Trip Start Nov 04, 2011
Trip End Jul 27, 2012

Flag of Canada  , Ontario,
Saturday, April 14, 2012

Up at 6.30 this morning, to be ready for the tour which started from Rene Levesque at 8am. We got there a bit early and had to wait for our tour guide Tao to arrive.  There was only a small group of us for this tour, about 25, so we were on a little dodgy bus!  It was a 2 hour drive from Montreal to Ottawa. I had 40 winks on the bus.  We passed the official residence of the Prime Minister of Canada on our way to our first stop at 10am at Rideau Hall, since 1867 the official residence in Ottawa of both the Canadian monarch and the Governor General of Canada.

Rideau Hall stands in Canada's capital on a 0.36 km2 (88 acre) estate at 1 Sussex Drive, with the main building consisting of 170 rooms across 9,500 m2 (102,000 sq ft), and 24 outbuildings around the grounds.  Rideau Hall and the surrounding grounds were designated as a National Historic Site of Canada in 1977.

The grounds contain a totem pole by Kwakiutl carver Mungo Martin which was gifted to the Earl Alexander of Tunis by the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia-in-Council.  Also an inukshuk by artist Kananginak Pootoogook, from Cape Dorset, Nunavut, was built to commemorate the second National Aboriginal Day, in 1997.  Each visiting dignitary to Rideau Hall is asked to plant a tree; as such, the park, mostly along the main drive, is dotted with nearly 100 trees with small plaques at their bases listing the name and office of the person who planted each particular tree.  I saw trees planted by the Queen and Nelson Mandela.

We had 30mins at Rideau Hall and then we left for the Parliament Buildings.  Parliament Hill, is an area of Crown land on the southern banks of the Ottawa River in downtown Ottawa, Ontario. Its Gothic revival suite of buildings—the parliament buildings—serves as the home of the Parliament of Canada and contains a number of architectural elements of national symbolic importance. Originally the site of a military base in the 18th and early 19th centuries, development of the site into a governmental precinct began in 1859, after Bytown (now Ottawa) was chosen by Queen Victoria as the capital of the Province of Canada.  Following a number of extensions to the parliament and departmental buildings and a fire in 1916 that destroyed the Centre Block, Parliament Hill took on its present form with the completion of the Peace Tower in 1927.

We saw the Centennial Flame - Lester B. Pearson dedicated this fountain and flame on 1 January 1967, to commemorate a century of Confereration.  It burns continually.  It looked like there was some kind of protest going to happen as there were people with placards assembling. Here we were able to go inside the Parliament Buildings and ride the elevator up the Peace Tower. It had nice views out over Ottawa and Gatineau.

The Peace Tower (officially the Tower of Victory and Peace) is a focal bell and clock tower, sitting on the central axis of the Centre Block of the Canadian Parliament Buildings. The present incarnation replaced the 55-metre (180 ft) Victoria Tower after the latter burned down in 1916, along with most of the Centre Block; only the Library of Parliament survived. It today serves as a Canadian icon, and appears on the obverse of both the Canadian fifty-dollar and twenty-dollar bills.

After getting lots of photos from the observation deck we rode the elevator back down where we had to wait a little bit to go into the memorial chamber as they were performing the turning of the pages.  It was beautiful inside the memorial chamber, gorgeous stained glass windows, intricately carved walls and beautifully handwritten books.

The Peace Tower was built not only to stand as an architectural feature and landmark, but also to function as a memorial.  It thus houses the Memorial Chamber, a vaulted 7.3 m by 7.3 m (24 ft by 24 ft) room directly above the porte-cochere, with stained glass windows and various other features illustrating Canada's war record, such as the brass plates made from spent shell casings found on battlefields that were inlaid into the floor, and bore the name of each of Canada's major conflicts during the First World War.

The stone walls were originally to have been inscribed with the names of all Canada's servicemen and women who had died during the First World War; but, without enough space for all 66,000 names, it was later decided to place Books of Rememberance there instead; these books list all Canadian soldiers, airmen, and seamen who died in service of the Crown — whether that of Britain (before 1931) or that of Canada (after 1931) — or allied countries in foreign wars, including the Nile Expedition and Boer War, the First World War, the Second World War, and the Korean War. The displays were later modified to represent a broader overview of Canadian armed conflict, both foreign and domestic, since Confederation in 1867.

There was a nice girl working there who told us a bit about the room and was quite chatty. After we exited the centre block of the parliament buildings we wandered the grounds and had a nice view out over the river and Gatineau.

Back on the bus at 11.45 and then off to the Chinese Buffet for lunch.  On the way we passed the National War Memorial and Fairmont Chateau Laurier, a luxury hotel, and arguably Canada's most famous.  It has offered sumptuous accommodation to Canada's great and good since it was built in 1912.  Trish and I had both decided that we were not interested in the Chinese Buffet, so we decided to do our own thing for lunch. The buffet was in a big shopping centre so we went to the food court and had pita pit.  It was surprisingly nice.

At 1 we left for the Royal Canadian Mint. Founded in 1908 as a branch of the British Royal Mint, it no longer produces regular Candian cash currency.  Instead, it strikes many special-edition coins and Maple Leaf bullion investment coins.  The mint also processes about 70 percent of the country's gold in its refinery, which is among the largest in North America.  We had a bit of time to get some photos and browse the gift shop before the tour was due to start at 1:30. They had a 28 pound gold bar with a value of approx $700,000 that you could lift and have photos with. It was very heavy!

Our tour started and he showed us through the different rooms and explained the process of making coins etc. Not much was happening being the weekend. When we got back into the gift shop we were chatting with the sales girl, I was asking about coloured coins, and she showed us a 2011 set with some coloured coins. She gave us the cardboard collector holder so we could collect the coins. We were also able to swap 2 quarters for the first 2 coins of our set!

After the royal mint, we still had a bit of time before the bus was due to leave, so we ducked up the road to Notre Dame church for a look. Very pretty inside.  Built between 1841 and 1865, Notre Dame, with its twin spires, is Ottawa's best-known Catholic church.  It is situated in the Byward Market area and features a spectacular Gothic-style ceiling.  The windows, carvings, and the huge pipe organ are also well worth seeing.  Philippe Parizeau carved the woodwork in mahogany.  In niches around the sanctuary, there are wooden etchings of prophets and apostles crafted by Louis-Philippe Herbert, now painted to look like stone.  Joseph Eugene Guiges, the first bishop of Ottawa, oversaw the completion of Notre Dame, and his statue is outside the basilica.

At 2.30 we left for the Canadian Museum of Civilization.  This museum on the banks of the Ottawa River was built in the 1980s to be the storehouse of Canada's human history.  The architect, Douglas Cardinal, wanted the undulating facades of both buildings to reflect the Canadian landscape.  The more curved hall is the Canadian Shield Wing, home to the museum's offices.  The Glacier Wing displays the exhibits.

Here we had about 2 hours and were due back to the bus by 4.45. We started on the third floor as suggested and had a look through Canada Hall, a mazelike journey that traces the country's history from Norse settlers and clonial times to Victorian villages.  The exhibits were very well done with full scale models and whole buildings.

Next we did the first floor and saw The Grand Hall.  Lit by windows three stories high, totem poles from the West Coast line the Grand Hall; each pole tells a native myth in wood carving.  We also saw the First Peoples Hall and Pacific Coast Aboriginal Exhibits.  We were both a bit over museums and had a token look around the rest of the floors and exhibits. We saw the special exhibit on exploring the vast diversity, and the similarities, in the practices of the world’s most widespread religions in the exhibition God(s) A User’s Guide.  We saw the Arctic Expedition exhibit and the Canadian Postal Museum.  The Children's Museum looked really good!

We then went outside to check out the view looking back up towards the Parliament Buildings and Chateau Laurier.  There were a couple of wedding parties at the museum getting photos taken with the river in the background. Not the nicest weather for them, very cloudy.

Back on the bus, and we left for Montreal at around 5. I wrote my diary on my iPad and then listened to music and had 40 winks on the trip back to Montreal. We arrived around 7pm, and Trish said goodbye to her friend on the tour and we started walking home.

We decided to go to IGA and get some groceries so did this and then carried them home. The weather was pretty warm and there were lots of people out in Place Des Arts.

We had showers and I had poached eggs on toast for dinner. Did a couple of loads of washing and I decided I needed to sit and do some paperwork and look at my finances, so I spent I few hours doing this before heading to bed.

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