The honey-stay-cation – Project: Pricesless bride Jordan describes how to have a good time in Ottawa when you can’t get away

Brian and Jordan of Project: Priceless

Jordan Kent-Baas is the co-creator of Project: Priceless, a social media experiment with the goal of getting Jordan and her new husband Brian married on August 22, 2011, as free-of-charge as possible.

As much of Ottawa knows, my sweetheart Brian and I were married about two weeks ago. If you’re unfamiliar with our blog, Project: Priceless, this may be a good time to check it out, as you’ll see why a nearly-free honeymoon was the best fit for us.

Photo Credit: Adam Pap (via Project Priceless)

In short, for those who don’t follow our blog yet: we managed to plan and execute a 140-person wedding for very nearly no cost. The trade off: a ton of extra hours, the construction of a viral blog, and lots of glue gun burns.

We knew we wouldn’t be in a position to afford a big honeymoon, but we also knew it would still be beautiful weather in the Ottawa area with two weeks left of August. We decided we’d spend a week off together travelling no further than a car ride from home, using social coupons whenever possible, and to our utter amazement, it was a pleasant and busy week, indeed.

We started off on our wedding night, and the night following, staying at the Hilton Lac Leamy on the Hull side. It’s easy to forget what a beautiful hotel we have just minutes from our doorstep, but Brian and I had the pleasure to stay here once before, in January. This two-night stay was a wedding gift from my parents—and a great one that we looked forward to in the months of stressful planning. We arrived late on our wedding night; as always, I was mesmerized by the beautiful blown glass that adorns the ceilings and walls of the regal lobby.

Photo Credit: Mike Foote (via Flickr)

We hadn’t told anyone we were getting married, so the front desk staff looked a bit surprised to find a bride in white dress and a groom in orange vest standing in their lobby at midnight; but the staff were wonderful and a porter escorted us, and our luggage, to our room. The porter was fairly adorable, barely managing to rein in his excitement and clearly wishing he could inundate us with questions about our big day.

We settled into our room but found that the proximity of the elevator shafts meant that we could hear the zipping of the gears, and we called downstairs. I said we understood if they were booked for the night, but for the second night we’d love to be moved to a different room; the desk staff immediately offered us a new room, and sent the porter up to help us. All smiles again, he escorted us to a full suite, with living area, a bathroom the size of my kitchen decked out with a jacuzzi tub, and a giant flat screen TV. A call from downstairs informed us that there was a special delivery headed to our room, and moments later our grinning porter brought us a bottle of champagne and a plate of chocolate-covered strawberries.

Strawberry surprise from the Hilton Lac Lemy (Photo Credit: Jordan Kent-Baas)

We slept in that day, enjoying the view of downtown Ottawa’s glowing lights as we fell asleep, then the pinkish morning skies when we woke. After a delicious buffet breakfast at the hotel’s restaurant, Arome, (where Brian discovered a waffle machine and stuff himself to painful proportions with eggs Benedict), we headed out to Wakefield for the afternoon.
A quick stop into the Wakefield Bakery for butter tarts was followed by a leisurely walk along the Wakefield Train tracks and the river, stopping into various country craft-style shops along the strip.

We renewed our commitment to make it out to the Black Sheep Inn for a concert soon. We finished our trip with tapas at the Wakefield Mill; it was our first time trying it, so I’m not sure if all tapas involves such a serious amount of uncooked meat (tartare, ceviche, and fumée), but it wasn’t our favourite thing. As an Irish girl raised on steak and potatoes, Brian had a bit of a surprised chuckle at the end of the meal; when I asked what was funny, he said he hadn’t actually expected me to eat the food! Delectable or not, it was an adventure and we enjoyed it.

Sunflowers in Wakefield, Quebec (Photo Credit: Jordan Kent-Baas)

Our evening was spent in the outdoor heated saltwater pool at the hotel, and the next day saw us head home for 48 hours of quiet time before heading out into the world again. We spent time hanging out in our own ‘hood, Westboro, eating awesome sushi at Naked Fish; having tasty pub fare at Corner Bar and Grill; and tearing apart a ham and gruyere croissant at Bridgehead while planning the decorating process for our apartment—a major project that will be chronicled on the Project: Priceless Newlywed blog we’re launching…and relying heavily on UsedOttawa and local rummage sales for ‘priceless’ treasures, of course.

The end of the week saw us on the road again, this time using a social coupon (read: a groupon-like coupon, from which company I cannot recall) to visit a Bed & Breakfast in L’Orignal near Hawkesbury. We checked in to the B&B, a very new establishment nestled unexpectedly at the end of a cul de sac of suburban-style homes. Our room, while small, was prettily decorated, though very modern—the owners are German expats who veered far left of the usual Victoriana and went for a cutting-edge look and feel.

Hitting up the Harley Davidson dealership in Hawkesbury (Photo Credit: Jordan Kent-Baas)

Brian particularly loved the half-sphere of glass that served as the bathroom sink. My personal taste runs more towards the kitschy gingerbread-home type of place, but our stay was comfortable, the owner was very amiable, and the breakfast—whole wheat German waffles with endless other goodies—was delicious. Hawkesbury itself was (I’m sorry, Hawkesbury) boring as sin, with the exception of the enormous Harley Davidson dealership, where we found a shirt for Brian, and a hat for me, on super-sale.

We did, of course, make a stop in Vankleek Hill to see Beau’s Brewery, where Beau’s All Natural Beer is brewed (say that five times fast). Brian, an aficionado of anything you imbibe, was enthralled with the tour that showed us the giant vats, the bottling area, and the various behind-the-scenes areas. Brian bought himself a souvenir beer glass, and when I got home he presented me with my own: a tiny one about the size of a juice glass. Brian says it’s for beer tastings, but it’s absolutely perfect for me and holds exactly the right amount of ale. We also brought home a couple bottles of Beau’s Lug Tread, and I loved it, as did my Mom and Dad, who had us over that night for a fantastic dinner made entirely of local produce purchased from (local only) vendors in the Byward and Parkdale markets.

We actually ran out of time before running out of activities; we still have a social coupon for paintball, and a lesson at the Ottawa Fencing Club to attend. We did, however, make time to go for a two-week-anniversary dinner at Vineyards with yet another social coupon we’d procured. It was a nice chance to sit in the Vineyard’s cozy atmosphere, with its wine cellar feel, and enjoy just staring at each other like total nitwits. Brian had a wine flight and steak au poivre while I opted for a plate of scallops and shrimp with rice and veggies, sautéed in garlic and herbs. We wrapped up the evening by—and this is why I am the luckiest girl in the world—watching You’ve Got Mail in bed while Brian rubbed my back ‘til I fell asleep and he had to carry me to the bathroom to brush my teeth.

Our beautiful National Capital Region (Photo credit: Jordan Kent-Baas)

We do want, one day, to take that long-distance honeymoon, ideally when the weather here sucks…ideally mid-January, once all the fun of the holidays has passed and all we’re left with around here is brown gritty snow. And because of our clever use of local free fun combined with deal coupons, this staycation didn’t put a dent in any travel savings we may start. But after planning one of the craziest weddings of all time, and all the running around we did for months, it was really wonderful to stay close to home, enjoy some Ottawa Valley treasures, and focus on what a honeymoon is really all about: the new sheets we got as a wedding present!

Wow, great post Jordan! Congratulations to you both!