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It’s fine to go Dutch on your royal tour of our colourful capital city

May, 2011

There is no reason fly all the way to Orlando if you want to see a prince or princess. Go to the other “O”: Ottawa! ( And if you do, you may get to see a real prince and princess.

On Canada Day, we will be hosting the very newly married royal couple Prince William and his wife, Kate.

But even before then, you can enjoy the colourful gifts of another royal. In 1945, Princess Juliana of the Netherlands sent 100,000 tulip bulbs in thanks for the safe haven the city provided the Dutch royal family during the Second World War and for the role Canadian troops played in liberating Holland.

While here, she gave birth to Princess Margriet Francisca, the only royal baby ever born in North America. To ensure the baby’s Dutch citizenship, the Canadian government temporarily ceded a room at the Ottawa Civic Hospital to the Netherlands. So on January 19, 1943, the flag of the Netherlands flew on Parliament’s Peace Tower, and Princess Margriet was born a Dutch citizen on Dutch soil in Canada.

The first gift was in the fall of 1945, and a gift has arrived every fall since. In recent years, that’s meant 10,000 from the Dutch royal family and 10,000 from the Dutch Bulb Growers’ Association. So this gift begat the Canadian Tulip Festival, being held this year from May 6-23, where you can immerse yourself in gorgeous photo ops among more than one million tulips. Commissioners Park near Dow’s Lake is one of the main venues where 300,000 blossoms are concentrated.

At the other site, Major’s Hill Park (near Parliament) on May 6-8 and May 13-23, embassies and local community groups will provide entertainment and food. There’s a fun zone for families, and tulip-themed workshops. All of the tulip displays are free, but you can buy a “Tulip Passport” that would allow you access to some fee-based events and for local attractions, museums and restaurants.

For casual dining nearby, try the Sante Restaurant & Art Gallery, which has an Asian-inspired menu with Pho Vietnamese soup, Bali spring rolls, pad thai, green curry with chicken, Indonesian beef and always a couple of vegetarian options. If you catch them on the right day, they stage lunch-time fashion shows. 45 Rideau, 2nd floor, 613-241-7113, Carnivores might convert once they try ZenKitchen. They make gourmet vegan food taste wonderful, using local organic ingredients—no engineered foods, no chemical additives, no eggs, dairy, fish or animal products. 634 Somerset W., 613-233-6404,

You can start with arancini—fried butternut squash risotto balls or salad rolls in peanut butter sauce or vegetables flambéed with a chipotle-tequila sauce. Main courses might be ravioli stuffed with pesto-cheese in a smoky tomato sauce or panko-crusted seitan covered in a cranberry teriyaki sauce and served with ancient grains. You can end with yummy desserts like peanut butter and chocolate tart or lemon pie with coconut whipped cream.

Take time to stop and smell the tulips with your little princess. Photo: Glenn Posner

Oprah liked Zen enough to air The Restaurant Adventures of Caroline and Dave on OWN-TV Canada. The 13-episode TV series followed the path of the owners when they opened ZenKitchen (http://on.fb. me/hQVJ3T).

For a romantic or special dinner, head to dreamy Courtyard Restaurant, which has been nestled in a courtyard near the Byward Market for 30 years. The wooden beams and old romantic limestone walls harbour the tales of when this 1837 building was a tavern, hotel, garrison, geological department and civil emergency centre. 21 George. 613-241-1516,

Chef Michael Hay is using new-fangled molecular gastronomy techniques combined with the knowledge of classic cooking to offer plates with separate intense tastes so that you can combine them in your mouth in different ways. Yes, there might be chocolate and coconut soup, but you’ll find foie gras, too.

He takes 48 hours to braise short ribs and then pairs them with cauliflower coulis, or makes crispy duck breast, duck confit and fingerlings sprinkled with pistachio and grapefruit pieces. Desserts are wild de-constructions—the one called Breakfast was best: financier cake, banana ice cream, strawberry, amaranth and yogurt. He flash-freezes ice cream using liquid nitrogen so that it produces smaller ice crystals, leading to a smoother, silkier ice cream.

After all the action downtown, you might want to head to Ottawa’s Silicon Valley in Kanata for some R&R at the Brookstreet (, a four-diamond hotel and restaurant with an uber-modern and “green” environment that will please both him, her and even your pet. The Au Natural Spa’s there for rejuvenation and pampering (even a couple’s massage suite), or you can exercise in the Flex Fitness Studio (35 machines) or the 15-metre indoor saltwater pool with its children’s wading pool.

The golf course, the Marshes, covers 20 hectares and was designed by Robert Rent Jones Sr. and Jr. And if all that wasn’t enough for a getaway, Scotiabank Place, the Ottawa Senators’ home and an entertainment venue is down the street—and horseback riding is nearby, too. If you show them your Scotiabank Place tickets, you can get 15 per cent off your room rate. You will dine like a prime minister at their Perspectives Restaurant, with its natural birch-tree dividers. Some lunch items are so popular that they can’t take them off the menu: tom ka gai soup with coconut broth, shrimp, chicken and mushrooms or the Ribwich, a pulled-pork tower with battered tomatoes, and then there’s crab cakes with papaya, mango, coconut and cherry pepper glaze.

Cool idea—they offer you a Smart Cellar smart pad to choose your wines. Even cooler—notice the artwork throughout the hotel, which was created by Canterbury High School students. If you need them, there’s Breathe Easy rooms that follow strict hypoallergenic guidelines.



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