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2011 The Nightingale's Oddessy Our exchange year in Canada.

Ottawa CLEE weekend Pt 2

CANADA | Friday, 13 May 2011 | Views [374]

Saturday 7th May & Sunday 8th

Saturday morning, another early start. We had to be at Parliament Hill in Ottawa by 09:00. But not before being spoilt with a big breakfast by Carin, our host.

Our first activity for the day was a tour of the Federal Parliament Buildings. I must confess my education has been somewhat lacking and I have never been in a Parliament building either State or Federal back in Aus, so this was a first for me and what more can I say other than WOW!!! This building is magnificent the architecture is something to be seen lots of vaulted ceilings, marble, stone and gold leaf.

The Centre block on Parliament Hill dates back to 1916 after a fire destroyed everything except the library, which was saved because the doors to the room were made from iron. Maybe the original builders had a premonition. Canada’s parliamentary system like Australia’s is based on the Westminster system so there are a lot of parallels, both have an upper and lower house, the only difference being in the naming conventions. The kids got to enact the entry into the lower house, with one being the Master at Arms and the others filling out roles that I should know but unfortunately don’t. Both chambers are large and ornate as befitting a parliament I suppose. But, for me the most impressive room was the library, it was fantastic. Chelle said that the one in the NSW parliament is similar, so now I will have to make a point of visiting it when I get back home. Leaving the ground floor buildings it was a trip up to the top of the Peace Tower for some spectacular views over the city and river.

After leaving Parliament Hill and grabbing a Tim Horton’s coffee, funny how teachers can smell out Tim Horton’s a mile away. We split into two groups for the afternoon’s activity. The more adventurous types grabbed bikes and rode out and back along the Rideau Canal, Ryan and his mother of course. While Natasha and I and the rest boarded a double decker bus and did a tour of the city sights. This tour took in the Rideau Cana, the Hogbacks Falls partway up the canal, many of the city’s major buildings and a tour through the Embassy district. Guess which countries Embassy was the most prominent and heavily guarded. The most expensive and impressive though of all the embassies all seem to belong to Middle Eastern countries, I wonder why that is? The bus followed the shore of the river and no matter where you are along the shore of the Quebec River, you always seem to be able look back and catch spectacular glimpses of Parliament Hill and its surrounds, the camera was running hot that day.

Tulips. I failed to mention, it is the Tulip festival in Ottawa, one of the reasons the trip is scheduled for this time of the year.  Unfortunately for us the Tulips are only just starting to bloom, whereas the trip the year before the Tulips had been and gone before they arrived, weather who can pick it?? The story behind the Tulip festival and Ottawa’s association with it is interesting. During the Second World War the Dutch Royal Family took refuge in Canada, and at this stage Queen Juliana was pregnant. So that the child would inherit no citizenship other than her parents and be able to ascend to the Royal throne, the maternity ward in which she was born was declared Dutch territory. In appreciation of this the Queen sent 100 000 tulip bulbs in gratitude and so began the tulip festival. The few tulips that where blooming look beautiful and I am sure that when they are all in full bloom it is a sight to see.

After leaving the bus and before meeting up with the rest, Tash and I headed off on our own to do some more sightseeing. You may see in some of the photos a sculpture of a black widow spider outside the National Art Gallery. The story behind this is that the sculptress made it as a thank you present for her mother along with seven others around the world each worth $3.2 million WTF!!! Thanks Mom for raising nine kids, here’s a spider with nine eggs in its basket. I’m sure Mom would have much preferred the money. Apparently the placement of this piece of art caused some controversy as it is right opposite the doors to Basilica of Notre Dame, which is a popular place to get married. So what is the first thing the married couple see when they leave the church but a sculpture of an animal that eats its mate, something for the groom to ponder?

Late afternoon we met up with the rest of our party and headed down to the market district where we were booked in for dinner. There are over 300 hundred different restaurants in this area so the choice must be overwhelming. Once again we had a good meal followed by lots of fun, the kids again gaining a table to themselves. Because of the long day and early start most families with kids headed off to their lodgings while the others went out to party.

Sunday May 8th Mothers Day

Thankfully not as early a start that day, so a bit of a sleep in, topped off by another big breakfast provided by Carin and Alan. After breakfast it was time to say our goodbyes. It was sad to leave as our hosts had been very hospitable and we would have liked to spend more time getting to know them, hopefully later in the year we will get back up there.

The organised activity for the day was a trip to the Canadian Museum of Civilisation, but me being a splitter dropped Chelle and the kids off and went and had two wonderful hours on my own wandering through the Canadian War Museum, where I came across a big display of armoured vehicles so I was in my element. Did I mention it was Mothers Day? Don’t know how I came to be the spoilt one. The War museum has only recently opened in its new location and is certainly impressive, you will see in a couple of the photos shots of the outside of the building with small irregularly shaped windows, these spell out Less we Forget in morse code, very clever. Canada like Australia has played a large but mostly downplayed role in the conflicts of the past two hundred years and I am finding it fascinating learning about Canadian Military history.

I can’t speak for the Museum of Civilisation, but all the people we spoke to prior said it was Canada’s best and most popular museum and Chelle and the kids really liked it and the others that went loved it also. It is a combination of a number of museums including a kid’s one. Any photos that are on the blog are Chelle’s and Ryan’s, so they would have to provide commentary on them.

By the time the museum tours were over it was 13:00 and we had a 5 hour drive to look forward too so we headed back to Burlington.

Why Ottawa our next exchange location? Michelle and I both agreed on our way back that we both could handle an exchange in that area, so who knows in three years time we might have to try again.

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