(and maybe a cul-de-sac, or two)
After posting my "Canadian Road Trip" (ahem) travel guide, I started to feel a little nostalgic about the places I've lived, and some of the sights I've seen through the years throughout North America. By the time I turned 18 years of age, I had been across Canada, and the U.S. a minimum of 15 times by car, 4 times by train, and at least 6 times by plane that I can remember. These cross country trips were to relocate, not holiday trips or family visits or the like. I was born a Canadian Forces brat. My dad was a Warrant Officer, and my mother was a Second Lieutenant Nursing Sister. Mom outranked dad then, and still does. They both left the Forces when I was about 6 years old, so I really don't have any "Army Base" memories. Dad would get stationed somewhere, but mom was stationed at the Vet hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. If mom did get an assignment posting elsewhere, I would just stay with my Grand Parents until her duty station was over. Dad was born in Fernie, British Columbia, and was the youngest of 9 siblings. Mom was born in Ottawa, Ontario and was the youngest of 8. I was born in Ottawa, and have no living siblings. I had two younger sisters that both passed shortly after birth due to kidney problems. I have no memories of them because I was so young, but I often think of what my younger years would have been like if they lived.
We moved, and moved a lot in my younger years. After my parents left the Forces, I think that they moved just for the adventure. I couldn't wait for the next excursion, mostly because it was fun to see new things, but starting new schools all the time did get a little tiresome. One elementary school I went to four different times (twice in one year for the same grade)--never mind bingo, I think the Nuns at St. Margaret Mary's School ran a secret lottery on when that Sirianni kid would return. In pre-school and Kindergarten, I was taught by Nun's from a French convent. I was quite fluent in French by the time I started grade one at St. Margaret Mary's, but it was an English Catholic school, so I did loose some French after time from not needing to speak it regularly. I still can make out quite a bit of French, but I can't converse in it anymore. I do a great French Canadian broken English accent though.
Because I got so nostalgy-like, I thought I'd google some of my favorite memories and sights to share with my bloggies. There's no better place to start than my birth place. I hope you enjoy my little virtual memory tour.
My Home town, Ottawa Ontario
Our Parliament buildings. I've stood in front of these buildings many, many times. There is beautiful parkways all around Parliament Hill. You can go on many tours of the buildings, and inside is just as wondrous a sight. Up until the early seventies it was law that no building in Ottawa could be taller than the Peace Tower, which is the clock tower of the parliament buildings. Just inside the main building there is a commissioned portrait of Queen Victoria, but it is unlike any portrait ever done of the Queen. Queen Victoria had a birth defect in which one arm is shorter than the other. The artist painted this portrait birth defect and all. He did spend the rest of his days in the Tower of London as a result of his attention to detail. Hmm, it seems as though artists have a tad of bad luck when it comes to Royalty. I'm currently spending my evenings in Queen Mimi's, Queen of Memes, dungeon at Bloggingham Palace. I'm allowed out in the day time with a day pass (actually it's my Canadian Social Insurance Identification, but the guards are not familiar with the ID card and took my word for it as being a pass). The tours of the buildings also include going up the Peace Tower, and provides a wonderful view of Ottawa-Hull.
The rear of the Parliment buildings as seen from Hull, Quebec with the Ottawa River in the foreground. The Faimont Chateau Laurier Hotel is seen to the right of the Parliment. The round building attached to the Parliament is the Library of Parliament.
Between the Chateau Laurier and the Parliment buildings is one end of the Rideau Canal, which forms an inland waterway from the Ottawa River to Kingson Ontario at the north-east end of Lake Ontario.
You can take tour boats of the canal for just the Ottawa leg, or take a different tour for the whole length of the Rideau Waterway, which it is also know as. The Rideau Canal is 125 miles long of which 12 miles is man made canal, most of which is in Ottawa proper. It is the oldest canal system in North America.
Rideau Canal locks leading to the Ottawa River
The Locks of the Rideau Canal showing the rear of the Chateau Laurier Hotel. Many people come down to the locks for cat fishing, especially senoir men who enjoy spending the day fishing at the foot of Parliment.
Further up the canal showing Parliment Buildings, and the National Arts Center of Canada to the immediate left. On the canal is a tour boat for the Ottawa leg of the canal.
During winter, the Rideau Canal is drained and becomes a winter wonderland of sorts.
In winter time, the Rideau Canal becomes the largest skating rink in the world,
encomassing almost the entire Ottawa leg of the canal. Many people skate on the canal to commute to work, because it is easier and much faster than transit, or God forbid driving in Ottawa. I've skated it many times, it's fun, but I skate it mostly for the best Hot Chocolate you can get anywhere. At least every half kilometer on the Rideau is a Hot Chocolate stand for the skaters, and many other kiosks for food or tour gifting.
St. Patrick's Basilica
St. Pats is the church where I was baptized, and had First Communion, First Confession, and was Confirmed. It is in the heart of downtown Ottawa, about eight blocks away from the Parliament Buildings. I've included it here because it was the same architect that designed St. Pat's that also designed the East and West blocks of the Parliament Buildings. The cornerstone was laid by Sir John A. MacDonald, who was Canada's first Prime Minister, and the cornerstone was blessed by Canada's first appointed Archbishop. Canada was only six years old as an independent nation when construction was completed. Design for the church started a year before confederation. It does bring out a sense of patriotic pride in me, as well as it being a beautifully designed church. I guess to make a strange comparison, it would be like being a member of a church in America that the cornerstone was laid by George Washington, blessed by the first Archbishop of America, and designed by the architect that designed the White House. I know that comparison is a stretch, but it does give me a "feeling" that I can't really express well.
More Downtown Sights
Chateau Laurier at night.
And just a few blocks from the ChateauThe Lord Elgin Hotel
I waisted many an afternoon imbibing in their services in the lounge, if I wasn't swimming in the Chateau Laurier's pool.
The National Art's Center of Canada
The culture mecca of the city.
Just a nice picture showing the merging of the Old and the New.
No tour of Downtown Ottawa would be complete without spending an afternoon on Sparks Street.
Sparks Street Mall.
Only a block away and running parallel to the Parliament buildings, Sparks Street is always abuzz. Littered with sidewalk cafe's, high-end stores of all types, and departments stores, there is always some form of entertainment going on at the mall. The portion of Sparks Street that was turned into a pedestrian mall is the earliest of such malls in the country, and was converted in 1966. Bands everywhere, street performers everywhere, beer everywhere, podiums and soap box orators everywhere, and beer everywhere, there is something for anyone to spend a nice summer day. Did I mention there is beer everywhere? My very first job was on Sparks Street, and I worked as a Clerk in a small family owned hardware store for one summer when I was 16, but I did look 19, so wet lunches became the norm on Sparks with all the other clerks that were of age. My retail sales career was cut short by one wet lunch that became a wet dinner and then dancing at the Lord Elgin to top off my shift, I guess I forgot to sign out at the end of my shift. They frowned on an incomplete time card.
But all was not lost. I immediately took a job at the L'Esplanade on Laurier.
One tower of the L'Esplanade on Laurier
It is a two tower business building in which the towers are joined by a multilevel mall. On the upper deck of the mall at the corner of the other tower 'was' a fine dining restaurant called La Maison de Carriage, or simply The Carriage House. I had my second job there, starting as a busboy, and working up to Captain Waiter. I'm not sure if the restaurant is still there-I tried to google it for this post but couldn't find it. The dining room was magnificent, in decore, cuisine, and service, and I blame it for starting and sparking my interest in a career in the hospitality industry. Through that dining room, I had the pleasure of serving more dignitaries, Heads of State from many countries, entertainers of all genres, and yes even the real Colonel Sander's of, yup, KFC fame, than I ever could as a hardware clerk. It was one of the most fun experiences of my life working there, and I learned much about people and service.
One of our teams of waiters were the Footmen at 214 Sussex-the official Prime Minister's residence-and worked with us at downtimes at 214. These three men were something to watch as they literally choreographed their section. They were the only team that was allowed to work as a three member team. Their service was pure art, and they were professional to a fault, but extremely funny at the same time. I guess after working stiff lipped for functions at the Prime Minister's residence they could let their hair down a little and have fun with people. For all other teams, we were required to have a minimum of 4 people per section, a Captain Waiter, Bar Waiter, Commie Waiter, and Busboy. There were five teams in total, four teams working at all times, with the fifth team rotating days off.
I would probably still be working there, except for one afternoon during a wet lunch break at Sparks Street--I did mention there is beer everywhere there, right?--I guess they don't like incomplete time sheets either. Who knew? No, I really left this job because we relocated to Vancouver--I did learn my lesson at the hardware store. Wet lunch, or wet dinner, not both.
Ottawa, being the Nation's capitol, has embassies from every country imaginable, some are readily identifiable as embassies such as the American Embassy
Others just seem to resemble very nice houses, such as the Polish Embassy
Another beautiful sight is Hog's Back Falls which is created by a spillway for the Rideau Canal. It gives the impression of a wilderness, but is completely encompassed by city.
At Hogs Back falls, the Rideau river diverges from the canal and the Rideau Canal Waterway system. The long man made portion of the canal was built to bypass Hogs Back Falls, and the
Rideau Falls which spills into the Ottawa River, and the Rideau Falls are just a 20 minute walk from the Parliament Buildings.
I'd love to show you more about Ottawa, but to be honest, it's been over 30 years since I have returned, and I know so much has changed since I lived there. I've shown some of the sights that I do remember and enjoyed myself, and I know haven't changed at all. So this really is a trip down memory lane for me. I hope you enjoy the trip as much as I did.
Stay Tuned for Part 2 of My memory lane trip.