Friday, May 11, 2007

Another 20K ride

Last Wednesday, Yoshiko and I decided to hop back on our bikes and make another run downtown to check out the Tulip Festival setup at Major's Hill Park. We've been doing a good amount of biking since getting here, which I hope is helping to offset the major dietary changes we've put ourselves through! This trip downtown is about 20 km, from home to Parliament, then up the Rideau Canal to Dow's Lake and back home. We take it pretty slowly, taking pictures along the way of course.

One of the great joys of being back home for me is to once more be able to hear the sound of birds chirping and singing as they go about their daily business. One of the more particular sounds around the house is of the cardinals that make their nest somewhere around here every year. While I've been unable to get a shot of the one which serenades us from the big trees in the back, I managed to get this one near the Ottawa River the other day. Beautiful birds they are...

As we biked down the river, we couldn't help but notice that the amount of waterfowl hanging around is much higher than the last time we did this 2 weeks ago. Mallard ducks and geese are everywhere!

As I've mentioned before, Ottawa has close to 200km of bike paths which wind through the city. Here is Yoshiko enjoying a small segment of it. In the distance on the left, you can see the parliament buildings downtown.

And here they are close up! After grabbing a Shawarma at the Shawarma Village on O'Connor street, we headed to Parliament Hill to check out the tulips. You can see the tulip beds running along the side of the vast expanse of well tended grass in front of the Centre Block.

The clock tower is one of the tallest buildings in Ottawa, and due to its location on the cliffs overlooking the Ottawa River, it dominates the region. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't cooperating and clouds moved in so these photos are not quite as striking as they would be with a clear blue sky.... will try again next week!

Gotta love the supermacro feature on the S3...

On the main walkway up to the Centre Block, we met the genkiest RCMP officer I've ever seen. This guy's duty while assigned here is to essentially be a tourist attraction, and he is quite good at it. RCMP stands for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police... mounted because they used to (and still occasionally do) ride horses.

And of course, the photo I took is better than that of the guy I asked to take ours.... gotta get the Peace Tower in there!

After Parliament Hill, we walked over to Major's Hill Park and weren't all that impressed with the tulips there. I guess this is more of an events location for the festival than a tulip seeing spot. The place for that is certainly along the Canal and Dow's Lake where we went the other day. Unfortunately, the pavilions we wanted to visit had yet to open, so we just did a quick walk and headed on out. This is the Sussex Cathedral by the way, you can get a better idea of the scale from this photo than my previous shots.

Finally, we headed up the canal again and up to Dow's lake where the crowds had thickened since our last visit. Seems word is getting around that the tulips are blooming. They certainly are lovely.

Interestingly enough, the Tulip Festival has its roots in World War II. Members of the Dutch Royal Family, including Princess Juliana, who eventually became Queen of the Netherlands, found refuge in Ottawa from 1940 until 1945 while their homeland was under Nazi occupation. Princess Juliana even gave birth to her daughter at the Civic Hospital just up the road from here during her exile. For the royal to give birth on Dutch soil, the hospital room in which she gave birth was declared to be sovereign Dutch territory, much as Embassies are designated that way. As a thank you to Canada for the asylum that was granted as well as for our part in liberating Holland, the Dutch Royal family sent 100,000 tulip bulbs to Ottawa in 1945. This gift became an ongoing one, with 20,000 tulip bulbs being sent to Ottawa annually to this very day. In the 1950s, the city decided to build a lasting event around this gift and so was born the Canadian Tulip Festival, the largest festival of its kind in the world. From the initial gift from the Dutch, the festival has grown to include over 3 millions flowers planted yearly throughout the National Capital Region.

And that's your bit of trivia for today... lol


Anonymous Ellen said...

One of the top reasons I like your blog is that you're such an exceptionally good travel guide. Your pictures, descriptions and comments are wonderful. If you ever decide to change careers, I think you'd make a terrific tour guide. :-) Keep it up, and I'll keep reading. And very glad that you and Yoshiko are doing well back in Canada.

12:23 PM  
Blogger Jean said...

Alright... that's it..... YOU HAVE TO START THINKING ABOUT GETTING YOUR PICTURES OUT THERE SOMEHOW! You have quite the talent my friend. I think its time you file for a return.

Awesome professional shots!

9:11 AM  
Blogger theladouceurs said...

Mitch i think jeanie said it all. anywho i have to admit I never thought i would hear the words "they really are lovely" coming from you about tulips (chuckle) glad to see you truely are happy. say hello to yoshiko and we can't wait to see you.

12:58 PM  

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