June 29, 2005

Justice, & Deep Fried Mars Bars...
Today I went to the Supreme Court of Canada with some guide friends, and we took a tour of the inside of the building. It`s nice, but I prefer the Parliament buildings :)
We then went to Zak`s Diner for a deep fried Mars bar. You might be wondering what a deep fried Mars bar is, eh? Well, it`s a Mars bar wrapped in philo pastry, and then deep fried. At Zak`s they`re served with ice cream, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce. Yum, it was really good. The chocolate in the Mars bar was just perfect, and the coating around it was nice and crispy. I couldn`t eat one everyday, but they`re a great summer treat.
I`m heading off to a BBQ now in the Glebe, and I`m taking some potato salad that I made.

June 28, 2005

Vietnam PM, Scavenger Hunt...
Yesterday was an interesting day. In the morning the Prime Minister of Vietnam, Phan Van Khai, came to visit Parliament, and of course I was working outside under the Peace Tower. He was given a 21 gun salute in the afternoon but I was only working outside in the morning, when he first came to Parliament.
As the Vietnamese Prime Minister was leaving, I was able to talk briefly with Her Excellency, the Minister of Social Development of Mauritania. She was there for a meeting, but wasn`t sure where she was to meet her contact. So, her aide from the embassy called, while we talked about the flowers on Parliament Hill.
In the evening we had a scavenger hunt, with the guides, the Infotent people, and the people in the Capital Info Centre. There were about 5 teams that played, and mine came in 4th. We would`ve done better, except for the technicalities. For example, we were supposed to help a busker make a doller. Instead, we gave him a dollar. Oh well, it was a lot of fun anyway, and I got to know Ottawa a bit better.

June 25, 2005

Changing of the Guard...
Today was the first day of the Changing of the Guard (photo). As part of the first day`s ceremony the Governor General of Canada, Adrienne Clarkson, inspected the troops. Whenever the GG is on the Hill in an official capacity they fly her flag on the Peace Tower, which was quite interesting to see.
Later in the day I got to give a tour to human rights and social workers from all over the world (Bosnia, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Chile, Ghana, Philipines, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, etc.). It was an incredible group. They were very interested in the process of Parliament, and everything I could possibly tell them about the building. I felt quite humbled to be taking them through Canada`s Parliament, when some of them have lived through amazing situations in their home countries.

Below is a map of where tourists have come from that I have given tours to.
(courtesy of World66)

June 24, 2005

St-Jean Baptiste (aka the Québec National Holiday)...

Today, June 24th, is St. Jean Baptiste day in Québec, and much of the French-speaking world. It`s not an statutory (official) holiday in Canada, but it is in Québec. Because most Québécois have the day off, there`s a huge party the night before. The largest one is in Québec City, on the Plains of Abraham (proof that despite the French loss of Québec to the British, the French still sing and dance on the field). In Québec everyone celebrates St-Jean Baptiste day, while very few celebrate Canada Day (July 1st) as that`s the day when most people move.
So to celebrate St-Jean Baptiste, I went over to Gatineau (in Québec) and bought myself a poutine, while wandering around and checking out the other side of the river. There wasn`t much going on though, as I suspect most of the events will take place tonight. I know that La Bottine Souriante played last night in Aylmer (near Hull). That would`ve been a fun show to go to, if I had a car and had heard about it earlier.
Québec Quiz (you can answer in the comments section if you want...)
1) What year did Québec join Canadian Confederation?
2) What`s the official language of Québec?
3) Name 4 well known francophone Québecois musicians/groups?
4) Who`s the Premier of Québec, and which party does he represent?
5) Who was the Premier during the Grande Noirceur?
6) In what year did la Révolution Tranquille start?

June 23, 2005

Senate Visit...
I went to the Senate today to watch some of the debates, and to compare it to the House of Commons. It was actually a lot of fun, and in some ways more interesting than the HoC. They kept pounding on their desks, and one lady kept accusing another guy of calling her "small-minded". She demanded an appology, which he of course refused to give. Then they senator said, "if you check the record, I think you`ll find that I simply said that Newfoundlanders are not as small-minded as the senator that represents them..." It was pretty funny at the time, with the rest of the debating that was going on.

June 22, 2005

PMac & Les Amis Secrets...
I almost bumped into Peter MacKay (deputy leader of the Official Opposition) at work today, literally. I was going to the info-tent to pick up my group, and looking at the House of Commons entrance. When I turned around to look where I was going, he was two feet in front of me walking towards the HoC entrance.
We started doing an "Amis Secrets" (secret friends) at work today. So, I have the name of someone, and someone has my name. For the next week we`re supposed to be extra nice to the person, and give them little gifts without revealing our identity...
I gave mon amie secrète some cookies that I baked (they were good, don`t worry), and a map to help her get around Ottawa. Despite the fact that she`s lived here her whole life, she still gets lost sometimes, which is what the map was for. And the cookies were for a snack, as she wanders around.

June 21, 2005

The Longest Day...
Today was the longest day of the year, literally. Unfortunately it's cloudy now, so the sun is hidden. It`s all downhill from here...
Today we had another meeting with the Clerks of both chambers (the House of Commons, and the Senate) to ask them questions -either ones that we had, or ones that were asked of us while on tour. It was really interesting to get their view on certain issues, such as the prolongation of the sitting of the House.
Canada Day is coming up, so they`re building the large stage in front of the Parliament Buildings. Apparently they`re behind schedule, partly from the fact that the road on the Hill was just repaved.

June 20, 2005

Formation Continue, Part II... (it rhymes!)
Last night we had our second Sunday evening training session, where we learned more about the actors who will be enhancing the tours starting July 2nd. Basically, there will be a historical figure who will appear at some point along the tour, for many of the visits (during certain hours). We got to hear their monologues last night, and they were actually pretty good. It`ll be interesting to see how it all works together with our tour in another few weeks.

June 18, 2005

Four Too Many...
I`ve finally got a day off! In the past 6 days of work, I`ve had two split shifts, too many grade 8 school groups to count, and far too few public tours to count.
Yesterday alone I had FOUR grade 7/8 tours during a split shift (4 hours of work in the morning, four hours off, 3 hours of work in the evening). Needless to say I was about ready to kill myself. My voice is shot now as well.
In the evening I went to La Maison Acadienne with some of the other guides for a few (much needed) drinks and to listen to the brother of one of the guides who was performing. They played some traditional Québécois and Acadian music, as well as some more modern songs. It was a lot of fun.
One of the grade 8 tours yesterday was cool though. The kids were from PEI, and their MP took them into the anti-chamber of the House while it was in session, which doesn`t normally happen. Then, on the Senate side, one of the pages who had attended their high school, and who`s aunt teaches there, got permission from the Usher of the Black Rod to let the 108 students sit in the seats in the Senate. The Usher of the Black Rod then gave the kids a motivational speech, which was a bit long-winded, but very motivating at the same time.
At least there`s only another week or so of school left before the summer holidays. Or maybe not...

June 16, 2005

Formal Evaluation...
I had my first formal evaluation on Tuesday. Basically my team leader, and supervisor, followed me around on one of my tours taking notes on everything that I said and did. At the end of it we talked about the tour, and what he thought of it -things I did well, and things I can improve on. I wasn`t surprised by anything he said. By the end of the tour you know what you should have mentioned (and forgot or didn`t have enough time to cover), and if there was a logistical problem, or whatever.
Yesterday I got the formal report on how my tour went, and I was overall "good". As far as I know, everyone gets a "good/bon" on their first tour following. However, I did have a few sections of the tour that got an "outstanding"! For example, my logistics, non-verbal communication, and professionalism were all outstanding.

June 13, 2005

Formation Continue...
We had another training session and test last night. The test wasn`t too hard -probably the easiest one I`ve had to date (and I got 94% on the last one). It`s just to make sure that we`re giving out the correct info.
We also learned a bit about the two new rooms that will be on tour over the summer -the Reading Room, and the Salon de la Francophonie. They`re both beautiful, so it`ll be nice to add them to the route on July 2nd.
The House was sitting today, even though the session would normally have ended for the summer on Friday. They are supposed to be taking a vote this evening to extend this week`s sessions until 11:30 every day, so that they can finish up Parliamentary business this week for the summer. There`s two important budget votes coming up this week too. It should be interesting, as always :)

June 11, 2005

King Estate and Meech Lake...
After a huge breakfast with Adeline at Cora`s -by huge I mean a 1.5 foot crêpe stuffed with strawberries, custard, and topped with whipped cream- we drove up to Gatineau Park, just north of Hull, Québec. It was a beautiful drive, as there are a lot of trees, small lakes, and rock outcroppings that dot the landscape.
We first stopped at the Mackenzie King Estate, which is where William Lyon Mackenzie King, the longest serving Prime Minister of Canada (21 years), had his summer cottage. He had a bit of an eclectic estate, including some "ruins" which had bought from various buildings as they were being demolished. His cottage backed onto a lake, and it was nice to dip our feet into it in the 40+ heat (when you factor in the humidity).
We drove around the park a bit, before stopping at Meech Lake to check out the "beaches". Yah, they`re not really beaches. But the lake was beautiful, and it was cool to see from afar where the attempted Meech Lake Accords took place.

June 10, 2005

The Symphony...
Last night I went to the symphony at the NAC (National Arts Centre) with my friend Jane to see their Tribute to the Boston Pops. We got tickets in box seats through LiveBuzz 2 hours before the concert for only $9.50. Normal price: $88.00! The concert was really good. They played the theme song from Hockey Night in Canada as an encore, which was fun.
It`s really hot and humid right now. The actual temperature is only around 30C, but when you add in the 85% humidity, it feels like 38-40C! Being a WestCoast wimp, I can`t take it! It`s the humidity that kills, not the heat...

June 08, 2005

Haut Fonctionnaires de France...
One thing that I love about my job is the wide range of people that I get to meet, and the different tours that I get to give. Yesterday I gave two tours (normally we give 3 a day, and 4-5 a day in the summer). My first one was an English public tour, with people on it from many different countries, states, and provinces.
In the evening, I gave a tour to about 20 "haut fonctionnaires" from France, which are basically high-ranking civil-servants. The arrived late after dinner, which is why I only gave 2 tours yesterday. They were the heads of social development from various regions in France, and were here on an educational tour to learn about social and fiscal development and issues in Canada. They were all very polite, and very French. It`s interesting how you can pick out various groups from European countries. For example, there was a group of 100 visitors from Spain, and we could tell while they were still a long ways away that it was them, simply based on the way they were dressed.
Once I had a tour of Québécois seniors, which was a lot of fun. However, they were in a rush to get to the Casino in Hull (Lac Leamy), so they wanted me to shorten all of the stops. Another one of the guides had a Québécois seniors group who had 4 members missing because they had just won $1000 in the casino, and refused to leave their lucky machines!

June 05, 2005

Open Doors Ottawa Part II...
Today was the second day, and last, of Open Doors Ottawa. I first went to the Army Officer`s Mess, which is in an old brick building near the city hall. After the tour, I got to try firing a riffle that the army uses for soldier training. No real bullets, but you had to load the riffle, it recoiled, and we got to shoot the enemy people walking across the screen.
After I went to the Library of Parliament on Sparks Street, before going to the old Train Station. The train station was pretty cool, although it`s been converted to a conference centre, so they don`t have all of the benches that they had in the original building. Even though the interior is plaster, it`s made up to look like stone.
I then took a (long) bus ride, and went to the Greek Orthodox Church which was also pretty cool. It had some amazing icons painted on the ceiling.

June 04, 2005

Open Doors Ottawa Part I...
Today was Open Doors Ottawa. There were a lot of buildings, both public and private, that were opened to the public today and tomorrow, that are normally closed.
So, I met up with Malaika and Meena (two other guides) at East Block today and we headed to the Connaught Building (the home of Revenue Canada). However, only the ground floor was open.
We then went to Notre Dame Cathedral, which was amazing! The pillars are made of wood, but painted to look like marble -and they do look exactly like marble. On the way out, we ran into Marc, another guide, and he joined us for the afternoon.
We then headed to Earnscliffe, the official residence of the British High Commissioner in Canada. In line, we ran into two of our supervisors, both named Katie. While waiting in line, I went off to one side to get a photo of the British flag. A British guy came up and said, "Can I help you?" I told him I wanted a photo of the British flag, so he said he`d take one of me and the flag. After going through the residence, and looking at some of the photos, I realised that was the British High Commissioner who took my photo! On the way out I saw him again, so I got a photo of us and the High Commissioner.
We then went to the NRC labs (National Research Council), and took a short tour through their buildings.
After, we headed to the French Embassy, which was very impressive, despite the outside being vastly ugly. All of the rooms are at least two stories high.
On our way back, we stopped by Canada and the World Pavilion, and there were four Canadian Olympic gold winning athletes, so we got our photo taken with Catriona LeMay Doan.
It was late afternoon so we decided to have lunch before meeting up with about 12 other guides for drinks. We went to the Blue Cactus where I had sangria and a huge plate of nachos. Mmmmm....

June 03, 2005

Speakers' visit...
I just finished the Friday afternoon/evening shift -yes, Friday evening shift. But, I was in the guide lounge with four other guides when Peter Milliken, the Speaker of the House of Commons, stopped by and said hi to all of us. The Speaker of the Senate had some left-over pastries from a meeting that he was in, so his secretary had them brought over for us. Needless to say, they were pretty good. I tried a lemon Danish, a chocolate/cherry cake slice, and had two slices of a lemon/cranberry cake. Mmmmmm..... I guess the Friday evening shift wasn`t so bad -especially since no one showed up for my 7:40 French public tour. Tant mieux :)
STUPIDEST QUESTION TO DATE: "Was that MacDonald (pointing to John A. MacDonald, the first Priminister of Canada) the guy who started McDonald`s, the fastfood company?" from a grade 6 anglo-Montrealer.

June 01, 2005

The Amazing Race Folk & Thunderstorm...
Today was payday!
It was also Lynn and Alex`s, contestants on the last season of The Amazing Race, wedding here in Ottawa (they can`t get married in the States legally). So, a bunch of other contestants from the show were here today as well. One of my supervisors got to give a tour to Gretchen, Susan, Patrick, and two of the other contestants. One of the other guides saw most of the contestants at a pub here in Ottawa last night. How cool would that have been! I should add though that I didn`t personally see any of them.
There was also a HUGE thunderstorm here, that lasted about 45 minutes. We don`t get storms like that out on the West Coast. There was so much humidity, that it made for lots of bright lightning, and booming thunder. I`m sure it won`t be the last storm we have here over the summer.