Day two and we woke up at a reasonable time, though Glen would have liked to sleep in. We had breakfast in the hotel, which was ok but not great. Glen wanted fruit loops but I told him no. Surprisingly, he took notice of my warnings and he got corn flakes instead.
We then shared two chocolate croissants.
After breakfast we walked to Parliament to get tickets for the tour of the building. When we came in October, we weren’t able to get in without waiting hours so this time I was determined to see it. Also, Vaughan and Tim told us about the library inside, which sounded amazing.
We got our tickets for 10:50 then messaged Peter and Royden as they wanted to come along too and were in town for the weekend as well.
The tour was great and led by Chantall, a wonderful tour guide who was losing her voice. The tour didn’t seem to go very long and was populated with interesting stories rather than dry, dull facts that no one cares about.
We saw the House of Commons, the Rotunda and the Library. The library truly is a sight worth seeing and I actually gasped when I entered. It’s the only part of the building to survive the fire that engulfed the building in 1916. It survived because the librarian had the presence of mind to close the iron doors as he left so it was spared. Stunning.
We also heard about the bizarre Throne Speech ritual which takes place once a year. The governor-general (acting as Her Majesty’s representative) gives a speech in the Senate once a year, to which the representatives in the House of Commons are invited.
The Usher of the Black Rod knocks on the doors to the House five times, at which point an MP says to the Speaker there’s someone at the door. The Speaker denies this and says they should pay more attention to the work at hand.
Five minutes pass and the Usher knocks again, this time 12 times. At which the Speaker says now there is someone knocking and to let them in.
The Usher enters, invites the MPs and the Speaker…refuses. They don’t want to listen to Her Majesty and have more important things to do. The Usher asks again and the Speaker relents. Everyone trundles up the hall to the Senate and listens to the speech.
What a strange piece of political theatre!
After the tour, we were then free to go up the Peace Tower, which gives a fantastic view over Ottawa, and then into the Memorial Chamber, where the war dead are recorded and honoured in books pertaining to the war in which they died. The pages are then turned once a. Day so every soldier’s name is shown at least once a year.
There’s also a really cool memorial above the door to the animals that served in the wars.
The whole building is wonderfully decorated, particularly of the inside. Everywhere you look, there is some detail to be explored. They just don’t make buildings with that kind of fancy anymore. I’m glad we made the effort to go.
Skating on the Rideau Canal
Afterwards, the four of us walked to Clarence St to meet Tim, Vaughan, Adam and Rob for a late breakfast/early lunch at a really good English pub called the Black Thorn. The weekend had now turned into a boys’ weekend.
Once we’d eaten, we headed off to collect our skates from the hotel and then down to the start of the Rideau Canal. We put our skates on while Tim and Vaughan hired a sleigh for us to put our things in (very helpful).
I’m glad we had our three skating lessons as I felt a lot more confident on the ice. I’m not yet perfect or able to glide a lot, and definitely can’t go backwards or do fast spins, but I was happy with how I went.
We stopped at one of the little food stops (that also had a toilet) and had our first Beavertail (deep fried pastry coated in cinnamon sugar), which was tasty, and hot apple cider.
A few of us had turns of being pushed in the sled, which was a nice way of getting down the canal. Not so nice for the person pushing.
At the 5 km mark, Tim and Vaughan turned back to return the sled (because you can only hire and return at the start) while the six of us continued on. We made it to 5.6km, at which point you do a bit of a dog leg, then go to the 7.8 km mark.
I got really tired and started to lose strength in my legs but pushed on. The last kilometre is marked every 200 metres so it didn’t feel so long. The end marker was a welcome sight and I was proud of myself for reaching the end without major incident.
It also felt like a quintessential Canada thing to do, to go skating along the Rideau. It’s also a nice journey, going through urban and natural areas, plus the weather was really good. And we skated on a canal! How cool is that!
The six of us then put our shoes back on and walked alongside the canal down to a major hub. We then walked over the canal and caught the free Snow Bus back to the city centre.
Dinner in Ottawa
It was about 4:30. We split and returned to our respective hotels to dump the skates and have a bit of a rest. We then met at 6pm to find some place for dinner.
After a couple of false starts, we got in at The Standard and the eight of us fit into a table in the corner. We ordered drinks and food, half of us getting through our first drinks and on to the second before the food came. This made for very lively conversation. We had a great waitress as well who kept us happy.
We all thought three hours must have gone by but it was only 8:30 by the time we finished, everyone worn out after the day’s activities. That didn’t stop us going for dessert at the gelato place two doors down and spoiling ourselves yet again.
We were done by 9:30, eager to head back to the hotel and sleep. Pete and Royden said farewell as they had to meet another friend briefly and were catching a morning flight back to Toronto.
The remaining six of us walked back up the road and checked out the ice sculptures. Some impressive pieces there. Amazing what can be done with frozen water.
Adam and Rob then left as they were really knackered, while Glen, Tim, Vaughan and I hung around and danced for a little while longer to the music that was being played. There was a stage and light show, playing some good tunes, while winter-themed stilt walkers paraded around. (There was even a two person polar bear stilt walker.)
We could have danced longer, but equally, we (or at least the majority of us) were ready for bed. So off we went, happy for everything we’d been to and done, and the time spent with friends.