Moving Day...Train to Ottawa
07.21.2013 - 07.21.2013 82 °F
We had scoped out the train station on Saturday. The extensive construction work in Toronto affected the Union Station as well. We went to the check in area and talked to a young woman who informed us that there was no baggage car for our train, there was a one bag per person limit, we would have to schlep our own bags...and we would have to make other arrangements to get our third bag to Ottawa!! WHATTTT?????? Certainly not what I was informed when I made the reservations on line several months ago. When we got back to the room, I called VIA Rail, Canada's equivalent of Amtrak, only to be informed by the young woman on the other end exactly what I was told at the station. WHATTTT??????? "Let me speak to your supervisor", I insisted. "I have none today", she replied politely, "but I can check to see if Customer Service is still open." She did and it was. Finally, CS advised me there had been a change in baggage policy since I made my reservations and, of course, they would honor my reservation as made and a note would be made on my file. I have a file??? As they say here, "No worries!" When we got to the station this morning we found a "redcap" (porter) who took our bags, led us to the first class lounge, tagged our bags and told us they would be on the train and our carry ons would be above our seats. And they were. That $10CAD was well spent.
We were eagerly anticipating the four and a half hour train ride, and we were not disappointed. The seats provided plenty of room and the drink cart kept coming. We had a 9:30 departure time and Margaret asked for Bloody Mary mix. What followed was a large plastic glass filled with red liquid and ice. She started to chug the drink and I suggested that it was not just mix. Turned out I was right. The food menu was heavy with fish so I passed, but Margaret scarfed down the sushi appetizer, the shrimp entree and the cheesecake. The train travelled for periods along Lake Ontario offering wonderful views of water, lush vegetation, golf courses and backyards. I got to catch up on this blog to keep my millions of readers sated. We arrived in Ottawa early and took a cab to our next stop, Albert at Bay. I must have changed reservations five times in Ottawa, but ultimately decided on this all suite hotel which was offered for a nice three day package on Travelzoo. The rooms are very large...it's not the Trump, but has some nice features and a very comfortable bed and a small kitchen.
After getting organized we set off to the hop on/off bus tour which we have found to be the best way to orient oneself to a new city. Ottawa is the capital,of Canada and immediately had a very different feel than Toronto. Toronto is a big, metropolitan city, not unlike New York and San Francisco, although I would argue that San Francisco is more charming. Ottawa sits on the Ottawa River which separates Ontario province from Quebec province. Ottawa (i/ˈɒtəwə/ or /ˈɒtəwɑː/) is the capital of Canada, and the fourth largest city in the country. Founded in 1826 as Bytown and incorporated as "Ottawa" in 1855, the city has evolved into the political and technological centre of Canada. The population is about 900,000. Mercer ranks Ottawa with the second highest quality of living of any large city in the Americas, and 14th highest in the world. It is also rated the second cleanest city in Canada, and third cleanest city in the world. In 2012, the city was ranked for the third consecutive year as the best community in Canada to live in by MoneySense.
While waiting for the bus, we sat in a lovely area of art shops, across from the war memorial park and a stone's throw from the extraordinary Parliament buildings. There was a young man playing guitar with a wireless mike and amplifier who thoroughly entertained us for a half hour while we people watched. It was a beautiful day with temperatures in the low 80s. The bus took us past the three parliament buildings, the war memorial (an interesting structure with what is best described as a fin rising from the roof...the fin area inside the museum was designed in such a way that one looking out can only see the PeaceTower which is part of the Parliament buildings), the Civilization Museum (which is actually in Gateau, Quebec, across the Ottawa River) past a number of Embassies (the US being the biggest, gaudiest and having the best view), the wealthiest neighborhood in all of Canada where the houses start at $3M (most of the ambassadors live there), the prime minister's residence and the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, a huge, beautiful building which sits on the Rideau Canal.
After the bus tour, we walked to the Byword Market area, the oldest neighborhood in Ottawa. This area contains most of the city's restaurants, bars and nightclubs. We stopped at a New Orleans style pub for a cocktail and were entertained by a fellow across the street who was juggling various items he had lit on fire to the appreciative applause from the crowd he had attracted. Then we moved on to dinner at Soprano Ristorante, another Groupon find, and had a very nice dinner. cabbed back to the hotel and called it a night.