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