MISSION: To visit every state and territory in the U.S. For my mission a visit is greater than a stop over; I wish to explore the natural and cultural environments of these areas. Each of these locations has a story to tell, and I want to find it.

As of February 2018 I have visited all 50 states (and Puerto Rico and 2 island in the US Virgin Islands) at least once.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Touring Southern Ontario - Ottawa

Mid-July I finally made the trip to the Canadian Capital - Ottawa.  Really, this trip was one of the first stops on my new travel goal - to see Canada.  Until recently, I have not seen much of our neighbor to the north.  Until last year, I had really only seen the Canadian side of Niagara Falls and visited Reversing Falls in St John.  Mom swears I was in Montreal as baby, but we don't have pictures of that, so my trip last year is all I have as memories.  And then, last winter my best friend and I did an incredibly wet and fun trip to Vancouver.  So, this trip through South Ontario was going to be the longest stretch of time I had ever spent in Canada. 

The trip began rough, with the most inexcusable mess my United that I have seen in many years.  From DC, it would take me about 9 to 9 1/2 hours to drive to Ottawa... well, flying made the trip an exhausting 11 1/2 hours.  No, you did not read that wrong.  It took longer to fly.  We were delayed.  We sat on the tarmac.  We ran out of fuel on the tarmac.  We boarded just to sit.  It was "fun".  My the time I finally made it to Ottawa, I had missed a whole day of touring.  Why do I bother to book the first flights of the morning anymore? It doesn't make a difference.  I seriously will consider driving next time.
Oh Canada
By the time I was picked up at the airport it was dinner time.  My Blockhead Canadian friend picked me up and we headed into the city, checked in for the night and headed to dinner on Sparks Street.  It's worth noting that Sparks Street in Ottawa is not in recognition of Nicholas Sparks the romance author, but for Nicholas Sparks - one of the City Fathers of Ottawa who cut a path through the woods that would eventually become Sparks Street.  That makes more sense.  

After a casual meal at a pub, we headed to the first "ohh/ahh" moment of the trip when the rain stopped for Ottawa's Lights program.  Projected on Parliament Hill,
Canadian History 101 was presented live in technicolor.  Transitions between story segments lit the building up like something out of Disney's "Small World."  It was grand.  And the crowd was filled with Canadian pride.  So at the conclusion, when the large crowd sang "Oh Canada" to the Hill lit up like the flag, all I could sing was the first line.  For the life of me, I can't remember the lines... I must learn a few of them if I am going to keep visiting.

Eternal Flame
The following day, we squeezed
a few key sites on my "must see list" in before the storms were to (again) hit.  We walked through the Parliament Hill complex looking at the accessible statues (construction had taken over - something a DC person understands well).  We did not have enough time to tour the Peace Tower or the legislative building, but I know what is on my list for the return.  Instead, we soaked up the sun, the views and compared the roofs - shined cooper vs oxidized cooper.  (We both agreed that the green looked much better).  We were excited to quickly find the famed statue of the Famous Five - Bronze statues of the Famous Five (women) wonderfully titled Women are Persons!  The night before, I was curious about our hotel room with a photo of a tea cup; my crack-detective friend quickly uncovered its origin in this statue, which happened to be on my list anyway.  Of course we were going to find it... and it didn't take long, just look for the crowds.  Not only is this formation the most famous on the grounds, but with so much of the area closed for construction, the traffic through the Five was constant - they are indeed a popular stop.  (Pictured on the left - a suffragist reminding everyone that Women are People)

We left the Hill and headed towards the Art Museum.  You could see it from the Hill, its glass Atrium gleaming in the Sun as you looked over the river.  So we walked... and it was a good thing we did, otherwise I would have missed our perfectly timed pass with the locks doing their thing.  And can we just say how insanely gothic and beautiful the Fairmont Chateau Laurier is?  Wow, that hotel was something else - it fit perfectly into the Parliament Hill area.  I would have just stared at details of the hotel if it were not for the action at the locks... they are manually operated.  The whole thing takes the cooperation of the boaters whom must constantly push their boats away from the walls, and the people hand cranking the gates open after each area fills up.  This is not a short process.  Do not be in a rush if you plan to take a boat through or even watch. 

Once the boats were through, we walked along the Chateau and straight towards the giant spider...  Moman is one of the most iconic sites in the city.  She stands guard over the art museum.  And its collection needs protecting because this is one grand museum.  Not only is the building beautiful, but the inside sight lines are a visual wonder.  The glass atrium give you beautiful views of the river and the Hill; it gives you a feeling of being outside while being cool in the summer (thank you!!!) and warm in the winter.  We were lucky to get there for a special exhibit on a portrait master that is too often overlooked by history due in no small part to her gender - You might recognize her for the work she did with Marie Antoinette, but you had no idea who painted it... well, in my opinion, this most notable painting was nothing compared to some of her other portraits.  She painted women in non traditional ways - in odd poses, with books, sheet music - rarely was the person just posing; the pictures told you something about them. AND to add a bit of flavor to the exhibit, they had a wardrobe where some people could try on these clothes themselves.  It was one of the most unique ways I have seen classical art become interactive! 

Scheduling meant that we left Ottawa after the National Gallery and a quick stop at Tim Horton's.  We had plans in Perth and Kingston.  (see different post) Since I was flying in and out of Ottawa, we would be coming back... and we had plans to return to Stark Street for a Ghost Tour.

After a few days looking at the water in Kingston - we returned to Ottawa and immediately got on the water here!  We hopped a land/water tour for to see some new sites and to see Parliament Hill from the back side... and while the land tour did not stop long enough to snap pictures or really appreciate much the best part was the water... Seriously, look at this view!

We docked, and were dropped back off at Sparks Street, where we walked to the market for some beaver tail!  Yep - I was told by various Canadian friends that I could not leave until I had one... luckily, it wasn't actual beaver (wow, have I spent some time in Alaska so these things worry me) but instead was a friend dough concoction.  We had our tails with sugar/ cinnamon and lemon - and yes, that works! 

My final Canadian tourist action was to be spooked at the oldest prison in Ottawa on the ghost tour.  Once again, we walked from Sparks Street, past the market we were just at, to the now hostel/former county jail.  At one time it was seen as progressive, but was eventually deemed inhuman... I like my ghost tours as much as the next person, but I don't think I would want to stay in haunted jail.  Our guide came armed with stories and pictures... I don't know what was
worse for my psyche, the idea of the conditions these people lived/died in (Canadian weather exposure), or the hauntings where people get their hands crushed in doors or trapped in rooms.  We were walked past death row, and shown how people were hung - dropping right above the front door.  I caught something strange on a picture, and a few others in our group did too... but truly you can't articulate the feeling of dread and the weight you felt on your chest when you entered the row (and you knew it before you were told where you where)  If you are in town - and not afraid - go for it - its a great tour.

The next day it was Tim Horton's again and the airport... I can't thank my friend enough for such an amazing Canadian tour... I promised her I will be back, and I will because it's a huge country and someone has to see it! 

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