I had an hour to kill yesterday, in Ottawa, so I did the obvious. After all, I've been to Ottawa several times, but I hadn't really gone to see Parliament since I was 12. But first, the Supreme Court, a building I really like. It's got great, and somehow unexpected proportions.
I didn't even know why the flag was at half-mast.
I like the real heroes we choose to place across from Parliament.
In the bushes, right before the Parliament steps, there was a semi-stealthy groundhog. It would have been too funny if it were a beaver. I took several photos until the RCMP drove up slowly and then I decided perhaps I was behaving suspiciously and should move along.
As soon as I got to the gate at Pearson, I noticed that the proportion of spoken French I heard went up. I was lucky on the way there. They had me seated next to a francophone woman with a infant and toddler, with an anglophone family with infant behind me - but the stewardess offered me the emergency exit row instead. I took a shuttle to the hotel where the meeting was held. Saw a few people I knew, but it was dominated by atmospheric physicists and oceanographers. Had lunch with N, who complained about the smokers. I told him it was the proximity to la belle province. I wandered off to the B&B in the afternoon - good thing too. It had a) moved across the street and b) did not consider my request for a reservation and their confirmation enough. Apparently I was supposed to confirm the confirmation, which seems redundant to me - but I got a room. Walked the 2 km back to the conference. Then headed to the Hill*, before the banquet (which was a great success**). Flew back home this morning. Security addressed me in French, which I always take as a compliment and an assumption based on my clothes, because it can't be my preternaturally pale-Irish complexion. When he saw my boarding pass, he switched to English. The Indo-Canadian cabbie from Pearson asked where I had been. Then he asked if I spoke French. Turns out he's trying to learn and wanted to practice. He told me how his Canadian-born cousins didn't know much French even though they got it in school. He thought they were missing out, were wrong to consider French unimportant and that the country as a whole should be more bilingual. I agree of course, but was pleasantly surprised.
*As a small child I assumed The Fool on the Hill was about Parliament. This is only semi-precocious, because while I knew 'the Hill' could be a synonym for Parliament Hill, I wrongly inferred this would be true of all Parliaments, including London.
**Though his medal went missing temporarily between the morning at the Mint and the afternoon at the hotel, less than 1 km away. Apparently there was some behind-the-scenes drama.