I'm currently on the train to Montreal from Ottawa, and I can say that the first 24 hours have gone pretty much as expected, with one exception. It's hot as hell.
I'm lucky to have brought some clothes appropriate for this weather, since I normally try to ESCAPE the heat when I come to Canada. But after I had already bought my plane ticket, the forecast changed dramatically. It's now supposed to be hotter here than it is in Georgia, the place from whose heat I was hoping to escape. One particular item that was last minute, but which has garnered quite a few envious stares and comments, is my Arkansas boonie hat. Wide brim all around and ventilation up top. I put it in my bag literally as I was walking out the door from my apartment yesterday. Looks like it'll be one of the best clothing choices I could've made.
Yesterday was Canada Day, so that was fun. I flew in to Ottawa, and as soon as we left the airport we could see fireworks from the direction of Parliament Hill, which was my destination. Speaking of the airport, it's always so nice not to
have any checked bags. I brought a duffle bag as my carry on, containing all my clothes, and then my adidas bag to keep my computer and a couple of books. Breeze right through security and customs. And this was the first time I've ever gotten a Canadian passport stamp, despite many trips through here. I don't know if that was necessarily a good thing, or if it's because of recent developments in US-Canadian relations. But I got one now, so check that off the list.
As it turned out, I got to the festivities just as they were winding down. That was a bummer. But there were still loads of people and many of the restaurants were still open. I didn't need food, but as soon as I had checked into my hotel, I went back outside into the miserable heat and made my way up to Parliament Hill. Lots of Canadian detritus, for sure, and many vendors selling cheap stuff with the red maple leaf. I refrained from buying anything.
My hotel in Ottawa was the Lord Elgin Hotel, I think the 2nd oldest and definitely one of the swankiest hotels in
town. They were asking people to show their room keys before being allowed into the lobby when I arrived. So they had to go make sure I already had a reservation before they would let me go in. Exclusivity. Waiting for me in my room were two maple leaf-shaped cookies with red and white and 2018 written on them. I'll be partaking of them before I get off this train. But the room was really nice and cool, and after walking around today, I can't say too much how I appreciate that coolness.
I ordered breakfast from the hotel restaurant before I went to bed last night, and it showed up right at the time I had specified this morning. Pretty good way to start the day. After that, I took a shower because I had gotten far too sweaty yesterday. Then I headed to the Royal Canadian Mint, a typical stop when I come to Ottawa, so I could get the 2018 coin set. After that was acquired, I meandered around the Byward Market and found a cold drink and a Beaver tail (the official snack of Ottawa) at Beaver Tails in the Byward Market. The
lady behind the counter was also handing out cold canned drinks for free, advising people to stay hydrated. I took a Coke, since I hadn't had any caffeine yet. Imagine giving away free canned drinks in America, just for the kindness of it.
I didn't do much else in Ottawa. I had to check out by noon, so after I made sure everything was in order and I stored my bags with the concierge, I walked around Parliament Hill one last time. I had hoped to see the Supreme Court again, but like last year, the entire front lawn was covered with crap. And I didn't see anybody really around there, either. Since Canada Day fell on Sunday this year, the observation of Canada Day is today, so I figured the Supreme Court was probably closed anyway. So I went to McDonald's for cheap food, good air conditioning, and free Wi-Fi. Then it was back to the hotel to collect my bags before taking the bus to the train station.
What else can I say? I've been kidded a couple of times about the new American policy toward Canada, once they see my passport.
But it's all in good fun, since I think most Canadians probably feel less confrontational than Americans. Mercifully. As with any time I travel solo and have to go through customs and answer questions, they all wonder why I'm here because I guess it's just too weird for them to think someone would travel alone to a foreign country without knowing anyone there. Welcome to my life.
And I really can't overstate the surprise of this heat. It is all most people can talk about. And I'm glad I brought some dri-fit shirts because they keep me cooler and they also don't show how sweaty I must really be all day. Seriously, it was 92 degrees Fahrenheit before noon today. I'm pretty sure it hasn't been like that in Athens, GA, all summer.
Since I had a final exam to write last week, on top of helping out with Vacation Bible School with the church all week, I didn't have much time to plan this trip besides the basics: transportation and hotels. What I hoped to do each day, well, that was a general plan at best. I've had some time on planes and
at the airport to work out some of that, but this is still the least amount of planning I've done for any international trip I've ever taken.
Lastly, Newark airport is hot and crowded, at least the terminal I was at. But I'm glad they had a shuttle for us from the terminal where we arrived and to the terminal where we needed to be for flights that departed in less than an hour. I was nervous about that, but they make sure it works out, so kudos to them.
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