Monday, July 10, 2017

🍁 🍁 🍁 Canada Day 150 Celebrations: A Review 🍁 🍁 🍁

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I knew that going up to Ottawa for the Canada Day 150 celebrations would be a priority for me years before it was known as Canada 150. Having been a fan of Canada for a long time (I even once applied to make a move there), I knew that this was the key year to take a trip up there, and particularly to Ottawa, to Canada's capital city.

Knowing the significance of the date, and also being aware of the popularity of taking days off at around that time of the year, I put in for vacation back in winter, months and months in advance, so that there would be no conflict (only one person in my position at a time is allowed to take vacation on any given day). 

So, I got those days, and still, somehow, they kind of snuck up on me! I was so busy with things, that before long, my son was finishing school, and I noticed that there were no reservations of any kind for our Canada trip.


Suddenly in a rush, I looked for relatively cheap places to stay in or around Ottawa, and there were none. Literally, the cheapest places for Ottawa during that weekend started at over $1,000 per night when I started to really look, so that was not going to be an option. Having to keep expanding my look to ever increasing circles outside of Ottawa, I eventually found reasonably priced hotels in a town that I had stayed at many years before, back in 1999 if memory serves correctly, in the small city of Rigaud, QuΓ©bec.

Late June and early July proved to be a very, very busy time for me, with or without the Canada trip. But with this trip for Canada 150, it proved rather chaotic.

Still, it was a priority.

And so my son and I went up, and tired our best to prepare for what we knew would be a very busy, most likely a bit chaotic, day.

It did not disappoint, although there were some unforeseen circumstances.

First of all, security was supposed to be incredibly tight. Everywhere on the news, in both French and English, they were talking about the extremely tight security measures, and we were informed that there would be no backpacks allowed, and no food allowed. Still, we decided to take a few drinks and a snack, and I stuffed a kind of light material backpack in my pockets, so that I could carry it on my back once there. Also, no umbrellas, which was a big deal once we learned that it was supposed to be rainy.

As it turned out, though, these security measures in particular proved to be largely symbolic or irrelevant. It seemed that everyone but us had a backpack, and that everyone else had brought an umbrella. And most everyone there also had brought plenty of things to eat, including sandwiches and such.

Had we known that, I would have packed ourselves sandwiches and brought our own backpack, which would have been far better and protected our stuff much more than the flimsy backpack that we used instead.

What really made this day chaotic in a negative sense was the heavy rains. At some points, the rain was just relentlessly pouring down, and there was no escape, no real shelter to be found anywhere. Our clothes and shoes got wet, and would smell later as a result. Plus, it was beginning to be uncomfortable, with squishy shoes and clothes that were just absolutely drenched. Plus, whatever we had brought with us was completely soaked, which also was no good.

To make matters worse, the weather apparently pushed the festivities back by a few hours, while back on the security lines, it was wreaking havoc. We learned later that some people were on those lines for up to eight hours, and still did not manage to get in!

We had avoided that by arriving super early. I woke up at around 4:45 in the morning, and quickly took a shower and got ready. My son and I were out the door by a little after five in the morning, and left Rigaud outright by around 5:07.

At first, I was beginning to question myself for perhaps having been overly prepared, and gone too far in these lengths. There was virtually nobody else on the road on a Saturday morning - and a holiday, to boot - this early. We got to Ottawa very early, and the traffic was not that bad. We found a parking deck relatively close to the festivities, and we were the first ones at the garage, which seemed amazing to me!

Later, however, when we found out about the long lines, and how some people had waited for a long time and not gotten in (including one family from British Columbia, all the way on the other side of the country!), I became happy for these particular measures for preparation that I had taken. Had we known that they would not have been that tough about bringing backpacks and food and umbrellas, we would have been as prepared as possible for the circumstances.

Anyway, we were there, and that was the most important thing. In fact, that was no small feat, given how difficult it would become to actually get inside the soggy, muddy lawn at Parliament Hill.

The show started a couple of hours later than expected, as a result of the rain, because it apparently flooded some train station nearby, or something like that, according to the news that I watched later that evening.

Anyway, the show was pretty good. Here is some of what I wrote about it in an earlier post this week:

Indeed, it reminded me a bit of the Paul McCartney free concert in QuΓ©bec City in 2008, which was very enjoyable, and one of my fondest memories.  To some extent, it also reminded me a bit of the Three Tenors concert that we went to see in Paris back in 1998, for the Coupe du Monde/World Cup, when France both hosted and won it. It reminded me a bit of that, as well, because like that concert, this one was under the canopy of the city's most famous and distinguished landmark. With the Three Tenors, it was a stage under the domineering presence of the Eiffel Tower, while in Ottawa this past weekend, it was a stage under the also iconic Peace Tower of that city's Parliament Hill.

Not sure that this compared to either of those concerts, and it was nonetheless different. This was also a concert, although it was a bit more than that, a bit different than those other two, because it was not strictly a concert. Or, at least, not strictly just a concert.

This was a major event - billed by a few people, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as the biggest party in Ottawa's history, and that much I can definitely believe. He was there, and he gave a speech, as did Prince Charles. And other people were there, also in a speaking capacity, such as Shania Twain, who is better known for her singing career (which admittedly, I am not altogether familiar with).

And even though I am not a big fan of the Royal Family and/or Prince Charles, the presence of the Royal Couple also added another dimension to it. Again, it was not strictly speaking simply a concert, as it was more than that.

However, the musical acts were also definitely there. It started with Chorus, Chorus, Chorus, a local act and/or school for singing and performing based in Toronto. But there were other acts, including some traditional native artists and dancers, U2's Bono and The Edge, Buffy Saint-Marie, and Walk Off the Earth. Later in the evening, there were more musical acts, although we were not there for that.

There is a reason for that, however: it was unbelievably crowded!

The lines to get back in for the evening show were already ridiculous, bad enough that I thought it would be best for us to avoid it. Had we been able to pack up a serious lunch, maybe we could have stayed. But as it turned out, that show would be quite delayed, as well, and it would have meant a lot more waiting around, plus massive crowds to try and get out of the city.

In the end, we decided to go to Rigaud to check out what was going on there. Surely, there would be fireworks.

Unfortunately, the skies opened up to thunderstorms and heavy rain that evening, so indeed, there were no fireworks.

Still, ultimately, that was a great show and a great day, and wonderful memories shared with my son! A Canada Day 150 to remember!

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