Why You Absolutely Must Visit Parliament Hill This Year
Visit Parliament Hill This Year
This is the perfect year to visit Parliament Hill, as Canada celebrates its 150th birthday. If you can’t visit this year, then just scratch Parliament Hill off your bucket list. Next year, the Centre Block, the main attraction, closes for renovations … for 10 to 15 years!
I don’t know the sunset date for this blog yet, but I can tell you that it is some time earlier than 10 to 15 years. I don’t know my sunset date either, but I’m glad that I did the tour this year, just in case.
The West Block will be open for tours during the renos but the Centre Block is the big star. It houses the Peace Tower, the House of Commons, the Senate and the Parliamentary Library. The Centre Block is one of the most photographed buildings in Canada.
How can a reno take this long? The scuttlebutt with locals in Ottawa is that the reno includes an underground escape tunnel that can spirit the PM et al. away if Parliament Hill is attacked. This plan likely was hatched in 2014 after a shooter opened fire in the Centre Block. The Prime Minister and his MPs were in an adjoining room. The Prime Minister was forced to hide in a closet while his MPS jerry rigged a barricade for the door. They had no security detail with them, no weapons and no escape route. They grabbed flagpoles to use as spears in case the shooter gained entry to the room. The shooter was killed in a shootout just outside the room where the PM and his MPs were trapped. More than 30 shots were fired.
Security has been beefed up on Parliament Hill since the attack. It took more than half an hour for our little tour group to clear tigher-than-airport security.
Visit Parliament Hill this year … or wait for 15 years.
Location, Location, Location
I got up early one morning and walked all around Parliament Hill while most tourists were somewhere else. I love taking photos of great vistas when no one else is around. It is very relaxing. It was easy to do an early morning visit because we stayed at the Chateau Laurier, just to the east of Parliament Hill.
How do you decide on a hotel when you travel? Price? Location? Ambiance?
We ticked all 3 boxes when we booked the Chateau Laurier for Friday and Saturday of a long weekend!
I called the hotel directly and had a wonderful person who checked every combination of best prices for seniors, CAA and pre-paying. The best rate was to pay up front when I booked. The room rate was $216 a night, plus $30 a night for parking. The Chateau Laurier is olde-world luxury.
Caution: hotels in Ontario add a “Destination Marketing Fee” for each night. The additional cost at the Chateau Laurier is $6.50. However, this is a voluntary, unregulated fee that is collected by hotels on behalf of tourist bureaus. I figured that all the money we spent while in Ottawa was more than enough of a contribution to tourism. I objected to the additional charge and they removed it.
You need a ticket to tour the Parliament Buildings
Tickets are free. Here is the catch: you cannot reserve tickets. You can only get tickets in person on the day you want to take a tour. The ticket office opens at 9:00 a.m. Tickets for timed tours are given out on a first-come basis until they are gone for the day. Tickets are available for an English tour or a French tour.
If you are a group of 10, you must reserve in advance. This means that large groups can plan in advance!
Sometimes you just get lucky in life. We arrived in Ottawa at noon on Friday of a long weekend. This would not be an ideal time to get tickets to tour the top tourist spot in Ottawa. Just as we walked in, someone ahead of us returned two tickets for the next tour. We snagged them! The tour was in French and my high school French is terrible but this gave me lots of time to grab some photos.
The next morning, I went out at 7:30 to take some photos of Parliament Hill before the crowds arrived. People were already lined up to get tickets.
Tickets are available at 90 Wellington Street, across the street from the Peace Tower. There is a statue of Terry Fox in front of 90 Wellington.
Terry Fox gave us his Marathon of Hope
The inscription on the Terry Fox plaque reads:
1958 – 1981
“I was lucky to do what I did. How many people ever
Get the chance to do something that they really believe in?”
On April 12, 1980, Terry Fox began his dream to run across Canada in support of cancer research by dipping his artificial leg into the Atlantic waters off St. John’s, Newfoundland. Terry’s run, which he called the ‘Marathon of Hope’, would do so much more by uniting Canadians in support of his heroic desire to better the lives of others.
On September 1, near Thunder Bay, Ontario, and 5,373 kilometers later, Terry’s footsteps ceased as cancer reclaimed his body. Ten months later, it would claim his life. Yet Terry’s heroism and determination live on in the hearts of not only Canadians but all people worldwide who continue to pursue his dream of raising money annually in the fight against cancer. Terry’s steps still echo in the legacy he continues to weave today through the example he set for all of us: that dreams can come true.
This plaque was unveiled by Terry’s parents, Betty and Rolland Fox, July 1, 1998
Terry lost his leg to cancer when he was 18. When he was 22, he believed that he had won his fight with cancer. He wanted to run across Canada to raise a million dollars for cancer research. He also wanted to show that there were no limits to what an amputee can do.
His Marathon of Hope started as an improbable dream – two friends, one to drive the van, one to run, a ribbon of highway, and the belief that they could perform a miracle.
He ran through ice storms and summer heat, against bitter winds of such velocity he couldn’t move, through fishing villages and Canada’s biggest cities.
Terry ran a marathon a day for 143 days on an artificial leg made of fibreglass and steel.
Somewhere along his run through Newfoundland, Terry captured the attention and the hearts of Canadians. When he arrived in Ottawa on Canada Day, thousands lined the streets to cheer him on and run with him.
There was nation-wide mourning when he died 10 months later. Flags flew at half-mast. Canada lost a hero. A mother lost her son.
The first Terry Fox Run was held that September. More than 300,000 people walked or ran or cycled in his memory and raised $3.5 million. Now, millions run every September in over 60 countries, raising more than $650 million for cancer research.
The Centennial Flame is framed by Parliament
The Centennial Flame is Canada’s birthday cake for its 100th birthday. It was lit on January 1, 1967.
The Centennial Flame is surrounded by a fountain and provincial shields
The ledge of the Centennial Flame contains the shields of Canada’s provinces and territories, except Nunavut because it was created in 1999, long after the Centennial Flame was erected.
This photo is the coat-of-arms for Nova Scotia, one the original four provinces that joined confederation in 1867.
Visitors throw money into the fountain for good luck. It is collected and awarded annually for research on disabilities by someone with a disability.
Is old age a disability? If so, I can apply for the Centennial Flame Research Award to examine age discrimination.
The Hall of Honour in Centre Block is full Gothic Revival
I think this is the perfect setting for a Harry Potter movie.
What direction should Canada set?
This is the view from above of the rotunda in the Hall of Honour. It is designed to resemble a compass rose, the face of a compass that points to North, South, East and West. This represents the idea that it is Parliament’s job to find direction for the country.
The wavy marble design that encircles the rotunda represents the ocean. The outer circle represents Earth.
The Dominion of Canada commemorative plaque is in the Hall of Honours
This is the entrance to the Parliamentary Library
This is the stunning interior of the Parliamentary Library
This is the entrance to the Senate
Because of the Persons Case (see below), I am eligible for appointment to the Senate. I am just waiting for the call!
This is the interior of the Senate
The House of Commons was not sitting while we were there and was not open … so no pics of the House of Commons.
If you visit Parliament Hill before it closes for renos, send me your pic of the House of Commons and I will add it to this post!
This is the Supreme Court of Canada
After our official tour of Parliament was over, we took the elevator to the top of the Peace Tower. There are stunning views of Ottawa and the Ottawa River.
After touring the interior of the Parliament buildings, make sure that you make time to walk around the grounds and see stunning views of the Ottawa river and the Rideau Canal. There are lots of statues of former Prime Ministers. My favourite statue is the Famous Five women.
Is a woman a person? Not according to the Supreme Court of Canada
The Famous Five were five women who petitioned the Supreme Court of Canada in 1927 to declare that ‘persons’ included women for purposes of eligibility for appointment to the Senate. The Supreme Court of Canada unanimously said No. This decision was overturned by the Privy Council in England. Women are persons!
The Persons Case is a landmark ruling for political equality for women. Are we there yet? Do women have political equality in Canada? Do women have equality in Canada?
The statue of the Famous Five is a great spot for selfies.
October 18 is Persons Day in Canada.
Only in Canada!
Is there any other parliament building in the world where teens can play soccer on the front lawn?
This is the view of Parliament Hill from Nepean Point
There is a beautiful park behind the Chateau Laurier. It offers stunning views of Parliament Hill. We spent a long time in the park as we wended our way to Nepean Point, surrounded on three sides by water.
A final shot of the Centennial Flame
After a wonderful dinner with a longtime friend, we took a final tour of Parliament Hill.