HI Ottawa Jail, Ontario, Canada

After a weekend in Toronto with a running club mate – who had made a similar “sod this, I’ll watch the UK’s idiocy from overseas” decision, only a long-term one involving moving to Canada, I got a ride share to Ottawa.

Back booking my own stay, and the Hostelling International (HI) hostel looked interesting. It is in the old jail in Canada’s capital city, which is located right in the centre. My ride share dropped me at the university, a short walk from the place.

It is possible, and not overly expensive, to stay in a cell. It’s a private room, but one that has a bed, shelf, light and that’s about it. I wasn’t on for that, and paid less for an 8 bed dorm. On the 9th floor, admittedly, but otherwise easier to take.

At 11 each day, the staff give a tour of the building, which was surprisingly interesting – surprising because I had walked around much of it already, and there are plenty of information boards to tell you about the place.

The gallows
The gallows. The rope is not the original, but the whole thing is real.

The most interesting part of the tour talks about the gallows. People were hung here. 3 officially. Originally, there was no wall blocking the view, so the public could watch people be hung, though such public executions were banned in the 19th century. Executions themselves, all by hanging, were not banned until the 1970s.

Behind the gallows
Behind the gallows. The beam

Even more interesting than the official executions are the unofficial ones. In the picture above, the beam at the top is an oddity at first sight. It serves no architectural purpose, and has been added on. Looking at the records, we were told, seven people are listed as having fallen and broken their necks in this staircase. The assumption is that they were hung from this beam (in the middle you can, if not in this photo, see the rope burns).

Rough justice.

Jail entrance - trapdoor from the gallows above
Jail entrance – trapdoor from the gallows above.

Above is the jail exit, above it the trapdoor.

Open mic night in Ottawa
Open mic night in Ottawa.

On Tuesday evening I had a gallop through the streets of Ottawa with the OTT City Run club. I forgot I was in a modern country, so when they announced the run as ‘5-6’ I figured my search for a hard workout would mean me hanging on to a group, maybe dropping off in mile 4. Of course, they meant kilometres, so we were back at Dundonald park (meet there every Tuesday for 7:30 to run – it’s free. Soon to include Wednesday sessions, too, meeting place to be arranged) sooner than I had thought. A chap I had run along with had run with me at Kanata parkrun only a couple of Saturdays ago, and we chatted before I headed back to shower ahead of a pub crawl.

I figured I would come out for two drinks, but two went down quickly and easily, and I followed them on to an open mic night at a local pub. It was busy, some of the performers were great. Some were doing their own thing, and more power to them for getting up their in front of strangers. The gent pictured took on some ballads originally sung by big female voices, which was way out of his comfort zone.

There’s no substitute for time with friends, but sometimes a night making new ones is right up there near a night with existing ones (and I had a couple of those in Toronto; my drinking boots are welded to my feet). I met a Mexican financial analyst, a Brazilian aerospace engineer and a Canadian civil servant. All that talk and drinking, plus us all occasionally reminding each other that “we’re on vacation!” meant in the end I rolled in at 4am. The HI gets a recommendation as a comfortable place to stay and one with a social life that works.

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