|Gantineau, from The Hill|
A trip into Ottawa, the nation's capital was on the cards today, planned for a Saturday as it'd be quieter, and so it turned out to be.
The weather was being nice and we headed north into blue skies and sunshine on a highway that was really, really quiet. Once into Ottawa's environs, things picked up a little but in no time we were off the highway and making for the World Exchange Centre, just a few hundred metres from the Parliament buildings in the downtown area. Like Boston, the financial district is deserted at the weekend and the World Exchange Centre's capacious underground parking garage is free to use so, having driven past all the parking garages further out offering parking at the bargain price of $9 for the day, we were parked in underground splendour, free and for nothing. I was beginning to like Ottawa already.
Emerging into the eerily quiet street, we made our way up to "The Hill" and the Parliament Building. The whole of downtown Ottawa was quiet, quieter than a Capital has a right to be, really, and I thought of what London can be like on a Saturday - yuk. Still, the lack of people favoured us, that's for sure. On such a nice day we decided that a tour of Parliament wasn't the right thing to do so we walked around it in the sunshine and made our way to the rear terrace that offered spectacular views of the Ottawa River, Gatineau on the north bank (actually in the Province of Quebec) and the Gatineau Hills beyond. There were more visitors about here, mostly French speaking, all of whom seemed delighted to be there. The architecture of Ottawa is very Canadian with the big buildings being done in a style that is a sort of cross between French Chateaux and American Office Blocks; large and imposing but with turrets and towers. The Government buildings were all in a state of re-modelling with many of the copper roofs being renewed. This meant that some parts of the roofs were glowing copper, others dull copper and the rest green, much to the chagrin of Mrs T who felt that she'd have liked all burnished copper glinting in the sun or all green. Anyway, it was all very grand, especially in the sunshine.
Our next stop was the Three Brewers Brewery and Bar in Sparks Street. Sparks Street is traffic-free and lined with restaurants, most open, but not all as I suppose they'd really want to cater for the weekday office crowds. The Three Brewers was open and had the final thirty minutes of the Swansea v. Man Utd game on the TVs there, so in we went. I think Ottawa is little more sophisticated than a lot of places we'd visited recently as the menu had a lot of stuff for the veggie loving Mrs T as well as the usual meaty stuff. A fine meal was enjoyed by the toads and it was with a curious reluctance that we hit the hot streets again. We went the length of Sparks Street, past the Cenotaph (oft seen on the telly in November), down to the Rideau Canal and to the long staircase of locks that takes boats to the Ottawa River below.
The heat was beginning to tell, now, so after consulting some Parks Canada types, we made our way to Byward Market and the Beaver Tail vendors. Beaver Tails are an edible delicacy that have very little to do with actual beavers, thank goodness, but they are much loved by kids as they are sickly sweet. Read more here. Whilst in the market, the small tadpole happened upon a street vendor called Jammy Yang who, it appeared, could write your name on a piece of rice for you for $10 and for $15 add a picture, too. Small tadpole's name is short, so that was easy and took up one side of the rice, but she asked for a Greyhound picture on the other and Jammy, bless him, had to look up what a greyhound looked like on his iPhone. He eventually found a Greyhound Bus graphic and painted that onto the back of the rice and what a corking job he did. We had a few minutes chat and it seems that he has an entry in the Guinness Book Of Records for the most detailed landscape painted onto a grain of rice and, originally from China, he has been all over the world making money as a Microcalligraphist (what a great word!). Well done, Jammy, we were mightily impressed.
|Jammy at work|
|The finished article|
We'd had enough by now and started the hot walk back to the parking garage, which took a tad longer than it did on the way out. To remain consistent for the trip, we managed to get stuck in a traffic jam three floors down in the garage when the barriers at the exits began to get a bit stroppy when people who owed money, that is those that had left their cars overnight on Friday, tried to get out of the garage without paying. We thought we might get stuck for good down there but a quick about turn and we escaped via another exit and made the street whilst there was still oxygen to breath in there. (Just kidding, it was really well vented).
Back at base and the tadpoles disappeared again (what took them so long?) and Mrs T and I settled in for a quiet evening. Our neighbour, on the hunt for an iPhone charger, then proceeded to tell me that I should never tow with the Toadmobile in the US as it was highly illegal. He didn't mention lethal injection or firing squad but I could see that he wanted to. I stood my ground and he went away disappointed that I had a different view from his. Ho hum, everyone else knows best it seems.
Tomorrow is a free day for the boys and a boat trip for the girls. Find out why with another exciting post in Toads Go East!