Monday, August 31, 2015

Day 13- Canada's Capital

Sammy found this statue: "mommy! there's that guy with the metal leg!"
Gluten free goodies
The best part of Ottawa was the Gluten-Free restaurant we stumbled upon in the Byward Market.  It was this trendy cafe on the corner with this french couple outside beckoning people to come in and try their delights.  We were in GF heaven!! Everything in the store was safe to eat for my daughter and myself who both have Celiac disease. They had fries and pizza and salmon and sandwiches and paninni,... and the bakery counter.. .oh my!  We basically took over the restaurant and $165 later we left the store with a full tummy and a full bag of goodies for later. Good thing we have a very generous budget for this trip! If we run out of grocery money on the way home I will fondly remember my delicious lunch in Ottawa while I'm eating PB&J sandwiches for the last week.

The rest of Ottawa pales in comparison to my mocha opera chocolate layer cake, though it was a wonderful day.  We visited the Rideau Canal and saw a boat going through the Locks (so interesting... though without any guard-rails I was a bit nervous with the kids so close to the edge of the canal). Just walking among the historical buildings made us realize how truly young our own city is.  Even the kids remarked that Calgary has boring buildings.
Watching the boat go down the locks

Tomb of the unknown soldier at the National War Monument
One of the things we made time for was to walk by the National War Memorial to pay our respects to the soldiers who have fought and died for our country as well as the soldier who died there only a year ago, guarding the same monument.  There was a very helpful info person there who took a long time to answer the kids questions and teach them a bit too, and we were able to speak with one of the soldiers who was with the two guarding it.  He said it was a great honour for them to take a turn guarding the memorial.

We noticed a large security presence in Ottawa. Everywhere around the Parliament buildings there were pairs of police officers visibly armed.  Just to get into the parliament buildings required a 20 min wait through security which was just as thorough as an airport check.  Inside the building there were also many armed officers in every room and corridor we went down.  It definitely changed the ambiance of the place - and it was odd the way the tour guide didn't mention the shooting last year, or even entertain my godson's question about it.  She just brushed him off and moved on.
Library in the Parliament buildings- only part of the original building left after a fire in the early 1900s.

House of Commons under renovation
It was a beautiful building though. The library is the most lovely round room with books from floor to ceiling up to a pretty domed roof.  The House of Commons is under construction so everything was covered with plastic.  The guide explained that Elections Canada reviews the boundaries of the ridings  every 5 years and this is the year they were doing a review- This election there will be 30 extra MPs elected for the extra ridings so they needed to rearrange things to make room for the extra seats.  I don't even know what riding we are in, but we will be paying a lot more attention to the election this year because we have been to the actual place where the government meets. It makes it seem so much more real.

The evening light show on the Parliament buildings was even better than the tour. I have never seen anything quite like it. It was a cross between a movie, fireworks, and a museum - with the architecture of the building being the screen. If you've ever seen a disney light show it was similar to that, but better.
 The narrator took us on a voyage through Canadian history including the great accomplishments of Canadians and all that make us a great nation.  For the finale, they played O Canada with the buildings lit up like a huge waving flag and we all stood up and sang along in French and English together. It was quite touching.
Light show didn't start until 9:30 so it was a late bedtime for all, but one we will remember for a long time!

One of the more annoying, but amusing parts of the day was trying to acquire the tickets to go on the free tour of the parliament buildings.  If there's one thing I have to complain about this country, it's the complete disregard for families who are larger than the usual 2 parents/2 kids.  They would not allow any group over 9 people onto the tours, even though there was room for 35 people.  Dana and Kevin tried to explain to them that we would like 15 tickets but they would not allow them to do it, even if Dana ordered 9 and Kevin ordered 6.   It was quite the secret spy operation for us to figure out a way to let our 15 person group onto the same tour. Sean and I had to go in to ticket line pretending we didn't know each other and stall long enough to see which tour time the other was selecting.  It was a close one, but we did it!!

All in all, it was a full but enjoyable day.  We left feeling proud to be Canadian and anxious to continue east, exploring  more of our great country.

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