Beaver Tails, Rideau, And Déjà Vu

Trip Start Jan 30, 2011
Trip End Nov 16, 2011

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Where I stayed
Best Western Plus Ottawa Downtown Suites
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of Canada  , Ontario,
Monday, June 27, 2011

There was no drama this morning, but after getting the correct bus in the correct direction we were stumped to see two guards outside the war memorial when the hotel told us they didn't take position until Wednesday. On asking why they were there, apparently today is their first day, we heard some bagpipes in the distance and discovered the changing of the guard ceremony also began today.  As we’d not had to rush into town for anything other than the river cruise at eleven we’d not arrived until after ten and so missed the beginning of the ceremony, luckily catching their display on Parliament Hill and parade down the main street.  A military police escort and scores of officers in their bearskins and uniform made for an impressive display, even if my camera battery did decide to play dead half-way through due to my forgetting to charge it.  After getting a few shots over the other onlookers’ heads we made our way to the road to watch the procession and glance at just how sharp those bayonets are as they shimmered in the glorious morning sunshine. 

We were graced with a clear blue sky and not a bit of breeze, which meant for a melting face of make-up as we made our way along the locks towards the river; a series of locks meant it took boats an hour-and-a-half to get through them and onto the river.  The relatively small queue at the river was made less inviting by the spotting of a school outing; thirty unruly children let loose on the open seas with a few teachers and mothers anxious for the summer holidays for very different reasons.  I struggled to understand one teacher’s opinion about the students being 'very well behaved’ as they ran up and down the boat and talked throughout the bilingual narrator’s commentary, but when she went on to compare their outing to a previous one where students were trying to dismantle the roof tiles on the lower deck I realised we’d been quite fortunate. 

We sailed along the Rideau river spying on the houses of various ambassadors, Britain’s wasn’t on the riverside for some reason, and the apparently ‘honourable’ Stephen Harper, the current Canadian Prime Minister; from what I’ve heard over the past few months he’s not really eligible for that title, and definitely not for the $17 million dollar home.  The apparent highlight of the tour was the ‘waterfall,’ but I’m not sure whether it was the fact that I’ve seen Niagara and the Smoke That Thunders in Zambia that warped my view of its classification or the fact that it was a trickle running over a dam that underwhelmed me.  I felt guilty for being dismissive, but at least it sprayed the wild children enough to keep them quiet for a few minutes as they rearranged their hairdos. 

An hour-and-a-half later we stepped off the boat to the tune of the tour guide asking for tips because he was a ‘student’ and made our way up the hill towards the National Gallery along with the numerous runners and cyclists.  Following Kerri’s advice about getting into the cafeteria for free we asked for a tag to get us in and made our way through the grand corridor towards the eatery; with just a few hours to spare before meeting up with Margaret’s daughter Kristina we were wary of doing a tour and missing buses as we normally do.  We had some salad and sat amidst the diners who had actually paid for their entrance and viewed some art, but our badges displaying cutlery made sure the class boundaries were evident for all to see. 

Salad had been our choice due to our intentions of having a famous Beaver’s Tail later on, for which we made our way towards the place visited by President Obama; I had one in Vancouver, but Ottawa is supposed to be the home of the Beaver’s Tail, so it would be rude not to try one over here too.  After we’d visited the souvenir shop and resisted Dad’s urge to get a Davey Crockett hat we stopped in at the famous pastry shop and ordered the traditional Canadian snack. Careful not to get too much around our mouths and on our clothes we didn’t get to Dad in time to wipe the maple butter from his mouth before he asked the assistant for a souvenir paper bag; he’d asked this morning if I’d be there to wipe his dribble when he was old, but he got his answer a little sooner than expected. 

A search ensued for a drink to wash down all that sugary goodness that took us on a circuit around the market and parallel ‘dodgy street’ before ending up at the café just next to the Beavers’ Tail store for a few cold bevvies.  A wander over to the buses followed before heading back to the hotel to let our feet recover before going out to meet Kristina and Adam; we bought transfer tickets with the idea to get the bus over to their house before they ran out at five after five.  We were ready by four-fifty, but with the plan to meet at six, and the fact that they wouldn’t be home from work until five-thirty, we held back for the five-thirty bus; big mistake. 

We wandered over to Elgin Street to the bus stop, passing a woman skipping like Dorothy down the road, to find a number five bus just leaving and a glut of traffic in the way of the next one, as it was only five-fifteen we weren’t worried, but with each car that slowly dribbled by, making us feel like animals on display at the looked at the peasants catching the bus, we began to get a little worried about our six o’clock deadline.  Just as we pulled out our pennies in anticipation of the bus arriving it appeared on the horizon, and stayed there for the next five minutes as it slowly made its way towards us; we boarded at five-forty, and at five-past-six were still sitting in traffic.  Google Maps said it was just three stops from where we got on, and had Dad’s hip been better it most certainly would have been quicker for us to walk, but instead we sat on the mile-an-hour bus and watched as a man walked past with shopping bags, obviously went to the grocery store, and then reappeared with bags full to the brim.  Kristina and Adam’s road appeared, and we got off at the Google Maps designated stop, walking the few minutes up the road in search of their house; a few minutes later Mum and Dad caught up and we were finally able to say our hellos.

We were treated to some traditional squeaky curds, apparently the squeakiness shows they’re fresh, and drinks, as well an audience with the gorgeous cat Henry and a tour of their new house; unfortunately we had to use the servants’ staircase at the start of the tour, but we must have been well-behaved as we descended on the owners’.  With no time to stop and stare at the automated cat-feeder, it goes off at six a.m. every morning to feed Henry and save any early alarms, and the amazing mustard chair that Kristina found on the side of the road, amazing, we headed off to the bistro where we had a table booked.

Kristina and I seemed to pick up a pace beyond the reach of Mum and Dad and left them in Adam’s capable hands as we chatted about everything and nothing on the way to the restaurant, retracing the bus route that we’d not long taken; as we neared the bus stop we’d waited at for half an hour, the ‘ribs and wings’ place we’d passed last night, and eventually small pub opposite where we’d sat last night,  it slowly dawned on me that we were booked in at the same restaurant as last night.  We cancelled the booking with the waiter who’d received the Spanish inquisition from Mum last night and headed instead over to Mexican restaurant where Kristina, Adam, and Mum all opted for ‘Muchos Grande’ cocktails whilst I had a meagre ‘regular’ and felt like the poor relation, although Dad did have beer so at least my drink wasn’t the plainest. 

With no insults from the waiter about being hobbits or from Middle Earth we were happy to tip him following a set of tasty meals, even if my Tostada was hidden beneath a mountain of salad that took me an eternity to find.  We walked back to their house, retracing our steps along the route for the third time tonight, and settled in for a cup of Orange Pekoe tea and a chat listening to the Kings of Leon.  I hope we didn’t put them off meeting us or more of the Telford Smiths again, I think we behaved, and hope to see them again, if not on this trip then certainly on the next.  With Express Deals on the net every day there’s no excuse.
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