Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Day 2 – Parliament Hill

Thursday, July 14

A reoccurring theme for the week was: it was HOT … the weather that is.  We were in the middle of a heat wave and if you know what Ontario weather is like then you know that HOT weather means heat + humidity = hot and sticky weather that creates tons of sweat, makes you feel exhausted (which can translated into miserable).  For those of you who know me and how well I love heat, I have to add that we all survived well through the heat and while we did feel hot from time and time, overall we found it endurable.  We were there to have a good time and as long as we kept our focus on this it all seemed manageable … adding some water play from time to time or an air conditioned museum and we were ready to tackle the heat for a while again.

Our first full day in Ottawa was a busy one.   Our first stop was the Changing of the Guards at Parliament Hill.  We made it just as they came marching up the street.  We watched the entire “changing” but it would have been nice to better understand what they were doing and the reason behind what they did.  Some of it we could figure out and guess at, but some of it just seemed like a long drawn-out process (which I suppose it is).  It is explained as  a pageantry of marching music and military drills performed by the Ceremonial Guard … pageantry (elaborate/spectacular display) would be the right word

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It was neat to see how the director would direct the orchestra without even looking at them


 Centre Block of Parliament Hill was built between 1916 and 1927 to replace the original building which was destroyed in a fire in 1916… all but the library which was saved by the closing of iron doors between it and the rest of the building.


The Peace Tower.  Unfortunately the tower was not open when we were there, so we were unable to climb and have a view from it.


It would have been nice to know what these statutes on the tower mean.  Maybe if you do the outdoor tour they tell you … but our kids had had enough of tours by time we finished the other two we went on … so we’ll have to save that one for another time.  For now I have to suffice with reading info on the web about the carvings on the Peace Tower

These odd looking carvings are called Gargoyles.  Gargoyles were created with a two-fold practical purpose. First, to ward off evil and, second, to eject excess water from the exterior of buildings. A gargoyle, although sometimes mistaken for a grotesque (which  is a style of decorative art characterized by fanciful human or animal figures that may distort the natural into absurdity, ugliness or caricature), is a spout or eaves trough carved in the form of a human or animal figure projecting from a roof gutter to catch rainwater and throw it clear of a building.


It is interesting to note that there are still many uncarved blocks of stone in the interior of the Centre Block that are waiting to be transformed into notable works of art.    

The West Block.  This building was constructed in the 1860’s with additions addedin 1878 and 1906.  There were no tours of this building but it is the building that has the offices of ministers and members of parliament as well as committee rooms.


The East Block.  This building was built in stages, the main section in mid 1800’s at the same time as the West and original Centre Block, a wing was added to it in 1910.  This building contains Senators offices and some rooms restored to the early years of the Confederation.


We signed up for a couple tours, one of the east building and one of the main/centre building.  Our first tour was of the East Block.  The kids found this tour more interesting then the next tour as they love anything that deals with pioneer/historic times.  In the East Block rooms in the building are restored to as they were when the first prime minister, Sir John A. MacDonald, and Governor General Lord Dufferin were governing (I believe it was him – he was not the first Governor General but the 3rd, but I believe he was GG when MacDonald was Prime Minster) .  Various other rooms setup in their original state to show people how things were done when our country was first “created”. 

Below is the the office of Sir. John A MacDonald.   This office looks very rich for it’s time (1865) … which it was for the average person …but  in comparison to the Governor Generals office it was only mildly “rich”. To my eyes they were both about the same, or even the Prime Minister’s office looked more rich. They pointed out how the trim and colours of the room indicated the level in society. It was also pretty amazing to learn about the “central” heating and cooling system that they had. Even to look around the room and think that these were things from the 1800’s and what it would have taken to purchase or create such items in those days.


Here is a picture of the Governor Generals Office.  The picture taken of the rest of the office, did not turn out, but it was larger then the Prime Ministers, the fire place and trim was more elegant and the colours showed a higher rank in society.   At the time of Confederation the Governor General was appointed by the British and was a British Aristocrat. It was not until 1931 that the Canadian Government was allowed to appoint the Governor General and since 1952 the Governor General must be a Canadian Citizen.


The Privy Council Chamber.  This is the room where the cabinet ministers would meet.  It’s interesting to note that for most of the time when these meetings occurred no minutes were taken.  Overtime Cabinet grew and eventually moved to the Centre Block


The kids in front of Parliament and by the Centennial  Flame

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Matthew insisted on having a picture of him standing by the stop sign … in the middle of the (not very busy) road.  I’m not sure what the fascination was with the sign … whether it was because he could stand up on the cement block, or get right up close to the sign, or maybe because it was in the middle of the road, who knows … maybe he recognized that it was different then the regular signs we have in our area.


We were going to come back and take a tour of the ground around the Parliament Buildings, but the rest of our trip was so busy that we never ended up having time.  I’m not sure how much it would have interested the kids to look at various statutes of dead people.  They do know who Queen Elizabeth II is, so we at least got a picture of this statute.


After having a lunch break (and short nap by Rob) we went for a tour of the Central Block.  I’ll admit it … we don’t understand much of the whole parliament/government system and so while Rob and I could follow and understand a good part of what was happening it was far beyond the kids and so they didn’t find it quite so interesting.  While the architect of the building in itself is beautiful and lovely to look at, the kids can only stay interested in this for so long.  The girls gathered some information and stored some images in their heads and Matthew did very well on just looking and being quiet … we were impressed as it was a long and borrowing day for him (until 4pm anyways)

Door to the House of Commons and part of the House of Commons where issues are debates and laws created for the Canada

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Previously this room was the reading room, which is now used as a meeting room.  Each of the pictures on the wall represents a different province.


The arch and the door going into the library.  The library is still the original library built in 1876 and due to the iron doors it survived the fire of 1916.  Pictures were not allowed to be taken in the library, but it was definitely beautiful and impressive, as much of the design and architecture of the Parliament Buildings is.  Pictures can be seen here and here


The Senate Chamber – which examines and debates bills passed by the House of Commons.  This is also where the Queen (or her representative) will address Parliament


This statute  is outside the main entrance by the clock tower … another one of those statutes that you wonder what it’s suppose to mean or why it is there in the first place.

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By time we were done viewing Parliament it was shortly after 3pm and we headed off to find something to do that would be a bit more entertaining for Matthew.

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