capital city Ottawa
has been described as one of the most beautiful capitals in the world.
Less than an hour's drive from
the American border, Ottawa enjoys the attributes
of a major centre for the visual and performing arts, as well as other
big city attractions. Ottawa has the charm of a European
town filled with monuments and ceremonies.
At the centre of the city is
Parliament in all its neogothic, buttressed and arched splendour,
re-roofed in copper that gleams brightly at dawn and dusk. Redcoated
in tall bearskin hats salute like so many wind-up soldiers. And in the
Byward Market, just down the street from Parliament, streets of flower
sellers give the city a sense of a celebration.
Overlooking it all is the
Chateau Laurier, a
castle in a 15th-century French style, perhaps the most recognized
government and politicians are often scorned,
the Chateau Laurier, always gracious, hasn't made enemies.
No wonder that
in a contest for friendly memories, the hotel beats Parliament, the
political cockpit across the street.
Built into the walls of its 450 guest rooms,
lavish suites, endless ballrooms and sumptuous corridors are ironies
worthy of much older capitals.
Consider that the
man who planned, built
and paid for the hotel, railroad tycoon Charles Melville Hays, never
to cut the ribbon. On his way back from England with a load of
for the opening, he went down with his cargo on the Titanic. In need of
a name for the hotel, management settled on Laurier, who was out of the
job of Prime Minister but still much admired. On June 1, 1912, he cut
ribbon and opened the hotel that bore his name.
Beside the picturesque Rideau Canal, still functioning
as a system of locks linking Lake Ontario and the Ottawa River, the
spires and gargoyles have made it one of the most photographed places
A castle in a city of monuments, the hotel has
become the defining non-political Ottawa experience. As a result, the
Laurier is used by the diplomatic community as an extension of its
Below the lobby is the Chateau Laurier's An Deco
swimming pool, which looks much as it did when it opened in 1932. A
fountain spritzes at the shallow end and wrought-iron balustrades
an arcade above. There's an exercise room with various machines,
sauna and steam baths. Gone are rooms for weird 1930s therapies such as
dips in carbonic acid to shrink enlarged hearts, the electrifying
couch, which used low voltage to treat high blood pressure, and a
called the Scotch Douche that blasted hot and cold water at a patient's
spine. That's what makes the Chateau Laufier different.
In a world where most hotels are high - rise slabs, the Laurier has
of great conferences of World War II held in its salons and even
rather tall that Charles Hays has been seen as a ghostly presence
the place he built. It is a castle, after all.
Outside on the streets of Ottawa, the life of
the city throbs in a way very different from the plod of government. In
summer, bicycles and inline skates are a common means of
Sidewalk cafes hum with activity in the Byward market. Museums
to the history of flight, anthropology, art, science and technology,
and photography draw crowds.
A little south of downtown Ottawa, the Rideau
River tumbles through a 12-metre gorge at Hog's Back Falls.
Rideau Canal creates a pleasant waterfront strip in Ottawa. In winter,
the Rideau Canal becomes a microculture of skaters, sledders and
Byward Market features
fresh food and flowers
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