Ottawa is on the south bank of Ottawa River and so its name. “Odawa,” in Algonquin means “to trade”. In 1800, a New Englander named Philemon Wright, along with five families and twenty-five laborers, created the first settlement in this area. His idea was to start an agricultural trade and became the pioneer in timber trading in Canada. Anumita tells us about Ottawa, in the third and final part of her travelogues, exclusively in Different Truths.
The final leg of our Canada sojourn was Ottawa. The capital of the country and said to be the most educated and ranking the highest in employment. No wonder it is deemed to be the best city to live in Canada.
Ottawa is on the south bank of Ottawa River and so its name. “Odawa,” in Algonquin means “to trade”. In 1800, a New Englander named Philemon Wright, along with five families and twenty-five laborers, created the first settlement in this area. His idea was to start an agricultural trade and became the pioneer in timber trading in Canada. The rivers in that area were used to transport the logs to Quebec City.
Bytown was Ottawa’s original name. It was a community settlement during 1826.
First thing on our to-visit list was the Parliament Hill. ‘The Hill,’ as popularly known in the area, is a block of land which houses the parliament, and different official buildings. Its Gothic revival architecture attracts visitors from around the world. The Centre Block was reconstructed during 1927 after a fire destroyed it in earlier years. The Centre Block is now complete with the Peace Tower, which has visiting hours and is always filled with visitors.
The tickets to visit these magnificent buildings is dispersed at the visitors’ center across the Hill. As we were visiting few days after Canada Day, the queue was a mile or so long. Clear sky and the cheerful crowd kept us happy during the wait. With the tickets for 1 in the afternoon in our bag, we decided to walk around the premises and look at the wonderful sculptures and architectural wonders.
Reading through all the plagues and the descriptions written along the structures, we walked our way toward the Rideau Canal. This 202-km-long canal connects the Ottawa to St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. “Rideau” in French means curtain and it derives its name from the curtain like the appearance of the falls when it connects to the St. Lawrence River.
It is a World Heritage recognised, by UNESCO, in 2007, and remains the longest working canal in North America. It was originally built to serve as an easy and fast route to transport things and ammunition as well as soldiers through Ottawa, during the threat of the war with the USA, in 1832. The canal work started in the fall of 1826, and it was completed by the spring of 1832 and was supervised by Lieutenant-Colonel John By of the Royal Engineers. Today, it is used for pleasure boating and it becomes the longest skating rink during the winter months.
A walk along the canal while admiring the engineering marvel, we got to see the majestic Fairmont Château Laurier which is a 660,000-square-foot hotel with 429 guest rooms. It looked like a fairytale castle against the blue sky.
It was past noon when we trudged our way to the lineup at the Peace Tower. The cloudless sky and the higher latitudes had the perfect angle of the sun to scorch skin. As we entered the Centre Block the thick walls of the magnificent structure cooled the air temperature to a pleasant feel. The arched columns which created a web of curved angular line meeting and diverging were perfect ingredients for visual illusion. The internal décor of the passages ways had intricate little carvings of leaves, acorns, flowers and different little critters along the edges of the columns. Many of us pointed out to the number of little animal carving as we could find along the pathway to the Peace Tower.
The peace tower had a hollow chamber at its womb, called the Memorial Chamber, and a small elevator taking us all the way to the top at the observation tower. Designed by Jean Omer Marchand and John A. Pearson, the tower whose height reaches 92.2 m., houses the 53 bells. The tower is adorned with many carving and about 370 gargoyles, grotesques, and friezes. The city of Ottawa spreads out in all directions from the vantage point of the observations tower windows.
Once we descended, we visit the Memorial Chambers which houses medals, uniforms, and names of various soldiers. The three major stain glass windows named The Call Of Arms, The Assembly of Remembrance, and The Dawn of Peace created paintings of lights.
By the time, we finished admiring and taking many pictures of the Peace Tower, our stomachs reminded us of lunch. ByWard Market was our destination to fill our bellies with all the goodies cooking there.
It is in Lower Ottawa adjacent to the Hill. Flanked with business building and punctuated with open air vendors, it is one of the liveliest places. This place has been sensitive to the change in the cosmopolitan nature of Ottawa and has become a four-block area of boutiques, eateries, fresh produce, as well as novelty stores.
Amongst the array of eateries with their delicious aromas swirling around us, we chose to eat at a middle-eastern joint. Shawarma and some authentic Poutine were our choices. Poutine is french fries with gravy and fresh cheese curd. Dessert was at a coffee shop with an endless choice of mouthwatering goodies. We had few and ended the whole gluttony feast with cups of freshly brewed coffee.
We spent the last hour idling through the many stores and buying few souvenirs till it was time for us to tuck all the sights and smells into our memory bank and head back home.
©Anumita Chatterjee Roy
Photos by the author
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