Ottowow!

Sunday, June 20, 2010 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Day 51: Ottawa, ON
When discussing places in central Canada we wanted to visit on this trip, only three cities were ever mentioned-- Quebec, Montreal and Toronto. After our battles with Montreal traffic convinced us that we should skip Toronto (50% larger than Montreal), the question of Ottawa arose. We decided we should make an obligatory visit because of Ottawa's status as the national capitol of Canada.
Not expecting much more than some institutional style government buildings which we might be able to drive past, as long as we didn't get too close, we allocated less than half a day for our visit. It wasn't nearly enough. From the flower gardens to tree-lined streets to stately landmarks, Ottawa exudes all the charm and beauty that convinced Queen Victoria to choose the settlement as Canada's capital in 1857.
On the southern bank of the Ottawa River, Parliament Hill is home to several neo-gothic buildings which house Canada's legislative government.  On a Sunday morning, we were able to walk up to Centre Block, the primary building, which houses the chambers of the Senate and House of Commons.  In Washington, D.C., one would be required to submit to formidable security screenings before even approaching the Capitol building.  The large front lawn is used for a variety of activities including concerts-- they're preparing for one on Canada Day now-- and Sunday afternoon pick-up soccer games. 
You could actually walk up to and open a door without being suspected of terrorism.  Security was in evidence but kept a very low profile.  Tour guides were posted in front of the building to answer questions from visitors.  The entire atmosphere was very open, very relaxed, very approachable-- a refreshing change.

Adjacent to Parliament Hill is the Rideau Canal.  A great military engineering achievement of the early 19th century, the canal runs for five miles through the city and 124 total miles. After its completion in 1832,  the Ottawa River and Lake Ontario were linked through a system of lakes and river, locks and dams, opening central Canada to settlement and trade.
The canal today appears much as it did when it was built, retaining its hand-operated cranks and wooden lockmaster buildings.  Canoes and other recreational boats use the canal in the summer, while in winter, the frozen canal becomes an ice skating rink and a popular means of getting to work.

Near the Parliament buildings, we met Gary on the street.  Gary  rescues parrots and had four of his parrots with him.  Tourists could hold the parrots and for a fee, could have their photo made with the parrots.  When pet owners realize they made a mistake buying a parrot or can no longer keep the parrot for other reasons, Gary will foster the bird and find it a new home.  He told us he has had as many as 20 parrots with him at one time.

Ottawa is home to more than 70 municipal parks, including Commisioners Park, where more than 300,000 tulips burst into bloom in the spring. When the tulips have faded, thousands of annuals are planted to keep the park beautiful all summer.
In Bate Island Park this afternoon, we watched with fascination as a pair of Canada geese, the first we've seen since Moncton a couple of weeks ago, gave a group of goslings a creche course in dealing with the Ottawa River's rapids.  We learned later that in areas where a large number of Canada geese are nesting, they frequently form creches. The broods get mixed together and a few adults end up loooking after a large number of goslings.

We enjoyed our time in Ottawa so much that we checked out a high-rise condo building downtown for future vacation rental possibilities.  Just opened last spring, 90 George overlooks the Byward Market, vibrant with the rich colors of market fruits and flowers.  Floor to ceiling windows provide expansive views of  the market, Rideau Canal and the downtown area.
All but a few of the units are sold, and we left our contact information with the building agents in hopes we'll have an opportunity to enjoy a month or two here at some point in the future.

Daily Stats
Miles driven:  25
Miles walked:  4
Letterboxes: 3
High temp:  79° F
Flowers:  315,698
Tourists at Parliament Hill:  937
Security guards seen at Parliament Hill:  3