To recap, Part 1 saw Carol and me travel from Melbourne to Banff. Part 2 covered Banff to Calgary and has us in a cab to Calgary airport. The flight to Ottawa was uneventful although I get the feeling Air Canada saw us coming when we checked in. We got slugged $100 for excess baggage – the same bags with the same stuff in them that Qantas carried at no extra charge suddenly cost us $100. The stupid thing is, if we had the same weight in three bags, it wouldn’t have cost us anything. Go figure! Trying to cover the cost of workers’ compensation claims I guess.
On arrival in Ottawa, our dear friend Geoff was waiting for us at the airport and it was fantastic to see him again. The last time we had seen each other was in January 2003, when Geoff and his partner Dale had stayed with us down at Sorrento and back in Melbourne. Into the car and back to Geoff and Dale’s place, a fantastic rural property about 40 minutes from the centre of Ottawa. The last time I’d been there, probably 10 years earlier, it had been under feet of snow. What a contrast! The barbeque was soon cranked up and what a great night we had.
What a great property Dale & Geoff have. Set in amongst masses of trees, completely private. Lots of walking paths through the forests. The wildlife is amazing – so much more and different to what we’re used to in Australia. The chipmunks and humming birds were fascinating. The same humming bird family returns from Mexico every summer.
This part of the trip was intended to be a combination of relaxing and sightseeing. And relax we did. Certainly a large amount of quality food and alcohol was consumed. In terms of sightseeing, the first few days comprised a few day trips locally (have to say locally because I can’t remember their names), into Ottawa, to the Canadian Science & Technology Museum, the Canadian War Museum and to a lodge called Montebello, built completely from logs.
We were going to head off to Niagara Falls, something I’d been looking forward to for some time. It’s about a four hour drive (from memory) – not an insubstantial trip. I felt guilty about not getting my international driving licence before we left – Geoff certainly spent a fair chunk of time driving while we were staying with them. It would have been good to relieve him a bit.
To make the trip a bit easier, Geoff’s brother Ken loaned us his all singing all dancing four wheel drive truck / ute, and we went over to his place the night before we left to pick it up. This was where we met Rupert – what a laugh. We were all sitting out the back having a beer when a squirrel ran across the back yard. I’d seen plenty of squirrels on the early morning walks I’d been trying to do each day of the trip, but this was the first Carol had seen and she was quite surprised. When she commented, Ken as quick as a flash said “That’s Rupert, he’s our pet squirrel”. He then called out “Sit up Rupert” and absolutely on cue, Rupert sat up on his back legs. He then called out “Climb the tree Rupert” and again almost on cue, Rupert raced up one on of the trees. We all absolutely pissed ourselves laughing, including Carol thankfully. Thanks for the loan of the truck Ken.
We stayed at a place called Niagara On The Lake (henceforth referred to as NOTL). NOTL is the centre of the Canadian wine industry and is about 20 minutes from the very touristy Niagara Falls. It has a large number of bed and breakfast places that are far more acceptable than the hotels in Niagara Falls. We stayed at a bed & breakfast place with magnificent gardens and lovely inside. The breakfasts were probably enough food to cover us for the rest of the day, although we didn’t rely on that. It was run by an American woman who would not shut up and spent a lot of her time bagging Canada and Canadians, pretty interesting behaviour given she was dependent on Canada to successfully operate her business. People who know me will know I am a particularly tolerant person (J) – this one certainly tested that.
After arriving, we did a few wineries. Well why not? You saw the size of the truck we had above. It would be a shame to head back to Ottawa with it empty. And was it this or another night we bumped into the Canadian liquor laws again? What, you want to buy liquor after 8:00pm? Where on earth have you come from, Man?
The next morning we headed off to Niagara Falls. While I had been looking forward to this, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. None of the photos I’d seen on the net were particularly impressive. There’s a natural tendency to think of the waterfalls where the water falls a long way as the most impressive ones, I believe. Niagara isn’t like that – it’s wide and a reasonably short fall. But I have to say, this is some impressive waterfall. The sheer amount of water that is constantly flowing over those falls is just staggering. At a time when many parts of Australia were, and still are in drought, it was almost incomprehensible that all this water was going uncollected. Having said that, there is a pretty reasonable hydro-electric operation there. We spent a good two or three hours at Niagara, before heading back to NOTL, and more wineries.
The next morning, it was into the big black truck and across the Niagara to the US, to a big shopping mall across the border. We picked up the obligatory perfume, Crocs, etc and headed back to, you guessed it, more wineries. The border control was interesting, both there and elsewhere on the trip. The US neurosis is amazing – guys, have you ever thought that if you minded your own business and didn’t go off fighting other people’s wars, then you might not need to be looking over your shoulder all the time? Sorry, just checking if the CIA’s still there.
After another tolerance testing breakfast, it was into the big black truck and off to Toronto. We didn’t spend a lot of time in Toronto – we were all pretty keen to get “home”. But we did have time for the CN Tower (out on the glass again) and a look at the stadium where the Toronto Blue Jays MLB team plays.
We were nearing the end of our holiday, so were keen to spend as much time as we could, relaxing with Dale & Geoff – good friends are indeed irreplaceable.
Just on three weeks after we’d left Melbourne, we were heading home, after a walking tour of Ottawa that morning. Ottawa is the seat of government for Canada – a really nice conservative city with a significant historical feel about it. It’s funny how many of the seats of government around the world that I’ve been to seem to have a similar feel – London, Milan, Washington, Wellington. So what happened with Canberra? I spent a week there one afternoon.
So it was onto a direct flight from Ottawa to the brothel, sorry LAX, and a direct flight this time with Qantas, arriving back early on Saturday 14 June. Everyone was pleased to see us, but none more so than a big black Labrador / Rottweiler cross, who wouldn’t let me out of his sight for the rest of the weekend.
This, of course, was the lead up to the events of 16 June, but that is another story for another time.
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