Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival on Labour Day weekend

Cycling Towards Hot Air


Gatineau is closer than you think.

Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival on Labour Day weekend

Mentally, Gatineau and Nepean are far apart for me. They aren’t really though. Mind you, Nepean is large, but we live just South of the Experimental Farm so although it is technically old Nepean, it is the closest area of Nepean to down town.

Arboretum in Ottawa across Carleton University

Yesterday, we decided to cycle to the Balloon Festival in Gatineau along some scenic routes, but still fairly direct. The Experimental Farm is closed for car traffic in the weekend, and hence a great connector for people from Nepean cycling to Hintonburg, Little Italy and down town and further North.

Can there be a more romantic wedding than travelling in an extended SUV? “OMG, I am sooo, like, excited!”

We decided to cycle through the Farm, crossing the Arboretum across Carleton U. staying west of the canal all the way, passing at least three wedding parties, doing their photo shoots. Further on, we saw another three couples. The alternative to get to the canal is Baseline, thank you very much.

Ah, canoeing and cycling in one picture: the outdoor side of Ottawa. I’m telling you, Ottawa’s future lays in outdoor -with a small o- tourism.
Ah, a bike trough. the one at Hartwell Locks is delayed, but still planned for autumn 2012.

Approaching the NAC property at the south end, I never knew you were actually cycling along the canal in front of Le Café, ending up underneath the square in front of Chateau Laurier and ultimately at the Locks, without crossing the dreadful intersection above you. Now I know where those two bike troughs are I had seen being tweeted by others after my post on ramps. I never knew there was a connection and always cycled up the ramp behind the NAC.

The front door of the Bytown Museum. Check out the scale models of the City throughout the years. It is not that long ago, that Bytown was a very violent city, thanks to unemployed Irish gangs after the canal was finished.

We checked out the Bytown museum ($6 pp, $15 for a family). A nice little museum, with a story and artifacts and a must see if you want to know a bit more about the City and the Rideau Canal. It was very busy outside, with lots of people enjoying the weather, there were a fair number of Bixi bikes too.

Leaving the bridge, I am never sure if you are allowed to cycle here. It appears you can, but it doesn’t seem to be NCC property as the yellow centre line is missing.

We crossed the Ottawa River over the Alexandra Bridge, turning left right after the bridge, and left again leaving the Museum of Civilisation for what it is to go underneath the Alexandra bridge towards the North (although it feels like you are heading East, because of the bend in the Ottawa river.

Ah, there is the line again, an no shortage of signs warning you for situations that likely never happen anyway.

You’ll cycle through some park setting, cycle underneath the MacDonald-Cartier Bridge further North through Park Jacques Cartier and parallel along Boulevard Fournier on nice NCC paths, part of the Route Verte. At some point you can head left (West) along de Décharge de Lac Leamy towards the Casino or even Gatineau Park.

No cycling allowed, but no one seems to particularly care about the sign.

A bit further you will cross the Gatineau River over what looks like a former train bridge. Cyclists should get off their bikes, but none do, and there is little reason anyway as there were few pedestrians and there is little room to cycle fast. A little courtesy appears to go along way and makes the sign unnecessary.

The balloon festival -at Parc La Baie, more or less opposite Rockcliffe Park- charges an entrance fee plus a parking fee, but we cycled around it to join other cyclists to watch the balloons from behind a fence and saw it just as well. We have the feeling that the number of balloons is declining, there weren’t many fancy ones either. As there was no wind, the organisation decided to fill the balloons, but not float, so we could still admire them but not up, up in the air. Distance from Nepean, 18.5 kilometres.

Fifties style road, rue Jacques Cartier, with lots of space for cars, but little for pedestrians. A great waterfront route to improve for active transportation.
A view south over the Gatineau River where it meets the Ottawa river facing Rockcliffe in Ottawa

On the way back we cycled along the Ottawa River to the Portage Bridge, crossed the river and cycled further along the river on the South shore to Hintonburg to have tacos at Tacolot.

Tacos and San Pelegrino with lemon at Tacolot in Hintonburg. A friendly couple on a motorbike celebrated their 8th wedding anniversary with dinner here.

Fairmont Ave brings us south to Carling (via Irving crossing the Experimental Farm). The full moon lit the Farm nicely. Total distance travelled 36 kilometres.

Of course you could start this loop at any place, it is virtually all separated from traffic, except some quiet neighbourhood streets, a great ride for everyone with plenty of stops, vista’s and green space. If you plan your route properly, you rarely have to share the road with motorised traffic and that is pretty exceptional for a North American city.

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