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Parliament of Canada (Ontario, Canada)

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The Parliament of Canada (French: Parlement du Canada) is Canada's legislative branch, seated at Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario. According to Section 17 of the Constitution Act, 1867, Parliament consists of three components: the Sovereign (la Couronne), the Senate (le Sénat), and the House of Commons (la Chambre des communes). The Sovereign is normally represented by the Governor General, who appoints the 105 members of the Senate on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. The 308 members of the House of Commons are directly elected by the people, with each member representing a single electoral district, frequently called a constituency or a "riding" in Canadian English.

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      29.08.2006 16:26
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      Definate must for any trip to Ottawa

      As part of a trip across Canada my boyfriend and I made Ottawa our second stop. The Parliament Buildings were the first things on our 'to do in Ottawa' list. We definately weren't disappointed by them.

      HISTORY:

      The history of the Parliament Buildings is interwoven with the history of Canada. I'll try to give some idea of the history of the buildings without it sounding too much like a history lesson! In 1857 Queen Victoria was asked to chose a capital for the Province of Canada and she chose Ottawa. The Parliament Buildings, which consist of a Centre Block and East and West Blocks, were completed between 1859 and 1866. In 1867 Confederation was introduced in Canada and the buildings were chosen as the seat of government of the newly formed Canada.

      In 1916 fire broke out in the Centre Block, believed to have been started by a cigarette. Almost the entire block burned to the ground apart from the library which was saved by iron doors. The process of rebuilding began soon after and was completed in 1922. The Peace Tower was completed in 1927.

      The buildings are in the Neo-Gothic style and remain in constant use.

      LOCATION AND COST:

      The buildings are located on Parliament Hill and you can't really miss them. They are visable from all over Ottawa and are right in the centre. We walked evreywhere but there are buses around Ottawa. There is no parking on the hill itself but there are public car parks fairly close by.

      The best thing about Parliament is that everything is FREE!! The tours and the Light and Sound show were all free - yey!

      AMENITITES:

      There are public toilets near the West Block but they were not that clean. There is no cafe or drinks stall so take your own with you. There was a shop inside the Centre Block but it looked a bit of a jumble sale really so we didn't spend too long in there.

      OPENING TIMES:

      These are the tour times for the Centre Block for 2006:

      May 16 to September 4,
      When Parliament is NOT in session
      Weekdays:
      9:00 am to 7:20 pm

      Weekends and Holidays:
      9:00 am to 4:20 pm

      When Parliament IS in session
      Monday to Thursday:
      9:00 am to 12:50 pm
      3:30 pm to 7:20 pm

      Friday:
      9:20 am to 9:50 am
      12:50 pm to 7:20 pm

      Weekends:
      9:00 am to 4:20 pm

      September 5 , 2006 to May 16, 2007
      When Parliament is NOT in session
      Daily:

      9:00 am - 3:20 pm

      When Parliament IS in session
      Monday to Thursday:

      9:00 am - 12:50 pm

      Friday:

      9:00 am - 9:50 am
      12:30 pm - 3:20 pm

      Weekends:

      9:00 am - 3:20 pm

      The East Block is open from July to September and the tour times are 10-5.15. The outside tours run from the end of June to September. At other times you can pick up a leaflet for a self-guided tour around the Hill.

      THE VISIT:

      We actually made 3 visits to the buildings. I will tell you about each in turn.

      1. The Centre Block

      When we first arrived the first thing that we noticed was how much the building looked like the British Houses of Parliament. They both have the same gothic feel with the main difference being that this one has 2 seperate blocks as well as the Centre Block. In front of these is Canada's Centenial Flame. Like most people I thought that this was an Enternal Flame so I was puzzled when it looked unlit. Apparently, however, it goes out all the time with the weather. We were relieved to see it lit the next day! It is in the centre of a fountain which has all the shields of the different Canadian Provinces around it, along with the dates they joined the country. Nunavit is not on here however, as it was only formed in 1999, over 30 years after the fountain was built.

      We then made our way to the information tent. This was located next to the West Block but it is only there from May -September, so the rest of the time you head straight for the Centre Block. The tent contained a few information boards, an information desk and benches where you could sit to wait for your tour to begin. There were 3 tours available: the Centre Block; the East Block and the outside. They were available in French or English which was much better than bilingual as we didn't have to listen to everything twice. We began with a tour of the Centre Block.

      Our guide immediately gave the impression of being very friendly. She led us to the Centre Block from the information tent. Once there we had to wait nearly half and hour to go through security scanners, which was understandable. Make sure that you have water with you in the summer as the wait is long. When we got through security there was a waiting area with exibits on 'Parliament at Work'.

      The exibits were good but not really enough to keep me entertained for the length of time it took to get the large group through. There were only about 2 seats in this waiting area and near the end it was getting very cramped. When we got going again we went through to a large room where the guide introduced herself and asked us where we were all from. She told us a bit about herself which I liked as it made the tour seem more personal.

      The tour began in the hall outside the House of Commons. The hall was stone and there were carvings around the top depicting the history of Canada. Around this area there were also portraits of Canadian Prime Ministers. There are 2 doors into the Commons itself, the English and the French doors. We entered through the English Door. Carved above it were Henry VII, who was king when John Cabot sailed to Canada and George III who was king when French Canada was ceded to Britain.

      We then entered the House. Like our House of Commons it has green seats, although they are chairs not benches. At the far end there is a Speaker's Chair. There are viewing galleries at either end. The guide covered most things, who sat where, decoration etc. We then walked out through the French door which has a carving of Francis I, who was king when Jacques Cartier landed in Canada and Louis XIV who was king when France ceded Canada to Britain.

      We then went into the French Room. Yes I admit I was thinking 'well if France get a room where's the British one?'. But in reality there is a very British feel about the buildings in general. The French Room was very small and has portraits of French Kings relating to Canada. We stayed in there for only a couple of minutes as it was so cramped. We then moved to another hallway outside the Senate. Around the walls were various portraits of British monarchs which I loved. The guide told us the story of the portrait of Queen Victoria which had been saved from fire 4 times, which was fascinating.

      We then went into the Senate. Like the House of Lords this has red seats. At the far end there are 2 thrones for the Queen and Prince Philip when they visit. Around the walls were paintings of war and on the ceiling there were symbols of the people who made up the first Canadians, the rose, thistle, shamrock, dragon and fleur de lys.

      Next we went to the library. The library remains a working part of the building in the summer so photos and video were not allowed as they were in other parts of the building. I thought that the library was fantastic. It has just been restored so everything was gleeming. It was just like an old library should look and I really liked it.

      After the library we were meant to go into the reading room but it had closed without notice so the tour stopped there. I was impressed by our guide as she was friendly and knew the answers to most questions. I did stump her however as I asked her why it was George III and Louis XIV who were carved above the doors but she didn't really know the answer. But I understand that they can't know everything and apart from that I found her an excellent guide. I also loved looking round the Parliament proper and it was amazing to get so close. I imagine that this is reserved for the summer when the MPs are on holiday and I would therefore say that this is the best time to visit.

      After the tour we went up the Peace Tower. We queued for around half an hour as the lift only took 7 people at a time. It was definately worth the wait however. From the tower you could see the city and the river laid out below. You end up just below the clock face so make sure you look up while you're up there. The space was small and cramped but definately worth a visit. On the way down you see the Memorial Chamber, to Canada's war dead which was very peaceful and beautiful.

      That was it for our first day. We went quite late so we waited until the next day to see the rest.

      2. Outside and East Block

      On our second day in Ottawa we went back to the Parliament. There was so much more to see there and it was all free so it seemed like the best thing to see. We began with the outside tour. This was led by a different kind of guide to the inside tours. She took us on a tour of the various statues asround the buildings. A couple of examples include Queen Victoria and Sir John A. MacDonald, Canada's first Prime Minister. We also saw the bell which fell from the original tower of the Centre Block during the 1916 fire. It now lies at the angle which it landed, behind Parliament. My only criticism of this tour was that it wasn't long enough for me (although I'm sure others would disagree!) and missed out what were for me important statues./ The guide did not tell us about the statue of Elizabeth II which was interesting as it was the first equestrian statue of the Queen.

      We then made our way back to the information tent to pick up tickets for the East Block tour. There were only 6 of us on this tour. It seems to be much less popular but as they're all free and we're students we decided to take advantage! Again there was security but this only took a couple of minutes.

      In the East Block we saw 4 rooms. They were laid out as they were in 1872. Around the area we encountered characters from 1872 as well, who talk to you as if you think its 1872 too. This was a great addition to the tour and made us laugh a lot.

      The first room was that of Lord Dufferin, who was Governer General of Canada in 1872. The furniture was all authentic and the room felt like a museum piece. The great thing was being able to see how it all would have been and being able to stand in the room. We then saw the Prime Minister's Office, George Cartier's office and the Cabinet meeting room. The Cabinet room was small but spectacular. The furniture was exquisite.

      I have to say that our guide for the East Block was fantastic. We went round with people who were constantly asking questions and she answered them all well and with a smile, even though they were often the same questions again and again! When I asked a question she didn't happen to know the answer to she waited behind after the tour and phoned through to someone to ask for me. She could not have been more helpful and I was very impressed.

      3. The Sound and Light Show

      The Sound and Light Show was heavily advertised and we heard about it almost as soon as we got off the train in Ottawa and knew we wanted to go. The show times were 9.30 and 10.30pm although I think that they changed in August to 9 and 10. Two sets of bleachers were put outside the buildings on the lawn. There was nowhere near enough space for everyone so I recommend getting there early (we got there about 45 minutes early and got a seat) or taking a rug or towel, which many people did. Before the show began they pumped out music by Canadian artists which gave a somewhat party atmosphere.

      The show began at 9.30 and was bilingual (French and English) and lasted around half an hour. The theme of the show was 'The Spirit of Canada'. It basically told some of the story of Canada through the projection of images onto the Centre Block building as well as music and talking. They showed images of native people, Prime Ministers and althletes as well as galaxies, maple leaves and quotes on the buildings. The show was fantastic and had I been Canadian I would have felt very patriotic. At the end of the show they played the anthem and everyone stood. I really wish that we had something similar in the UK.

      MY VERDICT:

      For anyone visiting Ottawa I would recommend the Parliament Buidings as the first port of call. They were beautiful and very interesting. Even if you're not a history nut like me they are worth a visit, especially as they are free. They guides were all very impressive and were all prepared to answer questions. I was especially impressed with our guide for the East Block when she phoned somebody to answer my question. You can spend a long time at the Buildings. The Centre Block tour lasted about 1 hour and the other two tours about 45 minutes each. We spent a while just exploring the grounds by ourselves as well. The light show was really fantastic as well.

      The only things to remember are that the best time to visit is in the summer. During the MPs summer break, which is in July and August I think, you can see everywhere but at other times of the year the tour would be greatly reduced. I think that the light show is only on for July and August as well. It is definately worth seeing the East Block as this has so much history and it is worth queueing up for the Peace Tower as this gives the best views of the city. Altogether a wonderful visit and thoroughly recommended.

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      ""The Parliament of Canada (French: Parlement du Canada) is Canada's legislative branch, seated at Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario. According to Section 17 of the Constitution Act, 1867, Parliament consists of three components: the Sovereign (la Couronne), the Senate (le Sénat), and the House of Commons (la Chambre des communes). The Sovereign is normally represented by the Governor General, who appoints the 105 members of the Senate on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. The 308 members of the House of Commons are directly elected by the people, with each member representing a single electoral district, frequently called a constituency or a "riding" in Canadian English.""