A Sea of Tulips

After three days of reflections on the March For Life I still have more to say, but I thought you might appreciate something a bit lighter today. Think of it as a form of Sabbath rest.

The ties between Canada and Holland are renewed every spring on both sides of the Atlantic. The Dutch remember the arrival of Canadian soldiers as liberators in late April and early May 1945. There were big celebrations marking the 70th anniversary just a few weeks ago.

Notre Dame Basilica is in the background.

Notre Dame Basilica is in the background.

Canadians, at least those of us who live in Ottawa, have a different reason. Our city is a swirl of colorful tulips, millions of them, a gift from the people of the Netherlands.

When the Nazis invaded Holland in 1940 the Dutch royal family fled. Princess Juliana found refuge in Canada, taking up residence in Ottawa. Princess Margriet, aunt of the King of the Netherlands, was born during that exile, in 1943, at the Ottawa Civic Hospital, in a room that was declared to be Dutch territory, temporarily anyway.

After the war the Dutch royal family, in gratitude, began sending an annual gift of tulips to Ottawa, a gift that has done much to beautify our public spaces. Tourists come by the thousands to see the blooming flowers and an annual tulip festival has sprung up around the displays.

When you live somewhere it is easy to take the local attractions for granted. There are some national museums I haven’t been in for years. I figure I can go anytime, and as a result I never do.IMG_9330

The same holds true with the tulips. I never think to go and look at the flowers – my daily route doesn’t take me near them. And battling the crowds on the weekend doesn’t seem all that appealing. So most years I skip it.

Yesterday though I was meeting a friend downtown and, remembering that the tulips should still be blooming, I brought my camera. The day was overcast, but you get the idea. I was in Majors’ Hill Park, and it was late afternoon; not the most popular location or the busiest time, but I heard at least four different languages being spoken.IMG_9339

Looking at the flowers inspired me in a way. Ottawa is one of Canada’s primary tourist destinations. With the warmer weather finally here maybe I should spend a bit of time checking out some of the more popular tourist sites. I’ll think about it anyway – and let me now if you have any suggestions.



  1. […] (must have been the company). We went just before sundown yesterday, not in the blazing sun like last year, which I think made for some interesting lighting. Here’s some of what we saw so you can […]

  2. J. Laurie McLean · · Reply

    Yes, Lorne, you should. A couple of years ago we decided to see what tourists to Ottawa see — so we took the open air bus tour around the city. It was pretty amazing and very informative. And not all that expensive. Sure we could have driven around to different spots but it was nice to hear the commentary on the city too.

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