Our tour began in Ottawa. While it is the capital city of Canada, it is not the largest by far, however it is home to beautiful historic buildings dating back to the colonial period. Like our own capital of Canberra, located between Sydney & Melbourne, Ottawa is nestled between Toronto and Montreal.
On the first morning our group all met for breakfast, we introduced ourselves and met our lovely tour director, Cathy, and driver, Louis. It was also really nice to see some familiar faces that I have been lucky enough to travel with on a number of other Bunnik Tours.
Our hotel, the Courtyard by Marriott, was located at ByWard Market District, a lovely trendy area of Ottawa with lots of nice restaurants, specialty shops and market stalls.
There were ample places to shop for all sorts of things including art and souvenirs, and it was also great to sit on one of the little terraces and enjoy a bite to eat, while sipping a coffee and people watching.
Cathy and Frank, my husband, lined up early in the morning to get us entry tickets to see the Canadian Parliament House. While there are impending renovations, we were still fortunate enough to be able to take a tour. Due to the overwhelming demand, we were split into two groups and each group had an hour tour about the workings of the Canadian Parliament.
It is a beautiful and fascinating grand building, with incredible ornate ceilings and large staircases. On the outside the impressive building has a fountain with a large square in front and an amazing Gothic Revival façade. Our guide was fantastic and explained all the happenings of the Parliament House. His knowledge was incredible, and it was touching to see his enthusiasm and pride for his country.
We also visited the statue of Terry Fox, a famous Canadian athlete who lost his leg due to cancer. Terry ran a ‘Marathon of Hope’ to raise money for cancer research with the hope that each Canadian would contribute $1. In the end he raised over $24 million. Cathy, our guide, showed us a touching movie of Terry’s story.
Crossing back over the river we drove past the residence of the Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, located in a beautiful neighbourhood with many big mansions. There are flowers beds and hanging baskets on lantern posts everywhere with manicured gardens. again full of colourful flower arrangements.
In general, the city is very clean with no rubbish anywhere and there were scores of friendly school children on excursions who were happy to engage in conversation with us. In the afternoon we were ready to explore this lovely city by ourselves during our leisure time, visiting the museums and the area around our hotel.
In the evening, we met back as a group for the welcome dinner. I always find it is better on the second night as everyone is getting over the initial jetlag and not half falling asleep! It’s so great to talk with our fellow travellers and get to know each other better – chatting away and learning about them and the other journeys they have been on. It was also great to get to know our tour guide and driver better – I find this always helps with the overall group dynamics.
On this tour we were with 17 – or 19 including Cathy & Louis. It was such a nice small group, and during our dinner we had an area of the restaurant all to ourselves which was ever so lovely.
Lots of talking and sharing life experiences, it was just a great way to really kick off our tour.
ON THE ROAD TO HUNTSVILLE
The next morning, we left Ottawa at around 8.30am, and like most Australians, we were all on the coach and ready to leave on time!
Our first stop was at the Algonquin Logging Museum where we walked approximately 1.3km on a beautiful trail filled with relics from the old logging industry. It is set up like an open-air museum and is very interesting to see how these loggers lived and worked in the early 1900s.
After lunch we then hiked the Spruce Bog Trail. It is approximately a 1.5km loop boardwalk through forest and wetlands. We all enjoyed these scenic walks very much. A fun filled day and our walking exercise energised us all.
Our hotel in Huntsville was close to a Walmart and most of us made a little visit to see if we could buy some snacks and fruit. We ended up having dinner with nearly all of our group spontaneously in one of the restaurants close to our hotel.
HISTORIC SAINTE-MARIE AMONG THE HURONS
Toronto was on the itinerary next, where we would stay 2 nights in the largest city of Canada. There is just so much to see and experience there.
On the way we stopped in Midlands for lunch and to visit Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons, a Jesuit pilgrim place. 18 Jesuit priests established the settlement among the Huron Indian Tribes. Because of ongoing battles with other Indian tribes and illnesses brought in by the Europeans, the Jesuit decided to abandon the settlement. Three Jesuits priests died in the battles, and a church was built in honour of the fallen priests that were later canonised. The Church is now a pilgrimage place and there were many visitors during our visit.
A replica of the original settlement has now been rebuilt in the old style. For our tour we had a local guide named Matthew, a lovely competent young person, who made our visit so interesting, learning how these Jesuit priests were self-sufficient and how they survived in such difficult circumstances.