Sunday, November 24, 2013

Canada Summer 2013: Ottawa, Ontario


August 17, 2013 -- I wasn't sure if I would be able to fit in a trip to Canada's clean and friendly capital city of Ottawa, Ontario so it was an exciting decision to wake up super early in Montreal and take a bus to Ottawa for the day and ride the train back in late afternoon before catching a Montreal Impact soccer game in the evening.

After taking the Greyhound bus from Montreal to Ottawa Central Station, I started walking down Bank Street towards Parliament Hill. Along the way, I spotted an Ottawa bike sharing station. The Ottawa bike sharing program is called Capital BIXI.

I ate breakfast at a downtown diner and then made a right turn at Wellington Street on my way to Parliament Hill. This being Canada's capital, like my hometown of Washington, D.C. you see political posters, stickers, banners and graffiti everywhere. Examples include an ad to stop foreign media ownership in Canada from the Communications, Energy and Paperworks Union of Canada; a pamphlet against Russia's new anti-gay laws; a sticker to "Stop Harper's Crimes"; graffiti saying "Idle No More!"; and a poster from the Public Service Alliance of Canada stating that the conservative economic action plan would lead a to a reduction of 67,000 jobs across Canada by 2017.

At 10 a.m. every summer morning, the Changing of the Guard takes place at Centre Block on Parliament Hill. The Ceremonial Guard is assembled from two Canadian Forces regiments - the Governor General's Footguards and the Canadian Grenadier Guards - and also has its own regimental band and pipers who perform in the ceremony. Lots of tourists gather on the perimeter of the grounds to watch the military pageantry, music and colorful drills. After the changing of the guard takes place, there is a march through the downtown streets.


I didn't have time to take a tour of Centre Block, which is the main building containing the House of Commons and Senate chambers. Instead, I got a ticket for a tour of the East Block, which was the center of Canada's government for more than a hundred years. It housed the offices of the privy council, the prime minister and governor general. The tour includes the restored rooms of the Office of the Governor General, the Office of Sir John. A MacDonald, who was Canada's first prime minister and one of the fathers of Confederation, and the Privy Council Chamber.

After the tour I walked down Sparks Street, which is an historic pedestrian mall that is the home of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

From Parliament Hill, there are spectacular views of the Ottawa River and Gatineau, Quebec just across the river, which together with Ottawa make up the National Capital Region. Walking around Parliament Hill, there are many noteworthy statues of past Canadian leaders and some current ones, including Queen Elizabeth II on horseback. Although she is across the Pond, the Queen is a powerful force in Canada.

After exploring Parliament Hill, I walked to the Rideau Canal and its many locks, which are open for navigation during the summer months. According to Wikipedia, "it is the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America, and in 2007 it was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site." I'd like to visit again during the winter months when Rideau Canal turns into officially the largest ice skating rink in the world.

Next I visited the Canadian Tomb of the Unknown Soldier where the remains of a Canadian soldier who died in France during World War I are held. The unidentified soldier was selected from a cemetery in the vicinity of Vimy Ridge, the site of a famous Canadian battle of the First World War.

After a bit more sightseeing, I had to hurry up and catch a bus rapid transit (BRT) that would whisk me on its dedicated bus lanes to Ottawa's VIA Rail Canada train station for my trip back to Montreal.

Here are more pictures of Ottawa:



Here is video of the Changing of the Guard ceremony: