First Impressions and an Overview

So this little bit of research taught me that there is much more to Ottawa than what we commonly know. It’s pretty evident that Ottawa has undergone huge changes since the early part of the 1800s when Colonel By came to build the Rideau Canal from 1826 to 1832. This initial settlement was called Bytown and in 1855 Bytown officially changed its name to Ottawa.

The city really grew around the canal and today, the Rideau Canal is one of the major centers in Ottawa for recreation, and comes alive in the winter as the Rideau Canal Skateway. Ottawa’s first industry was derived from logging which grew around the Ottawa River. Rafts of timber were floated down the Ottawa River, and large sawmills were built during the 19th century.

Right from the start the ByWard Market became a major centre of action for the lumberjacks, and even today it has remained one of Ottawa’s primary entertainment and commercial areas.

Ottawa’s first electric streetcar service was opened in 1891 and a local pioneer, Thomas Ahearn, often referred to as Canada’s Edison, was a driving force behind bringing electricity to Ottawa. He invented heating appliances and one menu of the day (in 1892) boasts that this was the first instance in history that an entire meal was cooked by electricity.

In 1877, the public got its first demonstration of the telephone. And Canada’s first country-wide broadcast came through the radio waves from Ottawa in 1927. Tragedy struck Ottawa several times: in 1900, a huge fire destroyed entire neighbourhoods, and in 1916, the Parliament Buildings suffered the same fate.

Ottawa is a major tourist destination, and visitors to the city enjoy the cultural and heritage attractions, as well as Ottawa’s festivals and special events.

Quite surprisingly, Ottawa has a number of world-renowned celebrities, including Paul Anka, Lorne Green, Margaret Atwood, Alanis Morrisette and Matthew Perry. So the history and make-up of Ottawa is indeed much more interesting and diverse than expected.

One of the great things about Ottawa is its unique heritage architecture. Being the passionate photographer that I am I requested Theresa to stop the car in various treacherous positions in the middle of rush hour traffic, just to hop out and take some pictures in the warm evening light. The temperature itself was anything else but warm, it must have been -10, -12 degrees Celsius.

I got out of the car near the Supreme Court of Canada and got out to shoot a few photos in the setting afternoon soon. My breath was freezing and walking around without a toque or gloves was not a good idea in this -10 degree weather. I definitely had to cover my trigger fingers on the camera with gloves since the biting cold was chewing at my digits.

Of course I wanted to catch a close-up of the Parliament Buildings as well, so we grabbed an illegal parking spot and I hopped out of the car and instructed Theresa to circle around the block in the event someone was going to shoo her away.

Then it was on to our next stop, the historic Lord Elgin Hotel, located right downtown, 5 minutes from the Parliament Buildings, right across from Confederation Park and the famous Rideau Canal, our destination on Saturday for some outdoor skating on the Canal, at 7.8 km the world’s largest skatingrink.

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