A Capital Affair

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July 29th 2016
Published: July 30th 2016
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Another long day, but mostly on my feet and not in the car at all. As with yesterday, I think I’ll let the photos do most of the talking. My day consisted of visiting places that were within walking distance of my Jail Hostel, which is pretty ideally located. If you don’t have a lot of money and don’t mind sleeping in a very small room with no a/c, then I would highly recommend this place. Do bring ear plugs, because I’ve found out why I stopped staying in hostels (as a general rule) a few years back – unlike dorms or even most apartments, people in hostels have no sense of other people’s sensitivities. So they talk at all hours of the night or slam doors. They’re just inconsiderate, and I have to assume it’s not intentional. The halls here are probably the same as when the jail existed, so noises reverberate. Plus I know my door makes a godawful sound when I open it. So, yeah.

Anyway, this morning I visited the Royal Canadian Mint. The walk was about 15 minutes but the air was still so nice and cool. It was quite pleasant to be out at that time – just after 9AM. I had been told that tours tend to sell out the later you get, so I thought I would get there at the earliest possible time – the 1st tour was at 10. It was already sold out, but I got on the 10:15 tour. In the meantime, I bought a Star Trek $20 coin as well as a 2016 proof set of Canadian coins. I was pleased. Our tour was given by a guide named Elsa, and she showed us the history of the mint as well as examples of what they did. At several places, we even saw people and machines minting the coins. The tour only cost $6 and lasted about 50 minutes, so if you’re in town, it’s a pretty cool thing to do.

My next stop was Parliament Hill, which is beautiful. The buildings, the landscape, even the sky showed out. Unfortunately, so did the droves of tourists. The line for free tour tickets of Parliament was backed up out of the building, so I gave it a miss, thinking I could just come back later when the other things were done. I continued walking down Wellington St and found the old Bank of Montreal buildings, in the art deco style. So I stopped and photo’d and gave my respects. It was almost noon at this point, and I stumbled upon Sparks St, a pedestrian street just one block behind Wellington, where oodles of restaurants and street performers could be found. I walked up one side and down the other before finally settling on a place called Brixton’s, sort of a pub-type place with outdoor umbrella seating. I wanted a/c so I went inside. I got that burger I had been craving since Halifax, and I even got to catch up on American politics thanks to the Canadian new broadcast being subtitled on the TV across the bar from me. Hooray. Ugh.

After lunch, I wanted to get to the Supreme Court because IT’S ART DECO! I was afraid I’d miss the free tour at 1PM because lunch took a while, and I did arrive about 4 minutes late, but the lady at the desk asked if I was interested, because they had just started one and I could join them. Yes. I had to go through a metal detector, which was more thorough than the one in Québec. But I joined the “tour” as the guide was talking about the Canadian judicial system. Pretty interesting stuff – I think their system is much more functional than ours. Anyway, after looking at some of the pictures of former and current judges on the walls and watching a few things from the guide’s ipad on the big screen, we were shown into the Appeals Court room. It wasn’t huge but the ceilings were so high. We got a history of this part of the Canadian judicial system and then a mini lesson on the architecture of the building and some info on art deco. Swoon. After that, the ‘tour’ was over. Two rooms and that was really it. So, it was free, so I can’t really complain. It was about 25 minutes, because the same lady had to go give the next tour in French at 1:30. I hung around and took photos of the interior, which I posted. Totally loved this building.

After the Supreme Court, I had a choice to make: walk further afield to the Canadian War Museum or walk back to Parliament. I figured I’d be walking back by Parliament later anyway, and I wasn’t sure how long the War Museum would take me. It was about 15 minutes to get to the museum, and when prompted, I used my student ID to get a discount down to $11. Always hand to have that. And it’s a good thing I went to the museum first. It was massive. It doesn’t look so big, but all the exhibits are tortuous, winding around corners within their designated areas. The ‘special’ exhibit you go to before the main stuff was about WWI air battles. I had forgotten that zeppelins and hot air balloons were used in the war, and they had special parts devoted to that. It was very kid friendly, and I think it may have been designed with kids particularly in mind. Anyway, after that, you wind your way through 4 exhibits that go chronologically through Canada’s history. They each become longer than the previous one. The first one took maybe 20 minutes, and I’ll admit I wasn’t reading everything or playing every video. It took you up to the end of the 1800s. I will say that the designers took special delight in talking about the times Canada beat America during the revolutionary period and in the War of 1812. Oh, well. The second exhibit takes you from the Boer War to WWI because Canada apparently had to decide whether or not it was still completely British or whether they would make their own decisions. Not to mention these were the first wars where Canada sent troops abroad and they proved that they were a force to be reckoned with. I always think of Canadians as peaceful people – who knew? The third exhibit was about WWII, and it starts off with one of the prizes of the exhibit, one of Hitler’s touring Mercedes. Check the photos. The exhibit was pretty impressive overall – lots of personal stories and definitely slanted towards the costs of war and away from glorifying conflicts. I decided to skip the 4th exhibit, since the subject matter didn’t interest me as much and because my feet were killing me. But doing all of that had taken two hours. So, if you wanna do the whole thing, plan at least 3 hours.

On the walk back to the Parliament Hill, I noticed that the sun had become warmer during my time in the museum. So I wasn’t particularly upset that the ticket office for Parliament tours had already closed, despite tours going until after 7PM. So, I have to make a choice about whether or not I’ll get up tomorrow and head over there for a 9AM tour before heading on to Toronto. I imagine that the line on the weekend will be worse that weekdays. Probably won’t do it, but I’ll have to see how sleep treats me tonight. So instead of Parliament, I meandered along the streets nearby and ended up going down to the riverside along the Rideau Canal locks, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s been working for 200 years and does seem impressive for early 19th-century technology. The views at the bottom were great, and the people watching was not bad, either.

Now I’m back in my jail cell and completely wiped. Another long day of walking and a night of so-so sleep has contributed to this fatigue. I’d like to feel refreshed before I make the 4-hour drive to Toronto tomorrow, so I may just stay in and read tonight before turning in early. Again, we’ll see how I feel in an hour or so…

Additional photos below
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30th July 2016
Parliament building in Ottawa

Nice architecture

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