Trip Start Jun 12, 2012
64Trip End Oct 18, 2012
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We got up bright and sparkly eyed for our first day in the national capital of Canada. It was a short 30 minute drive into the city centre to the information centre where we gathered our obligatory maps and things to do. We just missed the 10am changing of the guard at Parliament Hill. We braved the crowds to take a photo of one of the most popular landmarks in Canada although perhaps not quite as much as Niagara Falls. Most of the big tourist drawcards are located in one area of Ottawa so it was quite easy to walk down to the Fairmont Chateau Laurier. Styled like a castle and now a century old, it looks in place with the parliament buildings and grand nature of the city. Having said that, the lobby looked quite plain and orderly compared to the Royal York in Toronto.
Across the road was a war memorial ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of a Canadian WW2 Raid
It was time for lunch, so the three amigos walked to the Art Gallery steps to grab a bite. Outside the gallery is a giant spider akin to War of the Worlds. We had planned to go to the Royal Mint, but it was too busy so we walked past the enormous US embassy which was more akin to a bunker with bollards protecting the sidewalk and a list a mile long of prohibited items for visitors. Byward Market was brimming with shops and cheap eateries, so we made a mental note for dinner.
Back at Parliament Hill, all the tours were done for the day so we had to settle on going up the huge peace tower which is the name for the largest portion of the building
Afterwards we didn't want to do much else and we had 5 hours until the sound and light show so we just hung around the shops and went for a bite to eat at a local pub. Finally at 9:30pm, we went back to Parliament Hill where they had projected onto the whole facade; the Canadian story. It was really good with the animation, interviews and effects and reminded me of the one at North Terrice only much, much better. It lasted for 30 minutes and then it was time to head back to camp.
The next day, Steffie's friend wasn't keen to do as much walking around so she just stayed at the camp to relax while we drove into town to rush around everywhere. We made it to the changing of the guard at 10am which was lengthy and quite ceremonial. You could definitely tell the British influence had on Canadian military because of the red jackets and bagpipers. We stuck around and waited an hour to do a tour of the peace tower and were amused by a few protestershttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:LibraryReadingRoom.jpg
We also had a brief view of the Senate and a Francophone room before the tour ended. With so many tourists coming to the capital to do this tour, you do feel that it is a bit rushed and crowded so it wasn't as enjoyable. Nevertheless, we went inside the building that most Canadians have only seen a picture of.
It was time for lunch so we went back to the markets before heading onwards to the Royal Mint for a tour. This time we got in, but unfortunately no photos were allowed either. It is one of two facilities in Canada that produce coins for circulation, although the bigger one in Winnepeg produces all of the legal tender, while this one only makes souvenir and collectable coins. Interestingly enough they also made the medals for the 2010 Winter Olympics although the design wasn't to my tastes. Many other countries have contracts with the Mint for coins and there were even a few Australian coins on display despite the fact that we have the Royal Perth Mint which rivals Canada. The big rolls of pure gold and silver on the shop floor were worth $2.4 million and $500,000 respectively so the place definitely wasn't short of a dime. The tour covered all aspects of production and would have been better had it not been for the confined corridor and large group
Lastly we went inside the Notre Dame Cathedral across from the Giant Spider and had a look at the ornate woodwork and decorations on the ceiling. The whole thing was so overdone it just ruined it, but the stars were a nice finish. Unfortunately, we had a car reverse slowly into our bumper in the car park, got stuck in traffic on the way home and witnesed another car slam on their brakes to narrowly avoid rear ending the car in front. Needless to saw we were happy to get out of the car and go for a swim in the pool instead!
Next stop: Montreal!