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A family vacation at home in the historic national capital of Canada, the beautiful, picturesque and historic city of Ottawa…
We just returned from a vacation at home in Canada. It was a wonderful trip taken up with visiting with our family, a family wedding, a bit of sightseeing and complete relaxation at the family cottage.
We arrived in Toronto after 29 hours in transit via: Manila, Incheon with Philippines Airlines and Korean Air. After a few days of rest in Toronto, we headed to Brockville and Ottawa by Via Rail, an experience in relaxing travel – it was great!
Ottawa is Canada’s Historic National Capital and my hometown. My wife has never really had the opportunity to explore and see some of the exciting historic tourist attractions the city and region have to offer. Therefore, since I had been a tourist guide in the City for four summers in my student days at the University of Ottawa, I naturally volunteered to show her around some of the more interesting sites.
During the summer months, one of the prime attractions is the world famous changing of the guard which takes places on Parliament Hill every day, weather permitting. It attracts tourists from every corner of the world and is quite interesting.
Every morning at 10, two squads of the Governor General’s Footguards march from the Cartier Drill Hall up Elgin and Wellington Streets around the National War Memorial to Parliament Hill accompanied by the Regimental Band.
The entire ceremony takes about a ½ hour and includes the inspection of the “Old” and the “New” Guards and their equipment with an Officer marching up and down the ranks checking among other things, the muzzles of each rifle to make sure it is spotlessly clean…it is quite a spectacle for those who are not used to the ways of the military. It’s also interesting to note that the Guardsmen are reservists and all are University Students doing this as their “summer job” to earn their tuition for their next term at school.
Once the ceremony is completed, the “Old Guard” marches off the “Hill” back to barracks and the “New Guard” heads off to Rideau Hall (The Official Residence of the Governor General) and the National War Memorial where they stand guard during the day in ½ hour shifts.
While we were on the “Hill” we walked around the three buildings that comprise the Parliament Buildings, The East Block, where the Prime Minister’s Ceremonial Office is located along with the Offices of most of the members of the Senate, the Centre Block which houses the House of Commons, The Senate, the Library of Parliament and The Peace Tower and finally, the West Block which houses the offices of many of the members of the House of Commons who are on the “Government Side”. Members of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition have their offices in the Connaught Building which is just steps away from the West Block and located off the “Hill”.
In our walk around the Hill we saw several statues of former Prime Ministers including:
- Sir John A. MacDonald (a conservative), leader of the Government from 1857 to 1867 and then Canada’s First Prime Minister from 1867 to 1891 when he died.
- Sir Wilfrid Laurier (a liberal), First French-Canadian Prime Minister (1896 – 1911)
- Lester B. Pearson (a liberal) who was Prime Minister between 1963 and 1968. Mr. Pearson was a Diplomat before entering politics and a recipient of the Noble Peace Prize in 1957 for his herculean efforts in defusing the Suez Canal Crisis. During the crisis his efforts led to the formation of The UN Emergency Task Force which policed the Suez after the crisis of 1957. He was also known as the ‘Father of Modern Peacekeeping’ as a result of his work with the League of Nations and the United Nations and a driving force behind the establishment of the United Nations itself.
As Prime Minister, Pearson’s two governments were instrumental in creating the ‘social safety net’ in Canada, introducing enabling legislation for such programs as:
- Universal Health Care,
- The Canada Pension Plan,
- The Canada Students’ Loan Program,
- The 2 week vacation for Canadian workers,
- The 40 hour work week,
- The minimum wage, and finally:
- The ‘New’ Canadian Maple Leaf Flag…
- John G. Diefenbaker (a conservative) was Prime Minister between 1958 and 1963. Diefenbaker is known for one of the most divisive and questionable decisions ever made by a Canadian Government – the Cancellation of the Avro Arrow Programme. The Avro Arrow was a jet fighter that was being developed for the Canadian Forces and was reputed as being the most advanced tactical fighter of its day. When the program was shuttered many of the engineers and scientists involved in the programme left Canada and worked for many, many years in the aerospace industry throughout the world; most notably with NASA on the space program and with many of the American Aerospace Companies.
There are so many wonderful statues about the Hill, we have only photographed the ones we really liked, we could literally have included close to one hundred statues if we had wanted to…unfortunately, we simply did not have enough time to get it all done…
There is the statue of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who is celebrating her Diamond Jubilee on the Throne this year (1952 – 2012):
There is the statue that commemorates the Emancipation of Women in the late 1920s:
- And there are several other statues of various Fathers of Confederation and other famous Parliamentarians. Here again, we have only a few selected examples…
The main entrance of the Parliament Buildings, just under the Peace Tower is flanked by massive carvings in limestone of the Coats of Arms of Britain and France, Canada’s two founding nations.
Coat of Arms of France:
Coat of Arms of Great Britain:
Finally, what visit to the Nation’s Capital could possibly be complete without a visit to the statue of Queen Victoria (she was the great, great grand-mother of the current Queen). Queen Victoria, assumed the throne on June 20th, 1837 and reigned for just over 64 years when she died on January 22nd, 1901.
She is the monarch who chose Ottawa, then called: Bytown, as the Capital of All the Canadas; there were two: Upper and Lower Canada, at the time in 1858. Bytown was then a real frontier town and no one, to this date, can figure out what possessed Queen Victoria to make the choice she did…although some would argue that the fierce competition between Toronto, Kingston and Quebec City had something to do with it and Ottawa’s location almost exactly between the two major centres of Toronto and Quebec City may have persuaded her.
- The Parliament buildings were built between 1859 and 1876. The cornerstone of the building was laid on September 1st, 1860 by Prince Edward on his state visit to Canada that year.
A major disaster, the Great Fire February 3rd, 1916, destroyed a large part of the City of Ottawa and in fact completely razed the Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings including the unique Library of Parliament.
Re-construction of the Centre Block started with the re-laying of the original cornerstone on September 1st, 1916, by the then Governor General, Prince Arthur the Duke of Connaught. The construction was completed with the inauguration of the “Peace Tower” in 1927 which was built to commemorate those Canadians who lost their lives in World War I.
While re-construction was underway, Parliament sat in what is now the Museum of Nature directly to the south of Parliament Hill at the foot of Metcalfe Street between 1916 and 1927.
One of the surviving artifacts is a bell that fell from the Centre Tower and has been preserved in a monument commemorating the fire of ’16, located at the rear of the building immediately adjacent to the Library.
The view from the rear of Parliament overlooks the Ottawa River, the Gatineau Hills, Nepean Point, The City of Hull (Quebec) now called Gatineau, the National Gallery of Canada, the Roman Catholic Basilica of Notre Dame and the terminus of the Rideau Canal. An awesome view…
There will be more of our adventures in Canada including a visit to the Roman Catholic Basilica of Notre Dame in Ottawa which is a National Historic Site… and a truly magnificent church…see you soon!
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