So we're traveling and the wind is blowing and we're traveling... And all of a sudden there's this big official-type sign: "Welcome to Ottawa." To either side of the highway were flat farms with house and barns waaaay off in the distance. Anyway, we kept trolling down the highway for another fifteen minutes and suddenly - boom. The city began.
It looked like a nice enough city. The next day I saw a friendly hump of a mountain like Montreal but smaller just to the west, but otherwise everything's flat. The Ottawa River is quite picturesque, and the banks up to it rise high. There's also a canal - Rideau, as in, "Quel beaux rideaux!" (sp?) "What beautiful curtains!" (refering to the Rideau falls that Cartier (?) spotted). For six miles it becomes the longest skating rink in the world. They've got a little lake that's part of it, and a large building lets skaters warm up and get a nosh.
I was wondering why all the city banners in the streets showed tulips. In May the city has a huge tulip festival, the result of gifts from the Netherlands for sheltering the queen during WWII. The hospital room where she gave birth was sprinkled with dirt from the Netherlands, and the room was officially designated Netherlands territory. Workers dig up the bulbs every year and replant them. Must have something to do with permafrost?
A "Fandom" store was right around the corner from the hotel. Despite the fact that the new (ptui! — it's Rucka writing) Wonder Woman issue had come out the day before, I did not go in.
We stayed at the Lord Elgin (hard "g") Hotel: very fancy and refined! The young men in uniform SNAPPED to attention whenever a guest said boo. I had to go around the corner to do laundry at the Mariott (who, for some reason, had their desk and laundry facilities on the third floor).
Don't do laundry when you're comatose! I almost left my Lands End coat there. I was operating in a daze. Thank goodness for the Kristine Grayson book I was reading to keep me awake. My room was absolutely GORGEOUS. Small but so chic! I actually took pictures of it with my disposable camera (the one I'd bought when my own camera was on the fritz in Quebec) and the pictures turned out yucky. Even PhotoShop couldn't save them. Sigh.
It was pretty cold the day (hours?) we were there, spitting rain. We arrived at about 3:30, with the local tour beginning at 4. Our tour guide dressed as Mackenzie's (?) mother in bustle and sun umbrella, for a too-quick tour. I'm not sure about the relative sanity of "in-character" guides, but she seemed to know her stuff.
The legislative buildings were about three blocks from the hotel. My photo from the back shows (waaay off in the distance, damned cheap camera) the old library, which is under repair and under some kind of massive white tarp. That's the Museum of Civilization on the right.
The town's had lots of fires over the years. There were just a few old-looking buildings, but they're impressive. The war museum is just a few months old and is styled to look a bit like a destroyer. The Canadian civilization building is also fairly new — looks like an upside-down canoe or a whale — definitely a place that needs more exploration!
The art museum has a new spider sculpture that they hope will become a symbol for it. Odd symbol. I kept expecting Gollum and Sam, or maybe Hermione and Hagrid, to leap out to battle it. The Group of 7 are exhibited there and I didn't get a chance to go in!!! WAAAAH!!! (I just ordered a book today about the best of the Group of 7.)
If you go across the river, Ottawa gets a different name as it invades Quebec province. Why is that? Here we have St. Louis and East St. Louis. Little Rock and N. Little Rock, Miami, South Miami, Dallas and West Dallas, etc. Now, I can understand the Detroit-Windsor thing because you're switching countries. But Ottawa-Gatineau? Montreal-Laval-Longueuil? Quebec-Levis? Even stranger, you travel across the bridge from Ottawa and suddenly you're speaking ONLY French in Gatineau.
We saw the Prime Minister's home and drove past the entry to the Governor General (?)'s place. She'd just been sworn in two days before. There were lots of red-licensed ambassadorial cars with chauffeurs lining the street because of a big inaugural wingding.
No RCMPs were in evidence in the city. Compare to Washington, DC. (Not that I expect RCMPs in DC. You know what I mean!) How odd. I expected some kind of Park Service tour guides dotting the important sections of the city.
Ottawa has a BIG outdoor market that's supposed to be very nice. We got there a while after it had closed. I need probably another two days plus to see Ottawa anywhere near the way it needs to be seen. Certainly our tour should have allotted another day.
The guide in the bustle recommended "reasonable"-priced and informal-friendly Fridays for dinner, which turned out NOT to be the Fridays chain and was NOT informal, as some of our group found out. I saw the menu posted outside and things started at $30. I turned and walked the other way.
For some reason I really wanted a hamburger. I didn't find anything close, but eventually came across a nice-looking Italian bistro with medium prices.
Uggh! Chicken (tasted like veal) marsala in glue sauce. Fat slices of potato, fried to rock-hardness. Even the roasted veggie garnish was terrible. Excellent bread and salad, though. Lousy service. Did laundry and went to bed exhausted.
Buses! Buses! Buses! Looked out the Lord Elgin with a hard "g" windows this morning to see an endless, unbroken stream of red city buses taking up 2 lanes of the four-lane roads. There were lots of double buses, too (not double-decker). From a distance they looked like giant patches of duct tape linked the two pieces, but they were actually accordion-like affairs.
Here's a good one: Why is duct tape like the Force? Because it has a dark side and a light side, and it holds the universe together.
The Starbucks in the corner of the hotel wasn't open at 7 AM! Luckily there was a Tim Horton's around the corner. I'd tried to get some muffins there the night before so I wouldn't have to go out early, but they'd been out. Still, $4 for a terrific if sugar-loaded breakfast was hard to beat. (Oh, that apple-caramel thingie!) Others in our group had breakfast at the Lord Elgin and were still reeling at the $40.00 price tag when we loaded the bus!
Gananoque = gah-nuh-KNOK-way was about an hour and a half from Ottawa. It's a gateway (I have brochures that list other gateways, though I don't see how they can claim that) to the 1000 islands of Lake Ontario. As opposed to our Montreal to Ottawa drive, this time we drove past a couple towns. I think if we'd taken a highway just to the west, it would have shown us a few more towns as well as lakes linked by the Rideau Canal and thus been more picturesque. Don't quote me on that. Somewhere in there is the Canadian home for Hersheys, where they have a little amusement park/tour.
Our one-hour lake tour didn't take us past the castle that one sees when one researches the 1000 islands, but there were some spectacular shorelines. I took lots of pictures because the shapes were so interesting. The wind was high, which made the chilly morning rather frigid. My new Shadylady.com hat truly helped me survive!
One island house had a curvy slide to drop people into the lake. How fun!
The official term "island" is used if an island can support at least 2 trees and has x-number of square feet. Otherwise it's an islet.
Gananoque had a big map of the world with push pins put in by visitors. Canada and the US of course were well-represented, but India, China, Japan, Europe, and some countries in South America were completely covered. Only a few places didn't have any, like Chad, Africa.
Our lunch was one of two meals (the other was at the sugar shack) that the tour company paid for. I think it was the $5 special, but it was good enough. We had a stew in a dough bowl, a salad, and a little chocolate something for dessert. Also hot, hot tea to counter that cold, cold wind!
The Kingston RR was less than a half hour away. I made it with a few minutes to spare before cut-off time for people wanting to bring luggage. The driver and tour guide both hugged me goodbye. Everyone waved and yelled good luck.
It was a crowded train. I sat across from a chatterbox, eh this, eh that, who kept kicking me while talking to her friend. Finished out the disposable camera roll through the window. Didn't see the St. Lawrence, darn it!