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Ottawa

This afternoon we got back from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Amaris, the twins, Sebastian, and I were up there for a hockey tournament with Sebastian’s team. Travel was good, the tournament was fun, the weather was tough, the kids and families were a blast, and Ottawa was great as usual.

In total, we covered 870 miles (1400 km), spent 19 hours in the van, went to 3 youth hockey games, went to a museum in Quebec, and visited with my cousin.

We really had a great time. The twins were pretty good, all things considered. We love the city of Ottawa. Three years ago, Amaris and I went to Ottawa with the four oldest kids and vowed that we wanted to come back. But, with two boys in college and Erin home taking exams in high school, it was the three youngest kids along for this trip.

We drove through Vermont and crossed over Lake Champlain on the way up and on the way back. We passed through the Mohawk Indian Nation of Akwesasne on the borders of New York, Ontario, and Quebec. We passed over the St. Lawrence River. We saw deer, hawks, eagles, and fox. We saw hundreds of ice fishermen. We saw people cross-country skating, para-skating, and driving their vehicles all over the ice on Lake Champlain. There’s plenty to see if you are looking.

One of my goals when I go to Ottawa in the winter is to skate the Rideau Canal. This trip the canal was open to skater’s on Thursday, the day we arrived, and today, the day we left. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to skate any of the 7.8 km the canal offers when open.

On Friday, when the hockey tournament games started we were welcomed with wind-blown waves of snow, followed by sleet, followed by freezing rain, and then back to snow. The parking lot of the Bell Sensplex had more ice on it than the four rinks inside did. Our team played well in their first game of the tournament, but lost 5-1. Between games we braved the snow and ice, crossed over the highway, and went to lunch at Jack Astor’s Bar & Grill. For those of you who like this stuff, the CHICKEN BLT POUTINE $8.98 - Natural cut fries loaded with cheese curds and beef gravy; topped with chicken, bacon, caramelized onion, tomato, lettuce and garlic mayo, was awesome! That was before visiting the biggest hockey superstore I have ever been in, Pro Hockey Life. As it turns out, this was the biggest hockey store in all of Canada when it opened a couple of years ago.

Then it was back to the Sensplex and a game on the olympic sized sheet of ice. Our team won 2-0, and we played even better than the final score indicated. The recap of this game can be found here. Then we battled the icy roads back to the hotel in downtown Ottawa. We enjoy the Les Suites Hotel because it has a lot of room for everyone and its proximity to downtown Ottawa is second to none. Once we had the twins in bed, Amaris and Sebastian took off on foot with a friend to check out the Scotiabank NHL Fan Fair at the Ottawa Convention Centre. They braved the crowds but had a blast taking part in the interactive events throughout the convention centre.

Saturday it was back to a hockey game out in western Ottawa on a beautiful farm road leading to the Cavanagh Sensplex. Once again, our team played well and won, 4-1. By the time we got out of the rink, the snow had started to fly again. Lightly and beautifully. Then it was back to the hotel to clean up and head out on foot to find some dinner in downtown Ottawa. We let the twins walk the entire way (block or two) through the snow, slush, puddles, and ice. They loved it! I had Jacqueline’s hand and I am pretty sure she did not miss a single puddle or pile of slush on the way to dinner or back. We found a little place that us Boston Bruins fans might all like, Don Cherry’s Sports Grill. It was a nice place, good food, and lots of TV’s. The twins would rather have been walking outside in the snow so our stay was brief.  Plus it was time to get back and watch the NHL Skills competition. Hanging out with the kids and friends was a lot of fun, as we enjoyed the tremendous skill of the NHL players. It was a late night but a load of fun.

Though our team was 2-1 in the round robin portion of the tournament, the team did not qualify in the top five teams. Only the top five teams advanced to the playoff round of the tournament. This meant there were no more games, no game on Sunday morning.

With our team and parents all headed home, we had already planned to stay through until Monday morning, we decided to enjoy the day. We went to the Canadian Museum of Civilization to check it out. The museum is just over the Ottawa River, in Gatineau, Quebec. It sits with a perfect view of Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Sebastian and I went to check out the IMAX presentation of Rocky Mountain Express. We loved it. What a great story of Canadian history. Then we went to find mom and the twins in the Children’s Museum part of the massive, beautiful building.

Sebastian and I walked into the Children’s Museum and were blown away by the size and magnitude of the facility. Wow! What a place for kids. It took us 10 minutes to find Amaris and the twins among the seemingly endless number of interactive options available to kids of all ages. There were so many things to do and so many people to interact with. Our 21 month old twins had a blast, as did our 11-year old son. Honestly, Amaris and I loved it too. I highly recommend this place to anyone with kids age 11 or under. We were there for more than 2 hours and could have stayed much longer had the twins not been so exhausted by that time. We went back to the hotel to get the kids down for a nap.

Later that afternoon it was time to go see my cousin Kevin and, his wife, Stephanie. We were also looking forward to meeting their son Tristan who was born last summer. After some wrong turns on our part we made it out to their house. We had some pizza, doted on the baby, and caught up with one another for a couple of hours. We hadn’t seen them since the summer of 2010 and we really longed for many more hours of catching up, sharing news, and just talking.  It was a great visit and even the twins were very excited to meet the young baby boy of the house. Even though it seemed way too short, it was time to head back to the hotel and end the evening.

Then, Monday morning, the sun was up, the temperature was well below freezing, and it was time to go home. Of course, as I checked the conditions of the Rideau Canal, it was again open for skating. Just my fortune I guess. We hit the road just after 10am, after loading our van to capacity. We had almost zero gas so we stopped about 15 minutes into the journey. We would make stops again in North Hero, Vermont at Hero’s Welcome General Store (great place to stop!) and then again in South Hero, Vermont. On the way to Ottawa (7 hours and 10 minutes), Theodore did not sleep a wink. On the way home (7 hours and 15 minutes), Jacqueline did not sleep a wink. Either way, the twins were great for all the time they spent in the van. We ran into some snow showers throughout Vermont on the way home, but nothing too serious. Finally, we arrived at home.

As we traveled, we recalled the events of the loooong weekend. We loved the hockey games, the museum, and the visit to my cousin and family. It was a nice trip, and we were already talking about our next visit to Ottawa. We are fortunate to have great kids and a great family. We have a nice team of boys and girl who love playing hockey anytime, anywhere. And the parents are a blast as well. We are a fortunate hockey family. Along the way, big brother Ryan, was texting from California to see how Sebastian and team were doing, as well as to see if we were hitting any of the NHL All-Star events, which were held in Ottawa over the weekend. We kept him up-to-speed but I know he would have rather been there with us. It was a good trip, which is what we expected. That’s Ottawa.

The twins are all grown up. They are reading and in deep discussion; all by the warm light of evening. They climbed up on the couch themselves and decided 'close sitting' was acceptable in Canada.

Opening face off of our third game. We won 4-1.

I don't know how we lost a game with these two playing for us.

This group cheers for Sebastian at every game. I think they cheer for me occasionally, like when it's time to go eat or something.

The Manchester Pee Wee Flames appear to be rigid and uptight before their tournament game in Ottawa.

Opening face off. Sebastian has a line on the puck.

Sebastian skates in pre-game warm ups.

Jacqueline is ready for snow if it starts falling in our hotel room. Of course the onesy might not be the best cold weather choice.

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