It is widely known in Canada that the tulip festival in Ottawa is in honour of the Canadian forces who played a major role in the liberation of The Netherlands. But I wonder how many of our citizens are aware of the other story behind the reason we are blessed with the gift of thousands of tulip bulbs every year from our Dutch friends?
In the 1940’s the Nazi invasion forced Queen Wilhelmina and the Dutch Royal Family into exile. To ensure their safety, Ottawa provided sanctuary to Princess Juliana and her two daughters, while the Queen remained in Europe to rule from Britain.
Three years after their arrival, Princess Juliana gave birth to Princess Margriet, the only Royal to have ever been born on North American soil. To ensure the line of succession would not be threatened, the Canadian government temporarily declared the hospital Dutch soil, thus ensuring single (Dutch) citizenship. After five years the family returned to The Netherlands and as a gesture of gratitude and friendship, Princess Juliana bestowed 100,000 tulip bulbs upon the city of Ottawa. That recognition was the beginning of what would become the largest tulip festival in the world.
I have been to Ottawa a million times (quite literally!) and I have never been to the tulip festival. I know tsk tsk! So this past weekend, Q and I visited Ottawa for the 70th anniversary of the tulip legacy. We drove all night (10 hours from our previous destination), slept in the parking lot of a Tim Hortons (we were too cheap to rent a room for only a couple of hours) and at the crack of dawn headed to our first stop, the National War Memorial.
It was early morning with overcast skies and the shadows created by the clouds only added to the emotional impact of the memorial. The statue, erected, unveiled and dedicated by His Majesty King George VI, symbolizes the sacrifice of many Canadians from the “great” war to end all wars to the murder of Cpl. Nathan Cirrillo. To say the thought of such a senseless tragedy weighs heavily on your heart is an understatement. And to stand where a young life was taken only months earlier proved to be too much. After a prayer and a moment of silence, Q and I left for the parliament buildings.
The sun was just beginning to peek through the clouds and horizon as we made our way around parliament hill. The architecture is magnificent. The facade hides the youth of our nation as the buildings look like stone relics with their patina copper roofs. Thankfully everything was in bloom, from tulips to lilacs, the hill looked awesome in the early morning glow.
After snapping some pics and chatting with some RCMP officers, we jumped in the car to drive over to where “it’s” at (the festival) – Commissioner’s Park.
Q and I arrived at around 8:00 am and thankfully there was parking. I know you’re wondering why wouldn’t there be parking right? Well the organizers were expecting some 600,000 visitors to the festival, obviously not all on the same day, but a ton of people nonetheless.
This multi-day festival has something for everyone. And “everyone” and their brother were starting to show up. Bus loads of people (and I’m not joking, literally busses were arriving and dropping off) began entering the park. Tents and vendor booths were set up with a flavour of your local fair, except more sophisticated – instead of beer tents, there were tea tents. Favourite fair treats of fudge, candy apples and floss were intermingled among more distinguished cuisine such as the asian taco stand and coffee/breakfast trucks. Music concerts, buskers, International dancing stage, art in the park, children’s shows and fireworks were only upstaged of course by the tulips! Ottawa has tulips up the wazoo!!! I thought my ass and hamstrings were going to blow from all the squatting I was doing to take my pictures. What dedication for our passion, right!
As the end of our trip neared, Q and I tip toed through the tulips over to Queen Juliana park (yes she later became Queen) so Q could ogle, ewww and titter over the vintage WW2 vehicles and re-enactment.
If you plan on heading out to the Canadian Tulip Festival remember these three things:
- Be sure to visit as much of the city as possible.
- Bring the whole family to enjoy all the different activities of the tulip festival!
- For the love of God don’t be cheap – rent a room for your stay!
The tulips were amazing, the city warm with hospitality and we couldn’t have asked for more beautiful weather! Thanks Ottawa for a great day!
~ True North Nomad
What was your favourite activity at the Canadian Tulip Festival?
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