4.20.2007

three questions for wmtc readers

I will be writing about Steven Fletcher, the Member of Parliament who is a quadriplegic, for New Mobility magazine.

What questions would you like me to ask Mr Fletcher?

Keep in mind I'm writing for people who use wheelchairs. Questions about how he conducts the tasks of daily life are not very interesting to our readers.

Other than that, what are you curious about? If you were reading a profile of Mr Fletcher, what would you like to know? Nothing is off-limits.

* * * *

I'm using the excuse of this story assignment to plan a trip to Ottawa! I usually have to interview by phone, so this is a great opportunity to turn in a better story (in-person interviews are always superior), and see the capital of my new country at the same time.

Any suggestions for what we should see and do in Ottawa?

I'll pick up a guidebook and also do some research online, but I'd love to hear your ideas, tips and pointers. I'm thinking history, museums, walking, dining. Standard tourism and off-the-beaten-track are both welcome.

* * * *

One of my goals this year - and hopefully, continuing into the future - is to go hiking more often. I find that nothing relaxes and rejuvenates me more than walking in the woods. It's great exercise and stress relief for body and mind.

In New York it was always a big production to rent a car and get out of town, and we managed it once or twice a year. Now that we're car owners, I want to do it more often.

In our first months here, we hiked in Forks of the Credit. We did the same thing last fall, but just once, and both times in the same place. I need more places to go! Where do you suggest?

Here's our criteria. We're talking walking, not climbing. Some hills are OK, but rock- or mountain-climbing is not. It has to be dog-friendly; leash laws are cool, but "no dogs allowed" is not. It should be within a two-hour drive from the GTA, preferably closer.

I know there are many places within Toronto where you can walk and forget you're in a city. New York has a few, too, and I love that. But this is also about driving into the country, stopping at a roadhouse for lunch, maybe poking around a small town. So as wonderful as the trails and ravines of Toronto may be, that's not what I'm looking for.

* * * *

OK, Steven Fletcher, Ottawa, hiking. Your go. Thanks in advance.

26 comments:

James said...

Any suggestions for what we should see and do in Ottawa?

Some obvious things: Parliament Hill, the Rideau Canal & Falls, the National Gallery (if you're into art), the Museum of Civilization in Hull (if you're into history and anthropology).

If you're still interested in Canada's approach to things like Vimy, Ypres, Dieppe, &c, you might want to visit the War Museum> I've never been there myself, though.

A drive through Gatineau Park (also in Hull) is always good. You can visit Kingsmere, Mackenzie's King would retreat from Ottawa.

For touristy shopping there's the Sparks Street Market, right near Parliament Hill, or the market across the Canal (can't remember it's name), around Dalhousie St.

And it's worth having a look at the American Embassy, just to see how hideous it is.

I need more places to go! Where do you suggest?

There are hundreds of good places in Ontario. Lots of conservation areas and such. My first suggestion is, get a book on the Bruce Trail. While there's some climbing on some sections, most of it just goes along the top of the Escarpment and gives you great views. Some places I like: The Devil's Punchbowl in Hamilton, Devil's Glen, Keyhole Caves, along the Niagara River.

My second suggestion is get books on provincial and regional conservation areas. There are some amazing ones to walk in. Elora Gorge is one personal favourite.

M@ said...

I'll second both the Bruce Trail and Elora conservation area for hiking. I did a lot of hiking on the Bruce Trail in my school years, anywhere from Burlington to Grimsby. The Devil's Punch Bowl is definitely the most spectacular scene on the trail I know of. The Bruce Trail Guide is probably available at any bookstore -- I hope they'd have them in Toronto -- and is apparently quite good. We used to just walk up to the trail from home so I never owned a copy myself.

There really are a lot of cool areas for hiking, but I mostly know only the ones around Hamilton. Webster's Falls is another really great place, with a huge waterfall and a nice path along a very pretty river. SuMei and I went there a couple of times when she was taking a photography course. I also remember cutting classes in high school to drive out there with friends. Well worth it.

As for Ottawa... the new war museum is really good, it does a lot more than talk about Canada's military -- there's a lot of context. I learned a lot. I know it's not for everyone but neither my wife and our friend who accompanied us had much interest in military history, and they both enjoyed it.

I like the national art gallery, too. Seeing that in the morning and wandering around the market (which is only a couple of blocks away) is a good way to spend an Ottawa Saturday.

Another interesting area is the Glebe. Lots of cool shops and little art galleries and stuff. Just go up Bank Street, away from the downtown, till you're south of the highway.

Only one restaurant recommendation -- the Works, a burger place (http://www.worksburger.com/). Maybe they aren't In-n-Out, but they have a lot of creative burgers, made really well. Maybe you've hit your burger quota for the time being but if not I'd recommend them.

Oh, one more place to consider is the Canadian Mint. Apparently it's a really interesting museum. It's certainly popular; we've tried to get in the last couple of times we've been to Ottawa, and they were sold out for the day. Their gift shop was cool too. I'm a little too easily fascinated by shiny objects, of course.

L-girl said...

Thanks guys!

I've heard and read a lot about the Bruce Trail, but I didn't know how accessible it is to this area, how difficult the trails around here are, etc. etc. I've hiked on many (small) sections of the Appalachian Trail, and used to have a dream of hiking the whole thing... yeah, right. The girl who can't stand camping. But because of this, the Bruce Trail interests me.

We used to just walk up to the trail from home so I never owned a copy myself. . . . I also remember cutting classes in high school to drive out there with friends. Well worth it.

This is me exactly with Harriman State Park, a network of lakes and trails to the north of NYC, just north of the suburbs where I grew up (only I couldn't walk to the trails, it was a short drive). Much later I introduced Allan to it. I have great memories of that area.

Thanks James and M@ for the Ottawa suggestions, too. Hopefully other folks will chime in, but this gives me good stuff to go on.

M@, I probably have reached my burger quota for the year, but Allan hasn't, and I can't let him eat a burger all by himself... :)

M@ said...

If I can help any more re: the Bruce Trail, just let me know. As you may know, it follows the Niagara Escarpment pretty much from one end to the other. There are a lot of areas where you can park and then walk. The trail is marked all the way along, too, and is in most areas extremely well cared for.

It's really great that you're willing to have another burger for Allan. The Works has become one of the spots we visit every time we're in town. There was a good breakfast place, too, but the last couple of times we've been there both the food and the service had gone downhill.

Oh! Just remembered! There's a cool bookstore in the Rideau Centre (the big mall on Rideau Street, right near the Parliament buildings), called Benjamin Books. It's kind of a discount bookstore but there are so many different books -- academic books, stuff like that -- that it's nothing at all like the big remaindered Book Blowout places. Worth checking out if you visit the Rideau.

L-girl said...

It's really great that you're willing to have another burger for Allan.

I'm so selfless. A martyr, really.

impudent strumpet said...

I still want to know what Steven Fletcher does when everyone else stands to vote, although that may not be of interest to your audience.

IMHO, the Bruce Trail is at its best in full fall colours, which usually peak around Thanksgiving weekend. I'm not at all big on nature, but the fall colours on the Niagara Escarpment are literally the only thing I miss living in the city.

L-girl said...

Hey ImpStrump, I was hoping you'd be around. I couldn't remember what your good question was. And now you've reminded me - thanks! I think it's a great question. I'll have to tell the (mostly US) readers that MPs vote by standing.

IMHO, the Bruce Trail is at its best in full fall colours, which usually peak around Thanksgiving weekend.

Twice we went hiking around Allan's birthday, mid-October, and twice we missed all the colours. Maybe this fall we'll get it right. :)

I'm not at all big on nature, but the fall colours on the Niagara Escarpment are literally the only thing I miss living in the city.

For me it was having a backyard, or any little private outdoor space. Finally my desire for that over-rode my desire to live in the city. But it took almost 30 years.

Scott M. said...

Now *is* the best time to hike... the mosquitos, if you run across any at all, won't be biting yet.

The Bruce trail is certainly the premier trail in Southern Ontario... as far as the closeness, how's less than a half hour from your place? Indeed, there's lot's of cool places to go. Try the "Hole in the Wall" to get a flavour for a more tame (but still neat) trail... it's in the featured trails section of their website.

Just want to picnic at a cool place? Check out the moon (OK, it's not the moon, it just looks like it) a few concessions north on the South side of Olde Baseline Road between Creditview Rd and Mississauga Road (just south of Forks of the Credit!).

Two hours you say? Well, you can check out Hockley Valley, we were just there last weekend (also on the favourites page). With lots of loops it's as challenging, or easy, as you like. Some pretty good hills there, though you can avoid the worst if you want. Mono Cliffs is cool too...

Aw heck, any of the trails are good on that page except maybe Balls Falls. If you get up to Tobermory, hiking along the escarpment North from Cyprus is spectacular.

OK... enough on the Bruce Trail. What else in 2 hours drive? Well, from where you are, you can get to Elora Gorge (already mentioned) which is a great place on a superbly hot day to just float down the Grand river (they have a superb, gorgeous and fun river tubing experience [not very dangerous, but fun]).

There's a whole heck of a lot of Conservation areas (mostly areas in floodplaines set aside by the Government after hurricane Hazel) to check out. As well, there's a number of large Regional Forests in York Region, Simcoe Region, etc. They're a little harder to find so they tend to be less busy.

There are some Ontario Provincial Parks in your area, though many are recreational. In general, it's best to stay away from them. All other classifications offer parks with great places to hike. Make sure you get detail about the park you go to however as there's a huge variance in how much hiking opportunities there are. (Killarney is killer, Darlington is Disaster).

There's very few commercial hiking establisments in Ontario such as the Collingwood Scenic Caves (which is over 2 hours away anyway), so you generally don't have to worry about paying to get in. At worst you'd have to pay a daily vehicle permit for $20 or under. ($20 to park at some beaches in Georgina).

Overall though, the Bruce Trail will provide you with the best opportunities for nearby fun and therefore I would recommend you get a copy of the Bruce Trail Reference.

Scott M. said...

Now... on to Ottawa...

One must-see for me in Ottawa (provided you're OK with a bit of stairs) is actually outside in the town of Carp... the absolutely AMAZING Diefenbunker.

This place will take your breath away... you'll get a taste of our cold war history in Canada and see how the government intended to survive a nuclear attack by going into the actual bunker. It's huge! Just the thought of this being built with very little knowledge about it and it's location... amazing. I was fortunate to go on a many-hour tour with the curator and a bunch of Rovers (Scouts 18-24)... she was superb!

I second a trip into Gatineau Park... but do more than drive. There's lots of good places to go for a hike there as well. Neat falls, cool caves (esp. if you're going in the summer -- the Lusk caverns are neat and quite safe. Bring a flashlight and wear your bathing suit! Lusk Falls (not anywhere near the Lusk Caves as lusk would have it), is also amazing at this time of year. The base of Lusk Falls is fairly easy to get to, but to get to the top is much more of a climb. I encourage you to go a bit further than where you first think you've got a good view... it gets better.

Hmm... what else? There's the touristy stuff like Casino d'Hull, the museum of civilization, the mint, etc. Oh yeah! Check out the Canadian Aviation Museum which is really super cool. I recommend it over the Museum of Civilization anyday, but then again I like planes. (The Bush Plane Museum in Sault Ste. Marie is cool too).

On your way there or on your way back, if you go via Hwy 7, there's two things you may want to check out. One is Smith's Falls' Hershey Factory Store, where you can go into the Hershey factory and watch them make chocolates and then buy the product at great prices. Sadly, the store and factory are closing permanently within a year... check it out before it's gone.

Another museum piece on Hwy 7 is an actual museum... which is always teetering on the verge of extinction... the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough. It's so well done... too bad it may not be sustainable in the long run.

You could also consider a horseback ride in the area, etc... but my highest recommendations are, in order:

a) Diefenbunker
b) Lusk Falls
c) Hershey's Store

Enjoy!

Scott M. said...

As far as questions for Steven Fletcher... my main one would be how he likes the partisanship of the house. Does he think that the opposition should always oppose? Does he agree with blaming everything on the Liberals, and at what point in time does the Harper government have to take responsibility for not fixing the problems they see left by the Liberals? Do they need a 13 year majority to get things done as well?

Does he see a role for minority governments? What is that role? What about long-term, stable coalition governments?

What does he think is needed to get more visible minorities, disabled and women in the house? Does he think having a MMP list system or other such more proporational system would force parties to prepare a representative list? What other ideas might he have?

Out of my own curiosity, I'd be interested in knowing what changes they had to make to accomodate him and the fire/emergency plan changes that needed to be made.

Oh... and of course, when you're in Ottawa, I recommend you sit in on a question period, a debate, an open committee hearing, and a division to get a feel of the place.

Now I just feel like I'm blabbing.

James said...

Webster's Falls is another really great place, with a huge waterfall and a nice path along a very pretty river.

Here are some other good places Lori & I have been to while Geocaching (check out the whole Flickr set for more):

- Sherman Falls in Ancaster, near Hamilton.

- The Keyhole Caves near Devil's Glen. This photo was taken a year ago -- this was the only place we'd seen snow in a month.

- Nottawasaga Bluffs, also near the Keyhole Caves and Devil's Glen.

- Tiffin Conservation Area, which had thousands of trilliums last May.

- The Rouge River Vally in Scarborough.

The first three are on the Bruce Trail.

I've heard and read a lot about the Bruce Trail, but I didn't know how accessible it is to this area, how difficult the trails around here are, etc. etc.

It's very accessible from where you are. You're closest to the Iroquoia section, which runs from Milton to Beamsville. From your place, the nearest parts of the trail would be about a 15 minute drive on the 407.

Most of the trail is very easy hiking. The harder bits are usually on side trails, and those are generally just big climbs up or down, no rock-climbing or anything.

If you want to join forces for a hike sometime, let us know. We love walking the trail, and we're looking forward to taking the new pup out into the woods.

Maybe we could take you guys up to the old family farm, as well. It's the area between the 15th and 20th Side Road, and the 3rd & 4th Line, on this map.

Scott M. said...

I'll second James' invitation... my wife and I go hiking all the time on the Bruce as well. Today we're going to be down in that area as well, going to Silver Creek Conservation Area.

Actually, if you go to that website, you'll find they cover a whole bunch of parks along the escarpment (Click a region in "Search by Region" and select "Parks in the area") which are great to go to.

Heck Laura, if you read this anytime before 11am and want to up and walk with us, give me a shout on my cell. I'll send it to you in an email.

L-girl said...

We would love to go hiking with either of you, but you forget, we work on the weekends. Our hikes will be on weekdays.

Thanks for all the suggestions! This is great.

L-girl said...

Thanks for all the Ottawa suggestions. The National Gallery and the Museum of Civilization are more our cup of tea than the War Museum or Aviation Museum - but then, there's more than one can reasonably do on one visit anyway. It's good to get your first priorities in, then know what's around for future trips.

Question Period! We would LOVE to do that. I'll look into how to go about it.

One is Smith's Falls' Hershey Factory Store, where you can go into the Hershey factory and watch them make chocolates and then buy the product at great prices.

Would this be significantly different from the Hershey Factory in Hershey, Pennsylvania? That's a mainstay of school and family trips in the Northeast US.

Scott, your questions for Fletcher are great, too.

I wonder if US readers would even know what a minority govt or proprotional representation is. But I might ask him some of those questions just to ask him, for my own knowledge. Thoughts on women and visible minorities in Parliament are good, too. I'll definitely include that.

Sadly, I don't think I'll ask him about blaming the Liberals. It's to be a friendly interview. :)

Scott M. said...

It's to be a friendly interview. :)

Aw! I guess you could ask about what he thinks about the partisanship... but surely you can finish off with a jab about the fact that he's been a jerk often... :)

The Hershey factory store is likely the same... I'd guess if you've been to one, you've been to them all. If you haven't though it's worth seeing before it closes. There's a note of sorrow throughout the place though with the highly underutilized manufacturing lines, etc.

Question Period is a blast... it's certainly not hard to go see; all you have to do to get into the public galleries during a sitting is show up. If you have a pocket knife or other contraband they'll store it for you until you leave (they give you a coat check tag and you pick it up on your way out). You have to go through a metal detector but that's it.

Want a guaranteed seat? Just talk to your MP or even Stephen Fletcher. He'll get a Member's Pass for you and you can sit in the Members' gallery (slightly nicer accomodations).

There are free guided tours of Parliament Hill every day, but you don't have to be a part of a tour to visit the house or access many parts of the building. Lots more information here.

Approximate hours for QP are M-Th 2:15 to 3pm and Friday 11:15 to Noon. Stay around after everyone evacuates the house (about 5 minutes or so) and you'll see a different side of things -- they'll go into debate.

You can come back later in the day as well to see a division (recorded vote), at various times but often at 5pm or 7pm.

If you're in the house and there's a vote or a quorum call, you'll hear bells or buzzers calling the members. That can be your call as well if you want to see what the fuss is about.

L-girl said...

Great info. Thanks, Scott!

James said...

We just did a nice 5k hike in Bluffer's Park, Scarborough. Bluffer's Park is a landfill delta at the base of the Scarborough Bluffs (Panoramic shot) with a marina. It's definitely a city park and not a wilderness hike, but it's a nice walk. Good breeze off the lake and some neat scenery. And Cobalt had a great time chasing the birds.

(The photos above are from our walk there last year, which was late in the day.)

Woti-woti said...

Can't add much to the Ottawa info--I lived there on 2 occasions, 30 years apart, totalling about 5 years and the highlight of both occasions was the day I left (cue sit-com laugh track). But seriously, if it wasn't the capital, there wouldn't be much there. One tip-the best view of the Parliament Buildings is from the other side of the river. If you do that, make sure you return via the Interprovincial (Alexandria) Bridge. The buildings unfold on your right as you cross. Very cool. The Byward market is good to wander around in, lots of pubs, coffee shops etc. with patios. If you want to get away from the tourists, just start walking along the canal. If driving, you'll feel naked without an Ottawa Senator car flag.

mac said...

The Byward Market is great place to visit. It is filled with little shops, bars, etc. When I lived in Ottawa during my teens, it was run-down corner of town filled with grungy taverns and dumpy stores. Now it's a dynamic area that I always enjoy walking through. It's just off Rideau St. in downtown Ottawa.

L-girl said...

Woti, despite your lukewarm feelings about the city, you gave me some good things to do. :)

Hi Mac. :) Welcome to wmtc.

Scott M. said...

Sundays you can bike along a few of the NCC (National Capital Commission) roadways (Ottawa River Parkway and Colonel By Dr) as they're closed to vehicular traffic. Bikes are available to rent just under Wellington/Rideau St where it crosses the canal. It's a great place to bike... even without the Parkways closed, there's a ton of great bike paths.

In Byward Market there's a Tucker's Marketplace buffet which is quite nice -- a departure from the Tucker's Marketplaces in Toronto (which aren't so nice). FYI, Byward Market is a short walk from Parliament Hill (5 mins) just past the place you can pick up the bikes and the famous Chateau Laurier (Fairmont hotel).

Be warned however that the city rolls up it's sidewalks at 5pm at night and there's NOTHING to see or do in downtown. Byward market is cool, but even it's quite tame.

Oh!

Oh!

Oh!

My god! I almost forgot. My wife and I always, I mean ALWAYS, go to the Ferme Rouge restaurant about 20 minutes away from Parliament Hill on the Quebec side. It's open Wednesday to Sunday, it's got good food (not spectacular, but not bad by any menas), but while you're eating you get to see a great show with ladies dancing, singers, etc. It's 3/4 english and 1/4 french, and a great blast.

Don't make the same mistake I did the first time and leave early... they start out with some cheesy singing but it gets a lot better with all sorts of dancing and otherwise fun (if hokey) stuff. Reservations will ensure you a good table.

Don't let the fact that their English website is poor deter you (localisation = directions)... they acutally speak fluent English there.

Ooh, ooh, ooh... if you do go, let us know how you liked it.

Scott M. said...

And just a quick note on the Diefenbunker (pun of Diefenbaker, our PM of the time), while it is "Canada's Cold War museum", that's not the draw for me.

This is a real, decommissioned bunker. It was designed to hold Canada's government in a time of nuclear war. It is a huge, four-storey bunker with over a hundred thousand square feet in it, built to withstand a near-direct hit. It has a broadcasting facility for CBC (Radio and TV) and part of the plan was to have one producer, one TV personality and one radio host come down into the bunker with the government for broadcasting. You get to see everything, including the fresh food/frozen food pantry which coverts to a morgue; the decontamination process; the emergency situation centre; etc.

One of the cool things I liked which is very odd was the little shop you can go into if you want on your way out (you're not forced through it) which has tons of cold war surplus stuff like the scary government publication 10 Steps to Suvival, etc.

James said...

One tip-the best view of the Parliament Buildings is from the other side of the river.

There's a great view from the Museum of Civilization, for instance.

The Byward market is good to wander around in

Byward! That's the name. That's the market I mentioned that's across the Canal from Parliament. For some reason I just couldn't recall it.

L-girl said...

This is a real, decommissioned bunker.

This sounds really interesting.

Be warned however that the city rolls up it's sidewalks at 5pm at night and there's NOTHING to see or do in downtown.

Hmm. So we won't be missing anything when we watch the Red Sox on the laptop. But aside from that...

My wife and I always, I mean ALWAYS, go to the Ferme Rouge restaurant about 20 minutes away from Parliament Hill on the Quebec side. It's open Wednesday to Sunday, it's got good food (not spectacular, but not bad by any menas), but while you're eating you get to see a great show with ladies dancing, singers, etc. It's 3/4 english and 1/4 french, and a great blast.

We might just have to do this. Is it full of tour groups? Or is a local thing?

Scott M. said...

No tour groups, it's a local thing, though you'll always have a few anniversaries and big birthdays going on.

L-girl said...

No tour groups, it's a local thing

Oh very good!