After Quebec we drove to Ottawa, the nation’s capital. I had never been there either, so it was neat for me to see it and we were really captivated by all the impressive buildings in the city and delighted at the walk-ability of Ottawa too. We had the great fortune of staying in a local’s apartment mere meters from downtown and Parliament. We stayed with an old friend from high school, Stephen, who has lived in Ottawa for the better part of the last decade and is now currently a lawyer. He gave us his downtown apartment to stay in for free (well, we have no address to send a bill to, so…) and it was wonderful to have our own space to enjoy.
We started with the Byward market and had lunch and wandered through the shops and stalls. Next, we made our way to the National Gallery of Canada and spent a good two and a half hours (and could have spent more) looking at all the AMAZING Canadian and Inuit art. Now, we have been to quite a few galleries all over the world. I am starting to pick and choose which ones I go to and by default most times, drag Callum to. The gallery in Ottawa is worth the effort and a must-see for anyone who even just vaguely likes art. It was so exciting for me to see so many Group of Seven artworks in one place, who have a style I adore and wish to emulate or learn from, some more Emily Carr pieces, and other artists depicting Canadian history, life and nature. It made me feel very inspired, which is a feeling I can’t seem to shake on this trip. The Inuit art was interesting and reminded us of some of the art we saw in South America. We had a neat Greek tapas dinner for our evening meal and had a good night’s sleep in preparation for the next day.
We got up sort of early and went to the Parliament to book a tour of the central block. My! Was I ever surprised to see the enormous city-block sized line-up to get our free tickets. I was like “Callum, look at all these nerdy people hoping to see Parliament!” because why would normal people want to see it, right? I couldn’t believe the sheer number of people even interested in such a thing. I guess because I don’t super care about politics but I go to history museums because it’s Cal’s passion. Callum, calm and confident as ever, rolled his eyes politely (if that can even be achieved) and said “Rachel, this is your country’s most important site, of course people want to see it.” He then went on to explain that most people would be interested in it and that I’m a bit of a special one for not caring. We had an interesting discussion about how in some countries, you would never get to just walk in—for free—to see parliament where laws are made, and to be allowed to witness Parliament in session. It is indeed a privilege to have an open-to-the-public sort of government. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to witness any law-making because politicians take the summer off. Kind of like teachers, so eh, I guess that’s warranted.
We booked a tour for later that afternoon and then walked to the War Musuem. Callum loved it and we both realized you would need a month of Sundays to view everything thoroughly. Callum liked the Cold War section the most because that’s what he’s interested in, and he found the Canadian involvement different from Australia’s experience so learned a lot. We also saw Hitler’s actual car in this museum, which was kind of creepy. It was as black and evilly shiny as Hitler himself.
We made our way to Parliament after finding some lunch and getting caught in a bit of a rain-shower. We made it to our meeting point for our tour, and started the airport-style security process before anything else happened. They were VERY thorough looking through everyone’s bags. Our guide was very knowledgeable, but the tour was a very brief, rushed 45 minutes and the guide did NOT like how many pictures I wanted to take. We got to see the library, but only for a minute. It was not enough time to take in the beauty, read some information plaques, AND take pictures. I got told not too unkindly to move along. We are fortunate to have seen it and if I would have watched more political themed things on Canadian television growing up, I probably would have recognized certain rooms and steps, as the guide said. We did not get to meet Justin Trudeau, sadly, as when we were in Ottawa he was in Quebec. JUST missed him, dang.
We met up for dinner with Stephen and his partner Shawn and had a lovely time catching up and swapping travel stories. What a legend to let us stay at his place after at least 6 years since we saw each other!
After Ottawa we drove back to Waterloo where we were conveniently able to drop off our rental car which we had driven all the way from St. John’s, Newfoundland. We put some kms on that vehicle, that’s for sure. Rachel and Marc picked us up from Enterprise and we spent the next two and a half days getting organized, doing laundry, picking up some last minute supplies, and catching up on sleep. Our van which we had purchased during our first stint in Ontario needed a little TLC while we were away but by the time we were ready to drive her, it was all good. We were nervous to drive Big Bertha for many kms the first day because she had only been driven around for a few kms in the weeks that we knew her, but she performed beautifully and we made it to a small town of Blind River. We slept at a fuel station which also had a Tim Horton’s.
Ontario is HUGE. It took us nearly 6 full days to drive through the second largest province land wise and has about 40% of all of Canada’s population at 13.5 million people. We drove along the lakes, waterfalls, canyons and stayed in a couple of Provincial parks and a rest stop outside of Thunder Bay. We saw the last Terry Fox statue near Thunder Bay which is where he had to stop his Marathon of Hope because of a flare-up with his cancer. Readers of our Newfoundland post will remember this name.
It was a great test-run of Big Bertha’s abilities and also of us sleeping in our new home. We had a platform built in the back of our Chrysler Town and Country (with stow-and-go seats for optimum re-sale-ability) and bought a “double” or “full” size mattress from Ikea. It fits like a glove. We are actually quite roomy in our van, though sitting up in bed is not an option. We kind of have to slither in and can raise our heads using our core muscles and that’s about it. Underneath, we store our pots, pans, dishes, clothes, souvenirs, camping gear, etc. and during the day store backpacks, toiletries, etc. on our bed and move it all to the front seats for bedtime. It’s a system which works but which I am also glad is temporary. We’re happy to stay with various friends and family when we can, but otherwise Big Bertha is home until we hit up my parents in Abbotsford, BC!