a peek inside the fishbowl

06 Jul, 2017

About that picnic on the bridge

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Ottawa

When I first heard that the plan for Alexandra Bridge for Ottawa 2017 celebrations, I was pretty excited. On July 2, officials were going to close the bridge to vehicular traffic and open it up to picnic enthusiasts. How cool! Unfortunately, I was asleep at the wheel when the tickets went on sale and they sold out quickly. I promptly forgot about the whole thing until a friend of mine was selling his tickets at the very last minute. I wasn’t about to let this once-in-a-lifetime about to pass me by, even though I had no idea if (a) there was enough food in the fridge suitable for picnicking or (b) how we were going to get to Gatineau (bike? bus? drive?) and (c) if there was parking to be found anywhere within a couple of kilometres. I threw caution to the wind and said YES.

Mark was booked to golf, so it was just the three of us girls. After a harried start (basically, me, packing everything I could think of in a huge cooler bag) we made our way.

We didn’t bother trying to park close to the core, but nabbed the first spot we saw along a residential side street. Thankfully, with the parking worked out, a big burden was lifted from my shoulders and we proceeded with a spring in our step toward the bridge.

I should, perhaps, explain about how this all worked. Participants had to check their tickets beforehand to see if they were to access their spot from the Ottawa or the Gatineau side. We were GAT. There were various seatings throughout the day and ours was at 4 p.m. The FAQ instructed us to be at the gate at 3 p.m., one full hour before our appointed time, which we were. This is almost preceisely when it started to rain.

For Ottawa folks, this is now a common refrain. The weather has been so variable these past couple of months that we’ve trained ourselves to go out and enjoy ourselves between waves of rain and appreciate every bit of sun that we can get, like the solar paupers we are, even if it’s a glimmer between cloud bursts. I wasn’t about to let it rain on our parade this time. We were going to persevere!

Sidebar: in all of my rushing to pack our things I neglected to pack a poncho or umbrella. Happily, my youngest brought a small collapsible umbrella, so the three of us huddled underneath it with the odd drip of cold rain running down the back of our collars.

Upon entry, security went through all of our bags quite thoroughly but thankfully they did not confiscate my cheese knife.

Ace Bakery was handing out baguettes at the get go and CIBC-branded picnic blankets were also on offer. So we grabbed our things and went to find our spot. The baguette was damp the second it was handed to us. The action reminded me of some kind of Olympic event; the baguette relay, which I hoped would be followed by cronut tossing.

By this point, I had abandoned all pretense of keeping dry.

Our assigned quadrant of sod was not far, and I was pleased that we had a good view, albeit a foggy one.

There weren’t many people around at that moment. It was all looking a bit sad until I realized that the SMART folks were probably staying dry somewhere until the rain passed. Sigh. Oh well.

Picnic on the bridge event, (Our view!)

The sod was soaked and muddy in spots. The water started to pool on our picnic blanket so two of us decided to pick it up and stand underneath it. It made poor shelter, but at least it was keeping the worst of the rain off our heads. We were starving so we ripped open a bag of chips and took turns taking hilariously savage bites out of the baguette, like some kind of wild animals. It was all quite comical, really.

And then, the rain stopped, the clouds parted, the rest of the picnickers arrived, and we breathed a sigh of relief. Everything was going to be fine.

It stopped raining!

We dug in to the rest of our picnic – cheese, fruit, vegetables – and took the time to enjoy the scenery around us. We were close to stairs which lead to a bit of a catwalk for security purposes. I climbed up so I could get a better view. I fully expected to get scolded for my actions, it is, after all, for security, but the guard just smiled at me. Thus, I obtained a bird’s eye view of the revelry. Kids played, people snapped photos, ate, drank, and stretched out on their blankets. The girls went for a walkabout to check out the scene while I stared across the water and watched the water taxi cross and recross the river.

Picnic on the bridge

Picnic on the bridge


It was quite a lovely thing to behold, all of us there, still wet from the rain but somehow finding a way to make the best of it. It would have been much easier to stay at home and shrug it off, but we found a way and I’m glad we did. We even met someone new:


After awhile we packed up, brushed the mud and bits of grass off our feet to the best of our abilities, and went back home. It started to rain again, just as we were leaving.

3 Responses to "About that picnic on the bridge"

1 | C Chiu

July 6th, 2017 at 8:53 pm


we have a WATER TAXI!?

3 | a peek inside the fishbowl » Blog Archive Dinner in the sky (a.k.a. Sky Lounge, the Ottawa edition) - a peek inside the fishbowl

July 23rd, 2017 at 10:58 am


[…] Capital Region this summer. I got a sneak preview of the new Canada History Hall, attended the Picnic on the Bridge, poked around Gatineau (you can read part one and two here), and I can’t even remember what […]

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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