A weekend in Ottawa

Ottawa

5 September

It had been another very hot and humid night and, as Robyn’s room gets very little air, I hadn’t slept very well. However, it was also another beautiful day. As she was working all weekend, I had decided to go to Ottawa for a couple of days, so I left with her when she went to work and arrived at the bus station just in time for the 11am bus.

The journey was fairly boring and uneventful. Canada seems to be very flat on this side so there is miles and miles of greenery on either side of the road and not a lot else. At least it was green and not brown! Some of the trees are already starting to change colour though.

On arrival in a hot and steamy Ottawa, I walked the short distance to the guest house I had booked where I had trouble making any one hear the door knocker and ended up phoning the number that was posted on the front door. This was not an auspicious start! The staff were fairly off hand but I was pleased to hear there was a kitchen available (I had to find it myself) as well as a fridge in the room. Evening drinks sorted!! Canada is proving to be extremely expensive and eating out regularly is not a viable option.

Approaching storm over the market
Approaching storm over the market
Storm clouds gathering
Storm clouds gathering

Whilst I was sorting myself out in the room, the rain started. The weather forecast I looked at had not predicted rain, so I hadn’t brought a jacket. Luckily, by the time I was ready to leave, it had stopped so I made my way to the Byward Market (anyone would think I was food obsessed!) to find something to eat for a very late lunch.

And the crane kept going!
And the crane kept going!

Whilst eating, the sky got darker. By the time I left to go for a wander, the sky was looking extremely ominous. By the time I had got 100m down the road, the thunder and lightening had started and the rain was coming down in torrents. I, therefore, decided it would be wise to take shelter under a shop canopy!

Looking ominous!
Looking ominous!
Raining in Ottawa
Raining in Ottawa

It was actually quite fascinating to watch and I ended up standing there for about 20 minutes as I would have got soaked in about 2 seconds had I stepped out from under the shelter.

Storm at 4pm
Storm at 4pm
After the worst
After the worst

Eventually, it eased and I walked across to the Rideau Centre, which is a very large shopping mall. Too big for me, though, so I wandered straight back out again. However, by this time, it was looking a lot brighter. I went to the supermarket and then in to an excellent wine shop (as the supermarket didn’t sell wine), which I perused for quite some time before selecting one. Wine is definitely not a cheap commodity here! It was back to my room after that.

Ottawa

6 September

I awoke to the sound of torrential rain, which gave me an excellent excuse to do very little this morning. Breakfast was brought to my room at 9am and, after enjoying that, I waited until midday when the weather seemed to be clearing and I could venture outside, where I found that it was actually very warm.

Rideau Canal
Rideau Canal
Rideau Canal with old railway station on the left
Rideau Canal with old railway station on the left
Fairmont Chateau Laurier
Fairmont Chateau Laurier
Artistic stairway!
Artistic stairway!
They have to be students!
They have to be students!

I headed towards the city centre without having any clear idea in mind as to where I was going (story of my life!!). The route took me past the old railway station, (now a conference centre), the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, (the first railway hotel and now a very grand one) and over the Rideau Canal to Confederation Square, where I was just in time to see the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the War Memorial.

Changing of the guard at the War Memorial
Changing of the Guard at the War Memorial
Building in city centre
Building in city centre
Window in a Parliament building
Window in a Parliament building
Demonstration at Parliament
Demonstration at Parliament

After that, I ambled towards Parliament, outside which there was a demonstration being staged. As there were free tours inside the building, I decided to take one and, whilst waiting for the next one, which was due to begin in an hour’s time, I went up the Peace Tower.  This houses 56 bells in varying sizes, and from it there is a magnificent view over Ottawa through the dirty windows. The Memorial Chapel two floors below has 11 memorial books, listing Canadians killed in battle over the years, the pages of which are turned each day at 11am so that every page is displayed at least once in the year.

View towards Gatineau from the Peace Tower
View towards Gatineau from the Peace Tower
Lots of building work in Ottawa
Lots of building work in Ottawa
Ottawa from the Peace Tower
Ottawa from the Peace Tower

I still had a little while to wait before the tour began so sat down in the foyer and observed the other tourists, who were quite a motley collection. The tour was given by a very officious young history student, who certainly wasn’t going to tolerate anyone talking whilst she was or children who didn’t do as she asked! (I suspected she hadn’t got any children of her own.)

The House of Commons
The House of Commons
The Parliamentary Library
The Parliamentary Library
Parliament with the Peace Tower in the middle
Parliament with the Peace Tower in the middle

It was a very interesting tour, with the House of Commons bearing a strong resemblance to that in London, and the library being absolutely beautiful. The Parliamentary system is the same as in the U.K. but there is a Senate rather than the House of Lords. The Senators are appointed by the Governor General, on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, who has in turn been advised by local communities as to who would be a suitable candidate. No hereditary Peers here!

A Parliament building
A Parliament building

After the tour, I continued my meanderings around the City and then strolled back towards the ByWard Market, in which the restaurants and cafes were very busy. I stopped in the market building and had an extremely late lunch of thai noodle soup, which could have done with a few more vegetables and real seafood (not crab sticks!) and a lot less noodles. However, it filled a gap.

Rideau locks
Rideau locks
A very snooty lion!
A very snooty lion!
One of the spires of Notre Dame Basilica
One of the spires of Notre Dame Basilica
Old and new architecture near the Byward Market
Old and new architecture near the Byward Market
One of the shops in Byward Market
One of the shops in Byward Market
Asian food stand in the market
Asian food stand in the market
In Byward Market
In Byward Market
In the Byward Market building
In the Byward Market building
An odd sculpture hanging in the Byward Market building
An odd sculpture hanging in the Byward Market building

Although the weather was a lot brighter, it was a bit chillier by this stage and I was getting cold, so I decided I had done enough sightseeing and cultural stuff for one day and adjourned to my room for the rest of the evening.

Ottawa

7 September

What a difference a day makes! I awoke this morning to the most beautiful, clear, blue sky day with just a small nip in the air and the perfect day for exploring the city (on foot, of course).

Balancing sculpture representing the variety of people in Ottawa
Balancing sculpture representing the variety of people in Ottawa
One of the Balancing sculpture members
One of the Balancing sculpture members

After breakfast, I set off along the Rideau Canal, which is a world Unesco site, runs for 202 km, has 47 locks and joins Ottawa with Kingston. Today, there were groups of runners and scores of cyclists making use of the paths along the side. I walked along for some way, heading for the bus terminal, where I was hoping to change my ticket back to Montreal. However, there was a hefty charge for doing so, as I discovered, so although it was a wasted journey in that sense, I thoroughly enjoyed wandering along the Canal.

Reflections in the Rideau Centre
Reflections in the Rideau Centre
The Nature Musuem
The Nature Musuem
Under a bridge on the canal
Under a bridge on the canal

I made my way back towards the Ottawa River, passing through some very non-tourist suburbs and joined yet more cyclists, joggers and walkers along the river. There were so many cyclists, in fact, (many very serious) that it was almost a danger to life and limb sharing the path with them.

Community garden in the City
Community garden in the City
Memorial to 1000 who died in Rideau Canal construction
Memorial to 1,000 who died in Rideau Canal construction

The weather had clouded over a little as I reached the Canal again, where I watched for some time, as the locks were opened and closed for a small boat to pass through on its way to the river. Luckily for the boatmen, there were two people available to manually wind the mechanisms to operate the gates.

Small boat going through one of the many locks
Small boat going through one of the many locks
Rideau Canal
Rideau Canal – Unesco Heritage site
Locks before the Ottawa River
Locks before the Ottawa River
Along the Ottawa River
Along the Ottawa River

Afterwards, I walked up to Major’s Hill Park and took in the view from the top until I decided I had rested enough and set off over the Alexandra Bridge to Gatineau and the National Museum of Civilisation. I needed to rest my feet for a little while in the park and also have a restorative coffee before tackling the museum.

On the Alexandra Bridge over the Ottawa River
On the Alexandra Bridge over the Ottawa River
Crossing the Alexandra Bridge
Crossing the Alexandra Bridge
Canadian Museum of Civilisation
Canadian Museum of Civilisation
Reflections in the Museum of Civilisation
Reflections in the Museum of Civilisation

The latter provides an excellent insight into the history of the early aboriginal inhabitants up until the present day but, unfortunately, it closed before I was able to complete the European Settlement period, (which would have interested me the most) and I missed the Canadian Stamp Collection entirely! This was entirely my own fault for not checking the closing times.

View from the Museum of Civilisation
View from the Museum of Civilisation

The blue sky was back again as I returned to the City over the Bridge. For the second time, I tried to go into Notre Dame Basilica but this time there was a Mass under way so I could only peer in the open door.

National Gallery
National Gallery
Notre Dame and a spider
Notre Dame and a spider

By now (very late afternoon), I was quite hungry and tired so I just had to check out the ByWard Market again, where the bars and cafes were absolutely thronging with people. I had seen and read about Beavertails so decided I ought to try one. I selected apple and cinnamon, thinking that it may not be too sweet. Wrong! The beavertail is, basically, a large slab of deep fried dough and you can select from various toppings to go on it. It was extremely sweet.  But I ate it anyway!

Back in ByWard Market!
Back in ByWard Market!
My Balcony in the sun light
My balcony in the sun light
Apple and Cinnamon Beavertail!
Apple and Cinnamon Beavertail (and, yes, it was a sweet as it looks!)

The rest of the evening was spent in my room recuperating from the walking and the beavertail.

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