Parliament Hill

One of the biggest tourist attractions (with about 3 million visitors a year) in Ottawa is the Nation’s capital – Parliament Hill.

That being said, in the almost four years that we have lived here, we haven’t done the tour! Thankfully, we had friends in from Winnipeg and that gave us a good excuse to go check it out (finally). We got our (FREE!) tickets across the street from Parliament Hill, at 90 Wellington Street, before heading over.

Centennial Flame

At the entrance to Parliament Hill, this flame burns on top of a fountain that is decorated with the shields of Canadian provences and territories to represent the unity of Canada. I didn’t realize when we were there that it is a wishing fountain, and that all of the money tossed in goes into the Centennial Flame Research Award. This award is granted to “a person with a disability to allow him or her to conduct research and prepare a report on one or more Canadians with disabilities who have made a contribution to the public life of Canada or to the activities of Parliament.” Next time I’m there I will make sure to make a wish!

Peace Tower Tour

We were able to go right to the Peace Tower, as we had about two hours for our Parliament tour. To get in, you have to wait to have your turn through the TSA-like security and metal detectors. Then you climb the stairs and hop in an elevator that takes you right below the iconic clock and gives you a spectacular view around the city.

Once down the elevator, you visit the Memorial Chamber, which honors the Canadians who have died in combat during the wars and conflicts throughout history. The Books of Remembrance that are on display have one page turned at 11am each day (if you have a family member listed, you can call to find out when their name will be visible). It is a very humbling experience.

Center Block Tour

This February marked 100 years since the Parliament Hill fire of 1916. That fire caused the destruction of all of the center block, except for the Library. The tours this month were themed around the fire, complete with photos of what the halls and rooms looked like prior to the fire (and being rebuilt). The guide promised a look into the cause of the fire, but that ended up being the in-person form of click-bait. They only mentioned what we already knew, that the fire may have been caused by an abandoned lit cigarette or cigar, or WWII German sabotage (a cigar pipe bomb, specifically).

The tour included viewings of the Hall of Honour, House of Commons foyer, House of Commons Chamber, Senate foyer, and Senate Chamber (we did not get to see the House of Commons Chamber, as I believe they may have been sitting). It was very neat to see all of the amazing architecture and appreciate the history of the building.

The Library of Parliament

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The Library was untouched by the fire, due to the fact that it was only connected to the rest of the building by a corridor, and the librarian on duty was able to seal it off by its iron doors.

It is 140 years old and holds 600,000 items! The library is in a circle with high vaulted ceilings, and was designed in the Victorian High Gothic style. The white marble statue in the middle is Queen Victoria.

It was the most spectacularly beautiful thing I’d ever seen. I would live there if I could!

National War Memorial

We also walked over to the National War Memorial and paid our respects to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was my first trip there, and I can only imagine how crowded it must be on Remembrance Day.

Overally, it was a great day of touring the Capital City. Each time I hope to see a bit more, and continue to gain an appreciation for this city that I am lucky enough to live and work in!

Opinions on OPL Main?

Libraries are Great Work Spaces

I’m a big fan of Libraries, and since moving to Ottawa I’ve seen how amazing they can really be. The Ottawa Public Library is the largest bilingual public library system in North America, with 24 branches, two bookmobiles, and even a book vending-machine service. I’m also a big supporter of their used bookstore, run by the Friends of the OPL.

As a writer, I love getting out of the house to work, and I love that no matter where I am in the city I can open up the OPL app and find the nearest location where I can find a work station that suits my needs. Granted, I can always go to a coffee shop, but there is something special about working at a library (and not needing to buy an expensive drink or avoid the stink-eye of people waiting for a seat).

The latest OPL expansion happened over at the Beaverbrook branch, and it did not disappoint. The location closed in February 2013 and reopened in August 2014 as a new amazing workspace. It is equipped with two public meeting rooms (each with 45 person capacity), numerous small rooms for group work, an abundance of electrical outlets, and plenty of open seating by large windows to give you wonderful natural lighting while you work. Prior to the Beverbrook Branch reopening in August, my favorite work place was the Stittsville branch, which has one little closed-off room which always had space available for you to work in peace and quiet.

What Will Happen to the Central Branch?

Now on the forefront of OPL news is the central branch location.

Located downtown, at Laurier and Metcalfe, this 44-year-old branch was opened in 1971 and is currently badly outdated and it has outgrown its 81,000 square feet of space. It is often criticized for being much less user-friendly and accommodating than the neighboring coffee shops, especially when you consider that it is very difficult to get cell reception or reliable Wi-Fi.

Last summer a consulting firm was brought in and reported that it would be an estimated $70 million to renovate the current location. This renovation would strip the building down to its shell and rebuild with new glass facades, upgraded heating and electrical systems, better internal accessibility (including fixing the current one-way escalators) and increased room for meeting rooms and work areas. There is a lot being said about looking into a Public-Private Partnership (P3) to make these enhancements a reality.

OPL just announced that discussions concerning the Central Library are open to the public and set to start soon. If you would like to be a part of it, join in one of these three ways:

  1. Participate in the open public session on March 31 at 7pm at City Hal. Register at OttawaCentralLibrary.ca
  2. View the public session live webcast on OttawaCentralLibrary.ca and then submit your input online through April 6
  3. Visit the Main Branch from March 21-27 to write comments on the “idea board”

The results of this input will be made available to all in June 2015 through a report to the Ottawa Public Library Board.

Take a bit to think about what you would like to see in the central library upgrades, and make sure you chime in with your thoughts!




Writing Spots: OPL East Ottawa

April 18

Writing Around Town

As a writer, I love to find new places to write. I have my old favorites, but there is something about going somewhere new that shakes up my routine and gets me in a productive mood. That’s just one excuse though, the truth is that I’m just a huge fan of the Ottawa Public Library system, and I want to be able to visit all of the branches before we are posted out of the city! As a small-town girl growing up, we only had a TINY public library, and then our own school libraries and the local College Library. The OPL system is HUGE to me!

Cumberland Library

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Cumberland

The Cumberland Branch is the farthest West branch of the Ottawa Public Library. One of the things I look for in a good writing spot is nearby refreshments, and this one has a Metro, Booster Juice and Tim Horton’s. They also have lots of parking.

One of my favorite things about working at the Library is the opportunity to use a table to spread out the book I’m taking notes from, my laptop, and any papers, etc.

One of the things that put Cumberland over the top for me? The separate area for Children! This kept the noise way down in the rest of the building.

This place has a ton of natural light, several small rooms to do group work, two table areas for study, and even a section of chairs next to a heater/fireplace for reading!

Orleans Library

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Unlike Cumberland, the Orleans Library is in a residential location. This means there doesn’t seem to be food or drink in immediate walking distance. There is parking though. So if you’re planning on spending the day there just pack a cooler and go eat in your car.

North Gloucester Library

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This library was busier, as it was in a more densely populated area. There was plenty of working space though. I’m guessing it would be super busy at the end of the day during the school year.