We flew into Buffalo a couple days before New Year's 2001,
intending to circle Lake Ontario on our trip. The New York
portion was relatively uninteresting - there isn't a whole
lot to do upstate in the middle of winter. We arrived in
Ottawa the next afternoon and went first off to the Parliament
buildings. There are three buildings in the Canadian
Parliament known creatively enough as the North, South and
Centre blocks. This is the Centre block.
This is the south block. We drove around the buildings several
times attempting to park. Eventually we came to the conclusion
that all parking was government only so we stopped by a policeman
and asked. He referred to us a 'friendly mountie' who was in fact
quite friendly. He told us that: 1. parking is a problem, 2. just
park anywhere because they aren't ticketing today and 3. I didn't
tell you to do that. So we did.
Parliament sits on a bluff overlooking the Ottawa river and
the city of Hull, Quebec. To the southeast, this
impressive glass structure is part of the Canadian National
Gallery which we visited the next morning. One entire floor
of the gallery is Canadian native or related art. We can
assure you that given the size of one floor of the museum, its
plenty of Canadian art for one visit.
We did not take the tour of parliament because we arrived
slightly too late and we were unable to find the visitor
entrance in a reasonable amount of time. Instead we circled
the building which is ringed with statues of famous Canadians
who we know very little about. Later in Toronto we tried to
find a good book on famous Canadians we know very little about
but without any luck. This is behind the central parliament
building. In front is a neat fountain with the shields of the
ten provinces and the three territories but we had difficulty
getting a good view of it due to the freezing Arabic tour group
huddled around it for warmth from the flame on top of it.
The day we arrived was the day the Rideau Canal opened for
the season. The canal is a scenic waterway through the
center of the city. In the winter when it freezes, it
becomes the self-proclaimed 'worlds longest skating rink'.
For the record, that's 7 km (4.2 mi) one way. Once it opens,
small villages appear along it renting skates and selling
refreshments and souvenirs.
This is one such 'village' area. They are separated by long
stretches of open ice. We rented skates at one end and skated
in towards the middle of Ottawa. The real difficulty with
skating on a canal versus a rink, is that at the end you have
to backtrack to where you rented the skates from. We went
about 4km (2.5 mi) down the canal before we decided we had
better return. Thankfully, there are benches spaced along the
sides of the canal for resting purposes.
There are even a few full service restaurants along the canal
although you might want to be carrying your shoes with you
if you plan to visit one. We didn't trust ourselves to skate
however many miles back to the hotel it might be after a hearty
meal, so we finished skating and then went in search of dinner.
We found a restored Victorian steakhouse nearby and then returned
to the hotel.
Upon returning we intended to visit the hotel bar but it was
closed due to lack of interest. We then tried the hotel next
door which boldly advertised on their door that the pub was open
until midnight. However, at just after 10 PM, they also were closed.
Determined now we ventured a couple blocks further past at least one
more closed hotel pub before we found a non-hotel oriented pub which
was still open, and at last we could have a nice Canadian beer
(which we greatly prefer to a nice American beer, even if it still
isn't quite as good as a nice Belgian beer.) (For the record, Melanie
enjoyed a nice Canadian cider instead.) This picture is of downtown
Ottawa as seen from our hotel room.
As mentioned earlier, we visited the Canadian National Gallery
the next morning before leaving Ottawa. Here is yet one more
view of parliament from the museum. Our drive to Toronto is
definately worth noting. We started out on back roads, hoping
to see more interesting parts of Ontario. About an hour into the
trip it started snowing. It continued snowing, the sun set and
we found that we weren't very happy to be on a smaller road
anymore. After several painstakingly slow hours in the snow, we
finally hit the highway in Petersborough. This was not much better
because a line of three snowplows covered the entire road and
rolled along at equally painstakingly slow speeds. When we finally
hit the 401 into Toronto we were overjoyed. We then stopped in
Oshawa for dinner at the Otter and Firkin pub. Why? Well, because
it has the word 'otter' in it of course. Continuing on to Toronto
we then discovered no less than 7 snowplows performing a similar
barricade sort of action on Canada's largest highway. Why they
can't stagger themselves so traffic can get by is a great mystery
to us. In the end it took over 7 hours to get from Ottawa to Toronto.