Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Goodbye Summer

Well, if it's October, summer must really be over. I don't usually complain about the weather but really -  the weather this past summer was dreadful. It was one of the coolest, rainiest summers that Ottawa has ever experienced. So I have really enjoyed September. It must have been miserable for all the folks working in the heat, after having summer holidays ruined by the constant rain. September is always a treat for us retired guys, but this year it was extra sweet, with the best weather of the summer for sure. What a treat, to swim outside with falling leaves swirling around!

It's not only the weather that improved. Our September visitors had a much easier time getting around  downtown than our July visitors did. Canada Day was advertised extensively and people travelled from far and wide to be here for the July 1st birthday bash. What a blowout that was!

With the threat of terrorism, warnings of long lineups for security and a forecast of rain, we completely skipped Parliament Hill on July 1st. Instead, we went downtown the day before, when the Canada Day rehearsals were taking place on The Hill.

Having lived here most of my life, I've seen a lot of changes in security on Parliament Hill. In years gone by, wherever we had out of town visitors, we would drive them around the Hill and under the archway at the Peace Tower. Those days are long gone. I have never seen anything like this year's security-  so many police officers, everywhere. After having my backpack checked, I entered the security lineup on Wellington Street at Bank St., in front of Parliament Hill. It took about 10 minutes to snake through the metal barricades.
The metal barricades were fairly empty on June 30th
Then I entered the security tent, where we were warned not to take photos. That took another ten minutes. Again my backpack was thoroughly searched. Once I finally made it onto the hill I found that there were very definite entry and exit points.
Specially built exit ramps from Parliament Hill
One of the complaints, after the whole fiasco was over, was that the government kept reporting that they expected seven or eight hundred thousand people to come to Parliament Hill on Canada Day. At the last minute we heard that the actual capacity on the Hill is something like twenty five thousand. Why mislead your visitors? The reduced size of the lawn was evident when I looked around on June 30th. All the media tents were spread out on the west side. VIP viewing tents were on the east side and the stage itself came way out onto the lawn.  Even without the crowds, you could see that the actual standing space was much smaller than in previous years.

This year's stage came way out onto the lawn, taking up viewing space.

VIP viewing tents were new this year

This past week The Ottawa Citizen ran a piece that included many tourists' complaints to Heritage Canada about their Canada Day experiences. Click here to read some tales of total frustration.

Thank goodness our family's Canada Day weekend visitors also visited Parliamen hill on June 30th. They spent Canada Day at parks and sites away from the lineups. My only outing on Canada Day was to the Rideau Canal, to watch a group of canoes paddle past, as they recreated an historic journey from Kingston.

As my mother waited with me, in the  pouring rain, to catch a glimpse of my sister, we saw and heard many helicopters going over the area, probably police surveillance. My mother sadly observed that the terrorists were winning. They had succeeded in scaring  the entire city, on what should have been a joyful day.

After July 1st, things seemed to improve. In mid July, when we were back on the hill for a free musical event,  we didn't have to go through any security but there were a lot of police officers about, all with hands on their guns. On top of the nearby building were more police snipers.

However, then came La Machine, a gigantic robot experience from France. This was the old Ottawa, with crowds all over the place; all of us like little kids, excited to see the dragon and spider as they prowled Ottawa's streets. The crowds were thick. What was the difference? Why were we allowed to freely cram together in such huge numbers for those days and evenings? Whatever the reason, it was a welcome reprieve, after the confinement of Canada Day.

La Machine's fiery dragon
Another huge hit this summer has been the Mosaic garden in Jacques Cartier park in Gatineau, right across the river.  The floral sculptures are fantastic, it's free and just a lovely way to pass an hour on a summer day. It will be missed when it closes in a couple of weeks.

Paul Henderson's winning goal

Mother Earth
There are a few more 150th events coming this year - football (The Grey Cup), hockey (The Outdoor Classic) and curling (Roar of the Rings). Hopefully they will be successful, with no major incidents.   I wish we didn't have to worry so much about security but recent tragic events in Edmonton and Las Vegas remind us that we are living in very challenging times. Regardless of the lineups and frustration of Canada Day, no one lost their life here that day. That's something to be thankful for.

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