Saturday, November 2, 2013

A day in Ottawa

First priority in Ottawa was a trip to MEC (the big outdoors store in Canada) for Jane to buy useful things after Air Canada predictably lost her bag somewhere between Buenos Aires and Toronto.  Usually I could spend ages in there, but the after a few minutes all the driving and the time-zone change caught up with me & I proper fell asleep in the car - which was just as well, as I had ages to wait.  Our hotel suite was surprisingly massive with a full kitchen - much pasta & cheese sauce was cooked, slightly less consumed.  For some reason, Jane thought it a good idea to bring a feijoa flavoured bottle of vodka all the way from NZ.  But feijoas & vodka (!) - it smelt & tasted like I haven't had for years & remember fondly from growing up with many such trees in the yard.

A crisp fall morning arrived & after over-indulging in the breakfast buffet we set out for a fair bit of walking.  Ottawa is a very nice capital indeed - with plenty of grand buildings, lots of parks and a great big river (that forms part of the border between Ontario & Quebec).  Confederation Boulevard is a 7.5 km route around Ottawa & Gatineau (the adjoining city that is in Quebec - a bit like Buda & Pest, but you can't join the names together in a catchy manner) that links many of the capital's important sights & is used ceremonially for state visits.  Being so, it makes a good easy walk around to see such things if one has limited time - we walked most of it, stopping off near the start to get tickets to a tour of the Parliament Buildings. Most notably on the walk, we saw a beaver - I'd only seen their dams before; this one looked a little lost in the Rideau canal's locks.

The Round Library (the only part of the centre block of the old parliament to survive a big fire in 1916) & Parliament across the Ottawa.
Museum of Civilisation
Back at Parliament a little early, there was enough time to sneak in to the Commons chamber while it was in session.  I say sneak: we had to got through security & then still leave our bags at the desk.  I've never been to a session of the Commons in either of the two countries I've voted in - so this was a new experience.  It was a little underwhelming - of the 308 members that the Commons has at the moment, there were between twenty & thirty present.  Obviously the debate wasn't really that interesting - something to do with drugs in communities if I remember correctly.  Thankfully, we had a tour start-time to meet - so we exited.

The tour and guide were quite interesting with a good mix of history of the buildings & Canada as a country.  Strangely, there were a lot of questions - we managed to get into the Senate room as it wasn't in session, that wasn't so interesting.  Going up the Peace Tower (that's the big tower in the center of the complex), the elevator has small windows so you can see some of the large bells that form part of the carillon - which is a musical instrument made up of at least twenty-three bells that is played using a keyboard linked to those bells.  I had previously heard the chimes on the hour & thought it a particularly musical bell tower - with fifty-three bells, it was not surprising.

Back across the Ottawa to Gatineau - we'd just walked across that far shore & bridge.
Jane hadn't made it out to the rather large Gatineau Park on her previous visit & had wanted to, so after scoffing some more of the previous night's pasta we left Ottawa-proper and headed out for a very pleasant drive through many beautiful trees changing colour.  Eventually, we got to Pink Lake (stupid bridges that go right over a rural road, but don't connect to it). Always nice to get out of the city for a brisk walk, we fair charged around with still plenty of time to marvel at all the shades of yellows, orange, red, green & brown - but I still didn't manage any decent photos.

Confusingly, Pink Lake is named for a family that once owned nearby land & in fact more likely to be bright green due to algae.

Perhaps taking a quick photo is safer than texting - my poor attempt at capturing all the marvellous colours we were seeing.
With just a couple of hours along the scenic route (north bank of the Ottawa) to go, we set off for Montreal.  Just in case it wasn't clear - Ottawa was really nice. With no success in finding a short notice airbnb place for Ottawa, it was great to get notice on the drive we had a whole apartment to ourselves for three nights in nice a neighbourhood

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