Tulipmania: May 3-20
On its 50th Anniversary, the Canadian
Tulip Festival celebrates the life and times
of photographer Malak Karsh.
By Toby Saltzman
If Ottawa, Canada conjures up images of red-jacketed Mounties on
horseback, the changing of the guard at Parliament Hill, Maple Leaf
flags waving high above majestic buildings, international Royalty
and Heads of State talking politics while strolling alongside the
Rideau Canal - that's fine.
However, it's good to know that for all its political pomp and
ceremonial panache as Canada's capital city - Ottawa is a culturally
rich and safe city loaded with attractions for all ages.
River cruise gives views
of the Parliament Buildings and
the Chateau Laurier Hotel.
I happily pop into Ottawa any season at all to catch a concert
at the National Arts Center, a sporting event at the Palladium (home
of the Ottawa Senators hockey team) or a world-class art exhibit
at the National Gallery. But I love Ottawa most in May, when the
parks and boulevards become seas of tulips, with wave upon wave
of brilliantly colored blooms.
Ottawa's tulip tradition began in 1946 when Princess Juliana of
the Netherlands gave the city 100,000 bulbs in appreciation for
sheltering her Royal Family during World War II and the role Canadian
troops played in liberating her country.
Over the years, the Netherlands' annual gift was supplemented by
bulbs from other countries, and Ottawa's Tulip Festival flourished
to become the largest, most lavish one in the world.
This year, on its 50th anniversary, the Canadian Tulip Festival
will celebrate the life and times of renowned photographer, Malak
Karsh, by dedicating Tulipmania! to his memory with a splash of
brilliant exhibitions and events from May 3 to 20. Millions of tulips
will span vast gardens running along the National Capital Region
Tulip Route, along the Rideau Canal, through Ottawa and Gatineau.
In many ways, Malak Karsh was instrumental in creating Canadas
Tulip Festival. Whether or not average Canadians ever knew his name
as the understated gentleman who photographed the icons of Canadian
culture, including Ottawa in all its tulip glory, they knew his
work. Malaks 1963 photo of logs floating on the Ottawa river
below Parliament Hill, perhaps his most famous work, appeared on
the last Canadian one-dollar bill, on the reverse side of the portrait
of Queen Elizabeth, taken by his brother, the famed Yousuf Karsh.
I met Malak Karsh one quiet morning when I was photographing the
very pictures you see on this page.
"Tulips always remind me of when I first came to Canada from
Armenia and my brother took me for a drive around Ottawa to show
me my new home, " he said, proceeding to entertain me with
Saltzman by Malak Karsh
"Did you know that when Ottawa first received the gift of
Dutch bulbs, that Mackenzie King complained the tulips would spoil
the gothic integrity of the Parliament Buildings? Never mind: the
next spring King was pleased to see the little blossoms burst open
from those long green stems. Did you ever see my 1953 photograph
of the young girl watering tulips with a watering can in this very
spot? That was little Margaret Sinclair. She became Mrs. Pierre
Elliott Trudeau. You know: the Prime Ministers wife."
Malak went on to say how he was inspired to nudge the Ottawa Board
of Trade to create a tulip festival in 1950, while he was too ill
with tuberculosis to work. The festival was officially launched
in 1953. Over time, the Netherlands annual gift was supplemented
by bulbs from other countries and the Tulip Festival, held every
May, flourished to become the largest, most lavish one in the world.
Since then, it has blossomed to attract thousands of tourists to
the region each year. In 1984, Ottawa honoured Malak by naming a
mauvey-red blossom after him.
By now, my time was running out. I had other places to visit. Yet
Malak remained steadfast with patience. "Let me try your camera,"
he said. After fiddling with the lens, he photographed me, framed
by the National Gallery. " In turn, I snapped his picture,
shook his hand, and stepped back slowly, beaming from my lovely
encounter with one of Canadas foremost artists, knowing I
carried Malaks gift of photography within the body of my Minolta.
Over the years, Malaks love for photography rarely waned.
Apparently, just two days before his death in 2001, he was photographing
Parliament Hill in brilliant autumn hues, still building his portfolio
and legacy of Canadian images. An exhibition of his work, coincidentally
planned prior to his death, will be held at the Canadian Museum
of Contemporary Photography.
For three weeks, tourists will have opportunities to view imaginative
installations of living tulips designed and created by artists from
across Canada. The Tulipmania Exhibition will run from May 10 to
20 at Major's Hill Park, the Festival's main activity and celebration
site. Tulip Explosion, a new flower show site at Maison du Citoyen
in Gatineau, will feature floral designs inspired by famous paintings
from May 3 to 6. During the same period, Tulip Explosion will include
displays from the International Floral Gown Competition. Budding
florists will be able to enhance their metier by attending the International
Floral Workshops. Serious gardeners will have opportunities to interact
with experts at the Tulip Encounter, as well as attend the first
World Tulip Summit, where international tulip experts from the Netherlands,
France, Japan, Turkey, Australia and other countries will participate
in a three-day tulip symposium. Home gardeners will have chances
to meet and speak with tulip experts at the Tulip Encounter in Majors
Besides living blossoms, the Capital Region will abound with artistic
renditions of tulips and activities for all ages. Check the official
tulip website www.tulipfestival.ca
for exact details for outdoor concerts, events and gala balls. Plan
to visit the Artisans in the Park for unique, tulip-inspired handicrafts,
and the 50th Anniversary Eatons Ottawa Community Tulip Garden, consisting
of 260 five-foot fiberglass Tulipmania Tulips painted by local artists
and groups. If you have kids in tow, dont miss the Shoppers
Drug Mart Kid Zone featuring fun characters and tulip activities.
(Children under 12 are free.) Follow the Tulip Route to Commissioners
Park alongside Dows Lake, where you can indulge in authentic sweet
or savoury "Beaver Tails" at the Tulip Café. Try
to stretch your visit to join the throngs of festival goers at the
Casino de Hull Parade of Lights on the evening of May 18 and Clarica
Flotilla Parade on the Rideau Canal on May 19. Take time to venture
away from the mainstream displays. Hike or bike ride into the Gatineau
Hills to visit the beautiful gardens and antique relics of the Mackenzie
King Estate. And dont forget to dip into the Byward Market
for souvenir bulbs to plant back home.
quilts and other crafts are for
sale at the local markets during the Canadian Tulip Festival
As well, there will be flotillas of flower-bedecked boats on the
Rideau Canal, British buskers, a citywide carnival, a parade of
illuminated boats and a sound and light show at Parliament Hill.
Pick up a local map listing "tulip events" throughout the city featuring
daily entertainment at the International Tulip Friendship Village;
arts and crafts fairs brimming with souvenirs; activities galore
at the Shoppers' Drug Mart Kid zone; and programs on creating floral
bouquets at the National Gallery "Artissmo" kiosk.
Capital City Sites
Tulips aside, by world standards, Ottawa is beautiful, remarkably
safe and historic. A little history puts it into American perspective.
Ottawa was originally called Bytown in honor of Colonel By. By made
quite a significant contribution to the region. After the war of
1812 in Upper Canada (as this region was called), the Rideau Canal
was built as an escape route to Kingston in case of an ensuing American
invasion. Colonel By supervised the construction of the 200-kilometre
canal, with its series of locks and dams, which raised the waters
so boats could "climb" 84 meters over the Canadian Shield then drop
49 meters down to Lake Ontario. By 1832, Bytown - which began as
a settlement for the canal workers in 1826 - was burgeoning on the
south shore. When Bytown finally gained city status in 1855 it adopted
the Algonquin name Ottawa - meaning "traders." Queen Victoria declared
Ottawa the capital of the Province of Canada in 1857.
flag on high tower on
Ottawa's Parliament Building
Today Canada's Capital Region encompasses Ottawa and Hull, the
Quebec city situated immediately across the river. Plan to spend
a few days, there's so much to see and do. To get a sense of the
region's historic and national splendor, start at Parliament
Hill, which comprises a cluster of splendid Gothic building
on a cliff overlooking the Ottawa River. For an inside look at Canada's
justice system in action, the Supreme Court of Canada, located
at Wellington Street and Kent, offers free tours. War buffs shouldn't
miss The National War Memorial on Confederation Square, unveiled
in 1939 to commemorate Canada's service in World War I. Another
Ottawa must-see: Byward Market and the historic Sussex courtyard
area bustle with bistros, clubs, artisans' stalls and a folksy farmers
market. The Rideau Canal Works are fascinating to watch,
particularly at the locks between Parliament Hill and the Fairmont
Chateau Laurier Hotel. The Fairmont Chateau Laurier epitomizes
the regal grandeur of Ottawa. Sit in the lobby for a while and watch
the political world go by, or duck into Zoe's lounge for the best
cocktails in the capital city. Better yet, stay here. Various packages
include picnic lunches and rentals for bicycles and in-line skates.
Nearby, Laurier House, former home of Canadian Prime Ministers
Sir Wilfred Laurier and William Lyon Mackenzie King, contains some
interesting historic exhibits. The current Prime Minister's Residence
is at 24 Sussex Drive, an 1868 stone mansion overlooking the Ottawa
River, is closed to the public but worth walking by. If you like,
scoot around the corner for a free tour of Rideau Hall, the
official home of Canada's Governor General.
Chateau Laurier Hotel
Ottawa is eminently walkable, but there are plenty of neat ways
to save tired little (and big) feet from blisters, thanks to rental
bikes and rollerblades, convenient sightseeing trolleys and the
river boats that cruise the Rideau Canal and Ottawa River, stopping
at the best sites along the way.
The city's museums and galleries are family-friendly. Take a walk
through history at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, which
houses numerous galleries full of works depicting Canada's cultural
and artistic heritage. It's also home to the Children's Museum,
which boasts hands-on displays.
The Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, an elegant
museum tucked below ground level next to the Chateau Laurier Hotel,
showcases the work of some of the country's most dynamic photographers.
The Canadian War Museum contains the country's largest
war-related collection and traces Canada's entire military history.
The life-size replica of a WWI trench is one of the highlights.
The National Gallery of Canada boasts the country's finest
collection of both Canadian and international works of art. Coming
up is an outstanding Gustav Klimt exhibit (June 15-September 16)
culled from public and private museums in Europe, Japan and United
The Museum of Science and Technology, Canada's largest museum
of science and technology, includes interactive exhibits, huge locomotives
and virtual reality astronomy programs.
The Royal Canadian Mint produces and circulates special-edition
and bullion coins of gold, silver and platinum. Visitors can observe
the process. Sorry, no samples.
The National Aviation Museum houses Canada's largest and
most important aeronautic collection and ranks as one of the world's
best. More than 100 aircraft and numerous interactive exhibits narrate
the history of flight.
The brand new Canada and the World Pavilion showcases Canadians
who are making their mark around the world today.
For a break from the museums, head out-doors. Cycle along 150-kilometers
of scenic pathways, hike in Brittany or Gatineau parks, or kayak
and white-water raft along the Ottawa River - one of North America's
most powerful - with Class 5 rapids. Stop along the way for a taste
of "beaver tails." Locals flavor these pancake-like delicacies with
everything from savory spices to sweet berries. And when you pass
the Rideau Canal locks, stop to wonder: If not for Colonel By, would
Ottawa belong to the USA?
Canal Works are fascinating to watch,
particularly at the locks between Parliament Hill
and the Chateau Laurier Hotel.
Fun for kids of all ages
The Ottawa Riverboat Company operates tours from May through
October. OWL Rafting offers one- and two-day whitewater rafting
trips and half-day family float trips along the Ottawa River.
Wilderness Tours also run river-rafting and kayaking excursions.
The Hull-Chelsea-Wakefield Steam Train (dubbed the HCW) is
travel like it was in the good old days; A five-hour, 32-kilometer
rail excursion along the Gatineau River takes passengers from Hull
to the quaint village of Wakefield and back.
Dows Lake is a small man-made lake with a pavilion where
you can rent sailboats, canoes, pedal boats and bikes, and indulge
in decadently topped "beavertails" on the terrace.
The Central Experimental Farm (930 Carling Avenue; tel: 613-759-1000)
is a 500-hectare working research farm operated by Agriculture Canada
in the heart of the city. It boasts 2000 varieties of trees and
shrubs in the Arboretum and plenty of farm animals. In the spring,
the farm showcases the works of local landscape architects.
The Gatineau Park Visitors Centre (across the provincial
border in Quebec, at 318 Meech lake Road, Chelsea; tel: 819-827-2020)
offers information, hiking maps and details on canoe, pontoon and
cycle rentals with-in the 26,000-hectare park.
of the Museum of Civilization
Arc The Hotel (140 Slater Street; tel: 613-238-2888, fax:
613-235-8421) is Ottawa's first contemporary designer boutique hotel.
It has 112 stunningly appointed rooms and all the bells and whistles
savvy travellers desire.
The Carmichael Inn & Spa (46 Cartier Street; tel: 613-236-4667,
fax: 613-563-7529) is a designated Heritage House with a mix of
10 studio rooms and whirlpool/fireplace suites. There's also a full-service
Cartier Place & Towers Suite Hotels (180 Cooper Street; tel:
800-236-8399, fax: 613-238-3842) are two side-by-side properties
that offer tidy business suites, an indoor pool, a full gym and
a kid's playground.
The Chateau Laurier - now called the Fairmont Chateau
Laurier (1 Rideau Street; tel: 800-441-1414) epitomizes the
regal grandeur of Ottawa. Sit in the lobby for a while and watch
the political world go by, or duck into Zoe's lounge for the best
cocktails in the capital city. Some rooms have a bird's eye view
of the action on Parliament Hill.
Art at the Museum of Civilization
Chateau Cartier Resort (1170 Aylmer Road, Aylmer, PQ; tel:1-800-807-1088
/ 819-777-2518), just across the bridge Ottawa, was rated "Canada's
#1 Downtown Golf Resort for 1999" by Golf Canada Magazine. It features
tennis, squash, racquetball and volleyball courts, a full-service
indoor spa, indoor and outdoor pools, plus a children's playground.
Choice Hotels (1-800-4CHOICE ; website: www.choicehotels.ca)
includes three affordable, reliable hotels in heart of Ottawa: Comfort
Inn, Quality Hotel and Econo Lodge.
The Citadel Ottawa (101 Lyon Street; tel: 800-567-3600, 613-237-3600)
is a renovated business hotel featuring good health club facilities.
The Delta Ottawa Hotel & Suites (361 Queen Street; tel: 800-268-1133,
613-238-6000) is a luxuriously appointed hotel near Parliament Hill.
Kids will like this place: It boasts an indoor pool with a two-storey
The Doral Inn Ottawa (486 Albert Street; 800-263-6725, 613-230-8055),
built in 1879, is also a designated Heritage House, offering three-star
comfort in 40 guestrooms.
The Lord Elgin Hotel is a stately hotel overlooking the Confederation
Park and the Rideau Canal.
Paterson House Bed & Breakfast (500 Wilbrod Street; tel:
613-565-8996, fax: 613-565-6546) this elegant Heritage House, built
in 1901, features four guest suites and a health centre.
The Westin Ottawa (11 Colonel By Drive; tel: 613-560-7000
or 1-800-WESTIN-1) is an exceptional business and leisure hotel
with an enviable location. Floor-to-ceiling windows in all 487 guestrooms
overlook the city and scenic Rideau Canal.
the Ottawa valley and the
Canadian Shield from the crest of Gatineau Park
Where to eat in the Capital Region
Ottawa's reputation for good dining blossomed with the rapid influx
of the high-tech sector that mingled creative types with a penchant
for sophisticated cuisine with politicos known for bland palates.
These are some of my favorite places to dine.
Bistro 115 (110 Murray Street; tel: 613-562-7244), located
in the Byward Market, offers an espresso and wine bar, hearty country
fare and mouth-watering desserts.
Café Henry Burger (69 Laurier Street, Hull; 613-777-5646)
is an elegant restaurant that serves seasonal French cuisine and
an extensive wine list.
Le Café at the National Arts Centre (33 Elgin Street; tel:
613-514-5127) overlooking the Rideau Canal provides patrons with
what is arguably the city's best combination of view, food and Ontario
VAQ wines. Everything on the menu at Le Café, which specializes
in Canadian cuisine, is worth a try.
Le Jardin (127 York Street; tel: 613-241-1828) combines an
inviting French ambience with delicious cuisine in a Byward Market
house boasting stained-glass windows.
Mamma Grazzi's Kitchen (25 George Street; tel: 613-241-8556) has
a flair for reasonably priced pizza and pasta in a casual setting.
Rideau One (1 Rideau Street; tel: 613-562-7043), the intimate,
bistro-like restaurant in the Chateau Laura Hotel, caters impeccably
to the sophisticated palates of the world's dignitaries. The imaginative
menu offers a delicious range of artfully presented, internationally
L'Oree du Bois (Chemin Kingsmere, Old Chelsea, QC; tel: 613-827-0332)
serves fine French cuisine in a historic house set high in the Gatineau
hills outside Ottawa.
For more information:
Phone: 1-800-66tulip or the Tulip Hotline: 613-567-4447
Tulip Website: www.tulipfestival.ca
For maps and details on Ottawa attractions call: 1-800-363-4465
Ottawa Tourism: 1-800-465-1867
Ottawa Website: www.tourottawa.org