Co-Op Students Explore Ottawa Part Two – Justine on Parliament Hill

All photos courtesy of Alissa Dicaire

What would you do if you were a tourist in Ottawa?

Ottawa Life Magazine asked our co-op students this question and put them to the test.

Each student was asked to pick an area of the city that they wanted to explore for an afternoon. Grade 11 co-op student and fledgling artist Justine Yu chose to explore an iconic Canadian landmark: Parliament Hill.

DSC_0390When asked about her choice, Yu’s answer was simple.

“I think it is the representation of Canada. Parliament Hill is what people think of when they think of both Canada and Ottawa.”

After Ottawa’s selected as the capital in 1857 by Queen Victoria, the Centre, East and West blocks of Parliament were built between 1858 and 1866. One year after Confederation occurred, the buildings were chosen as the seat of government.

Tragedy struck on February 3rd in 1916, when a small fire started in the Centre Block. The blaze raged through Parliament, claiming seven lives and reducing the building (save for northwest wing and the Library) to ashes. If it weren’t for a quick-thinking employee who closed the Library’s iron doors in time, the Library and its priceless documents would have been destroyed as well.

The Centre Block we know today was finished by 1922. The iconic Peace Tower went up a little later in 1927. Today, Parliament hill is a free and open gathering place for Canada’s federal government, tourists and the occasional group of protesters.

Our trio, consisting of Yu, myself and our Web and Graphics Manager (and, once again, photographer for the day) Alissa Dicaire, met up at Parliament for 1 p.m. sharp on a rather cold late-November afternoon. Chilly, but remaining enthusiastic, we were about to embark on another adventure of playing tourist for the day.

We began our journey by admiring the Centennial Flame. The Flame commemorates Canada’s 100th anniversary as a Confederation, and was first lit by Lester B. Pearson on January 1st, 1967. For good luck, many visitors will toss coins into the fountain that surrounds the flame. I’m no stranger to superstition, so I tossed a dime in. My wish was for warmer weather.

DSC_0397Parliament provides some great photo opportunities, especially for tourists. Dicaire was even stopped and asked to take a photo for a visiting sightseer.

After our gallivanting around the Hill was complete, Yu suggested we visit Parliament Souvenir and News. The gift shop, located along Metcalfe Street, is chalk-full of quirky Ottawa-centric souvenirs and trinkets.

Soon, it was clear that a visit to Tim Hortons needed to occur. A certain caffeine addicted features writer required her fix, and what’s more Canadian than a trip to Timmies?

Our trio headed to a neighboring Tim’s location, while visions of doughnuts and warm coffee danced in our heads.

After ordering and enjoying some sugary donuts, we planned our next course of action. Yu suggested we visit Sparks Street for a photo-op in front of the street’s Christmas décor.

DSC_0403Sparks Streets boasts itself as one of Ottawa’s most significant heritage streets. Founded in the early 1800’s by Nicholas Sparks (one of the City Fathers of Ottawa and a farmer, not the novelist), Sparks cut a path through the woods that would later become the street. In 1961, Sparks Street closed itself to all vehicular traffic, and transformed into North America’s first permanent outdoor pedestrian mall.

We strolled along the street, chatting and keeping our warm drinks close. We learned that Yu arrived in Canada with her mother two years ago from Hong Kong, and they have been surviving through the harsh winters ever since. Yu and I chatted about her journey from her native land, and the expectations of Ottawa weather.DSC_0430

“I was expecting it to be cold, but it’s different than actually experiencing it,” Yu exclaimed.

The adventure was coming to an end. We decided to head back to our respective homes, but not before we came across a beautiful mural on the corner of Maclaren and Bank Street.

With a very Canadian adventure under our belts as we parted ways, I couldn’t help but wistfully hum a few keys of our national anthem.

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