Through the windows of Ottawa’s Parliament building, senators are likely to see something that you wouldn’t expect on Parliament Hill: a Cobra; a Cat; and a Downward Facing Dog.
If you’re a follower of the ancient tradition of yoga, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Keep in mind, I am no yoga expert, but you don’t have to be an Ashtanga master to know there’s something special about Yoga on Parliament Hill, one of Travelocity.ca’s Local Secrets, Big Finds. This free yoga class, sponsored by Lululemon Athletica, lures locals to the lawn of Parliament Hill, just along the banks of the beautiful Ottawa River.
I tromped around Canada last week, visiting some of the Local Secrets, Big Finds, and I have to say that I was so impressed by Yoga on Parliament Hill that this local gem may have convinced me to lift my year long ban of the practice. My only yoga experience has been in a sweltering room (115 degrees to be exact) in a San Francisco yoga studio that reeked of Haight-Ashbury hippies. (You know. The ones who swear that rubbing salt crystals under their arms once a week will keep them, um, powder fresh.) Long story short, Bikram yoga isn’t my thing, but this class gave me an entirely new perspective on the practice – and it made me think about the trend of health and fitness for the traveler.
More and more, we’re seeing that people want to get out and be active when they travel. I tend to search for hotels with nice fitness centers; I walk instead of drive when I can; and I always throw a jump rope in my suitcase for a quick morning workout in my room. Even with these healthy alternatives, I find myself longing for a more normal workout routine while I’m on the road, which is why I was so compelled to experience Yoga on Parliament Hill. It not only gives travelers the chance to do something healthy, but they get to indulge in a truly local Ottawa experience.
Have you stumbled upon any local fitness secrets while on the road?
My name: Jennifer Gaines, but my friends call me Gaines, Jenni-Dallas or just plain Jenn.
(Find me on Twitter @jenngaines)
Travel ambitions: It's my mission to visit each of the New 7 Wonders and to step foot on every continent before my next milestone birthday.
Greatest travel lesson learned: Find the local hangouts to experience the real, true culture of a place. During a trip to Europe, my friends and I spent several days with a French family in the small town of Vichy. We had a private party in their family-run creperie, feasting on cheese-stuffed crepes and sampling wine that we picked up in the Bordeaux region a few days earlier. Their English wasn’t much better than my French, which is limited to a few well-known phrases from Moulin Rouge and the question: Parlez-vous anglais? (I'm proud to say that I can spout this question off in several different languages, and luckily most Europeans do indeed speak English!) After a few bottles of wine, the language barrier was hardly noticeable (slurring actually sounds the same in French!), and we managed to swap stories about life in other places. What a slice of local flavor!
My most beloved place in the whole world is: My grandparents place in Texas. It’s a 10-acre oasis in between two sprawling cities: Dallas and Fort Worth. A creek runs through their enormous backyard, where Granddad built a deck over the water. The entire place is shrouded with all types of trees (mainly pecan), blocking the Texas sun in the summer. Dusk is the best time to sit on the deck, drink a glass of ice tea and watch baby raccoons from the spring litter surround their back porch as Gram feeds them bread (no lie!). There will be dozens of raccoons eating on any given night. In the fall, my family gathers in the courtyard in front of their house for an annual “weenie roast.” Granddad lights the bonfire, and we roast dogs and s'mores. Yes, y’all, we’re from Texas!
Favorite way to get around: Well, I’m not much of a driver. I get lost easily and my tires have never come across a curb they didn’t want to get to know a little better. But, I do enjoy cruising around and listening to music. That said, I much rather explore a place by foot (with my iPod in tow) for a more intimate encounter.
View that took my breath away: Coming from Texas (where the view is wide but there’s not much to see), scenes from my new home of San Francisco never fail to amaze me. The city is a pedestrian’s dream, but don’t forget to turn around and look behind you as you meander through its neighborhoods. You won’t realize it, but you’ll be at the tip-top of a hill and the ocean will suddenly seem to be at eye level. Take a drive through the Presidio and over the Golden Gate Bridge where even more stunning views await!