Our first morning in Ottawa and we take the hop-on – hop-off bus for the tourists’ view of the city. It is a very beautiful city with many grand public buildings including Parliament House and the impressive chateau nearby built by a railway magnate. In Australia the grand buildings of the 19th century can be attributed to gold but in Canada it seems to be mostly about lumber and the railways. First stop is the Museum to get an overview of Canadian history. The permanent displays focus on pre-European settlement and celebrate the rich history of the First Nations Peoples. We were fortunate to also see 3 special exhibitions – one covering a large collection of very-French carriages and sleds collected from all over Quebec. Another covering Napoleon’s life and influence on Paris and the third on the gold rush in British Columbia. I’m guessing most Australians are like us and don’t know a lot about this gold rush which followed on from the 1850-60s rush in Australia but it was just as intriguing as ours. The environment was every bit as tough as any of the goldfields in Australia but at least they were blessed with plenty of water. What made it different was the active involvement of the First Nation people. Prior to the gold rush there were many years of trading between initially the French fur traders and later the British so there was a strong desire to maintain harmonious relations. This worked well until there was an influx of miners from America and then things turned ugly in some areas. Reason prevailed and harmony was largely restored according to this version of history. It was interesting for us to see a number of unflattering comparisons made between Canada and Australia’s treatment of their indigenous people. In one display there was a quote from an editorial in the Maryborough (Queensland) Chronicle of 1861:
“The war has now fully commenced… Every white man has full license to shoot, kill and destroy all aborigines… The process is so slow, so expensive… that if the extermination of the aboriginal races of Australia be essential to the prosperity of the European races, then he is the greatest benefactor to the country who mixes arsenic in the ration flour and so destroys them quietly and expeditiously”
Back on the bus feeling a little flattened but a walk around the Byward Market lifted our spirits – we skipped the last few legs of the bus tour and walked through the old residential part of town and around the canal back to where the car was parked under the Arts Centre. It seemed most parts of Montreal were under re-construction in readiness for their 375th birthday celebrations next year and this included most of the Arts Centre precinct but we finally found a way around the construction after a few false attempts.
Got back to the hotel in time for a bit of car maintenance. Our brake lights have been more or less out of action for most of the trip – only coming on when you really stand on the pedal. Simon changed the pressure switch a few weeks ago but it still isn’t right. Checking all the connections suggested that the pressure switch still isn’t right so this might need to wait for another time. Hope we don’t get to wear another car in a sudden stop…