- The City of Tulips
Ottawa
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I'm a Canadian and I am so proud of that fact. As I walked along Wellington Street, touching base with our history, I was overwhelmed with my good fortune. The very sight of the majestic Parliament Buildings, the Peace Tower and that wonderful Canadian flag unfurled at its peak, made the adrenalin flow.
Canada's history and culture come alive in Ottawa. This city, more than any other, represents our past and unites us as a nation. It's always a thrill to be here.
What's new in Ottawa? After three years of construction there are no more detour signs on Wellington Street. Here we see the National Archives and the Supreme Court of Canada but it is also famous for a subterranean reason - it might very well be the richest street in the world: The Bank of Canada vaults under the street, house the largest single gold depository in the world.
What's new in Ottawa? After three years of construction there are no more detour signs on Wellington Street. Here we see the National Archives and the Supreme Court of Canada but it is also famous for a subterranean reason - it might very well be the richest street in the world: The Bank of Canada vaults under the street, house the largest single gold depository in the world.
As the showplace of Canada, Ottawa is famous for its three million spring tulips, and the 'emerald necklace' of parks and wilderness that surround the city. It is ideally located at the juncture of three rivers - the Rideau, the Ottawa and the Gatineau . Long before Queen Victoria chose it as the capital in 1857, the native people used these waterways as highways.
The Rideau Canal built between 1826-1832 created an all-important link to the St. Lawrence River, making the settlement more accessible. Now the Canal has become a top tourist attraction for thousands of boaters who ply over the tree-lined 202 km waterway. In winter, the part of the canal in the heart of the city, is transformed into a 7.8 km long skating rink - the longest in the world.
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With its unique blend of English and French, Ottawa has flourished as a government centre and a tourist destination. Ottawa now boasts over 50 galleries and theatres show casing the best of Canadian and international art, theatre, music and dance performances. As well, the capital city is blessed with 29 museums, 12 of which are national institutions.
During the summer months, same-day tickets are easily available for all tours offered on Parliament Hill at the Info-Tent. The rest of the year, the Visitor Welcome Centre in the Centre Block offers tours. When Parliament is in session, passes are available for the public galleries of the Senate and the House of Commons.
We were peering into the House of Parliament, and trying to take pictures through the glass windows when Joe Fontana, the Liberal member for London North Centre, jovially let us in and acted as our guide. What a nice man!
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The Peace Tower
Following the Great War, Canadians decided to create a monument like no other, in memory of the men and women who died serving their country.The Peace Tower was dedicated on July 1,1927 before a cheering crowd of thousands. It is significant to note that the monument was called the Peace Tower and not a name which would glorify conflict - a true mirror to the Canadian soul. Standing 92 metres it dominates the skyline and offers a wonderful view of Ottawa.
 
Canadian War Museum
The Canadian War Museum houses the most comprehensive collection of military history in Canada. This museum would take days to see thoroughly. Marvellous displays and interesting artifacts add zest to our history. Like the jacket worn by Sir Isaac Brock at Queenston Heights, October 13, 1812, with one little bullet hole in the chest.
Hitler's limousine, is one of the most popular artifacts in the collection. A few months ago the museum floated the idea of selling Hitler's car but there was such a public uproar that the museum administration changed its collective mind. The administrators believed the limousine could bring more than $20 million.

The replica of a Japanese Prisoner of War compound is too real for comfort. Most surprising for me was a balloon, one of 6,000 released by the Japanese on the Pacific jet stream from December '43 to April '45, of which 73 landed in Canada. They were built to cause damage, start forest fires and demoralize the public.
This one was recovered in January 1945 near Minton, Sask., in tact. Inspection revealed where it had been made and that site was bombed.
 
The R.C.M.P. Musical Ride
The R.C.M.P. Stables are open to the public at no charge. It was interesting to watch them practice for the Musical Ride. Constable Mark Dureau, the tour planner is preparing 125 shows with 45 stops, booked mostly for Manitoba and Ontario this summer. When they go on the road, 36 horses and 46 officers travel together.
Canadians gets preference over international invitations.
The horses are Thoroughbreds, bred for colour (black), size, uniformity and good temperament. This breeding program has been going on for over 50 years with the old horses auctioned to recoup some of the expenses. One named Jake recently went for $34,000.00. Every year a fresh batch of six-year olds are ridden for the first time but It takes three years to train a horse for the celebrated ride. These horses are extremely well looked after.
Riders get a five-week trial course and if they aren't accepted, they can't try again. Tom Foulis, one of the 29 officers taking basic training now, has wanted to be in the Musical Rides for 18 years. Only 14 will be chosen to go on to the intermediate course which takes another eight months and then they are ready to ride with the veterans.
 
The Casino de Hull
The Casino de Hull, just 4 kilometers from Parliament Hill is a world-class gambling casino with 48 gaming tables, 1300 slot machines and two restaurants.
After trying my luck at the casino, my next stop was the Royal Canadian Mint to watch coins being minted. Coins made here have a reputation for excellence and are used as commemorative and collector coins for Canada and many clients around the world. Unfortunately, there are no free samples and photos are not allowed.
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The National Gallery of Canada

The National Gallery presents the finest collection of Canadian and European art, including renowned works by the Group of Seven and international masterpieces by Rembrandt and Van Gogh. A special exhibition of Monet, Renoir and the Impressionist Landscape runs from June 2 -August 27.
 
Rideau Hall
One Sussex Drive, the official residence of the Governor General, is open to the public. In summer, some guides are dressed in period costume and there are tours, activities for children and outdoor concerts. Governor General Adrienne Clarkson welcomed us and asked us to take this message back to our communities, 'We want Canadians to visit us here at Rideau Hall.'
We were entertained with tea and cookies and given the opportunity to converse with and take pictures of, our charming Governor General.
 
Turtle Island Tourism Company
This company won the 'Best New Tourism Company -1999' award from Ottawa Tourism. They offer authentic aboriginal experiences on Victoria Island in downtown Ottawa with dancing, drumming, foods, story telling, crafts, artifacts and history.
For information call: (877) 811-3233.
Our last night was spent at the Chateau Laurier, a CAA-AAA Four Diamond hotel that always delivers elegance and superb service. While searching out yet one more sumptuous banquet table, I looked out a window which framed an unexpected but most beautiful view of the Peace Tower, the huge maple leaf unfurled at its peak, magnificent in the light of a bright, full moon. What a wonderful memory.
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When You Go
By Air:
Flights from 18 major Canadian cities provided by: Canada 3000, Air Canada and Canadian Airlines.
May 12-22 - Canadian Tulip Festival, the largest tulip festival in the world.
May 18-Sept 4 - 'Reflections of Canada: A Symphony of Sound and Light'. The building of a nation unfolds on the lawns in front of the Centre Block.
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July 1- The biggest day of the year when tens of thousands flood Parliament Hill and Confederation Boulevard for Canada Day celebrations.
 
More Must-See Sights
1. The Canadian Museum of Civilization - Not to be missed. Canada's development from the Vikings to the present day.
2. Laurier House National Historic Site - home of two Prime Ministers, Sir Wilfred Laurier (1897-1919) and William Lyon Mackenzie King (1923-1950).
3. Rideau Canal/Ottawa Locks- the canal stretches from Ottawa to Kingston through 24 scenic lock stations.
4. National Archives of Canada- open year round, daily. One of Canada's leading cultural institutions, for collecting and preserving everything that is important to our nation.
5. The National Arts Center- enjoy the best in music, opera and theatre.
6. Bytown Museum- at the foot of the Rideau locks, the oldest stone building in Ottawa, explores local history.
7. Gatineau Park, a recreational paradise in any season, is just 15 minutes north of Ottawa. It is also home to the charming Mackenzie King Estate (Kingsmere), the summer home of Canada's 10th and longest-serving Prime Minister.

Ottawa Tourism and Convention Authority: 1-800-465-1867
consumer website
www.ottawa.com
at 90 Wellington Street.
 
For information call:
Visit the Capital Infocentre