A-a-and we are in Ontario! Although Toronto is a big stop we pretty much skipped it since both of us have already been here and we are coming back to Toronto area at the end of our trip.
Next stop on our itinerary was Niagara Falls. The weather was so hot it almost made me want to hang out in an air-conditioned mall rather than gasp at the beauty of the falls in the open sun. The only other time I saw Niagara Falls was more than a year ago in winter. Everything except the falls had been frozen and covered in a thick layer of frost. A lot of people were still wandering around even though most places were closed (it was around Christmas time then). It’s been nice to see how lively it can be when it’s not -30 outside. Actually, this time it was probably at or above +30 and the song Glare by the Sheep, Dog & Wolf inevitably played on repeat in my mind.
The city of Niagara Falls is ridiculous. I mean, it kind of does make sense as it is a very popular tourist destination. But its numerous casinos and tourist traps only distract from the main natural attraction making it look like a town next to a six flags and not one of the world’s most impressive waterfalls.
Canadian and American boats at Niagara Falls
The falls are beautiful as always and (after putting on a thick layer of sunscreen) we spent a fair share of our time walking along the river bank and staring at massive amounts of water falling off the cliff every second. We also took a boat to
get rained on come see the falls a bit closer. I found it really cute how there are Canadian boats carrying people in red rain jackets and American boats with people wearing blue rain jackets, and how they wave to each other as the boats pass one another.
Ottawa skyline view from the Nepean Point
Next up is Ottawa! Ottawa made an impression of a very nice, friendly city. The weather was really nice when we arrived (Vancouver-in-June level of “nice”), finally giving us some rest from hot Winnipeg and Niagara Falls. On the first night, we’ve had a delicious and surprisingly authentic Korean dinner at Dolsot Cafe, walked along the canal while enjoying fresh cool air (and the abscence of mosquitos), and we even saw fireflies! I don’t remember when was the last time I saw fireflies (if ever) so I was really excited. One of my dreams is to see a lot of fireflies in one place, blinking with their warm little lanterns, somewhere quiet and peaceful.
National Gallery of Canada
Ottawa has a lot of good museums. The ones we’ve decided to visit were National Gallery of Canada and Royal Canadian Mint. The gallery was way bigger than I expected, and I would definitely come back, next time earlier in the day to see more art pieces before the gallery closes.
The Mint tour was fun. There are two Mints in Canada: one in Winnipeg and one in Ottawa. Apparently, the Ottawa Mint only produces collection and investment coins, while all circulation coins are made in Winnipeg. There in Ottawa we saw how the finest Canadian coins are produced. They purify their gold and silver coins to 99.99% which is apparently one of the purest in the world. Because of how valuable the coins are, they are produced one by one and each is manually inspected by specialists for any defects. We haven’t been to the Mint in Winnipeg but in my imagination I see hundreds of coins being mass-produced each second, falling down from one conveyor belt to another… That would be really cool to see. Maybe next time, Winnipeg?
Changing of the guard in front of the Parliament building
Prior to visiting Ottawa, I thought one can only witness changing of the guard at London’s Buckingham Palace. Well I was wrong, since Ottawa has one every day as well! It was interesting to watch and I enjoyed the live music very much. What else can you do at the Parliament Hill? You could take a tour (we didn’t) or come by in the evening to see northern lights! No, not the actual aurora but the light show called Northern Lights. It is a free half hour long movie about Canadian history projected onto the Parliament Hill building. Both visual and audio effects were better than I expected and it was well worth the time.
Northern Lights show at the Parliament Hill
A couple of more memorable moments were listening to a concert played on a newly refurbished organ at the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica (the church itself is magnificent) and witnessing how the Rideau Canal’s lock system works. A lock (in water navigation terms) is a mechanism used for lifting and lowering watercrafts to help them enter a body of water with a different water level. So for example, if a boat is going upstream it enters a lock and the first (lower) gates right behind it close. The lock is then filled with water from upstream, and the second (upper) gates open in front of the boat so it can now exit the lock. A similar procedure holds when going downstream. There are 8 locks at the Rideau Canal. The canal was open in 1832 and is now one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
I liked Ottawa. Also, so far it’s the most bilingual Canadian city I’ve been to. I guess that shouldn’t come as a big surprise considering that Gatineau, QC is just across the river. Anyways, that’s all for our Ottawa adventures. Next stop - Montreal!