Bristling with towers, castle turrets and soaring Gothic spires, the grand stone buildings below us like miniatures in some childs toy town. Red double- de

cker buses trundle down broad boulevards and tiny boats ply the simmering ribbon of the Rideau canal as it snakes its way into Ottawas heart through a patchwork of yellow and purple tulip beds and bright green parks dotted with heroic statues – the kind of storybook place Hans Christian Andersen might have dreamt up had he been called as a city planner.

Every visit to Ottawa should start below the imposing bluffs of Parliament Hill, or just ” the Hill” to the locals. For one thing, its the highest point for miles and the view from behind the Parliament House is excellent and allows one to appreciate the great natural setting of this city. But thats not the main reason for being here, its the building themselves, steeped in history and especially changing the Guard, that draws visitors in flocks.

On the highest point, a massed group of great stone gothic buildings tilt their verdigrises copper roofs and spires to the skies. A free guided tour inside the building is available for watching those seats of Government.

The impressive Peace Tower that rises like a needle from Parliaments Centre Block has a Memorial Chapel on the third level dedicated to Canadians killed in foreign wars and its 53- bell carillon rings out Sunday afternoon concerts that can be heard all over.

An eternal flame burns in front of the building as symbol of Canadas 100 years of nationhood. From close up, youalt39ll see the gargoyles near the roof, some of which wear the faces of the buildings creators.

The green lawn surrounding the centennial flame is a showpiece for celebration and ceremony. Every summer morning at 10: 00 am theres the ritual Changing of the Guard. The precise maneuvers, the martial music and the panorama of the lawns and buildings of Parliament Hills combine to wonderful effect. As testimony to Ottawas love of orderliness the guards, clad in traditional scarlet tunics and bearskin busbies, are required to fall in a certain manner if they faint.

The Hill stands between the Ottawa River and Wellington Street, a broad avenue flanked by a succession of grand green copperroofed government edifices that echo the Gothic architecture of the Parliament buildings- the Supreme Court, the Confederation Building and the Bank of Canada. The bank is the site of the countrys gold resources, stored under Wellington Street: the vaults are constructed in such a way that in the event of a break- in they automatically become flooded.

Going west, Wellington Street terminates at Confederation Square, where lies the National War Memorial and the Chateau Laurier. The later one is really a grand Chateau style hotel. It has stood guard over Confederation Square for nearly more a century, catering to the titled, the rich and the famous.

One of Ottawas most charming features is the Rideau canal which flows right through the downtown area and connects the Ottawa River with the St. Lawrence River 200 kms to the south. The Rideau is a delightful recreational waterway in summer. It is plied by everything from canoes to houseboats gliding alongside rural towns en route and passing through the 49 hand cranked locks maintained by the National Park System that lift them right into the nations capital.

If alt39 The Hillalt39 is Ottawas heart, then the Byward Market is her stomach. Our favourite Ottawa days started with a stroll through the market which springs to life in early morning with vendors setting out baskets of flowers, strawberries and barrels of apples, arranging everything from garlic braids to green peppers as if they were s for an artists still life.

Around the vibrant market, the oldest surviving part of Ottawa, are some of the citys best restaurants; a side effect of all the nationalities posted there is a wealth of international cuisine y

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