One thing is very clear. By foot is the way to tour downtown Ottawa. You couldn’t possible gawk and drive at the same time. Weird street directions and one-ways would keep you paying attention to the road all the time – or should.
Had a decent breakfast at the inn, as a continental breakfast was included with the room. Not being an egg fan, I always look at them and think “you really should have the protein” and usually pass. But I have found a way to eat cold hard-boiled eggs for breakfast – on toast….with jam. 😊 So, an egg, a piece of toast, a yogurt a and really good coffee before 10:00 a.m. made me feel like I was adulting all over the place!
The weather app was threatening the possibility of a thunderstorm and I mused allowed that I supposed I should find a place to get an umbrella. The front desk girl pointed out the umbrellas by the front door – is there anything the Rideau Inn hasn’t thought of? So I toted one around with me all day. It didn’t rain, but actually came in handy anyway when the sun popped out and it got hot.
I headed out with an idea of where I intended to end up, but with only a vague knowledge of what direction I should go and none of what I would find along the way. I felt like Anne of Green Gables when she went Kingsport for college and just walked around finding delightful things. To do it justice, you would really need to spend a week here and give proper attention to a couple of things a day.
I wandered down Elgin Street and there are nifty pubs and restaurants all over the place, ironically interspersed with big red brick and/or stone churches. Monuments to different historical figures abound and I was into full-on picture mode within a couple of blocks. I was headed for Parliament Hill and found Confederation Park, City Hall, Nelson Mandela Square and the National War Memorial all along the way. Confederation Park had a nice memorial acknowledging the vital role of animals in the various conflicts Canada has been involved in. Nelson Mandela Square was a surprise to me and very moving. What he accomplished was so incredible and against such odds, it restores my faith that change can be affected with dedication and heart.
The National War Memorial is stunning. The guards out front and the monument with the dates of conflict engraved on it are a stark reminder of humanity’s penchant for war. There are also bronze sculptures of historical figures who were influential in their actions and leadership during conflicts. I wondered, yet again, when we will ever learn.
On my way to the war memorial, a gentleman spoke to me about the work going on at the parliament buildings. I told him I was on a walking exploration and he said he had some hip trouble and was told he was going to need a walker. But instead, he started going to the gym and doing specific exercises and he got better and doesn’t need a walker. As he explained what he was doing, I mentioned the things that I have to do in order to keep my back and hip and leg muscles in proper working order. We had a little demo right there on the street! People probably though we were nutters, but what they think is really none of my business, and he was appreciative. LOL
Crossing the street with the intention of heading over to Parliament Hill, I was sidetracked by the Rideau Canal. Looking over the edge of the bridge with all the other looky-loos, there were many boats lined up at the various levels of the locks, waiting for them to be opened so they could pass through. Down below, I could see the Bytown Museum in the background. The museum is in the Commissariat – Ottawa’s oldest stone building. Ottawa was originally named Bytown and exists because of the desire to build the Rideau Canal. After the War of 1812, Britain wanted to ensure a supply route that would by-pass the St. Lawrence River, and so the Rideau Canal was built. Thousands of Irish and French workers toiled for six years to complete the canal.
I didn’t go through the whole museum, choosing to read the story boards and then go on the Ottawa River Cruise. The river cruise was really great – as we moved along the river, the guide explained the different sites and told stories. It was a great “Reader’s Digest” version of the sites and gave me some context for my subsequent walking route. Some of the sights visible from the river included:
When the river tour was over, I walked up to Parliament Hill. The buildings are just stunning. I look around at all of these massive stone structures and marvel and how they were constructed without all of the technology we have today. I did not feel inspired to go on a guided tour and shuffle along indoors and listen to more talk, so I wandered the grounds instead. There is much restoration going on in various areas of the parliament buildings, but there were still many interesting things to see. Statues of the fathers of confederation and key people in the history of Canada are strewn about the grounds. The view of the Ottawa River and its surrounding sights was gorgeous. I was particularly fascinated by the workmanship in the round structure of the parliament buildings that faces the river. This is the Library of Parliament and is just amazing. The whole building is amazing – such detail and pride was put into the workmanship.
After Parliament Hill, I continued over to the National Art Gallery. Art galleries are a challenge for me and I thought about whether I really wanted to pay an admission. Like jazz music, while I can recognize and appreciate the skill and talent that goes into the different types of art, I just don’t like a lot of it. However, the special exhibit was Impressionist and I do usually like that style, so I went in. I enjoyed my tour through the exhibits and didn’t waste any time on the stuff I didn’t like. Shameful, I know, but it wouldn’t be the first time.
Heading down Sussex Drive, I saw the Notre Dame Basilica and the Royal Canadian Mint. Crossing over the canal again, I continued down Sussex Drive and saw many of the Embassy buildings for different countries in the world – the US, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Kuwait, France. Pretty neat feeling to be amongst all that. I saw the drive for the Prime Minister’s residence, but couldn’t really see the building. Rideau Hall was just across the way and there were guards there as well, so I stopped and sat on one of the benches and rested for awhile, watching them go through their march.
Getting tired, I headed back towards my home away from home. Having walked about 15 kms over the 7 hours I was out, a bit of a rest was required to restore my energy enough to head down the street for supper. Having seen a Dunn’s Famous restaurant, I went there for supper. While the food was good, as always, the service was wanting and there was zero effort put into the presentation of the food. It was unusually quiet in the restaurant, according to the waiter, so I was surprised at the lack of effort. It left me wishing that I had tried one of the little pubs instead.
My day delay in getting here cost me another day of exploration in the city, and I have missed some key sights. However, I do feel as though much more time would be needed to really get a handle on it, so perhaps a return visit is in order another time. For now, it is lights out for tomorrow’s journey to Quebec (which is about 10 minutes across the bridge).