Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Montebello, Quebec to Ottawa, Ontario
43.5 miles / 2250 Loop miles
8 locks / 42 Loop locks
Our passage to Quebec was along beautiful rural stretches of the Ottawa River, with lots of long narrow
islands and green marshes along the shore in spots. Farm silos, green fields and small towns interrupted woods
along the gently rolling shore.
We listened to Diane Rehm interviewing Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, a book
about the necessity of experiences in nature in the life of children. He has coined the phrase "nature deficit
disorder" to describe the probelms he sees with many children whose free time is spent in front of computers or televisions,
on cell phones, and in organized sports and structured activities in indoor or non-natural settings.
The conversation resonated with us on many levels -- we both remembered fondly experiences we had playing,
learning, imagining, and appreciating the mysteries of natural areas where we lived and vacationed while growing up. And, we
continue to find joy, a sense of wonder, and spiritual renewal in nature as adults.
The gateway to Quebec, and the official start of the Rideau Canal, is a set of eight majestic locks that
ascend like water stairs up to the city of Ottawa, set high on a stone cliff.
It took us an hour and twenty minutes to climb the 79 feet elevation gain through the locks. We had
a huge audience as the lock tending crews opened and closed the lock gates and controled the water levels using hand
cranks. People could stand on the lock walls right next to the boat and talk with us as we rose up in each lock chamber.
We must be in hundreds of vacation photos.
The whole time we were in Ottawa, we never saw another boat go up or down the locks, so we were a very special attaction.
|Starsong's scenic parking spot
We tied up to a wall along a promenade not far from the locks. We had beautiful views of downtown
Ottawa and a convenient jumping off point for sight-seeing.
Our first stop was the Visitor Information Center located across the street from Parliament. An extremely
knowledgable and helpful staff person helped us choose among the seemingloy endless array of things to see and do about
We were surprised to learn that they offer tours of Parliament until 7 pm. Would they be in session
that late? Oh, yes, the information staff person assured us -- they are trying to wrap up unfinished business before
summer recess, had been debating same-sex marriage until 11 pm the night before, and would proabably be at it again tonight.
We thought it would be interesting to hear some of that debate, but when we went to sit in the gallery after our guided
tour, the few representatives there were presenting arguments for the record in support of tougher car theft laws.
A departure from chronology is appropriate here. On June 29 we purchased a Globe and Mail
bearing the headline Same-sex bill finally passes. The first paragraph read, "Canada is on
its way to becoming the third country in the world to openly embrace homosexual marriage after the House of Commons gave its
final approval last night to a bill that changes the definition to include same-sex couples." Make no mistake, the culture
of Canada is very different from the culture of the United States. Actually, just like the United States, Canada
has many cultures, but the national values that transcend individual cultures are more peaceful, tolerant and, yes, liberal,
than the United States.
June 23-24, 2005 We Explore Ottawa
We started each day with lattes, pastries and the newspaper at Timothy's, a coffee shop just a short walk
from our boat.
The top of the fold front page headline of the June 24 Ottawa Citizen caught outr attention --
U.S. as popular as Communist China. The subhead explained "Canadians' opinion of neighbor
has eroded due to war, re-election of Bush, poll finds." We wondered how the US papers reported the findings of this
research done by the Pew Research Center in Washington, DC. Here are some of the highlights of the research, from Canada's
point of view. Among America's traditional allies, Canada is the one with the most marked decline in their ratings of
America over the past three years -- with 58% of Canadians rating China favorably, and 59% rating America favorably (difference
not significant). Canadians were actually more favorably inclined toward us than many of the nations polled -- 11of
the 16 nations polled ranked China ahead of the US, including France, Germany and Britain.
Canadians' view of Americans as people is even more disturbing to us than their view of the country.
Only 42% think Americans are honest, and a majority agree they are rude, violent and greedy. The one nice thing they
have to say about us is that we are hard workers. One of the biggest factors in their negative assessment of us
is our democratic re-election of President Bush.
All of which is just by way of reinforcing that Canada is more unlike the United States than we in America
might think. Canadians are very clear about perceiving the differences between us.
One more digression, before we continue.
I wrote much of the preceding information about Ottawa prior to leaving the city. We had excellent
internet access in Ottawa using our Verizon Aircard. After leaving Ottawa, we were in the beauty of the boondocks of
Canada, our Verizon Aircard was useless, the couple libraries we saw had limited hours, and the only internet cafe we
came across closed an hour after we spotted it. It is now June 30, and we have finally gotten back in Verizon coverage
in Kingston. If I do not consolidate and abbreviate events of the past six days, I will never catch up.
I am not naturally short-winded. And, the places we have seen, and the experiences we have had in
Ottawa and along the Rideau have been so grand that it will be hard to cut to the quick. Just understand that the quality
of our experience cannnot be measured by the quantity of space dedicated to describing it.
That said, on to the highlights of our time in Ottawa. We spent hours walking Confederation Boulevard,
a ceremonial loop linking Ottawa and Quebec's Gatineau with lots of commemorative and historic plaques, statues and points
of interest along the way.
One of the interesting statues was of Samuel de Champlain. We learned a little about him when we were
cruising up the lake named for him. He founded the city of Quebec in 1608, and explored the Ottawa river in 1613.
He is also considered Canada's first surveyor. This statue shows him using an astrolabe, a navigational instrument that
the sculptor apparently didn't know how to use, since it is upside-down in Champlain's hand.
|The canoe-shaped Grand Hall
We spent the better part of the afternoon at the Canadian Museum of Civilization. The museum is massive,
architecturally stunning, and so dense with exhibits that a full day's visit wouldn't do it justice. Unfortunately,
we were there during the last week of school in Canada. This meant that the museum was full of kids on school field
trips planned merely to get them out of the classroom. Clearly, no one was worried about being tested on content, as
they ignored the museum docents leading them through the exhibits. At first, we hung out near the docents thinking
we could get a free tour, but the content of their discussion was tailored to the audience -- shallow prattle.
We did our best to avoid the hordes of marauding kids, and learned a lot about Canada's early history.
Our favorite area was the Grand Hall, shaped like a canoe, and housing exhibits on the Pacific Coast Aboriginal Tribes --
including beautiful totem poles, contemporary sculpture, and domestic decoration.
We also saw the IMAX film Mysteries of the Nile, shown on a domed screen that came down from the
ceiling to envelope the theater -- very impressive technology.
We incorporated a few geocaches into our walks about town, as well.
We got back to the boat at 8 pm, just in time to hear Harry Connick Junior playing in concert in the park
right across the canal from our boat. We sat on our flybridge eating dinner and resting our feet, while listening to
him sing and play piano. We both agreed he is a much better piano player than singer. We also agreed that it was
very fortunate that we chose this spot for our boat, not knowing anything about the Ottawa Jazz Festival starting tonight
right next to Starsong.
Click here to continue down the Rideau Canal.