Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Montebello to Ottawa

We spent two nights in the marina at Montebello. We had a full day of touring the small little village on our bicycles, seeing the Papineau Mansion, and covering only a part of the vast acreage of the private resort area. It's hard to believe these days, but the entire parcel of land is somewhere around 65,000 acres! We would love to come back in the winter to see all that this place has to offer then--ice skating, curling, sleigh riding--and I would especially love to see that central, huge, six-sided with glass doors, stone fireplace just glowing with thick snow coming down outside. How romantic a setting!

We left Wednesday morning in the rain, but thankfully it didn't last too long, and we are protected from the elements up in the flybridge. We were in different waters--mostly unpopulated--and had left a lot of the narrow canals that we had been in for several days--we were now in calm, fairly wide bodies of water. Interestingly enough though, we did see that day 13 sea planes--just tied up at water's edge--in people's front yards. We have seen the float planes before up here, but not that many and not in one day.

Around four o'clock, we reached Hull's Marina--at the Parc de Jacques Cartier and near the base of the famous eight locks/steps on the Ottawa River. We cleaned up, put on our walking shoes, and took off across this long, beautiful, old, high bridge that would connect us with Ottawa--stopping along the way to take pictures of the beautiful old stone buildings with their ornate green-topped spirals that make this town so unique and picturesque. Below us was the raging Ottawa River, with its' sightseeing boats, sculling teams, waterfalls, and swirling currents. We've never walked over any bridge like that before--and we would do it twice!

We passed the American Embassy--a stark, modern, glassy, fenced-in and very heavily fortified building--so inappropriate in architecture for the area in my estimation--with all these breathtakingly beautiful old building just a block away. I would love to know why it has to be so fortified and foreboding--I thought we were not only "friends" but neighbors to Canada. Maybe one day someone will tell me why.

We headed towards Byward Market--a bustling, busy, and crowded place of outside vendors--selling everything from fruits and vegetables to flowers, any kind of food you want, clothes, and trinkets. What a fun place to be--what smells and sights--and just too many restaurants, bistros, and kiosks to choose from. We finally settled on this little bistro and had a great meal with "Prime Time". I got fish & chips, Louis got a pasta carbonara. Full as we were, we took a much slower and seemingly longer walk back across the long bridge to our boat. It was about 9:30pm and it was just getting dark--amazing! The lights reflecting off the old buildings at dark were another wow factor. I need to start a "wow" list---we've had far more than we expected this early on in our trip!

Friday morning, our friend Pat, from "Prime Time", and I took off for the grocery store--(our daughter, Catherine, said I needed to put this down here)--as we actually took the city bus to the grocery! What a sight, Pat and me, carrying our recyclable bags under our arms, and our rolling carts behind us--putting our $2.60 a ride in the change port. We had been told to get a "return" voucher as not to have to pay to get back home, so we did. We ask the bus driver politely to let us know when we get to the grocery store (we have no idea where we're going!), and in about 15 minutes--mute as he had been so far--he yells out, "Maxi's"!--points to us and waits for us to get off. About an hour later, we completed our shopping, filled our bags and carts up to the brim (you have to bag your own groceries in Canada!), and went back outside to wait for the bus--we waited where we had been left off. About 10 minutes later, #37 pulls up to the stop, and we begin to get on (making sure we were getting on the right bus)--only to be told we had to cross the street and catch the other #37 going back the way we came!! So across the street we hustle, seeing a bus coming--meantime I've lost my return voucher! Where can it be?? With a huge stroke of luck--the SAME bus driver opens the door, remembers both of us, and patiently waits for us to get all our stuff back in/up/over onto the bus. Whew! Needless to say, by the time Pat & I get back to the boats, we are worn completely out. What an experience--we've been laughing about it ever since. I fixed homemade spaghetti and had Gary & Pat over to "Bella Luna" for dinner.

Saturday morning early, we moved over to the "blue line" to wait for the 8:30am first locking. The "blue line" is actually right at the entrance to both sides of a lock (it is a wall with tie-ups) and the top of the wall is painted bright blue. The lockmaster can then see plainly which boats are desiring to lock through--and he/she can decide which way to go first--either boats like us going up, or boats on the other side of the lock going down. There were 5 of us going up that morning, and only 2 going down--so, thankfully we got to go up first--and it's on a first come, first served basis too--the boats tied up first go first. This was a huge and time consuming experience for us as we (5 boats) locked through/up eight consecutive locks--lasting 3 hours and 15 minutes. We felt so sorry for the poor boats that had been on the blue line "up top" since earlier that morning (like us on the "down" blue line) and had to wait almost 4 hours to lock down--that could have been us--only thing that saved us was that there were more boats wanting to go up than down! TYJ.

OK, now we are officially in downtown Ottawa--and it's Saturday mid-day, and we find a space against the famous spot/wall that everyone jockeys for--and we grab it. "Prime Time" finds a bigger spot too--life is good. We have 2 other Looper boats already there also, who graciously help us tie off and get settled in. We're exhausted and sore from all the locking--but Pat, Gary, and I head back to the Byward Market--which is conveniently now only 2 blocks away--for a few more provisioning for the boats. We're invited for cocktails at 5pm on "Double SS" joining "Mojo" (are you reading this Frank and Mimi?!) and "Prime Time". Louis brings along our now-famous "jar" and we all had a delightful and delicious (love those cheese curds!) several hours sharing stories, favorite places, and good information. Thanks "Double SS"!

Also, we are now "officially" in the Rideau Canal--having just gone up locks 1 through 8--a system of 45 locks that will take us from Ottawa to Kingston, Ontario. Hopefully, we'll meet up with other Loopers who took the Erie Canal--a 330 mile shorter route than the one we took. Most all of us will then take the Trent-Severn canal to the Georgian Bay. We miss "Sunshine", "Southern Comfort", "Wanderin L & M", and others--slow down you guys and let us catch up with you! We also want "Maya Lisa" and "Salante" to catch up with us--maybe they will as we plan to spend several days in Kingston.

Ottawa is our favorite "big" town to date. It's just so pretty from the water--and so,so green. Unlike other large cities we've seen, Ottawa has miles and miles of greenways, parks, and paths--they're everywhere--and the varied trees and flower beds are spectacular too. You don't feel cramped by large buildings and lots of concrete--their city planners really did get it right here. We also saw for the first time lots and lots of black squirrels!! Completely black with long, bushy tails--at first I didn't believe what I was seeing--I thought it was a small cat. And as I'm sitting here now writing this (4 days later) we've seen no other variety of squirrel--just black. They're everywhere!

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