Tag Archives: ottawa

Kingston2Ottawa – a weekend in the wacky world of Marathon Canoe…

The Kingston2Ottawa  race is a 200 km marathon race for canoes/kayaks/SUP’s. It runs up the Rideau Canal system (a UNESCO World Heritage site and the oldest lock system in the world) from Kingston to Ottawa and has 22 portages spread over 200 km of river. It has to be completed in 36 hours and the winners this year did it in 23 hours. It is CRAZY!

We found ourselves in the midst of this world in late July because we volunteered to be pit crew for Grandpa Bob. Well, really Grandpa offered to pay Hunter to be his pit crew and Hunter needed someone to drive him, hence along came the rest of the family.

Shocker #1 was that the race started at 6am on Saturday morning… nothing like starting the day with the sun. As pit crew that meant some of us (Lee, the morning person) got up at 4:30 to get things organized and get the racers to the start line on time.This was actually a bit of a family affair with one team being Grandpa Bob (75) and his paddling partner Gwen, and another team being Uncle Mike and Aunt Fiona from Saskatchewan. Mike and Fiona were entered in the expert class while Bob and Gwen opted for the Adventurer class, which meant that their support team could run the portages for them. Turns out this was a great deal for Bob and Gwen!

It took us a lock or two to really get things figured out. The times out of the first section were so fast that they had already started the portage just as we got to the lock – not really earning our money there…By the third lock we had figured things out in terms of both the portages and the food, which had things flowing like a formula one pit crew!

We all wore London Canoe Club shirts to make it easy to find us and see us from the water. This isn’t like a running race where there is a super clear trail that you are following – often you are heading in a general direction along a lake trying to figure out where the lock actually is. The jumping up and down blue spots helped fine tune the direction.

There was a pretty broad variety of locks amongst the 22 and it was interesting to check out the different styles and stages. Some have been updated since they were originally installed and others are exactly the same – being opened and closed with chains, gears and levers.

Everyone we talked to said the hardest part of the race was crossing Big Rideau Lake due to the boat traffic. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon and the cruising traffic was high – lots of criss cross waves and boats that really didn’t give way to the racing canoes and kayaks. Challenge #2 was finding the channel markers in the dark – turns out they don’t reflect much and are only really present in the tighter channels vs larger open water.

It was an impressive feat – watching people paddle non-stop for 27 hours…although staying awake and being pit crew for the same amount of time did feel equally exhausting!

Mike and Fiona handily won the Expert class in 23 hours (2 hours ahead of the 2nd place boat) and Bob and Gwen won the Adventure class in 27 hours (over an hour ahead of the 2nd place boat).

For those that are intrigued but not committed, there is a 100km race that starts in Smiths Falls. I also understand that there will be a 50km version next year so maybe check that out… We will be sticking with our whitewater playing until they throw some waves in to make the course more interesting.

 

 

 

Ottawa – a homeschool playground

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Hunter and I extended our usual Ontario trip by 5 days and headed eastwards to Ottawa to kick off the school year and immerse ourselves in all things Canadian History and Government related.

IMG_2627We talked Grandma Lynne into joining us for the week and kicked things off by venturing four hours east down the rails with ViaRail in business class. At Grandma’s suggestion, we also based ourselves out of the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, which is right in the heart of Ottawa and was a thrill for Hunter on so many fronts.

We spent our first afternoon and evening at Parliament Hill. We caught the last tour at Parliament Hill and learned all about the House and the Senate as well as some of the history behind the building itself. We were also lucky to experience one of the last nights of the Canadian History lights show called Mosaika. It was 20 minutes long and walked you through the history of Canada using stories, lights and visual displays using the Parliament Buildings as the back screen. You parked yourself on the front lawn and it felt like a big summer party with a thousand of your friends…

Day two was spent split between the Supreme Court of Canada and the National History Museum. Our tour of the Supreme Court was really well done. We had to book ahead of time and it was a small group of 8 people which made it easy to engage and inquire about both the physical location and the processes. I think that Grandma Lynne and I got more out of this tour than Hunter as we learned many new things about the mechanics of what brings a case to the Supreme Court.

We took advantage of the nice summer weather and walked from the Supreme Court to the Museum over the Portage Bridge. Half way along the bridge is this really high-tech bike counter that counts the traffic in the bike lane. Hunter tried a number of times to get counted as a pedestrian but it was too smart! When we hit Gatineau (other side of the bridge), Hunter was thrilled that he was now in Quebec. Lots of discussion then quickly followed with respect to first language laws and all of the french signage.

Our primary reason for hitting the Museum of History was to attend the Imax movie about D-Day Normandy 1944, which was a big hit. One of the best educational war movies I have seen over the past few years and a great foundation for our year of studying World War I & World War II. We had some time prior to the movie so chose to explore the Children’s Museum. What an amazing resource for elementary school age kids. Through various interactive exhibits the kids travel around the world. One of our favourite stops was learning to spell our names in hieroglyphics. Travel hint – if you land at the museum around lunch time, check out the cafeteria on the ground floor which is very kid friendly compared to the fancier, more expensive restaurant on the main floor.

 

The Ottawa River runs between Gatineau/Hull and Ottawa and acts as a border between Ontario and Quebec, and it’s an interesting example of cross border collaboration and the area being called the “National Capital Region”. After a long day of walking we enjoyed the fun of taking the water taxi from the Museum across the River to the bottom of the Rideau River at the base of the Chateau Laurier Hotel and Parliament Buildings.

Day three was all about WAR… We spent a good chunk of the day at the Canadian War Museum and it was definitely a highlight for the trip for Hunter. The War Museum was only established 5 years ago so is a very new face in Ottawa. They have done a very good job building historical content in a number of different mediums to appeal to varying ages. I think we all learned a lot of interesting things here. The museum also has a lot of very helpful educational resources on-line on their website.

Tucked in between the Chateau Laurier Hotel and the Parliament Buildings is the Rideau Canal System, which stretches 202km between Ottawa and Kingston. We walked by the locks almost every day and were really curious about the actual mechanics of the lock system as they looked really old and very manual compared to our experience at the Bobcaygeon locks the week before. Hunter and I got lucky on our walk back from the War Museum as there was a boat going through the lock system. It truly is all hand operated and seems to take 3 staff to make it work. The signs say that it takes up to 1.5 hours to go through the last 8 locks in Ottawa as you are moving up or down 80 feet.

Byward Market was right around the corner from the hotel and I LOVE local farmers markets. I love the ambience and the air of possibilities – being surrounded by so much fresh food and so many yummy smells! We grabbed burrito’s for lunch one day from a local mexican food vendor and Hunter also had his very first Beaver Tail experience, which he deemed a full success!

Day Four was a slower day – it was our last full day in Ottawa and people were running out of steam. Our morning stop was the National Art Gallery. It was another sunny day so we enjoyed the walk over and how bright the sun made everything inside the gallery itself. Hunter is not quite at the full art appreciation level so there was some speed walking through parts of the gallery. We checked out the Group of Seven collection and did some basic compare and contrast discussions with respect to the various European styles vs the Group of Seven. We also went through the Gustave Dore special exhibit and spent some time learning to draw caricatures, which was one of Dore’s many talents. The other special exhibit was a photography exhibit on World War I – it was all in black and white and extended our ongoing discussion about War and it’s various facets and impacts. The National Art Gallery also has a small but well run and highly engaging kids area. They have many resources to help make an art gallery tour fun, as well as many ever changing hands on art activities.

Our afternoon was spent at a tour of the National Mint. Super Duper security and you must book ahead for these tours. We had a lot of fun playing with the displays outside the main building. Even more impressed with the large brick of gold that we got to pick up (it was heavy!! and heavily guarded). The actual tour itself was somewhat of a disappointment. As it was on a Sunday, the Mint was not running so there wasn’t a lot of action. Hunter’s opinion was that it “sucked sucked sucked” as at the general currency coins are made at the mint facility in Winnipeg and that was what he was hoping to see. He wasn’t impressed with the investment and collector coins that they make in Ottawa.

One of the most memorable parts of our visit to Ottawa was our Fairmont Experience. We shared a room with Grandma, which made it more affordable and chose to stay on the Fairmont Gold floor as it included breakfasts and evening cocktail hour, which well exceeded the incremental room cost. Our very first cocktail hour Hunter got a magical hot chocolate from one of the staff – it was perfectly made and in a big cafe au lait bowl cup. The next morning the same staff member was working breakfast and he recognized Hunter from the night before and proactively brought him a hot chocolate… Talk about smiles from ear to ear. Hunter was on cloud nine and the service our entire stay was memorable and the cherry on the top was the postcard that arrived for Hunter a week after we got home from this staff member wishing him safe travels. This will be hard to beat!

Our five days in Ottawa was really just a scratching of the surface. There are so many amazing learning resources and experiences that I think you could easily spend 10-14 days in the region to cover everything off. We had a great time and, as always, in person learning is so much richer than book learning. It was a great way to launch ourselves into Grade Six Social Studies. Thanks to Grandma Lynne for hanging out with us and making the adventure that much richer.