Sabrina was our guide on the ‘hop on, hop off’ open-top-bus tour of Ottawa. She was a healthy looking young woman with grinning white teeth, a Pippy Longstocking plait and an inexhaustible store of exciting facts about Ottawa.
‘Did you know that every day, the flag on top of the parliament building is taken down and donated to a Canadian citizen. If you want one of these flags, the waiting list is… Can you guess?… 96 years!!!’
We crossed the river, to fine views of Parliament and the city.
And, on the other side of the bridge, found that we had left, not only the city of Ottawa, but also the province of Ontario. We were now in Gatineau, Quebec, where all the laws were different, causing, every Saturday night, waves of teenagers to cross the border to buy legal alcohol.
There were other differences in Gatineau. In Ottawa, you couldn’t walk down the road without being battered by yoga mats poking out of tote bags or across a shoulder, but in Quebec, there were different fitness practices. In our experience, admittedly based on only twenty minutes trundling down the highway on a bus, Quebecois liked playing football (mixed male/female teams playing real football, not the American one) in the park and doing circuit training on tiny triangles of grass in front on their office building. To my mind that showed impressive dedication to the cause of fitness.
Apparently, Celine Dion* is from Quebec and that was Sabrina’s cue to burst into song at every opportunity. On a particularly windy (and bumpy) section of the journey, she had to be restrained from draping herself over the front of the bus for ‘My Heart Will Go On’.
Other highlights included; Justin Trudeau’s house, the U.S. Ambassador’s house, the stables where you can buy Mounties’ reject horses for only CD$25,000 (just how much would the horses who passed the tests cost?), the Aviation and Space Museum, The Royal Canadian Mint, and the War Museum with its poignant ‘Lest We Forget’ motif in morse code. For every landmark there was an interesting fact, one of which (that the new ten dollar bills had been scented with maple) was sadly exposed as an urban myth later in the day by an employee of the Bank of Canada. They should know, I guess…
At the end of the tour, we queued to get off and I noticed that the tips jar was crammed to bursting with well-deserved gratuities for a most entertaining bus tour guide. Thank you Sabrina, you made our day.
*Sadly, there was, at no point, any mention whatsoever of Canada’s foremost musical genius, the great Joni Mitchell. There were no renditions of Big Yellow Taxi or any of the masterpieces quoted in my blog titles. Oh, Canada hah!
While we were in Ottawa we stayed at the Les Suites Hotel on Besserer St near the Byward Market. We visited the Canadian Museum of History the National Art Gallery the Bank of Canada Museum and the Byward Market and we loved them all.