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Hello from Ottawa – First Impressions and an Overview

My accomplice Theresa and I traveled to Ottawa 3 or 4 years ago in the winter to attend Ottawa’s famous “Winterlude” winter festival. Unfortunately, that year, the weather was too hot and the weekend was totally catastrophic. Even the ice sculptures had melted.

Well, it was time to give it a second shot. So last Friday we got in the car and once we got through a few snow squalls after Oshawa it was smooth sailing all the way to Canada’s capital. We arrived in town around 4:30 p.m., just before sunset.

Coming into town via the 417, we got a bit of the Ottawa rush hour and the traffic along Wellington St was bumper to bumper. Funny, I always thought Ottawa didn’t have a rush hour, I was wrong. Just because some people think Ottawa is a bit of a bureaucratic backwater doesn’t mean it’s not a bustling, bustling place.

I have since researched our capital city and discovered some interesting facts that demonstrate that Ottawa is a much more interesting city than expected:

Ottawa is the fourth largest urban center in Canada (behind Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver), with a population of over 1.2 million.

Ottawa is naturally the seat of government organizations such as the Government of Canada, the Parliament of Canada, the Senate and the Supreme Court of Canada.

Ottawa is a high-tech hub and home to tech giants such as Nortel Networks, JDS Uniphase, Cognos, Cisco, and Alcatel.

Other large companies like MBNC Canada, ING Direct and Clarica also call Ottawa home.

More than 65,000 people are employed in 1,500 companies in the high-tech sector.

Apparently, Ottawa has the most educated workforce in Canada. On a per capita basis, it has more engineers, scientists and doctors than any other city in the country.

Ottawa is one of the top 5 locations in the world for R&D.

Over 7 million visitors come to Ottawa each year and collectively they spend over $1.3 billion.

A Swiss-based management company, Corporate Resources Group, ranked Ottawa sixth in the world for quality of life.

Ottawa is a truly bilingual city and also has a significant number of people who speak Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Chinese and Arabic.

So this bit of research has taught me that there is a lot more to Ottawa than what we generally know. It is quite obvious that Ottawa has undergone tremendous changes since the early 1800s when Colonel By came to build the Rideau Canal from 1826 to 1832. This first settlement was called Bytown and in 1855 Bytown officially changed its name for Ottawa.

The city really grew around the canal and today the Rideau Canal is one of Ottawa’s main recreation centers and comes to life in the winter as the Rideau Canal Skateway. Ottawa’s first industry was derived from logging which developed around the Ottawa River. Rafts of timber were floated down the Ottawa River and large sawmills were built during the 19th century.

From its earliest days, the ByWard Market became an important center of action for lumberjacks, and to this day it remains one of Ottawa’s premier entertainment and shopping venues.

Ottawa’s first electric streetcar service opened in 1891 and a local pioneer, Thomas Ahearn, often referred to as the Edison of Canada, was one of the driving forces behind the arrival of electricity in Ottawa. He invented space heaters and a daily menu (in 1892) boasts that it was the first time in history that an entire meal was cooked by electricity.

In 1877, the public had its first demonstration of the telephone. And the first Canada-wide broadcast was on Ottawa radio waves in 1927. Tragedy struck Ottawa several times: in 1900, a huge fire destroyed entire neighborhoods and in 1916, the Parliament Buildings suffered the same fate.

Ottawa is a major tourist destination, and visitors to the city enjoy cultural and heritage attractions, as well as Ottawa’s festivals and special events.

Surprisingly, Ottawa is home to a number of world famous celebrities including Paul Anka, Lorne Green, Margaret Atwood, Alanis Morissette and Matthew Perry. So, the history and makeup of Ottawa is indeed much more interesting and diverse than expected.

One of Ottawa’s great assets is its unique heritage architecture. Being the avid photographer that I am, I had Theresa stop the car in various dangerous positions in the middle of rush hour traffic, just to jump in and take a few pictures in the warm evening light. The temperature itself was anything but hot, it must have been -10, -12 degrees Celsius.

I got out of the car near the Supreme Court of Canada and went out to take some afternoon photos of the scenery soon. My breath was cold and walking around without a toque or gloves was not a good idea in this -10 degree weather. I definitely had to cover my fingers on the camera trigger with gloves as the biting cold was chewing on my fingers.

Of course I also wanted to do a close up of the Parliament Buildings so we grabbed an illegal parking spot and I jumped out of the car and asked Theresa to drive around the block just in case where someone was going to hunt her.

Then we headed to our next stop, the historic Lord Elgin Hotel, located right downtown, 5 minutes from the Parliament Buildings, just across from Confederation Park and the famous Rideau Canal, our destination on Saturday. for outdoor skating on the canal, at 7.8 km the largest ice rink in the world.

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