Ottawa has a new laid-back vibe: Asanas at noon by the PM's office, hybrid nose-to-tail at Murray Street Kitchen. The Prince and Duchess may want to duck their handlers and taste the capital for themselves.
There are many touristy ways to experience Parliament Hill. This is not one of them. On Wednesdays during the summer months, a swath of the famous front lawn is carpeted with jewel-coloured yoga mats. Find a spot at this popular free noon-hour class led by lululemon athletica. Focus in on the nearest yogini as, almost wave-like, dozens of participants silently change position: cobra, downward-facing dog, high lunge. It's a contemplative way to experience our national seat of power. lululemon.com/ottawa/rideaucentre
Head for the back, past the meat slicer, past the rows of antler coat hooks, back to the relaxed patio at Murray Street. This nose-to-tail eatery helmed by chef Steve Mitton was named one of the top 10 new restaurants in Canada by enRoute magazine after it opened. The dinner menu is built around the farms that supply the clover-fed pigs and natural-pasture-raised beef. Sure, you can order a smoked and roasted pig's head for dinner, but why not start off a little earlier in the day? The breakfast menu features the mighty pig in many guises: as "smoked pig parts" in the Benedict Murray, as pulled pork in the taco-style-eggs-and-bean "potacos" and as house-made sausage in its pigs in a quilt. (And this being friendly Ottawa, vegetarian options are available.) If this whets your appetite, pop around the corner to the just-opened Murray's Market ( murraysmarket.ca), a "100% Canadian Food Shop" packed with cheeses, charcuterie and unusual takeout (one pickled ox tongue on rye for later, please). murraystreet.ca
DINE WITH THE VEGANS
In Ottawa's Chinatown, a surprise awaits: a high-end vegan restaurant that draws the omnivore crowd. ZenKitchen brings gourmet international to the bean-sprout set. Chef Caroline Ishii, who chats with guests as she moves between tables, says what she really wants to do is make food that's good for the planet and good for people. Despite the healthy focus, there's a thread of decadence here. "It doesn't have to be foie gras to be tasty," Ishii explains. Tasty, indeed, from the creamy coconut curry with lentils and seasonal vegetables to the tres leches cake made with rice milk, coconut cream and coconut milk. Who knew vegan food could be so satisfying? zenkitchen.ca
SIGHTSEEING IN STRIDE
Is Ottawa becoming Vancouver east? It's definitely a fit city: Whenever you decide it's too muggy or too rainy to run, someone inevitably jogs by pushing a running stroller. It's also a beautiful city with plenty of scenic trails. So consider this six-kilometre (or so) sightseeing route: Start at the Fairmont Château Laurier on Mackenzie Avenue and run toward the National Gallery of Canada (passing, of course, through the legs of the gigantic outdoor spider sculpture). Turn onto Sussex Drive and head for Rideau Hall, with highlights such as Sir John A. Macdonald's former house, Rideau Falls and 24 Sussex along the way. Go through the gates of Rideau Hall up to the residence and then exit onto Mackay Street and head back to Sussex Drive to the Château Laurier. Do a cool-down stretch with the Hill in view.
"Roger, roger, the ship is sinking, head for the lifeboat!" That will be the sound of your lab-coat-wearing kids as they interpret life on an Arctic research vessel at the Canadian Museum of Nature. A major renovation transformed the century-old museum last year into five floors of hands-on learning. The exhibits appear simplified - the Water Gallery, the Fossil Gallery, the Bird Gallery and so on - but the learning, fun and modern-day relevance are embedded. Must-sees include the life-size dinosaur showdown, the blue whale skeleton and the Animalium live bugs. (Free admission on July 1.) nature.ca
FOODIE MARKET TOUR
C'est Bon Cooking launched its Edible Ottawa tours last year to share the city's thriving foodie scene. "The old joke used to be: You want a good meal in Ottawa? Go to Montreal," guide Paola St-Georges says. No longer. On a tour of the city's historic Byward Market, Ms. St-Georges shares breaking news - the Bekings Poultry Farm stand is now selling Clarmell Farms pure-goat chèvre! - and introduces you to restaurateurs, farmers and cheese-store owners. The experience gives you ideas on where to shop (green market signs indicate 100-per-cent local products), where to eat out (shall it be a $5 sandwich from La Bottega Nicastro or the small-plate heaven of Play?) and includes enough delicious samples (from just-picked strawberries to roasted beet salad) to make you want to return for more. cestboncooking.ca
TOP SECRET FILM CLUB
It's far from new, but the Diefenbunker - a 45 minute drive from downtown - retains an eerie novelty. Where else can you see movies in a bomb shelter? Head down the chilly blast tunnel for a quick tour of the 100,000-square-foot complex built beneath farmer's fields during the Cold War. Peek inside the prime minister's suite (with one lonely cot); listen to the wail of the emergency CBC broadcast and walk through the cavernous Bank of Canada vault. Then settle in 18 metres below ground with a bag of popcorn for a Cold War-era movie, screened the third Tuesday of every month in the former cafeteria. Flicks include Dr. Strangelove and Goodnight, and Good Luck. diefenbunker.ca
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