounge pairs cupcakes with wines (based on the flavour). In the summer, their most popular treat is a popsicle placed in a glass of champagne.
I guess I will be making my trip back to Ottawa sooner than I thought!
I highly recommend Ottawa for a quick getaway. It’s perfect if you are solo, planning a girls’ trip/bachelorette or in need of some couple time. There’s a lot of touristy stuff to do as well (if that’s your thing). Although I was on my own the majority of the trip, it didn’t feel that way. People were so friendly and welcoming. Thank you Ottawa! I hope to be back soon.