Day 44 – 22nd August (Ottawa)

Managed to scrape ourselves out of bed to make it literally across the road to the Senate building for our guided tour.

This building actually used to be the Ottawa railway station. This ceased operations in the mid-1960s. In 2014, because the Central Parliament Building was no longer fit for use, the Canadian government started to convert this building to be the Senate, which can loosely be compared to the House of Lords in Britain. They moved in in 2018, which is some going. They will move back to the central building when that is renovated. Timescale – 9 years. Yeah, right.

Canada is a constitutional monarchy. The Queen is the head of state and the Prime Minister is the head of government. The Governor-General, whose house we visited later, is the Queen’s representative in Canada, a largely ceremonial role these days.

The way government works is similar to Britain. Any legislation is given up to three readings in the House of Commons before being passed to the Senate. The House of Commons has around 340 MPs, elected by the constituents. The Senate is appointed by the Prime Minister and covers interests such as migration, racism, first nation status, etc., often by the use of committees. Once the Senate approves the legislation, it is given the Royal Assent by the Governor-General.

All this was explained really well by a young lady called Emma, who was our guide for this short tour. It proved to be most interesting.

Reception Hall
Note the semicircular windows associated with rail stations
And the domed roof
These doors don’t open into anything – they have just been relocated from the old site. The emblems of all thirteen provinces and territories are displayed on them
The main chamber. They have a Speaker and clerks as in Britain. It tends to be less confrontational than in Britain! The additional complication is that both English and French are official languages. Remarkable relocation job
The console at the far end can be used to control speaker’s microphones. The British House of Commons could do with a similar system!
An original bench used to seat waiting train passengers back in the day

Emerged right opposite our hotel:

The Rideau Canal from the other side

Well worth getting up early for. Let’s hope that our visit to the House of Commons tomorrow morning will prove as interesting.

Back to the hotel for breakfast, where, in contrast to yesterday, we walked straight in to a very quiet restaurant.

After this, we decided to go out for a short drive to the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, which we’d seen on our bus tour yesterday. More of interest to me, but it got us out of the hotel for a bit.

Having mastered the intricacies of paying for parking (and magnanimously helping somebody else do the same) we entered this large museum showcasing Canada’s role in flight and space. Here are a few pictures:

A Lysander (Lizzie). I made a model of one of these a long time ago
See below
The German ME Komet. The only rocket powered aircraft used in combat in the 20th century. Proved to be impractical as it was too fast!
One of my favourite planes – an Avro Lancaster bomber
German Messerschmitt 109
An engineering work of art. Didn’t work well, apparently. Looks great, though

There was a whole lot more besides, but I won’t bore you any further. For now, anyway.

The lower floor was all about aviation. The upper floor was all about space, particularly Canada’s involvement, which has been considerable.

Didn’t realise Tony Blackburn had been into space!
View of the bottom floor from the top one

This proved to be very well done – even Jean found it involving. Canada has contributed far more than I thought to space exploration.

However, 2 hours was enough, so we then drove to Rideau Hall, the official residence of the Governor-General (Mary Simon, the first indigenous holder of the post). This offered guided tours of the house itself, plus access to the gardens. All free of charge. I like that.

Whilst we were hanging around waiting for our tour to start, we noticed that a number of trees had been planted ceremonially by the great and good.

Plenty of other examples around.

The tour started, guided by Sarah, and once again proved to be interesting, but a bit rushed.

Up until 1952, all Governor-Generals were British. From this point on, they were Canadian – Canada established its own citizenship in 1947. It introduced its own ceremonies, honours, decorations and bravery medals, but all based closely on the British pattern.

The Tent Room. This was designed by Lord Dufferin, 3rd Governor-General, to be like a British marquee in the 1870s
He also liked to play tennis in here!
Queen Victoria
A cabinet from the 17th century in the reception room, painted with milk and blueberries
A model of the entire hall. It was built around a more modest house constructed by a stonemason working on the Rideau Canal and has been added to substantially over the years
The main ballroom
The ceiling thereof
Chandelier from Britain in gratitude for help during World War II, donated in 1951

We then wandered around the grounds, which were pleasant enough, but not outstanding. The rose garden is probably the highlight.

Drove back to the hotel and at least had a better valet service than when we arrived.

Got back to the room to recover after a longish day, when we got another treat from the hotel – a power cut! Auxiliary lighting in the corridor, and the elevators were working, but the room was completely dead. We managed to get out of there and went looking for dinner.

There was a Milestones restaurant right next to the hotel. We’d experienced their fare in Victoria earlier in the trip and liked it. I’d checked earlier that it would be OK to walk in later that evening for a meal.

However, I’d reckoned without the rain. When we did turn up, they were full and nothing available until 8 p.m. We asked for recommendations and they directed us to an Italian restaurant called Mamma Grazzi about 200 metres away in the ByWard market. Found it with a bit of difficulty – actually entering was harder than it should have been – but they had a table. Decor was plain, but the place was lively and cheerful.

We then had a super meal, great service and a carafe of Chianti Classico. Brilliant, and excellent value too. Fell on our feet there, for sure.

Walked back to the hotel, hoping that the power was back on. Nope. Nothing for it but to retire to bed, then.

The power came back on around 12.30 a.m., jerking us into wakefulness.

Back to bed, only to be woken at 3.30 a.m. by a hammering on the door! The bloody door hadn’t shut properly because of the sticking frame issue, and this was a security guard making sure all was OK. Shakily, we assured him it was. It took him two goes to bang the door shut. A real fire hazard for someone without the strength to open it.

Took us both a while to get back to sleep after that and, of course, we had an early get-up for our House of Commons tour. Likely to be curly at the edges when I report back tomorrow…..

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