Your first couch surfing experience is a combination of excited anticipation and fear as you find your way to a random location in an unknown city to stay with -essentially- a complete stranger. I was going to be staying with Dean Shivij who is a 46 year old muslim who would have filled every stereotype that they tell 20-year-old single girls to stay away from. Except, as I found out, stereotypes are rarely true.
|That bloody Fairmont at it again. at least|
it fits in here.
|The Canal gates|
I crashed out for an hour or so but woke up to Dean making some coffee, toast and smoothies down in the kitchen. This was the first proper look I had of the house, which didn't really look like a house at all but a home. There were hidden treasures everywhere from some far corner of the globe and hammocks hanging from anywhere they'd fit. We had breakfast in his back-garden and had an insightful conversation about trust over our toast - something that was to be common practice over the past few days. We discussed how trust should be instinctive. For example typically British girls wouldn't usually go stay with a 46 year old male stranger because of the things we've been brought up to believe but I had chosen to stay at Dean's because of some instinctive reason that it would be a good idea. The idea that trust shouldn't be earned but trust until that trust is broken.
I decided to go a walk into the city which took me through Chinatown- which were all starting to look the same and considering I am not the biggest fan of Chinese food it's never that much of a pull for me. Ottawa looked very similar to Toronto in most respects until you got to the government buildings which were like a splodge of architectural beauty hidden behind curtains of skyscrapers. It was like if London sailed into France. Ottawa is situated bang on the border between Ontario and Quebec and all you have to do is cross the Ottawa River and you in Quebec. Every second person was speaking French and it was strange not being able to understand people again - I mean at least in Tanzania I looked like a tourist and so they were ecstatic I could speak to them but here it seems almost expected to be fluent in French... Sacré bleu.
|Across to Gatineau|
After that you are sent to a waiting area to do more waiting but after several bus loads of school children had headed out on their tour, myself and a gaggle of old women got concerned and had to be shuttled off to catch up with our tour which had left without us. We got a whistle-stop tour before the library where we were reunited with the rest of our group and all we seemed to have missed was the house of commons. We had to be silent in the library and we weren't allowed to take photographs as real librarians were working - something I didn't know actually existed. I spent most of my time trying to spot one of these librarians in their wild habitat.
Then we shuffled through to the Hall of the Senate which had huge portraits of every monarch since Queen Victoria on the walls. I still find it bizarre that they refer to Queen Liz as the Queen of Canada but in Canada there is the Governor General who takes on the role of Head of State in the Queen' absence and so would give royal assent to a law as well as other duties. The roof of the hall is painted with Canada' emblem as initially they had the name of each Speaker of the Senate but inevitably ran out of room. In the corner there were the four shields of Canada's four original provinces (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Upper and Lower Canada - Quebec and Ontario respectively). The walls had gargoyle-esc heads sticking out of Canada's Vikings to commemorate their rule but on one wall the sculptors had carved their own faces - unknown to anyone else at the time!
|Hall of the Senate|
After my tour it was time for my second coffee of the day and after went a walk with no real plan and just walking from street to street. I ended up in Byward Market which was perfect for a little food boost and people watching session but I was getting so tired that a third coffee was in order. I took this as an opportunity to sit and have a long overdue skype conversation with my flatmates. I suppose being by myself was starting to hit me - after only one day.
As evening arrived I went to the National Gallery and since it was also free I thought I should absorb all the free culture as possible. Their special exhibit was on aboriginal art and the trials of aboriginal life - which was a good to relate to my studies in anthropology back in Guelph but there are some pieces of modern art I will just never understand. The other part of the museum was European art and so I played the game of 'Guess the artist from a distance' and I was proud that I haven't lost all of my higher art knowledge. You can maybe tell that I was just a bit too tired to appreciate art that wasn't made with down feathers and designed by ikea- so that was my next stop. Bed, not Ikea.
|Main Hall of Parliment|
|View from the Peace Tower across the Ottawa River to Quebec|
|Parliment and some bales of turf!|
|Outside the National Gallery|