First off, Ottawa is Canada’s capitol city, which probably makes it really interesting to Canadians. We confess to being a tad underwhelmed, however, because we’ve been to Quebec City, and Montreal, and Halifax, and Calgary, etc. That said, we did manage to see some stuff.
At first glance, this might appear to be a photo of Parliament Hill, where the Canadian legislature plans to fully return after renovations are done. In 2028.
Back around 1815 they planned to build a huge fort on the hill to protect the city from dirty Americans, but such an attack never came, probably because the Americans concluded that a people who are nice and polite and eat poutine don’t pose much military risk. But it’s not a photo of Parliament Hill. It’s actually a photo of yet another one of those absurdly unseaworthy tiki bar boats and the first eight of the 47 locks on the Rideau Canal.
Speaking of buildings that might fall down any second, we passed 24 Sussex both by boat and by foot. 24 Sussex is the address of the Prime Minister’s magnificent official residence.
Except Justin Trudeau can’t live there, because it’s falling apart. True story. It’s also true that the name of the joint is “Gorffwysfa,” which sounds like a middle-earth mountain where Bilbo Baggins might fight dragons. But it does look cool.
The Governor General—who is Queen Elizabeth’s representative and thus attends all the Royal Parties and such—has a much better home with the much better name “Rideau Hall,” located just down the street from Justin’s dump.* There’s a nice statue that appears to be of a horse named Elizabeth II in front of the entrance.
In 1613, Samuel de Champlain—who we’ve discussed at length before—spotted a waterfall just past where the Prime Minister would live if he didn’t fear a roof collapse. Proving to be far more original than whatever copycat serially used “Bridal Veil,” Champlain named the waterfall “Rideau,”—which apparently is French for “curtain”—and thereby also named a river, a canal, and the Governor General’s house, among other things.
Here’s the Royal Canadian Mint, which pumps out loonies and toonies, which in turn makes us jealous because American coins don’t have fun nicknames. Plus, we don’t even have a $2 coin. Do we?
Because we’re damn classy people despite what our blog might suggest—or possibly because the giant spider lured us—we also visited the National Gallery of Canada.
Very cool stuff inside. Like a completely relocated chapel. And giant pills, the reason for which wasn’t immediately apparent.
And among other things the walls were hung with Monets, Renoirs, and Picassos, by Van Gogh.**
On one stroll around town we passed the Spanish Ambassador’s house, which only is significant to us because the Spanish Ambassador’s son Pepito is a Bad Hat.
Anyway, we saw a bunch of other cool stuff and the canal at night from our bow was awesome but then it was time to leave.
Sunday morning, we headed roughly south. Yup, the canal is awesome in daylight too.
In the winter the canal freezes over and becomes a huge ice-skating rink. We’re sure that’s neat and all, but we’ll be in shorts and t-shirts playing pickleball at Cholla Park, thank you very much.
This may look like just another bridge, but it’s the Heron Road Bridge, which more technically is the “Heron Road Workers Memorial Bridge.”
It’s a bridge, but also a memorial, because nine dudes were killed when a chunk of it collapsed during construction in 1966. Some were buried in wet concrete, which has to be a horrible way to go.
Although portions of the Rideau Canal are, well, canals, the waterway also is full of scenic lakes and spectacular stretches of the Rideau River.
At one point we popped out of a lock into traumatic flashbacks of Maine lobster-pot minefields.
Turns out it was some sort of paddling competition, because a guy with a bullhorn advised all of us boaters that there were “athletes on the course.”
Hey look! Another “beach.”
This is a first. We greatly admire anyone willing to sacrifice a good hat for the sake of being funny.
Quick stop Sunday night in the weeds at Hurst Marina, where we bottomed out but somehow made it up to the cute restaurant without sucking anything into the strainer.
Yesterday was a pretty easy run down to Smiths Falls. And just pretty as well.
We’ve now done something close to two-hundred locks, but stopping in the middle of the road is novel.
At one corner we rounded upon what looked like smoke from a forest fire. Almost made us homesick for Arizona, but then we remembered it was 74°, so nah.
A brief moment to recognize the Parcs Canada workers—mostly college kids—who operate the locks and bridges the same way college kids have been doing it for a couple of hundred years. All by hand. No touchy electronic controls to go haywire just as we’re in harms way.
Wait, did someone mention loonies? Dana bagged a real one, not the one on the $1 coin.
This part of the waterway is farm country. The silos give it away.
Then on in to Smiths Falls. Smiths Falls is the “Crossroads of the Rideau,” because the river met the railroad which met the road and led to grist mills and tractor manufacturing and such. The actual falls aren’t as impressive as, say, the Rideau Falls or the Chute Montmorency we passed in Quebec a few summers ago, but with Tumbleweed as a background it’s still photo-worthy.
The best part of Smiths Falls was catching up with New Horizon, who we last saw at Coeymans south of Albany. They’re heading the other way, back to Massachusetts, so this probably was the last time we’ll all discuss tea.
Because today there was a “Severe Thunderstorm Warning” with a 100% chance of wind and rain, we decided to stay put for a pedicure and oil change, which only the one of us who now sports pretty toenails enjoyed. At one point it looked like the weather apocalypse was approaching so we dashed back to the boat from town to avoid a certain drenching.
Meh. It didn’t even rain before the sun popped back out. At that point all our weather apps said 0% chance of rain.
But then it started raining. Hard. And kept at it for two hours.
Tomorrow we face more locks and shallow spots and narrow spots and insanely gorgeous bits of Ontario. It’s not supposed to rain any more for the foreseeable future. Which means exactly nothing.
*Her Excellency the Right Honourable Mary Simon serves “at the pleasure of Her Majesty,” which is very British, and also may be one of the reasons French-Canadians are testy. When we asked our twenty-something waitress what the Governor General actually does, she basically said “Hubbada hubbada I don’t recall much from grade six social studies.” The tour guide at Rideau Hall didn’t really do much better. All she could add is that the Governor General signs documents for the Queen and ceremonially opens sessions of Parliament.
**Credit to Woody Allen for “Picassos, by Van Gogh.”