Picture of parliament_c 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.
Picture of parliament_s 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.
Picture of museums 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.
Picture of parliament_back 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.
Picture of rideau_1 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.
Picture of rideau_2 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.
Picture of rideau_3 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.
Picture of ottawa 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.
Picture of parliament_away 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.
Picture of tx_rideau

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