I’m posting this 3 days after writing it because we’ve had very little cell coverage for last few days!
I also posted too quickly last time, without telling you anything about the 202 km canal we’re traveling on, the Rideau Canal. The idea of building this waterway from Ottawa to Lake Ontario was conceived during the war of 1812, when the British realized that Kingston, an important naval port on Lake Ontario, easily be blockaded if there were another war with the Americans. So soon after the war ended, the British government sent Colonel John By to oversee the creation of a safe supply route from Montreal to Kingston, bypassing the St Lawrence River. Within 6 years, the canal was completed, and is now considered to be one of the greatest engineering feats of the 19th century. Luckily it was never needed for wartime use; instead it is now primarily a popular destination for pleasure boaters from all over North America. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007, sharing that honor with places like Versailles, the Great Barrier Reef, and the Great Pyramids of Egypt.
The Rideau officially begins (or ends, depending on your perspective) at the stair step locks into Ottawa, which I wrote about in my last entry. We stayed in Ottawa one night only, and then headed up the Canal. The scenery is gorgeous; I’ve never boated the canals of Europe but those who have cruised both tell us they have a similar feel–quaint villages (the area was populated starting nearly a hundred years before the canal was completed), lovely waterfalls, pastoral fields. The first night we stayed on the lock wall above Burritt’s Rapids. Here’s the only picture we took that day:
As is common at almost all the lock walls, Parks Canada offers power for $10/night and clean restrooms open 24/7, but no potable water or pump out. We didn’t care—there was a large grassy field alongside the lock for Hunny, and across the little road running parallel to the canal was a small restaurant called Lock 17. Since we’d traveled a long day, and since their large patio looked inviting, we decided to eat there that night. Unfortunately, the patio faced due west and none of the tables had umbrellas–we and the only other couple on the patio kept moving from table to table while we waited to be served, looking to find scraps of shade. The service was glacial–David joked when a third couple entered the patio about 45 minutes later that they must’ve come for tomorrow’s breakfast The food was meh. The best I can say about it is we didn’t have to do dishes afterwards, which since we are getting pretty low on water is high praise.
The next morning we traveled up the canal about 25 miles further, arriving a few hours later into the highly recommended little town of Merrickville. This is an old town (225 years) of about 3000, consisting of stone homes and shops and churches, great restaurants, farmer’s markets, and a sizeable artist population. We found two good bakeries, and finally tasted the famous (at least among Loopers) Canadian treat, “butter tarts”. They’re fabulous, and incredibly rich–a bit like pecan pie without the pecans in a tart form, boasting an amazingly thick, but tender and buttery shortbread-like crust, filled with a thick, caramel custard-like filling. Apparently, there are good-natured arguments about including certain ingredients, and whether real butter-tarts can be adulterated by adding fruit or certain spices. Here is one opinion from Nana B’s bakery::
We also found multiple small food carts offering all manner of foods–barbecued meats, homemade humus and tabouleh, fresh pressed watermelon lemonade, Thai food, as well as more baked goods still warm from the oven. I’ve resigned myself to gaining a few pounds while we’re here–it’s worth it.
I could justify the extra calories if we had the energy to bike or hike, but WOW is it hot. Today it “only” hit 92, but the heat index was 103, I presume due to the humidity. The only thing working out during the day is our air conditioner. We used our swim steps for the first time and dipped into the canal water several times during the day to cool down. We fondly remember the cold weather we traveled through (and complained about bitterly) earlier this spring.
July 1 we helped celebrate Canada Day, Canada’s celebration of its “birth” in 1867. Shortly after awakening this morning the three of us (David, Hunny, and I) walked across the street and swam in one of the locks we’d traversed the day before. Yes, it’s technically forbidden, but we’ve been told by multiple Canadians that as soon as the locks close for the evening, it’s SWIM TIME! In fact, we discovered the custom when we heard shouts of delight as several kids dove from a tall bridge into the lock, and realized that one of them was the lockmaster who’d locked us through the day before! When in Canada….
Later that morning, we wandered around the park right next to the canal (and to our boat) where we found a variety of vendors, people celebrating the day, and taking advantage of free stuff, like hot dogs, bottled water, and games for the kids. At 11:30, a Canada Day parade began, and here’s a short clip of their marching band, consisting of a surprising large number of bagpipers:
The parade ended about 10 minutes later (this is a small town, remember?) It really reminded us both of Friday Harbor’s celebration of the Fourth.
Note how many Canadians wore the colors of their flag, red and white! David and I wished we’d known about the practice beforehand–we would’ve joined them.
There were a lot of flag wavers, bands playing, and people wishing others a “Happy Canada Day!” After the parade, some high school students and the audience sung O Canada” and later, “God Save the Queen”. Here’s “O Canada”:
Afterwards, the mayor spoke, awards to kids were given out (audio equipment not working, so don’t quite know why they were given awards), and then people mostly dispersed. Later this afternoon there will be concerts given by various artists, and then tonight there’ll be fireworks. We’ll put in Hunny’s earplugs before then.