O, Canada! – Ottawa, Toronto & Niagara Falls

Finally, I have the opportunity to finish detailing our trip to Canada. In previous posts, I chronicled our adventures in Quebec City and Montreal. The final leg of our excursion includes Ottawa, Toronto and Niagara Falls. After attending the Montreal International Jazz Festival, my friend Donald and I headed west to Ottawa. We arrived late in the evening at Gatineau, a suburb of Ottawa located in the province of Quebec. We checked in to our hotel, Crowne Plaza Gatineau, but we were so tired that we experienced nothing outside of our beds and the shower. Both were fine and typical of a 3 star hotel, and a pretty decent value ($124 with all taxes and fees). The next morning, we headed to the Canadian Parliament to embark on our private tour. Thanks to my friend Soren, we got the VIP treatment from a communications staffer for Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office. Vivek was fantastic and shared with us the fascinating history of the building, and even better, we compared and contrasted our jobs — mine as a Congressional communications staffer and his as a staffer for the Prime Minister. He was patient as I asked far too many questions, and even showed us the Prime Minister’s office. It’s an experience I won’t soon forget! Donald and I especially enjoyed watching the changing of the guard, as well as the preparations for the next day’s celebration of Canada Day.

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A view of Parliament in Ottawa

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Getting ready for Canada Day outside of Parliament in Ottawa.

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The Senate, Canadian Parliament.

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The Canadians love QEII.

Changing of the guard in Ottawa.

Changing of the guard in Ottawa.

Unfortunately, our time in Ottawa was brief, as we had plans that evening in Toronto and a four hour drive ahead of us. I must admit that driving into the city of Toronto was a bit intimidating. I’ve often driven through some congested cities – Atlanta (the worst, by far), Houston (a close second), Dallas (tied for second), Washington, D.C., New York City (Times Square, even) and my own hometown of Baton Rouge (which must have been planned by drunks, which wouldn’t surprise me anyhow). But, driving into Toronto was an utterly horrifying experience for me — cars zoomed by and switched lanes while I tried to split my attention between exit signs and the GPS mounted to my windshield. Continue reading