Tulips go hand in hand with the Netherlands. And sure enough, the Ottawa Tulip Festival happens annually because of the Dutch.
It’s actually a sweet story: following the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands in 1940 during WWII, the Dutch Royal Family were taken out of the country to rule in exile in the UK, and the next month, Princess Juliana brought daughters Beatrix and Irene on a journey to Canada for safety – by ship to Halifax, then onwards to Canada’s capital, Ottawa.
Princess Juliana even gave birth to another daughter, Margriet, during her time in Canada; interestingly, the Canadian government temporarily declared where she was born as extraterritorial so she would hold exclusively Dutch citizenship.
After five years in Canada and being reunited with Queen Wilhelmina back in the Netherlands, Princess Juliana gave some gifts to Canada, to show gratitude for her stay and the Canadian soldiers – which included 100,000 tulip bulbs. When Juliana became queen, she sent tulip bulbs to Canada every year during her reign.
Apparently when Queen Beatrix ascended the throne after her mother, she didn’t carry on the tradition (booooo!). But then in 1953, Canada started the Ottawa Tulip Festival, to be held each May, to continue showing their friendly links with the Netherlands (and inevitably spruce up the place and bring some tourism, I’m sure).
In a world where there are so many tensions between countries, it’s nice to dig out this story, one of a mutual respect for each other spanning back from a time of terror during WWII. Surely that’s the only way forward in the world? For countries to listen to each other and help each other.
Anyway, on with some pictures and tips from the Ottawa Tulip Festival when I went last month. It was a lovely weekend and very colourful, but I would say that it’s not worth solely going for the tulip festival unless you’re close to Ottawa or you want to explore Ottawa anyway. For some reason I thought there would be more tulips grouped together, but it’s all very organised – I guess I had Keukenhof gardens in the Netherlands in my mind, but in reality that’s probably not as plausible in a city!
It’s a good idea to check the Ottawa Tulip Festival website for details on where there’ll be tulip displays and plan out where you’ll want to hit. Dow’s Lake and Parliament Hill were my favourite spots for tulips/general scenery. Head there early to try and beat the crowds, otherwise there’ll be a lot of arms, heads and other cameras in your pictures!
Here at Dow’s Lake was definitely where the tulips were most impressive and you could really tell the thought that had been put into the colour schemes. Sandwiched inbetween the water and beautiful houses, I loved traipsing from one tulip patch to another and catching myself being surprised about how many types of different tulips exist out there.