Our guided tour today is to unearth the charm of this nation’s capital. We can choose to embrace Ottawa’s history, or its food, art, river or cycleways.
Charm, this capital sure does have! Any destination we have been to that has great warmth and sparkling sunshine, is always going onto our ‘go back to’ list; Ottawa is now on that list. We surely have had magnificent weather. The locals keep telling us that this is the longest they have seen summer extended so far into autumn that they are worried the leaves will not colour, as they usually do, before dropping to the ground.
Ottawa is in Ontario and just across the Ottawa river is Quebec. There are four rivers which meet in the capital and so the city is built around these rivers. We found a great 5km walk across into Quebec around a circuit and back to our magnificent hotel Fairmont Chateau Laurier; a little like Canberra but so much more established.
We were promised we would enjoy the morning coach tour and even though we were on the bus most of the time, I felt warmed by what I saw; great parklands, happy people and old buildings with surrounding gardens that told me there has been a lot of time and money spent keeping the city pristine; just for us. Interestingly, the War Memorial has the words “Lest We Forget” in morse code on the rising roof line pointing to the Peace Flag that is on top of the Parliament Building in the distance; a reminder that each war is in the pursuit of peace. Also, no new building shall be taller than that “Peace Flag”, which makes for a very uncluttered city (good move).
One of the four buildings at the Parliament precinct is up for major repair but it does not deter your mixture of thoughts about the work that goes into keeping the grounds and other building looking crisp and inviting. We could not go into the buildings due to time constraints, but the houses were sitting. Apparently, the Prime Minister was in Washington attending the United Nations, although the Prime Minister of the UK was visiting Canada. She was staying at the same hotel as us as was Prince Harry, we learned. (I wondered who that guy was, sitting just over from me at breakfast – just joking.) The city is decked out in lots of 150 year celebrations for Canada.
Capital city tours always include a “drive-by” of many of the Embassies of other nations. Surprisingly, Australia was not included. However, in Ottawa it is very hard to get photos of them as they are surrounded by parklands.
We had chosen a culinary tour for our afternoon activity. Our guide used to own a prominent restaurant and was also a judge at the local food school, so she new many of the vendors we visited. Taking in a walk through the food markets and other food vendors proved very interesting, and in many cases, rewarding. It was a pity the chocolate shop owner didn’t supply more of his tastings. A tea shop showed us over 200 hundred teas they had made up and you could choose combinations of those teas if you wished. The pizza vendor told us he imported ALL of his ingredients from Italy for his sauces and pizza bases. The sample was quite simple but delicious.
The rest of the day was ours. We had seen an exhibition while on the city tour that became the highlight of our two night visit to Ottawa. If anyone is interested in gardening, this was the place to spend a few hours at. Although we had to cross back into Quebec via the bridge, our 21,000 steps for the day were worth it. The exhibition was of various icons of the country created using over 120 varieties of plants commonly used in topiary. They call it “mosaic gardening” and the exhibition is called “Mosaicultures Internationals de Montreal”. There are over 3 million plants within the exhibition. As you can see, there is a very good one with a Chinese accent. There is a city in China which are well known in the craft and were invited to submit two magnificent icons.
As we exited the exhibition, there was a form to sign if we wanted to see the exhibition occur annually so any of you wishing to make a visit to Ottawa in the future, make sure you check out just when future “Mosiacanada” exhibitions are to be held.
Today was a very good day and to top it off, we were able to talk to our children and grand kids. Our son Jay and Cassie, together with their 4 children, are travelling in the States in a motor home for 5 weeks. Back in 1983, we as a family did the same and Jay is, in a way, retracing many of the ‘steps’ we took together. The kids will remember this holiday forever. Good on you Jay. Sorry, Sharlee, your day just may not be too far away – when Paul decides, I guess you will be over this way too.
Tomorrow, we move on to Toronto, I am hoping we can organise to see the Toronto Blue Jays play The New York Yankees, at the base-ball park.