Category Archives: VIA

12 May

Retour à l’Outaouais

Highlights and lowlights from my third train trip in as many years to Ottawa, where I spent much of the time on the wrong side of the Rivière des Outaouais:

1. Watching the driver on the #12 GO bus shaking his leg all the way to Burlington reminded me of a slightly mentally challenged former colleague many years ago who used to do the same thing at his desk for hours on end. Thankfully, our driver did not exhibit any other tendencies that would lead me to question his stability.

2. At the Beamsville stop, the rainbow bench was still AWOL and the reward sign posted for its return was also gone, but there was a big, heaping pile of garbage in the bin that badly needed emptying.

3. If the shoes fit …

4. Someone walked through the Burlington station then boarded a Falls-bound bus with his unleashed dog following along. Since when is this allowed?

5. In the washroom at the Burlington station, rather than simply unzip his fly, one guy opted to pull his pants down to his knees before doing his business at the urinal. As a long-lost friend once said, “no visuals please.”

6. As we passed the Willowbook train yard on the Lakeshore West train, there was a sign that read, “Caution: Watch for trains.” Better to remove the sign and let the law of natural selection run its course, if you ask me.

7. While waiting at Union Station, I was accosted by someone looking for spare change for a coffee. After I declined to donate to his favorite charity, he turned to a nearby sucker who gave him a quarter.

8. Oatmeal was on the menu at The Bagel House, but it was only available during the week. I guess the designated oatmeal guy doesn’t work weekends. It is, after all, a complex dish that requires years of culinary training to prepare properly.

9. There was a flighty young woman running after a train whose boobs were flopping so hard that she undoubtedly had bruises all around her rib cage by the time she got to the platform. Tip of the day: Invest in a bra.

10. Seated nearby in the York Concourse was a guy with a big beer belly stretched out and breathing heavily. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought he was about to give birth.

11. Signage in Union Station is already being changed to reflect the new name of the former ACC:

12. Good to know that on Sunday, my train was indeed a Sunday departure:

13. Some kid with a hockey stick in hand was skating through the VIA concourse on roller skates. Maybe it’s just me, but it seemed like an odd place to look for a pickup game.

14. Call me ultra-picky, but I think it’s best to check the spelling before carving it in stone …

15. Among those boarding the Ottawa-bound train was someone who looked to be Kim Jong-un’s pudgy teenage son.

16. Aboard the VIA train, I recognized one of the service attendants I had on last year’s trip. What made him stand out was that he was pleasant. Because with VIA, it’s not an adventure, it’s a job.

17. Rolling through Oshawa, I spotted a cyclist riding on the left side of the white line despite having a wide bike lane. It reminded me of the times back in the Old Country when, while returning from Birds Hill Park along a very busy PTH 59, I would regularly see cyclists who preferred to go elbow-to-elbow with cars and big rigs speeding along at 60+ mph rather than use the paved shoulder that was just as wide if not wider than a car lane. No doubt those were the same yahoos who complained the loudest about not getting respect on the road.

18. Nearby in my car, three people paid for their “food” by credit card. What was noteworthy was that rather than employ some sort of electronic system, the service attendant had to rub the card against carbon paper with his thumb. Now that’s really old-fashioned. At least in the stores, they had a device with a swipe handle.

19. Among those paying with a credit card was a fat guy across the aisle who rang up a big $5 purchase for a Coke and bag of Doritos that he enjoyed thoroughly. Don’t people carry any cash these days? Especially when traveling.

20. Our car was pretty quiet except for a foursome of 20-somethings who, like, couldn’t open their, like, mouths, without, like, saying like. Like, give it a rest.

21. After the first pass, the second and subsequent food cart runs were done with lightning speed and any passengers looking to buy anything could be forgiven for blinking their eyes and missing the guy as he sped by. Once again, it’s glaringly obvious that VIA personnel care little about serving customers and trying to make a little extra money for their employer. All they care about is fulfilling the terms of their union contract to the letter and the faster they fulfilled that obligation, the better.

22. When they made a garbage run, I tossed my empty Tetra Pak into the black bag. That was apparently a major no-no as the service attendant angrily tore it out of the plastic bag I had wrapped it in, crushed it and tossed it into the white one his colleague behind him was holding. Well, excuuuuse me! No doubt, I’ll probably get a few points deducted off my VIA Préférence account for that egregious transgression.

22a. At least they were wearing gloves, unlike the case at a previous employer when they would come around and empty garbage cans with their bare hands. Once, they even fished out a bloody snot rag of mine out of the bin.

23. When going through Brockville, I spotted the Broadway Dance Academy. On Park Street.

24. On the platform at the Fallowfield station, a woman lit up while talking to her friend who had her two young kids in tow. How incredibly considerate.

25. Upon leaving the train station, I was aghast to see so many cabs waiting. If every single passenger on the train had taken a cab, I think there still would have been some left over waiting for a fare.

26. Dear City of Ottawa: Please assign someone the task of washing the windows in the pedestrian walkway over the 417 linking the train station to the ballpark and convention center.

27. En route to the Ottawa Train Yards Wal-Mart to pick up some food for the next few days, I was approached by a Caucasian woman in her late 40s. After first asking me if I spoke English, not a given in that part of the world on either side of the Rivière des Outaouais, she proceeded to give me a long sob story about how her sister was stranded at nearby St. Laurent Center with her newborn and wanted to know if I could give her bus fare. Which I declined to do.

Angry and grumbling, rather than go back to St. Laurent Center where her sister and the newborn allegedly were, she proceeded to follow me toward Wal-Mart, not bothering to hit up the next guy who passed by on the sidewalk. I kept a careful eye on her and when I turned off on a side street, she kept going.

I had to hand it to her, though, as it was a pretty creative line. These days, the beggars really are getting better at their craft. But if they devoted half as much energy into earning money as they did in trying to con people on on the street, they wouldn’t need to resort to such things.

28. Inside the Wal-Mart, there were so many disciples of Mohammed that I wondered if I was in the Ottawa Train Yards or the Tehran Train Yards.

29. Also inside the Wal-Mart, I spotted a fat woman with a tub of Haagen-Dazs in her cart. Cause and effect.

30. Shots of the Cancer Survivors Park taken on the way back to the hotel:

31. The hotel finally got the hint and stopped leaving copies of the National Post outside the door of every room each morning.

32. While eating breakfast on Monday morning, one of the staffers came by and was surprised that I was sitting in her usual spot where she stops for a break. Funny, I wasn’t aware it was reserved seating. For a moment, I thought I was at our photo club, where everyone seems to have an unofficial assigned seat.

33. Unlike the case last year, the STO buses I took on this trip were of modern vintage with automated stop announcements complete with an LED display near the front. My driver on Tuesday morning even said “merci” after I tapped my Presto card. History was indeed made on this trip.

34. Another one for the history books came when someone boarded at Rideau Center on Monday morning and began speaking to the driver in the Canadian language and again committed that heinous infraction before getting off at les Promenades station. No doubt, la Sûreté will soon be issuing warrants for their arrest.

35. Soon after getting off at Station de la Cité, I spotted a teenage girl headed for the nearby Cégep wearing a short skirt that barely covered her backside yet also wearing a thick fur-lined parka. An odd combination if I’ve ever seen one.

36. Clever little display outside a bike shop:

37. As I got closer to Boulevard Gréber, I got an awfully foul look from a heavy-set guy in his late 50s who passed me on the sidewalk. It is a look I would get again later in the day along the Lac Leamy trail from someone who did a severe double-take after looking at my “Make Speech Free Again” hat. It was probably the combination of the message and the fact that it was written in the Canadian language, something that could have gotten me tossed in the same jail cell as the aforementioned passenger and STO driver.

38. I heard a “rumeur” …

39. There’s nothing “routine” about a dish that looks like a cow with diarrhea unloaded on a plate of fries.

40. La Ville de Gatineau thinks it makes perfect sense to do street cleaning on a busy roadway during the Monday morning rush hour. I would wager that the majority of its residents disagree.

41. Near the A-50 interchange at Boulevard la Vérendrye, I spotted this orange chair on the ground. Perhaps it was left over from the $9.50 ice level seating at the Winnipeg Arena.

42. Walking down Rue du Barry, I was approached by a Jehovah’s Witness who handed me a pamphlet and said something in Quebecese. Yes, they have them all over the place. Even in Quebec.

43. Also on Rue du Barry, I saw someone on a mobility scooter eschewing the sidewalk and going on the road. Normally, I strongly disapprove of that practice as we spend oodles of money making ramps on sidewalks. But in this case, I couldn’t blame him given the deplorable condition of the sidewalk. Just as I noted last year, given how much money that country sucks out of Canada and the extent to which they tax themselves, what on Earth do they spend it on?

44. When I went to the washroom at les Promenades and again later at les Galeries de Hull, I had a surprisingly hard time deciphering the gender of the silhouettes. Just put the text in there and I’ll figure it out.

45. The level of courtesy on the Canadian side was certainly nothing to write home about, but it was much worse on the Quebec side. Several times on my travels, I stopped to let cars pass and not a single one waved to thank me. I even held the door open for someone at les Promenades and didn’t even get a grudging “merci” out of it. Even Toronto looks really good by comparison and it made me appreciate St. Catharines so much more.

46. A couple of shots at Station de la Gappe, one of the Rapibus stations I passed on my travels:

47. While stopped at this little park off Rue Jacques-Cartier where, oddly, a Canadian flag was flying, I saw an older woman walk across the road without looking, forcing a cyclist with the right of way to stop to avoid hitting her. Then two guys in scooters went by side-by-side, taking up both lanes on the two-way bike path. Once again, the lack of consideration was palpable.

48. Shots of a tour boat docked near the Pont Lady-Aberdeen that spans the Gatineau River:

49. A three-way stop sign in Quebec:

50. Scenes along the Lac Leamy trail:

51. At the very busy intersection of Boulevard du Casino and Boulevard de la Carrière, an older guy on a bike was going the wrong way and didn’t budge as a big rig was trying to make a difficult turn to avoid turning him into compost. Bienvenue au Québec!

52. As I’ve said before, the SPRM just keeps following me around:

53. Even in Quebecese, I can spot misspellings such as this “burreau”:

54. I shudder to think of how much I paid for this “art”:

55. Approaching the Macdonald-Cartier International Bridge, I noticed this sign instructing cyclists to walk their bikes across. It is a regulation I haven’t seen obeyed during any of my crossings of that bridge.

56. Though I remain satisfied with the hotel, I was unable to use the safety lock in the room and this thread on the carpet was there throughout my stay. Given that they only spend about three and a half seconds vacuuming each room, I suspect that it’s probably still there.

57. As I noticed last year, the sidewalk on Wellington seems to be a speedway for cyclists and anyone waiting for a bus at the busy stop right in front of the Parliament buildings needs to keep their head on a swivel.

58. On Tuesday morning, when someone got off the #33 STO bus I was on, he said “thank you” to the driver. There are times I wish I had that kind of nerve.

59. Some artwork on the grounds outside Cégep Gabrielle-Roy:

60. An NDP supporter who needs to work on his spray-painting skills:

61. Approaching Saint-Raymond from Cité-des-Jeunes, I started hearing a bunch of sirens, then I looked to my left and saw the billows of smoke coming from this car on fire:

62. In my return trip to les Galeries de Hull, I stopped into one store that sold books and novelties. All the books inside the store were in Quebecese and anyone wanting a book in the Canadian language was forced to go to a special section by the entrance, almost as if they didn’t want the rest of the store polluted with such vile material.

Just imagine if anyone tried such a thing on the Canadian side. I can just hear the cries from the perpetually aggrieved Quebecers who would complain bitterly about being stigmatized and excluded.

63. English training is allowed in Quebec?

64. Crossing Saint-Joseph at Rue Amherst after getting a walk sign, a cyclist coming the wrong way down Saint-Joseph blew off the red light and would have run into me if I did not stop. He didn’t apologize or as much as turn his head and instead kept going down the street. Bienvenue au Québec!

65. At the A-50 interchange at Boulevard des Allumettières, this bum was approaching cars stopped at the red light presumably looking for donations to his favorite charity:

66. Near Place du Centre was a man and a woman standing in the middle of the sidewalk busily chatting away. When I passed them for the second time, I made no effort to avoid the woman’s bag that she was swinging out. If you want to act like jerks, expect to be treated accordingly.

67. I noticed these cleverly designed bike racks outside Place du Centre, which are good for areas with limited space. Standing your bike up, you hook up your front wheel near the top and lock the frame to the pole.

68. Shot of Gatineau city hall:

69. On the Alexandra Bridge going back to Canada, the pathway was chock full of cyclists and joggers going on both sides of me. It’s much less congested on the other bridges and if I should make a return visit, I’ll make a point of avoiding it.

70. Shot of the Parliament buildings from the overlook on the Canadian side of the Alexandra Bridge:

71. While going through Byward Market, I spotted a “Diversity Barbershop.” As they say in Texas, El Paso. The last thing I want is a left-wing political lecture while getting my hair cut.

Also spotted in the area was an “Upward Dog Yoga Center.” Yoga for dogs?

72. Speaking of dogs, I saw very few of them in my travels on both sides of the border. That’s about the only good thing I can say about the area.

73. On the bus ride back to the hotel, one woman got on and asked the driver for some directions. Once satisfied she was headed in the right direction, rather than take a seat on the largely empty bus, she opted to stand right by the door and obstruct the narrow passageway. Many people getting on and off over the next half hour were forced to squeeze past her, including one who obviously had some problems with her leg, yet this jerk would not budge, even after the driver told her that her stop was not coming for quite a while.

Farther down Vanier, she then pulled out a piece of paper showing the driver where she needed to go. We were then made to wait while the driver called into dispatch for directions and then draw her a map pointing the way.

Look, I get being a tourist. But when I go to a different city, I do my homework. Just like she should have done. It’s not fair to jump on public transit and expect the driver to be your personal travel concierge. Next time, if you don’t know where you’re going, hail a cab.

74. While eating breakfast on Wednesday morning before leaving to catch the train, three guys in suits came into the dining room with stethoscopes around their necks. No, the food wasn’t so bad that they felt they might have needed them. They were just showing off.

75. Parking fail at the VIA station:

76. At the VIA station, it wasn’t until past 8:15 that they began allowing passengers to board for the 8:25 Toronto-bound train. So rushed was the process that people were still walking through the car and getting settled when the train took off. Note to VIA staff, try allowing for a little extra time instead of walking around chatting with yourselves.

77. At the back of the car was a group of young boys from Fern Hill School, a private school in Ottawa only about a block off the #9 bus that I’ve since become very familiar with.

78. Over the next four hours, I would learn a lot about the big-shot federal government employee in front of me who was traveling with her annoying and very restless daughter. Ms. Big Shot spent the first two hours reading and replying to emails regarding CCS policy documents and gaps and unclear points in legislation. She then made sure to ask for a receipt after ordering a sandwich and drink, no doubt so she could get me to cover the $9.75 cost.

Once we got past Kingston, she began to check real estate listings and did some searches as to where to live in Victoria. Her next target was a furniture store in France, where she had her eye on an easy chair for 100 euros.

While perusing furniture, her daughter was busy chomping on chips half a bag at a time, which sounded like she was crushing boulders, all while listening to music on her high-quality Bose headphones. Nothing but the best for the daughter of a government employee.

79. Across the aisle was a fat woman who ordered a ham croissant she hardly needed for $7.50 and was reading a book on how to present yourself on social media. As I would later learn, she was going to Toronto for five days for a convention.

80. I listened as Pierre, our service attendant, explained to another passenger that he had been with VIA for 12 years. He said that though they didn’t have a good reputation when he first started with them, today, they’ve got the best in the industry. Sorry, Pierre, you and your colleagues still have a lot of work to do.

Interestingly, he bore a striking resemblance to Dale Hunter, the ex-Quebec Nordique and current coach of the London Knights.

81. Nearby on the Burlington-bound Lakeshore West train was this salty looking dude hauling a couple of well-worn suitcases in a baby stroller:

Rather than take a seat, he was leaning against a pole, using a rolled-up sweater as a cushion. Later, the pole became too uncomfortable for him, so he went to lean up against a wall. Then he dug out and began eating some pistachios from a bag he got at 30% off, being at least considerate enough to pick up a shell that fell on the ground.

Before he got off at Port Credit, I noticed some brown stains on the back of his shorts as he was playing with his troublesome right ankle.

82. I know the sign at the bottom is meant to indicate hailing a cab, but it’s much too similar to a Nazi salute.

83. On the #12 GO bus back to St. Catharines, they had installed a new floor-to-ceiling luggage rack just behind the wheelchair seating on the first level. Given the amount of luggage I’ve seen on Falls-bound buses over the busy summer months, it was long overdue.

30 Apr

Ottawa Part Deux

This past week, I took my second train trip in as many years to the nation’s capital, where I spent much of the time across the river in the empire du mal exploring Gatineau on foot and getting many pictures in the process.

Bright and early Monday morning, I made my way to Fairview Mall in time to catch the 6:12 GO bus to Burlington. As the VIA train was not scheduled to leave Union Station until 10:45, I knew this bus and connecting Lakeshore West train would get me to Toronto two hours early, but if I had left it for the next bus and if it had broken down, I would have missed the VIA connection. The extra hour of sleep wasn’t worth the risk.

The bus came as scheduled and I instantly recognized the driver as the same one I had coming back from Peters Corners this past September. On that trip, the bus indeed had broken down and though they did dispatch a replacement promptly, it took GO two months to iron out the problems with my Presto card as a result of the change of buses.

Fortunately, that would not be a bad omen for the rest of the trip.

When leaving on trips from Winnipeg, I would always be excited at the prospect of getting away, but on that morning, I had a touch of sadness leaving St. Catharines behind. Not that I needed the validation, but it was yet another sign that I made the right decision, not just in leaving Winnipeg, but in coming to St. Catharines. Many of you may take liking the city where you live for granted, but as someone who had spent most of his life in Canada’s toilet bowl, I don’t.

At the Beamsville stop, I took note as someone got off with a Crown Royal bag. It would be the first of many signs that would tell me I would not be alone on this trip. Some of you will understand. Some of you will not.

Seated among many snoozing commuters on the Lakeshore West train, I made it to Union Station with much time to spare, as expected, which gave me some time to check my email and do some people watching. One guy seated nearby eating a sandwich was stuffing as much as he possibly could inside his mouth as if someone was about to take it away from him. His mouth was bulging as much as those baseball players who chew big wads of tobacco and if there was such thing as mouth enlargement surgery, I had no doubt he’d be first in line to sign up for it. I wonder if OHIP would cover it.

Also seated nearby was a gentleman who said, “Have a safe journey and may the Queen of England bless you” before getting up to leave. May the Queen of England bless you too. And the garbage you left behind.

Seated in the VIA concourse, I couldn’t help but notice this “flame retardant” covering. With political correctness running amok these days, I was shocked that they were still using that term. After all, some snowflake might get triggered by the use of the “R-word.”


At long last, it was time for boarding and we were ushered onto the train by staff who were only marginally polite. On GO, most of the staff go out of their way to be helpful and friendly, but for those who work for VIA, it’s a job, not an adventure. A serious upgrade in their customer service standards is in order.


Not meaning to take a gratuitous pot shot at fat people, but seeing this behemoth across the aisle, I couldn’t help but be reminded of VIA’s strict policies on overweight baggage. Had I been even slightly over the limit, I could potentially have been charged extra, yet as long as her baggage was under the limit, she wouldn’t have been even though I would have undoubtedly brought less weight aboard than she did. But apparently obesity is some kind of human right. Not exactly “progress” in my books.


Moving on, I noticed bags like this in front of every seat with the “Look, Listen, Live” slogan on it. You know, sometimes it’s just better to let the law of natural selection run its course.

The four-hour ride was relatively quiet and uneventful. The guy seated to my left spent the entire time reading a book and didn’t say a word all the way there. He had clearly done this before. The only real chatter came from someone seated behind me who was obviously prepping for a medical exam. By the time we got to Ottawa, I think I could have passed it.

The service attendant reading the announcements was in such a rush to finish that I could barely understand what she was saying. In either language. Later, when she came down the aisle, she had such a perma-scowl going that I think her face would have cracked if she tried to smile. Being friendly is probably a violation of their union contract.

They made four runs with the food wagon, but only a couple of times collecting garbage. I had some garbage for them, but I wasn’t lucky enough to be in one of the few rows where the guy marginally slowed down so that passengers could make a deposit into the Glad bag he was racing down the aisle with. Perhaps he was getting graded on how fast he could complete the task. Kind of like the ring time at the Real Canadian Stupid Store.

When the train slowed to a crawl ever so briefly, I took advantage of the opportunity to unload my bladder. For those who haven’t had the chance to ride the rails, trust me, it’s a lot easier to answer the call of nature then than when the train is speeding along at more than 80 mph.


We pulled into the Ottawa station on schedule and I made my way across the walkway over the 417 to the Hampton. It was the same hotel I stayed at last year and I even got the same room.

After dropping off my bags, I headed out for some highway pictures. Crossing the nearby bike-pedestrian bridge over the Rideau River, I was again struck by the number of cyclists in the area. It is something I would notice throughout the trip on both sides of the border, and cycling seems even more prevalent than in Niagara, itself a world-class cycling destination.

Yet what surprised me was the fact that very few OC Transpo buses had bike racks and I didn’t spot a single one on the many STO (Société de transport de l’Outaouais) buses I saw. Here in Niagara, throughout the Golden Horseshoe and even on Metro buses in the Great State of New York, I have yet to spot a bus without one.


Passing through the University of Ottawa – Lees Campus, I noticed how Quebecese was first on all signage. On the other side of the border, however, the Canadian language is not allowed, something that is rigidly enforced by the language Gestapo otherwise known as the OQLF.


Here, the Franco-Ontarian flag flies proudly.

While crossing a street on the way there, despite the fact that I had a walk sign, several tour buses from La Quebecoise bullheadedly kept turning right through the crosswalk, unconcerned by my presence or that of a senior on the other side of the street also wanting to cross. By contrast, several Canadian drivers over the next hour were quite courteous in allowing me to cross streets.


My next stop was the Cancer Survivors Park, where I stopped for a few pictures before continuing on to Walmart to pick up meals for the next three nights. I make a habit of avoiding restaurants whenever I can.


On the way back to the hotel, I spotted these exposed wires. Perhaps it was evidence of someone who was desperately trying for a Darwin Award.

Before settling in for the night, I took a brief tour of the hotel, something I didn’t do last year.


This banner was in the elevator of a hotel that (thankfully) does not allow pets.


In case you have guests who need to be laundered.


No running in the poo.

Following a less than restful sleep, I was back at it on Tuesday morning for what would be the first of two cross-border adventures. I first caught the #9 OC Transpo bus for the short ride downtown before getting off to transfer to the #33 STO bus that would take me deep into the empire du mal.

Halfway there, I noticed someone running up alongside the bus, only to have the driver take off just as he got to the front door. I don’t mean to laugh at the poor sap who missed his bus, as I’ve been there often enough myself, but it was a classic Winnipeg Transit moment that brought a wry smile to my face.


Having not taken the STO before, I wasn’t completely sure if the Presto transfer from OC Transpo would work, but when I tapped my card on the reader, the green light came on and I took my seat. While waiting for the bus to come, I noticed many others also using Presto to board STO buses, so my fears were somewhat alleviated beforehand.

The STO marked the seventh different transit system where I’ve used my Presto card. Yet I still cannot use it on St. Catharines Transit or on any other transit system in Niagara. Explain that, Messrs. Caslin and Sendzik.

During the ride, I noticed, just as I did on the OC Transpo bus, that almost everyone paid with Presto or MULTI, a card available only to Quebec residents. Of the dozens of people who boarded during my travels, only two or three paid with cash. Just to be on the safe side, I was prepared with the $3.90 in change, but I never needed it. Quebec gets enough of my money, so I was happy not to have given them any more.

The bus itself looked to have been something they dragged out of a museum, and the buses I rode to and from Jets games in the 1980s were of newer vintage. Winnipeg Transit truly would have been embarrassed to put a jalopy like that on the road. To borrow a line from a long-lost friend, I wouldn’t have been surprised if the driver had to wind it up to get it started. Inside, the seats were tattered and torn and there were no automated stop announcements, standard operating procedure on public transit these days.

The roads in Gatineau certainly were no better and without much of a suspension system on the bus, there were times I felt like a Mexican jumping bean. With the high taxes in Quebec and the gobs of money they get from Canada, you have to wonder what on Earth they’re spending it on. It sure isn’t on buses and roads.

Crossing the Alexandra Bridge, just as I did last year, I noticed the massive backlog of Canada-bound traffic, proof that the public service has simply become an affirmative action program for the French. Even in the private sector, from the job postings I saw on storefronts, you can’t get anything there without being able to speak the language of the occupying power.

Soon after crossing the border (oddly, there were no customs agents), a car just stopped in the middle of the road to let someone out. The bus driver honked loudly, but the woman getting out paid no attention to the waiting cars and took her sweet time before crossing the street, forcing oncoming cars to stop for her. A couple of blocks later, someone else just stepped into traffic and the car in front of the bus had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting him. Bienvenue au Québec!


After a long and circuitous journey, we got to Parc-o-bus Freeman, the end of the route. Rather than politely explaining that this was the end of the route and advising passengers to take their personal belongings with them, as is commonplace in my part of the world, the portly driver just bellowed “TERMINUS!” at the top of his voice.

I instantly knew I would be laughing over that line for years to come.

In Southern Ontario, it is indeed rare that a departing passenger, even when exiting from the back door, does not say “thank you” to the driver, yet only two people had said “merci” to the STO driver along the route. So I bucked the trend and also said “merci” to him on the way out the front door. He acknowledged the other two, but not me, no doubt because, to borrow a line from Denis Lemieux in Slap Shot, I just was some stupid English pig with no brain. But I was still proud to have held myself to a higher standard. I am from St. Catharines, not from Winnipeg or from Quebec.

From Parc-o-bus Freeman, I proceeded north along Boulevard Saint-Joseph/Route 105 for, you guessed it, some good highway pictures. Soon to appear on a website near you.


Leaving Gatineau and entering the MRC des Collines-de-l’Outaouais and the Municipalité de Chelsea.


I was pleased to see this advisory sign, though I doubt many Quebec drivers pay much attention to such things.


They have government propaganda signs in Quebec as well. Of the $3.7 million they put into this road, $3.6 of it undoubtedly came from the pockets of Canadian taxpayers.


Crossing the Gatineau River.


I couldn’t help but notice this sign for “Mr. Gas,” as opposed to “Monsieur Gas.” This is an egregious infraction of Quebec’s language laws that has somehow evaded the attention of the OQLF.


After getting my fill of pictures in this area, I returned south along Boulevard Saint-Joseph. Just past the A-5 junction, this guy pulled up onto the sidewalk right in front of me, parked behind a couple of cars and went into the store. Just do as you please.

Not more than a couple of blocks later, a woman riding a bike pulling a trailer behind her with her kid inside went right through a red light and only grudgingly stopped at the median when it appeared the oncoming car, which had the right of way, wasn’t going to stop. Just do as you please. Again. As I observed last year at this time, this place makes Winnipeg look good, but it also gives a sarcastic writer like me plenty of good fodder.


Those who know of my fondness for poultry will understand why I stopped for this shot.


Monsieur Lub. The language Gestapo would undoubtedly approve.


I stopped for a brief break at les Galeries de Hull before continuing south.


Near this fire hall that I stopped to take a shot of for the benefit of one reader I’m looking forward to seeing in the coming days, I passed by l’École Secondaire de l’Île, where I actually heard some English spoken. Wondering if they were breaking the law, I quickly learned what their favorite English word was. Four letters. Starts with ‘F.’ You figure it out. A word I thankfully hear very little of in my part of the world.


I smell another summons from the OQLF coming.


A four-way stop sign in Quebec.


This is someone’s idea of “art.” I shudder to think how much I paid for this.


While waiting to cross the street, I noticed this dude hauling all his worldly belongings on the back of his bike in a couple of Glad suitcases.


My final destination on this day was the so-called Canadian Museum of History that isn’t located in Canada, but first, I stopped into the Outaouais tourism office, where I picked up a cycling map of the region. Throughout my travels, I marveled at the number of great trails and only wished I had my bike with me. If I come back, I will have to seriously consider renting one.

While I was there, I was served by a very friendly clerk who actually spoke to me in the Canadian language. Again, I’m not sure it’s officially allowed, but I appreciated the fact that he stuck his neck out and risked possible arrest to offer his help.


Before heading inside the museum, I stopped for this shot of a statue of the legendary Maurice “Rocket” Richard. For those who are not aware, he was the first coach of the WHA’s Quebec Nordiques.


At last, I went inside the museum, paid the exorbitant $23 entry fee and made my way to the special hockey exhibit, which was the primary attraction for me.


A stick signed by Teemu Selanne.


A replica of Ken Dryden’s iconic mask.


An old Jets cookbook from 81-82.


Even some recognition of the Hot Line and the WHA.

There was also a jersey on display of the late Tim Horton from when he played for Buffalo. I told someone taking a picture of it that there was a statue of him in downtown Buffalo, right by where the old Aud used to stand.

Unfortunately, aside from the nice hockey exhibit, there was very little else of value there.


The “First Peoples Hall” filled with school children showing off their displays, much like you would see at a science fair.


This hall was the crown jewel of the place, and as you’d expect, you get hammered with the official narrative of how the white man is responsible for every ill that has ever befallen someone of First Nations heritage.

All in all, I walked out of there feeling like I had flushed $23 down the toilet. If I make a return trip to the area, I won’t make that same mistake again.

With rain looming on the horizon, I decided to call it a day and make for the bus, which took me back to the hotel just as it started to pour.

For the next day, I had originally planned an outing on the Canadian side, but seeing something good along the way on the STO bus, I decided to change plans and go back to l’autre pays, taking the same bus, but getting off at Boulevard des Hautes-Plaines where it met A-5.


This time, the bus was of a little newer vintage, but it was still something Winnipeg Transit would have embarrassed to put on the road. It was a little more crowded than it was the previous day, so I went to the back to get a seat. The first row of seats past the back door were facing to the front, but oddly, the second row was facing to the back. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. It is, after all, Quebec.

I again said “merci” to the driver as I got off at the front door, the only one on the trip who did so, and to his credit, he politely acknowledged it.


After getting my fill of highway pictures, I walked back towards Canada along Boulevard de la Cité-des-Jeunes, passing many nice trails along the way, including this one.


I couldn’t help but notice another probable violation of Quebec’s language laws. “Osgoode Properties” should instead be “Les Properties Osgoode,” n’est-ce pas? Maybe the OQLF should offer me a job. But then again, I’m not of the right ethnic heritage. Only pure laine Québécois need apply.


An Anglophone Cégep? Oh, the horror! Dispatch the Sûreté at once!


Farther south, I explored these trails along Promenade Lac-des-Fées.


The underpass connecting two trails. There were a number of these throughout the park obviously designed for the safety of motorists, pedestrians and cyclists alike.


The bridge over some marshland. As you can see, there is a barrier separating the busy traffic on Boulevard des Allumettières from the pedestrian/cyclist path.


The pathway leading to Promenade de la Gatineau.


View from atop the overpass on Promenade de la Gatineau looking back towards the city.


Heading back to the city.


I spotted this container half filled with a yellow liquid. Three guesses.


Not only is Boulevard des Allumettières notoriously littered with roundabouts, but at Boulevard Saint-Joseph and Rue Montcalm, there are two within a few feet of each other. If you hate roundabouts, as I know one reader does, this is not the place for you.


Near Station Montcalm, I stopped for these shots along an unnamed waterway.


I noticed this sticker, one of two I spotted in my travels. Of course, it’s French only in Quebec, but anyone daring to suggest English only in Canada is branded a racist, xenophobic and intolerant, along with a host of other such terms leftists like to pin to those who don’t agree with their view of the world.


Near the border, I spotted someone else’s idea of “art.” Pigeons and a tomato soup can. I wouldn’t care that much except for the fact that again, I shudder to think of how much I paid for that. Not to mention the fact that it’s likely another language law violation. It’s “soupe aux tomates” don’t you know?

Back in Canada, I had lunch at the War Museum cafeteria before taking a stroll down Wellington.


Passing the Supreme Court, I noticed this group of First Nations protesters chanting and beating their drums, presumably lobbying the judges-turned-lawmakers to give them more concessions. You have to wonder why they bother. I don’t think any First Nations group has ever lost in a Canadian courtroom in my lifetime. Whether they were right or not.


Genocide against First Nations? Give me a break.


I stopped at the Terry Fox statue across from Parliament last year and did so again. For those who are not aware, Terry Fox was born in Winnipeg and I attended the same elementary school as he did when he lived there.


Moving on, I stopped for a few shots at the cenotaph, something I missed last year.


My last stop of the day was Byward Market. For those familiar with Toronto, it’s kind of a cross between St. Lawrence Market and the Distillery District. It looks like a good place for photographers, but that’s about all it seems to be good for.

Just after getting on the #9 bus to go back to the hotel, I came within an eyelash of being a witness to a double fatality as two teenage kids ran in front of the bus. The driver had to slam on the brakes to avoid making them Darwin Award candidates, but to them, it was all a big joke when they made it to the other side of the street. Some funeral director who was narrowly cheated out of some dough wasn’t laughing.


Following a much-needed half-decent night’s sleep, it was time to make my way back to the train station for the trip home.


In front of me in line was a guy with a rainbow-colored NDP button stuck to his backpack. On it read, “Pride: It’s not just a dance party.” As one reader might say, “Gag me with a Kathleen Wynne election sign.”


I noticed the extra leg room in the car right away and unlike the car I had going in, the row numbers were also on the seats in addition to being on the window. Passing by was a guy with his belongings stuffed into a Glad bag, much like the cyclist I spotted in Gatineau on Tuesday afternoon. Perhaps Glad is branching out to appeal to the budget-conscious traveler.

Nearby was a group of kids and a mother who were going to Toronto for a dance audition, and I was able to hear them throughout the ride. But by far the biggest chatter in the car was seated immediately to my left. An Ottawa resident originally from Nova Scotia who was retired from social work, M.A., short for Mary Alice, was currently studying Japanese flower arranging. She said Nova Scotians were great storytellers and she didn’t disappoint.

During the four-hour ride, I and many people around me found out that her husband was from Holland and used to investigate airline crashes. She described Trump as “scary,” but she made no more forays into politics when I replied that what was truly scary was our prime minister.

While polishing off the ham croissant she bought on the train, she mentioned how clean and efficient the trains were in Japan. At major stops, people would exit along the sides while those boarding would get on in the middle to expedite the process.

Before spending much time telling me how fascinated she was by children, she mentioned an occasion when she was at a social function with a person who had been paralyzed in a rodeo accident. When she was leaving, she said without thinking, “I’ll get on my horse.”

It was all interesting, but I was somewhat relieved when the train pulled into Union Station. From there, it was an uncomfortable ride back to St. Catharines among thick crowds both on the train and on the bus.

On the bus, seated in front of me was an obese woman talking about her favorite places for ice cream and extolling the virtues of a donut place in downtown St. Catharines. She then proceeded to check prices on Snickers bars, something she undoubtedly buys in bulk, and lamenting about people complaining about her and her friends smoking on the platform. This is probably someone who endlessly moans and groans to her doctor about all the health problems she has.

In spite of everything, I had a great time, and the old adage of enjoying something better the second time indeed proved true. I don’t know if I’ll make a return trip or not, but there still is more to see and do in the region that I haven’t experienced yet.

25 Apr

Riding the Rails to Ottawa

Last week, I spent four days and three nights in Ottawa. It was my first real visit to the city, having only been there last year on a road trip with the IceDogs in which we returned home right after the game.

Bright and early on Monday morning, I took the GO bus to Burlington, then boarded the jam-packed Lakeshore West train to Union Station in C.U. along with many commuters. So crowded was the train that many had to stand.

001_union_via_waiting
I had a two-hour wait for my VIA connection to Ottawa, so I took the time to check my e-mail, get my bearings and find the VIA departure area amid the mad crush of humanity. I quickly learned not to stop and smell the roses as being in the middle of rush-hour crowds in Union Station is akin to running with the bulls in Pamplona. I could have safely waited for the next GO bus/train to avoid the busiest time of day, but I opted to go earlier in case of any unforeseen traffic problems.

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About a half hour before departure, passengers began lining up at the posted gate, where a service attendant went down one side of the line scanning boarding passes. On the other side, someone was wheeling a portable scale, stopping when he spotted some potentially overweight luggage. VIA has strict regulations regarding luggage. There is a charge for any bags between 41-50 pounds, and anything over 50 pounds is prohibited. He went past me without as much as a glance, as I was traveling with a small suitcase, having long since learned to travel light.

Soon, we were headed up the escalator to the platform, and I took my seat in Car 5. I’ll leave it for the reader to judge as to whether or not that was a coincidence. On the boarding pass, VIA notes they reserve the right to ask to see photo ID and to inspect baggage, but they did neither on the way to Ottawa or on the return trip.

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Settled into my seat, I got some shots before the car filled up. As I looked around, it again struck me, as it did with the GO bus and train, that there was no graffiti, vomit or garbage, nor any smell of booze or beer cans rolling down the aisle, all common occurrences in the last city I called home. The SPRM feels like a million miles away in more ways than one.

This car was packed solid and I had a young man in his 20s in the aisle seat next to me with a huge lunch pack almost as big as my suitcase. He was listening to music on his headphones, but I couldn’t hear a thing, and like everyone else, he was quiet and respectful. The way it ought to be.

As we pulled out of Union Station, as part of the introductory announcement, they said disrespectful behavior toward staff or other passengers will not be tolerated. In Winnipeg, such behavior is almost expected. It’s a red-letter day when you don’t get treated disrespectfully.

After leaving C.U., we rocketed through the eastern suburbs of Pickering, Ajax and Whitby at speeds reaching 93 mph. That’s miles per hour, not Trudeau-metric. Unlike the GO train, there aren’t a litany of stops to make, so there’s nothing to slow them down besides the odd curve or when we have to stop to allow a freight train to pass.

As we followed the 401, an attendant came around to validate our tickets for a second time, a practice they would repeat on the return trip.

Past Oshawa, the scenery turns to rolling hills and farmland with more cows than cars visible from the train. To the north is the old Highway 2, the main route that connected C.U. to Montreal before the 401 was built, and to the south is Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. I had a view of Highway 2 on the way to Ottawa, and a view of the lake on my way back.

Aboard the train was a mixed bag of people, not commuters, but holiday travelers young and old. Many, like me, were traveling alone and aside from some brief exceptions, there was little chatter on board.

Perhaps the only significant conversation came from the older couple behind me, neither of whom knew each other before stepping on the train. Seated on one side was a man from Guelph who was taking a vacation to Ottawa after breaking up from a relationship. He will be going to Mexico soon, where he rents a place in a community of around 12,000 expats near Guadalajara.

On the other side was a woman who is a lawyer with a private practice in Kanata who went to school in Guelph. She made a special effort to lament how the public service has been downsized under Harper. No doubt, Bobo the Clown will make every effort to “fix” this.

He feels safe in Mexico, but she has friends whose daughter was killed there. They never found the body and it wasn’t investigated properly.

It is amazing what people will tell each other on a train, or a bus.

Around noon, they came down the aisle with the lunch tray. The guy to my right bought three water bottles at $2 a pop, and he would buy another when they came around a second time. As he only made a couple of trips to the bathroom, he must have a bladder the size of a 45-gallon drum.

For your reading pleasure, following is the economy class menu:

Chocolate bar or chips (Lay’s or Pringle’s): $2
Yogurt: $2.50
Brownies or chocolate chip cookies: $3
Almond/dried fruit mixes: $3.50
Water or soft drink: $2
Milk, coffee or hot chocolate: $2.50
Orange, apple juice, V8 or lemonade: $3
Arthur’s Smoothie: $3.50
Coors Light or Molson 355 ml: $6
200 ml of wine or 330 ml of Heineken beer: $7
Classic cocktail (50 ml) or Bloody Caesar: $7.50
Instant oatmeal, chicken noodle soup, hummus and crackers, or banana bread: $3
Bagel with cream cheese: $4
Fontaine Santé salad: $5
Egg salad and bacon on a croissant: $6
Cheese, crackers, carrots and dip; Chicken salad sandwich; Black Forest ham and smoked Gouda with maple mayonnaise on a croissant; smoked turkey, apple and pesto wrap; whole wheat falafel wrap with fresh veggies and tzatziki: $7
Assorted cheese plate with crackers, fruit, nuts and chocolate: $10.50

Unlike WestJet, where all food transactions are cashless, they will take cash on VIA. Unfortunately, the same people who are handling money are also the same people handling your food or drink without washing their hands. On one occasion, I saw one of the attendants handling a stack of paper cups by the top end just after making change for someone. I realize this isn’t a traditional restaurant environment, but their sanitation practices need to be improved greatly.

Just past Brockville, I took my one and only bathroom break. Luckily, I wasn’t too far from the washroom, but on the return trip, it was a different story. The train shakes and, unlike tour buses, there are no railings to hang on to as you walk down the aisle. Even for me, someone who is steady on my feet, it was a challenge to get to the opposite end of the car without falling into someone’s lap.

Inside the washroom was another adventure. It’s clearly best to sit down under these circumstances, but with the toilet seat badly soiled from others who have preceded me, I opted to stand and do my business, trying as best as I can not to splash my pants.

There was ample soap and hand wipes, which I used and then returned to my seat thankful that I only had to use the washroom once during the four-hour trip in each direction.

After turning north at Brockville, the scenery turns to solid trees and brush. Staring out the window as we go past at 90+ mph, it all seemed like a blur.

Soon before reaching Ottawa, they came around collecting garbage, as they did near the end of the return trip.

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We pulled into Ottawa about 20-25 minutes behind schedule and I made my way across the walkway over the 417, through the ballpark parking lot to the Hampton Inn on Coventry Road.

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I checked in at the front desk, where the clerk must have called me “Mr. Walker” about six or seven times. I appreciate friendly service, but this was over-the-top butt-kissing. Interestingly, the clerk was a spitting image of Tony Rinella, who, in addition to expertly selling our house in Winnipeg, has taken me to Minneapolis and back many times as the proprietor of Sun Ice Tours.

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I dropped my suitcase in my room and headed out for a little adventure before the expected rain came later that evening.

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By sheer accident, I spotted the Richard and Annette Bloch Cancer Survivor’s Park, one of many scattered across North America. I always made a point of stopping at the park in downtown Minneapolis each time I visited, and I made a brief tour of this one before moving on.

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Sadly, there was construction galore, which fouled up my proposed route, but I still hit some sights before stopping for a meal at a Subway on Main Street.

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The Cuban Embassy. The car has special red diplomat plates, a common sighting in Ottawa. It probably means they can do as they please, much as the way most people behave in Winnipeg. In case there are some readers who haven’t figured it out yet, Winnipeg is a place you don’t really ever get over.

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Any signs featuring poultry will naturally catch my attention.

Fortunately, I made it back to the hotel before it started raining, and I went to bed early to try and get as much rest as I could for the first of a pair of big days ahead of me.

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At the crack of dawn, I was in the dining room for the complimentary breakfast. Oddly, the offerings were nearly identical to those at the Wyndham in Erie last October, the last time I stayed in a hotel. The oatmeal even seemed to come from the same mix.

Wearing my blue Atlanta Thrashers jersey, I was gawked at like a stranger who walks into a small-town diner.

I finished the most important meal of the day quickly, then caught a #9 northbound OC Transpo bus. Throughout my travels in Ottawa, I noticed that the vast majority of passengers, like me, paid their fare using Presto, an electronic fare card also accepted throughout the GCUA. Not only is the fare cheaper with Presto, but it is so much more convenient than having to fiddle around with cash. On larger buses, passengers paying with Presto can even board in the rear and tap their card on the machines by the door.

As someone who hails from Winnipeg, where I thought progress peaked at being able to pay with a paper ticket, the dramatic leap in infrastructure such as this still amazes me.

On the bus, I noticed a sign that read, “If you feel harassed, let OC Transpo know.” In Winnipeg, if you don’t feel harassed, it’s a red-letter day.

054_A5_nb_sussex
On Sussex Drive, I rang the bell at the foot of the Macdonald-Cartier International Bridge and exited through the rear door that I didn’t have to use a battering ram to open, unlike the case with Winnipeg Transit buses. From there, I crossed the Rivière des Outaouais into Quebec, something I swore I would never do.

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Let the record reflect that on 7:34 am Eastern time on Tuesday, April 19, 2016, I broke that vow.

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Immediately upon entering the country, I began snapping pictures of the southern terminus of A-5, a fitting number for my first Quebec highway pictures. Right away, I noticed the massive traffic jam headed into Canada. I’ve heard it said that the public service is one big affirmative action program for the French, and this certainly proves it.

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After getting some shots from Rue Laurier, I continued north on a nice trail through Parc du Lac-Leamy.

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This would be just one of many nice trails I would see on both sides of the border. Though I had much to cover on the ground, I was wishing I had my wheels with me. But alas, maybe another time.

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I spotted this church at the corner of Rue Jacques-Cartier and Boulevard Gréber. It probably means something different in Canadian, but I wondered if this was the place used car salesmen congregate to try and invoke a higher power to boost their bottom line.

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I took note of this sign, as the accent was going the wrong way. For as militant as Quebecers are about their own language, including shoving it down the throats of their colony across the river, you’d think they’d be able to spell it correctly.

I continued north towards Boulevard Maloney Ouest and QC 148 for some pictures before returning south along the same route, stopping at Rue Saint-Louis/QC 307 for more highway pictures. On the way, I spotted some oddities for your viewing pleasure.

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That’s the Salvation Army in Canadian.

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Shoppers Drug Mart.

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The hood of this car looks like it was done by a nutty ex-neighbor of mine who elected to prematurely end her stay on Earth back in 2007.

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Poulet Frit à la Kentucky. The Colonel’s favorite recipe.

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Et pourquoi?

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Qu’est-ce que c’est? L’Anglais sur le Québec? N’est pas le Roi de Burger? Appelez la police tout de suite!

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Back across the bridge and through Parc du Lac-Leamy, I made my way west into the vieux secteur Hull.

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Though I didn’t necessarily feel unsafe around here, this is clearly not an area one wants to frequent at any hour of the day.

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I couldn’t help but notice this truck. I never knew there were this many ways to say “used.”

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Your “vehicule” will be towed.

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You haven’t experienced Quebec until you’ve seen an Arrêt sign. S-T-O-P is good enough for Paris, but not good enough for Quebec.

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After getting some shots around the western terminus of A-50 at Station Montcalm, I headed for the roundabout at Boulevard des Allumettières and Boulevard Saint-Joseph.

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With two lanes of both major thoroughfares headed into the roundabout from all four sides, this must act like be a 50,000-volt magnet for fender-benders. Horns were honking like crazy and that I didn’t see some crunched metal during my brief time at this mess of an intersection is nothing short of miraculous. For the benefit of readers in the SPRM, it would be the equivalent of putting a roundabout at Portage and Main.

As bad as things are for cars at this intersection, it is even worse for pedestrians like me. There are lights at opposite ends when crossing Boulevard des Allumettières, but at Boulevard Saint-Joseph, you’re on your own.

While at one of the lights, I peered around the post to get a picture of QC 148, much to the amusement of a Muslim couple waiting to cross the street. After I sat down for a break at a bench, they walked past and laughed as they pointed at me. And a good day to you too.

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I was hoping to avoid having to patronize any establishment in this country, but fatigue and hunger got the best of me, so I went inside a nearby Subway and placed my order, entirely in Quebecese. It was anything but an award-winning performance as I used my high-school French for the first time for real, but I know somewhere, Bruce Christie, my seventh-grade homeroom teacher at Arthur Day Junior High, is smiling and proud of his former pupil.

lesubway
After eating, I wrote up some notes while listening to all the Quebecese around me. Very little Canadian is spoken in this country, and the most popular word of Canadian I heard was four letters long and started with the letter “F.” Seeing all the people running across the street reminded me of what I saw on Gréber, a busy street where so many just ran across against traffic, forcing cars to stop to avoid a collision. The people here appear to be a lawless bunch that makes Winnipeg look good.

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Right across from me as I ate was this lawyer’s office. A female lawyer is an “avocate,” as the sign at right correctly states, yet on the one at left, it is incorrectly spelled “avocat.” When I, as anything but a fluent speaker of Quebecese, can catch the error, you know it’s bad.

Following the much-needed break, I headed back towards Canada, when I spotted this pillar of society panhandling, or hat-handling, at the on-ramp to A-50.

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I would soon spot another such character, which was not an uncommon sighting throughout my stay in the area.

There was also this bit of odd street entertainment at the corner of Boulevards Sacré-Coeur and Maisonneuve.

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Relieved to be back in my own country, I headed west toward the Parliament Buildings, passing some sights along the way.

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The Saudi Arabian Embassy.

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The Japanese Embassy.

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Embassy of the State of Kuwait.

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Though I didn’t go inside, I walked past the National Gallery.

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I don’t even want to know how much we paid for this piece of “art.” No doubt, each of those tentacles picked our pockets clean.

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You need to go to school to learn how to work for the government?

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The U.S. Embassy.

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A rather peculiar way to secure a bike.

Having put on countless miles on foot, I was done for the day and boarded the #9 bus to take me back to the hotel. First thing next morning, however, I was back at it for another day of exploration, this time mostly on the Canadian side. I was hoping to visit the Parliament Buildings and take advantage of the free tours they offer, but sadly, unbeknownst to me, they weren’t offering tours on this particular day because the potheads were holding a demonstration on the grounds.

Instead, I began my day with a visit to Lansdowne, home of the former Ottawa Civic Center and TD Place, home of the CFL’s Redblacks. Oh wait, it’s not the Redblacks, it’s the REDBLACKS. Watch out when they play the BLUEGOLDS or the GREENWHITES.

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While waiting for a connecting bus on Bank Street, I spotted this character seeking donations to fund his weed habit. All he had to do was visit Parliament Hill and he’d undoubtedly get all he wanted.

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Scenes around Gate 3 of the former Ottawa Civic Center. This is the area where we were dropped off around this time last year on the fan bus trip to see the IceDogs battle the 67’s in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series. Loyal readers may recall we left right after the game and got back around 5:00 in the morning. The Ottawa Civic Center was also one of two host venues when the WHA kicked off its first season on the night of October 11, 1972.

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Overlooking the attached football stadium.

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After a brief tour of the area, I returned downtown and took in this outdoor mall on Sparks Street.

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The Terry Fox statue was something I definitely wanted to see. I would have liked to have spent more time there, but the statue is in the middle of a busy sidewalk, where, like Union Station, you really can’t stop and smell the roses.

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Despite the demonstration later in the day, I could still tour the grounds.

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I’m having a hard time picturing the 90-year-old Queen on a horse.

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The parliamentary outhouse. Maybe this is where Bobo forces the Conservatives to answer the call of nature.

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A War of 1812 memorial, a reminder of home.

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Sacré bleu! The French wording is in a smaller font than its Canadian equivalent. No doubt the language zealots on the other side of the border will soon be having a field day with this one.

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Moving on, I passed the Supreme Court of Canada, where more laws are made than in the House of Commons.

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At the foot of the Portage Bridge, I was again struck by the nice trails in the area.

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On the northbound lanes, there is a two-way bike path. I can’t imagine how scary it would be pedaling against busy traffic. I found it bad enough out on deserted Hecla Island in the SPRM many years earlier.

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Crossing Victoria Island, I went back over the river for another brief tour inside the empire du mal.

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Another nice trail to cover, if only I had my bike.

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A statue of Samuel de Champlain. If I didn’t know better, it looks like a spitting image of a former colleague with the initials of B.C. One reader will understand.

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Back over the bridge into Canada, I made my way to the Canadian War Museum.

warmuseum
The admission price was $16.95, including KST, but it proved to be worth every penny.

The galleries were arranged in chronological order, beginning with the early wars among the aboriginal peoples.

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An early-model dagger, which looks like something one might find on a Winnipeg Transit bus.

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There was a phone where you could hear the dramatization of an Indian elder speaking about his first encounters with the French. I swear it sounded just like a good friend and loyal reader. He will understand and no doubt laugh heartily. I hope he was paid handsomely for the use of his voice.

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Of course, there were the usual bits of revisionist history, demonizing the British and making heroes out of the defeated French.

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The War of 1812, more reminders of home.

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The founding of the SPRM.

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There was a large collection on the First World War.

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How’s your “eyesite”?

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A display showing what it was like in a trench, sans the mud, of course.

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A plane with “C 5” on the wings. Loyal readers can judge for themselves as to whether or not that was a coincidence.

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Sadly, the slackers do rule Canada today and has an army of social justice warriors fighting on their behalf.

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There was an equally large collection on World War II, including Adolf Hitler’s Mercedes.

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One of the first flight simulators, used for training pilots.

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A U-boat torpedo.

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I know “retards” doesn’t mean the same in Quebecese as it does in Canadian, but it was still odd to see. This particular display showed what was being done on the home front, and a noteworthy omission was “If Day” held in Winnipeg in 1942. They had fake Nazis on the street, renamed Portage Avenue to Adolf-Hitler-Strasse and even published a fake edition of the Winnipeg Tribune to show what things would be like if Germany won the war, all in an effort to sell Victory Bonds.

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Wartime rationing.

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And peacetime propaganda is alive and well at the CBC, Toronto Star, Winnipeg Free Press and the rest of the Liberal-loving media.

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A Canadian beaver armed and ready for battle.

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An anti-aircraft gun.

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A German tank.

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There was a lot devoted to the Cold War, including this simulated World War III command center.

All told, I spent two and a half hours there and I can highly recommend it for anyone with an interest in military history.

After a stop at the café for refueling and rest, I was back on the road for some more sightseeing before catching the bus back to the hotel.

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By accident, I stumbled on the National Firefighters Memorial, located just across the street from the War Museum.

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I wasn’t aware the West had died.

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Potheads gathering at Parliament Hill. As I continued east, I passed many more on the sidewalk heading there.

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Upon reaching the bus stop, I spotted this rotund figure with the slogan “Keep it fit, hit the pit” on her back as she accompanied “Pita Pete” down the street. Had she passed by me, I might have been tempted to tell her to practice what she’s preaching.

The next day, I had plenty of time to sleep in before making my way back across the walkway to the train station.

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Scenes around the train station.

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Time went quickly, and I was soon on board the Toronto-bound train. The car was noticeably different than the last one, and even the woman sitting in front of me who travels this route frequently hadn’t seen one like it before.

The train was not completely full and I lucked out as the seat next to me, 5C in Car 5, was empty on the nine-year anniversary of my fateful inaugural visit to Carli Ward at Riverview Health Center. Whether or not that was a coincidence is left as an exercise to the reader.

As was the case on the trip to Ottawa, there would be little chatter on board except for a little bit in front of me before we left the station. A young woman in her 20s was telling the woman to her right that she was a student going to school in Toronto who was visiting family in Ottawa before going back to take her final exams the next day. She would later open her laptop and go through some sample questions on math logic. Hey, I got my math degree using paper and pencil.

As we were leaving, the announcement, “Hello, my name is Eric and I’ll be your service manager today,” came over the PA system, as it would after each of the Fallowfield and Kingston stops. Well, Eric, I’m Curtis and I’ll be your passenger today. To be more blunt, Eric, I really don’t give a flying rat’s behind what your name is. In fairness, however, Eric and his colleagues were much more pleasant than the bunch who were on the Ottawa-bound train.

The return trip offered me a view from the opposite side of the car, where I was able to see the lake, in addition to a couple of other odd sightings. One farmer was flying a Saskatchewan Roughrider flag upside down and I also spotted some assorted trailer trash sitting around an open pit with a fire going. The latter scene reminded me of an obnoxious former neighbor who would frequently burn railway ties in his backyard for no apparent reason.

Back at Union Station, I caught a Lakeshore West train and had a long wait at Burlington with many others for the #12 GO bus. Right behind me in line were three older women headed for Niagara Falls who were on the same VIA train from Ottawa as I was, just four rows ahead of me. I was able to help them with some directions and I hope they made their way there safely.

Tired and weary, I made it back to St. Catharines around 6:30 having experienced more over the last four days than I could digest.

I was glad I went, but I’m not sure I would return. There is still plenty I would like to see in Ottawa, but I might be inclined to save my money to go somewhere else.