Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Travelling Ottawa Canada Part 1

Trivia : Ottawa was originally known as Bytown after the name of the Lt.Col. John By, an Engineer with the British army tasked to supervise the construction of Rideau Canal for military strategy purposes, which then became the Ottawa we know today. His legacy still lives on in Ottawa in a few area such as Byward Market (had dinner there first night), Colonel By Secondary School, Colonel By Drive (which i ran along TWICE, read on), University of Ottawa Engineering Building and even commemorative stamps.
Lt. Col. John By (7 August 1779 – 1 February 1836)
I arrived at Ottawa on Monday July 9, 2012 at 1730hours from Toronto. Somehow due to internal requirement, luggage are check-in until Toronto only and those catching a connecting flight to other places within Canada would need to clear their luggage and re-check in at the counter again.
Arrival hall at Toronto Airport
The flight attendant, a big chap with more hair on his arms than my legs jokingly announced that the temperature in Ottawa was a low of -2degreeC compared to Toronto that was hovering around 25degreeC. My first taste of Canadian humor. Air Canada, though basic, had crews that actually enjoyed being in the service industry. There were a few light-hearted incidences on board the flight which i thought were really subtle and make you smile. Recalling the moment when i handed over the serviettes to one of them and they casually says "Sorry, that's not mine", walked off, and turned back instantly with a cheeky smile and a wink and took it from me before i could be upset. Not too bad after 30hours of flight and transits.
Love the Sky in Canada
Ottawa is the Capital of Canada and is also known as the Politic City where all the government agencies, Parliaments and everything that got to do with the country operates. 
Arrival Hall Ottawa Airport
Think of it as a larger and established, matured Putrajaya. I took a cab from the Airport and there were no thugs unlike in KLIA or LCCT and no "force it down your throat" rates to deal with.
Laid back, no hurry, orderly. Ottawa Airport.
My first experience out of the Airport was a really pleasant one as the Taxi driver took the trouble to interact and educated me about Ottawa after finding out that I am a first timer in his country. Taxi drivers make good tourism ambassador. If only our very own Teksi can learn about this instead of talking on their CB radios or drive recklessly. 
Commuter on bicycle actually stop and push bike across intersections, guided by traffic lights. However, he could had ace-d it by wearing helmet.
The short drive of about 15km took me from the suburb through the a river way It immediately dawned to me that this was the canal my (running) colleague told me about. This canal is known as the Rideau Canal, which is also an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Imagine my excitement when i saw cyclists and runners working out safely in the designated lane! I saw a few Triathletes too, judging from the clothing and bicycle they were using. The contacts booked me right in the middle of Ottawa city along Albert Street, more specifically at Sheraton Ottawa.
A street away from all attractions within the city of Ottawa
I've not travelled much in my years of working and every opportunity given to me was a good experience to experience the hospitality in the said country. Sheraton Ottawa was no exception of good quality services. Perhaps this could be the slightly higher than normal price one would pay to stay in these establishment. Bearing in mind that the most expensive hotel i ever stayed was in Shangri-La in Makati City, Manila (close to RM1K/night) - and that has became a benchmark of some sort. To say the least, Sheraton Ottawa was nice, cosy and above all, clean.
Home for Two Nights
Sufficient and clean
Comfortably fits a family of four if needed.
One thing i noticed almost immediately was the absence of traffic in Ottawa despite the "peak hour". There was no traffic jam. I found out later than the Canadian sticks to the "9 to 5" concept and usually home with family by 5.30pm! That should be the way! (Then again, our Putrajaya also the same what, it's "dead" after 5pm)
Traffic? What Traffic?
As i arrive in Canada during summer, the daytime is longer and the night shorter. That sort of messed up my biological clock wee bit further. The sun set at 9pm and up by 5.30am. With the 12hours differences between KL and Ottawa, my sleeping and awake time is 180degrees around. So at Malaysia time 0700hours, I went for a walk around the city. It was 1900hours and the citizens were either home, or still out hunting for dinner or a night of socialising with friends.
Colorful Postbox and newspaper dispenser
Bicycle for rent, anyone?
Senate House.
The lodging (Sheraton) was a good choice with a lot of opportunity for quick sightseeing. It was indeed a blessing that the sun sets at 2100hours, else, these photos you will see below will not be possible. Best of all, photographers usually hunt for the "golden" hour where the window of about 30minutes before sunrise and sunset will lend the best lighting condition for wonderful photography. Obviously the "golden" hour in Ottawa during summer is one helluva long period, make that 3hours!
Parliament Hill - Most Important Ceremonial Centre in Canada
I bet many of you did not know that Terry Fox is from Ottawa!
Inspiring and always remind ourselves how lucky we are, everyday!
The very important Langevin Block - Something like the Prime Minister Department to put it in lay men's term
Office of the Prime Minister of Canada
Chateau Laurier - Luxury Hotel right next to Rideau Canal's Locks. Since 1912.
Shopping Mall at Downtown Ottawa.
The above series were taken between 1900hours and 2000hours. A short walk down the road will lead you to Byward Market area. This is the more happening part of town with al-fresco eateries. Do be informed that the weather in Ottawa is a cool sub 18degreeC in the morning and a very comfortable sub 22degreeC in late evening. And the sky is always blue with orange hue at the horizon!
William Street leading to Byward Market
Eateries around Byward Market
I then went for dinner and found this place known as Fish Market. Prices are OK like when you eat at those restaurants in Malaysia (Circa RM30-45/meal or between USD10-15/meal - not inclusive of drinks)
Wine cellar cum restaurant at the Fish Market Restaurant
Being away from the normal available food is a challenge. Much compromise has to be made and i had to at times close both eyes on what is available. Balance between "value for money" and "healthy eating" comes into play and it was time to put what i know beyond eating in Malaysia to play. Here is my dinner - a swordfish steak on cranberries with sauteed vegetable. Not too hard!
First time eating swordfish. Must say it taste just like any white fish.
Canada is a service orientated country and tips are expected when you dine in, take a taxi and basically anything that has someone serving you (except at the cashier if you are buying something). The typical going tip is between 10% and 20%. As it is not a Malaysian habit to tip, it was difficult...and whatever I am giving is 3x the exchange rate - but we did. I Lets stick to between 10% to 15% if the services were good. 20% if exceptional. Perhaps the service industry in Malaysia should consider this as a way to improve the service industry. I noticed that most, if not all of them serving always have a smile on  their face, always come around to see if I need anything and try to ensure that the food served was of our expectation. In Malaysia, we get worried if we will be the hit or receive verbal abuse, or worse case, have our food with "special treatment".
Hard Rock Cafe Ottawa. No, i did not bother with any t-shirts.
The walk back to the hotel was an easy 1km walk which showed a certain face of Ottawa that I never thought would see - vagrant or homeless people that goes around the streets minding their own business. One would think this will be a third world problem - but the truth is often painful to see. I guess being as established as they are, there will still be social problems. We are tourists (often) praises the country we visit to be better than our own. Truth is, there is NO where like home (but to have clear blue sky for photography would not be too much to ask for, ain't it?)
Finally, the sun is 9pm
Anyway, enjoy some of the photos taken that evening. The architecture of Ottawa can be said to be pretty classic and interesting. More so with all signboard being dual-language of English and French which adds a bit of the exotic feel to it. 
The Bay Shopping Mall. In French it's Baie. Now, all Sikh in Malaysia will be proud.
I picked up a new subject to photograph - signboards. Here is one sample.
Expect to see more posting of road signage and stuff like this.
Hudson Bay Company. Another Shopping Mall downtown Ottawa.
Blue Sky. Everywhere. All Times.
Byward Market. Now you know Marche meant Market.
I chance upon this homemade caravan towed behind a VW transporter. I must say the person that built this put a lot of effort into this.
Shagmobile redefined. Rickety on two wheels too ;-)
Police car. Something most Malaysians only see on TV back home. Made more confused with the French signage above. This can only be Canada.
I spent two nights in Ottawa of which it allowed me enough time to explore the city pretty much. Not that it is a small place, but suffice to say i managed to cover most of the important spots. I've also ran 3 times while in Ottawa. This will be covered in a different blog post as it deserves a separate mention. Truly, the best way to see a new place is to RUN it. I am glad i had (now) the fitness to do it and thoroughly enjoyed it. 
View outside my room's window, overlooking Slater Street
The biggest attraction a Ottawa has to be the Rideau Canal. As introduced earlier in this posting, it is one of the UNESCO World Heritage. Initially build to transport lumber back when Ottawa was known as Bytown, this canal has been maintained and preserved and highly appreciated by the locals. Bicycle lanes for commuting and running lane for fitness activities are in abundance. In fact, you can run a marathon without having to run at the same place twice. More about this in another post. Enjoy some of the photos and comments i left below.
Rideau Canal Lock 1 to 8. The original Locks. Still operated manually by hand.
Typical house in Ottawa. It is about C$300K on average. I would say it is highly affordable by Malaysian standard as most are buying properties like it cost RM25K.
Blue Blue Sky with Cotton White Clouds. Any Malaysian that do not travel much (like me) will be in admiration
Land where cars engines are no less than 3 liters and length no shorter than 3 meters.
And a School Bus is a really long huge bus, in Orange no less.
Downtown Business District

As mentioned, Ottawa has many tourist attraction within walking distance. You just need to know where to look for them and they are all within 1km radius.
Children, before there were emails and hand phones, we communicate wide and far using services render in this building - Yes, this is the Post Office.

National Arts Centre

Perched at one corner of the Arts Centre is a bronze Piano with a man sitting on it. His name is Oscar Peterson and is known to be a Jazz maestro from Montreal, Canada.
The Tribute
The Man. You can sit at the bench next to him for Photo opportunity. His music plays subtlely in the background through two weather proof speakers. In Ottawa summer weather, that's a nice spot to watch the world goes by
One of the more iconic attraction will be the Confederation Square where the National War Memorial is situated.
Confederation Square - The second most important ceremonial centre after Parliament Hill
National War Memorial
To understand the construction of the War Memorial that was captured in the series of photos herewith, i referred to Wikipedia. 
22 Service Men representing all branches of services
 The War Memorial was first dedicated to World War 1 (1914-1918) and subsequently in 1982, more were added to commemorate World War 2 (1939 - 1945).
World War 2.

Korean War
The whole design of the Memorial was not to glorify war but was symbolic in the sense that the Army marches through the Arch symbolising Peace and Liberty. Perched at the top of the arch is the statues that represent this spirit.
Symbolising the Soldiers "leaving" the war and into Peace and Liberty
Very meaningful memorial
They Gave Their Youth
We Will Remember Them
Just across the Square is the Locks of Rideau Canal. THis is an attraction by itself. You have to go through the whole place slowly to actually appreciate how these were built and maintained throughout the years. While it will be easy to "automate" the gate, the Locks still relies on man-power to open and close it.
Proclamation of it as World Heritage Site
Water filling up the locks
Manual gears with chain to close and open the Locks.
The Locks
All together there is 8 Locks. This photo was taken from the 6th Locks
What behind me are the two remaining Locks, overlooking Quebec City.
Having Fun By the lake
The  Chateau Laurier architecture always mesmerise me.
I was lucky to be in Canada at this point of the year. It seems that there is a Light, sound and laser show to commemorate Canada Day. Titled Mosaika, it turns the Parliament Hill (and building) into a giant Canvas where images with stories were projected with narration on the history of Canada till present days!
Those are Tulips on the Building
How cool was it? The next series of photos explains it all.
Superb color redention
Awesome lights!
This was where the signage for the show comes from. Beautiful light play!
Proud Canadians (and tourists) flocking the hill for the show!
The Finale - Lights on the Canada Flag!
The Parliament is not out of bound to visitors and except outside of the operating hours (up to 10pm), it is opened for anyone wanting to walk in and sit on the lawn - just like another park!
The Parliament - would be perfect if they light up the left portion too.
Just down the road from Confederation Square is the Confederation Park which is a small park in the city, but hold a lot of other worthy memorial statues. One would least expect to find a full Totem Pole, for example.
Brought back some childhood memories of watching cartoons isn't it?
Apparently, this Totem Pole is named Kwakiutl Totem. However, this name is pretty generic as it refers to the type of Pole carved at Victoria, British Columbia by Henry Hunt of the Kwawkewlth Indian Band, was donated by the Native people of British Columbia to commemorate the centenary of the union of the province of British Columbia with Canada, 20 July 1871. There are a few around Canada and one of them is in Ottawa.
It usually has images of Human, birds or animals, or combination of a few.
Carved from Red Cedar wood and with many imitations around, a native American totem pole can cost anything from USD8000 and above. Most Totem pole costing less than that are either machine carved or not from a single piece of log. It is interesting to note that most of the Totem pole in Canada were done by one Mr. Henry Hunt. More about him here.
The plate explaining the same in English and French.
Apart from that, there is another Statue erected on the west side of the park. It is in honour of a group of fallen soldiers in the African War 1899-1902 or known as the Second Boer War. Much internal disagreement stemmed from this war mainly because of how the country opposed or support the sending of the soldiers (between British Imperialism or Democratic action). Having said that, with history and event passed, this statue is placed to remember the fallen.
Tribute for the fallen.
The Statue.
Somewhere near the entrance to the park facing Slater Street is another commemorative statue to tribute the Aboriginal Canadians and their contribution to shape the history of Canada. The Statue is a sight to behold. 
The major theme of this statue was "that the reason for war is in all likelihood a desire for peace". 
Made from bronze on marble based quarried from Quebec, The monument depicts a golden eagle as the messenger between the Creator and man. The eagle or Thunderbird also symbolizes the Creator and embodies the spirit of the Aboriginal people. Below the eagle are four human figures, facing the four points of the compass and representing First NationsInuit and M├ętis. Pinay felt it was very important to incorporate female figures in the sculpture to acknowledge the role of women not only as nurses, but as those responsible for maintaining families while the men were away. The human figures hold not only weapons but also spiritual objects: an eagle feather fan and a peace pipe. There are four animal figures, one on each corner to act as spirit guides, each with a special attribute: a wolf (family values), a buffalo (tenacity), an elk (wariness) and a bear (healing powers).
Wolf - Family Values
Elk - Wariness
Buffalo - Tenacity
Bear - Healing Powers
This monument is raised in sacred and everlasting honour of the contributions of all Aboriginal Canadians in war and peacekeeping operations.
Many thousands of Aboriginal people saw action and endured hardship in the First and Second World Wars and the Korean War. They served with honour and distinction in all branches of the service and in every rank and appointment from Private to Brigadier. They fought overseas to defend the sovereignty and liberty of allied nations, in addition to supporting the cause at home. Their dedication continues in peacekeeping operations in faraway lands.
Their heroic acts earned many decorations for bravery as well as the respect and enduring friendship of their comrades in arms. Hundreds from across Canada gave fully of their lives so that all Canadians might know peace and inherit freedom.
We who would follow in their path are humbled by the magnitude of their sacrifice and inspired by the depths of their resolve. We owe them a debt of gratitude we cannot soon hope to repay.
Unveiled by Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, C.C., C.M.M., C.D. Governor General of Canada and Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Forces on June 21, 2001, National Aboriginal Day.
This monument was made possible by the National Aboriginal Veterans Association and the generous donations of the Canadian people.
Pretty touching isn't it? The Canadian really goes all out to remember their heroes and heroines, and has placed equal importance to all branches of military services, ethnics, genders and creeds. It is no longer about who they are, but what they do that defines them as a country.
This is Part 1 of the write up. I am not sure how many parts i can afford to write, but I will share what i saw and what i experienced. Hope you all enjoyed this blog entry!


  1. A very interesting travel read. :)

  2. Thank you for sharing. A great write-up. Can't wait to read all the subsequent parts :)