Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Ottawa's Parliament Hill

As I walked around the beautiful gates of Parliament Hill in Ottawa, after my early morning bus from Montreal and a quick breakfast, I happened to reach the lawn in front of the grand building just in time to catch the changing of the guards. Rows and rows of red coats, with full black fluffy hats, all playing a part in the band and marching in unison. Very much like the display in London, Canada's political motherland!

There were so many similarities to Old London Town in and around Parliament Hill, with it's iconic clock tower and many of the Queen's markings around. Of course, like Westminister, this is the building that houses Canada's government workings, both houses of parliament, and the wealth of history of the country right here.

The day I visited was the day after the Canada Day celebrations, and so the process of dismantling the massive stage in front of the Centre Block was going on. I walked all the way past the main building and along the river's edge behind it, to take in the view across the water, but also of the Library and statues of Parliament Hill.

I signed up for a free tour through the interior of the Centre Block, and then joined the queue for the security process into the building to ride the world's smallest elevator for such a public monument, to the observation level of the Peace Tower.

From up here the view was amazing, but the detail and beauty of the Tower was also fascinating. The gothic structures along the line up for the elevator were also very impressive, and worth the prolonged time standing within this space.

I joined my tour at the time of commencement, but inside after seeing the Peace Tower, and joined a group who were taken around the most important building of Canada by a volunteer college student. She took us through the halls, the House of Commons and the Senate, and pointed out many details, features, and tributes to Prime Ministers past.

It was actually pretty interesting, and I really enjoyed this glimpse into Canada's history and function. As it was a public holiday, we had additional access to areas not always open to the tours, which meant we saw as much as could be on display. It was certainly a worthwhile time investment to do the full tour.

Once I had completed the tour and the wander around the front gardens and the West Block outer, I walked across the canal and along the waterway to get to Major's Hill Park for a view of Parliament Hill from across Ottawa River. A spectacular view, given the sunshine and blue sky as the backdrop to these beautiful buildings.

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