Mike visits the Canadian Capital - 2003
Our business had a relationship with a company in Canada, so I got the opportunity to travel out to Ottawa several times this past year.
Now, if you mention Ottawa to the average American, the conversation usually goes something like this:
"Dude, I'm going to Ottawa."
"It's the Canadian capital."
"No, Toronto is the capital."
"Uh, NO, Ottawa is the capital. Toronto is just a large city."
And that's pretty much it. There is a huge misunderstanding about Ottawa and Toronto; the average American has never heard of Ottawa.
So, this summer, I was on a quest: during my business trip, I would visit the Parliament and bring home proof that Ottawa was in fact the capital of Canada.
But I had another quest as well. When I lived in upstate New York, I began following the Ottawa Senators hockey team. Over the years and through the terrible first seasons, I have continued to support them. When I lived in Texas, Adele purchased a Senators baseball cap for me. The hat cost $20; the duty on importing a textile product from Canada cost $50. That's right; in the end, my baseball cap cost $70. So, I was on a quest to visit the home of the Senators and pick up some gear that I could bring into the country without duty.
Ideally, if I could somehow manage to take in a Senators game, well that would just be the ultimate trip to Ottawa. But, there was little chance of that happening, as my trip was scheduled to occur during the summer.
I got sent to Ottawa for two days at the end of July. Pushing the upper 30s in Ottawa, it was almost sweltering in the 100s (Fahrenheit). It was a hot summer in Ottawa. But, I was only going to be there for two days, so best to make the most of it.
Luckily for me, my location in Ottawa was in the western suburb of Nepean, which is next to Kanata, home of the Corel Center, where the Senators play. When I got out of work, I decided to hit the arena to visit the Senators souvenir shop.
It turns out that there was a concert in town that night, and so if I wanted to visit the gift shop, I'd have to buy a ticket. Well, who was playing? Rush? Nickelback? Bare Naked Ladies? No, some French-Canadian band.
So, once I convinced the ticket guy that I was from Minnesota a didn't give a crap about Quebecois band, he finally let me into the gift shop. I wanted sweatshirt, but I was told that being July, it was not sweatshirt weather, so I settled on a golf shirt and beer glass.
One last picture of the Senators' logo inlaid in brick in front of the Corel Center, and I was back to the hotel.
Now, all I needed to do was go downtown, get some pictures of Parliament, and my trip would be complete.
One problem - I was there on business, and business kept me busy until late in the evening...
As luck would have it, I got another chance to visit Ottawa in October. And even more lucky for me, the Senators were in session in the new hockey season!
Canada was hit pretty hard by SARS in 2003, and as a result, their tourism industry took a major hit. And how do they combat this SARS epidemic? By making you fill out forms as you enter the country.
The SARS form in English.
And, of course, like all things Canadian, the form is also in French.
Now, the form asks you if you have a cough, fever, or have been around anyone with a cough. Nope, not me. I'm feeling good as I enter Canada.
Yet, after I have been there a few days, I start to cough, wheeze, and generally feel like crap. But, I see that I have the opportunity to see the Senators play on Thursday, so I plan my week towards doing that.
By Wednesday night, I am planning to visit Parliament, but I feel so crappy, I decide to just stay in my hotel and rest. Better to get back my strength so I can go to the Senators game on Thursday.
This picture was taken at the same time as the one in July. What a difference a few months makes.
And here is the beautiful arena inside. But I felt like such crap, that I didn't even have a beer! Sacrilege, I know, but I really felt like crap. And I really couldn't pass up this opportunity to see my team play at home.
A thrilling shot by Daniel Alfredsson as the Senators battle the Washington Capitals.
At the end, the Senators were victorious 5-1. I wanted to hurry up and get home, as I felt even worse by this point. But, alas, I got to sit in my car in the zero Celsius weather while it took about 2 hours to empty out the parking lot.
Needless to say, I didn't make it to Parliament on this trip either.
Funny that they check you for SARS on the way into Canada, but not on the way out. Luckily for me, the US let me back in. But I didn't have SARS; instead, I had bronchitis with a 104 degree fever. But I got to see the Senators play!
Finally, in December, I got a final chance to visit Ottawa. Having accomplished two of my goals, this time I WAS going to visit Parliament - no matter what.
Unlike my previous trips, this time, the jet flew in from the Northwest, right over the Parliament building. I wasn't expecting this, as it is not something you can do in Washington DC, but I grabbed my camera and took a quick picture for proof that Ottawa is the capital.
This is the Parliament Hill complex, and the structure on the right is the Chateau Laurier, the most luxurious hotel in Ottawa. And no, we didn't stay there.
We worked hard all week, and finally, on our last night there, I convinced my friend Dick that we should visit Parliament. After all, I explained, we were at the capital, so why not take the chance to see it?
But now, I can think of twenty reasons not to see it; minus 20 reasons, that is. That's right; it was -20 degrees Celsius. I don't know what it is exactly in Fahrenheit, but I know this: it's FREAKING COLD!
But, undaunted, we made our way downtown and walked around Parliament.
Again, we were lucky, as it turns out we were there for the annual Christmas lighting ceremony.
Here is Parliament all lit up for Christmas.
Another view. There are snowflakes projected onto the side of the building.
The eternal flame outside of Parliament with seals of all the provinces.
Trees and flags from all the provinces, including Nunavut, which is the newest province.
So, after taking some pictures and risking frostbite, we hopped back in the car and headed back to the hotel.
The next day, as we left Ottawa, again we headed back to the Northwest, so I got a chance to get a final picture of Parliament all lit up from the air.
So, there you have it: a quick tour of Ottawa - the REAL Canadian capital!