I'm not bräve, just naïve...

Sunday, November 13, 2005

November 11 - 13, Ottawa

Once again, the Hospitality Club looked after us superbly, and lead us to the warm welcome of HC member 'cyclops' in the convenient suburb of Westboro. Not only did he provide us with a place to stay for two nights, he also cooked for us, gave us a guided tour of the capital city on Saturday morning, and took us out for breakfast on Sunday morning. Thank you Glenn ;)

Over a superb and generously provided dinner on Friday night, we talked cities, and in particular the issues facing Ottawa now and in the future. Most of Canada's provinces share this interesting characteristic... where there are two big cities, it is the smaller that is the provincial capital. Québec, for instance, has an undisputed commerical and cultural centre in Montréal, but the provincial legislature is in Québec City. Alberta finds most of it's trade going on Calgary, but you have to go three hours north to the smaller city of Edmonton to be in the capital. Ontario is no different: Toronto is far and away the bigger city, but it's Ottawa that is both the provincial and national capital... now there's the winning answer to a guaranteed pub quiz question for anyone back home in Britain: Toronto is not the capital of Canada.

Ottawa's civic focus in Parliament Hill, which is on a proud bluff above the Ottawa river. Just across the bridge is the province of Québec, and the twin city of Gatineau (formerly Hull). It's ironic to think had the 1995 referendum in Québec led to the separation of the province, the Canadian government would have been treated to a daily view across the river of their lost province... despite the fact that Gatineau and the region seem to be some of the most federalist in Québec.

Ottawa is a beautiful city... although not quite what your European agent in Canada was expecting. Because it's a small city, the density of the downtown core is very low, and Ottawa doesn't have the intimidating pressure of other North American cities. There are broad boulevards, well maintained parks, accessible government buildings, world class museums on every corner, and more Canadian flags flying than you thought necessary... as Ryan pointed out, even the homeless people are well dressed.

On Sunday we explored parliament with an over-excited tour guide ("...and THIS is VERY UNIQUE!!!") and ascended the 'peace tower' in which the bells of parliament hang. Call me cynical, but they do sound rather like the ones in the British Houses of Parliament in London...

I hope to be back in January, when the city becomes even more aesthetically perfect, and 7km of canal through the city freezes to form the world's largest ice skating ring (yep... people actually commute to work on it...) We left on Sunday night thoroughly relaxed (thanks to an amazing host) and chuffed to have seen one of the world's more attractive capitals on some of the last clear mild days of the autumn.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow, check out cyclops' coat against Ryn's hair - that's certainly a pretty convincing Tin Tin look...
B x x x

8:41 am  
Anonymous tcharlött said...

Ottawa is pretty, clean, and constipating. I lived there 4 years; most of the people I met at university were constipated. My first summer job as student was in a pharmacy in the embassies' area (Rideau and Charlotte), one full row was dedicated to very mild to hyper strong laxatives and while I was there I learned the words "I want to sh..." in many many languages. How was it for you and Ryan???

12:22 pm  
Blogger James said...

Well, our 'systême digestifs' escape unharmed, although we were spoilt with a pretty luxurious diet :) I suspect my life (job hunting etc) would be easier in Ottawa, which is even more reason to enjoy it for the weekend and then return to Montréal. Quite an impressive city, but bizarrely I think I'd prefer Gatineau to Ottawa itself... dunno why though, I think Québec has won me over... x


2:54 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BTW, Toronto is the provincial capital of Ontario. Ottawa is 'just' the federal capital.

10:24 am  
Blogger James said...

ooops... and to think that the 'Ottawa is the capital' gag was running throughout last night's episode of 'Corner Gas'. Sorry Canada, and sorry Ontario... please forgive me before my next visit.


12:00 pm  

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