May 8th, 2015
Ottawa Tulips and Commemorating the Liberation of the Netherlands 70 Years Ago
I did not miss the Ottawa winters at all. And as everyone continues to tell me, I was very lucky to have been in Trieste last winter as the winter of 2014-15 in Ottawa was the coldest on record.
But I have to say that I did miss springtime in Ottawa. We arrived April 8th to snow squalls. The wings of the plane had to be de-iced. It was still very much wintertime. My back garden was encased in a layer of sooty end of winter snow that was rock hard. For the next 10 days or so we chipped away at the ice but with the daytime high temperatures in the single digits and the night time temperatures hovering at just below zero, the ice was not melting. Then came a few days of rain that finally washed the snow away. And then out came the sun with day-time temperatures climbing to the mid teens. We went from needing the down filled comforter, winter jackets, and the furnace running all the time to opening every window in the house and turning the furnace off!
The first days of spring in Ottawa this year were glorious. The sky was a crystal clear blue. First you heard the constant honking and then you looked up to see Canada Geese their dark bodies a perfect contrast to the blue sky. Almost overnight the lawns showed hints of green, the leaf buds popped out and the first purple crocuses and yellow daffodils literally burst into bloom.
The past week we have had temperatures in the high twenties and today we have hit 30C. Right now my neighbours air conditioner is running, which to me is very hard to understand. But it helps explain a little about life in this continental climate- people huddled indoors all winter because of the freezing temperatures and then indoors all summer because of the humidity and heat.
In the space of ten days, we have gone from the lifeless grey and dull browns of late winter to near sensory over load both with all the new color and just wanting to be outside to soak it all in.
The Tulip Festival (Festival of Spring) is an Ottawa tradition with an even greater significance this year. During the second world war, the Dutch royal family fled to the safety of Ottawa. Princess Margaret was actually born in Ottawa. Canadian troops were part of the allied forces that liberated Holland. To thank the people of Canada and Ottawa, in 1945, the royal family sent 100,000 tulip bulbs to Ottawa. Every year since, the royal family and the Tulip Growers Guild has sent 10,000 tulip bulbs to the City of Ottawa.
Tulips it seems, thrive in this climate and every May you can see thousands and thousand of bulbs in a rainbow of colors bloom everywhere in the city. The Tulip Festival itself is held at Dow’s Lake which is part of the Rideau Canal system.
We arrived in Ottawa April 8th and today May 8th, a month later, we have forgotten all about winter. We went for a bike ride on Friday morning along the Rideau Canal. We stopped to marvel at the variety of colors and shapes of the tulips. It was a perfect spring day with Dow’s Lake and the first green buds on the trees a stunning background to the swaths of colorful tulips.
This is also the 70th Anniversary of the liberation of Holland and fittingly it is being commemorated this year at the Tulip Festival.