A week of wander in Ottawa


It’s been a while—ten years, in fact!—since I have ventured down this way. As you know, several things had intervened against such a move in the interim, but they are now of no concern. However, there were some unexpected events along the way.

“Ce chrisse de pile a décâlisé mon tabernac de char!”

I knew that the first challenge was to get through the GTA before the morning rush hour started to take its daily toll. Last Monday, though, saw several extra mishaps that really slowed the traffic down. First of all, an accident on the 401 just before the Guelph Line backed up eastbound traffic all the way to Highway 6 (which did not move again for an hour), and then the radio announced that a tractor trailer jack-knifed near Leslie Street, which shut down all the express lanes. As it was approaching 9am, and having been on the road since 6:15, I pulled onto the 400 and onto Finch to grab a breakfast at the first Tim Horton’s that I would come across, which was at Jane and Finch. When I returned to the car, I discovered much to my chagrin that the battery had died! Groan…

I called out for a tow truck. The first vehicle to arrive was equipped for battery charging only, and that did not work. The real tow truck was then called, which took me to a Canadian Tire at Dufferin below Finch. Analysis revealed that it was indeed the battery (original, and almost ten years old) and not the alternator that was at fault. And, by the way, the serpentine belt was about ready to go as well! Oh well, it had to be done.

Once back on the 401, construction persisted throughout Durham Region, as well as between Mallorytown and Brockville. I did not begin to relax until I got on the 416 for the last stretch to the Capital.

A relaxing couple of nights

I had booked into a bed-and-breakfast in Sandy Hill, just east of downtown. Quite a nice location, as you can see.

There were three bedrooms: one double and two queen beds, all fully booked. I had the double, which was nice and quiet. The Byward Market was about ten blocks to the west, or about 20-30 minutes’ walk. Most tourists were in town for the tulip festival, but my ambitions went further afield.

The watering hole for the next two nights was the Aulde Dubliner in the Byward Market. Great ambience, cheerful staff, good beer, and little mention of politics at all around the tables—even then, only US politics were being discussed, with much shaking of heads. That was good, as I did not want to find myself in any places being occupied by the Grits and other Ottawa junkies! After all, this was a vacation!

Tuesday was spent trekking through the downtown, starting at the National Gallery and ending at the Canadian War Museum, wandering around through each one:

There were stops along the way at Parliament Hill, the Supreme Court of Canada, and the National Archives. I didn’t take a tour on the Hill, as you have to get tickets offsite and then go wait in line. The Supreme Court had English tours every hour on the hour, but I just missed the one for that hour and felt like moving on.

There’s a lot of construction on the Hill these days, with the West Block being refurbished and both the West and Centre Blocks’ exteriors getting a thorough cleaning. I hear the Centre Block will be closed after 2017 for massive interior work to be done. Most statues have been removed on the Hill right now, or access to them has been blocked because of the construction activity, but some interesting ones are still available. The best example is the one of Mackenzie King by Raoul Hunter, who was once an editorial cartoonist from 1956 to 1989 at Le Soleil in Quebec City:


Wednesday found me exploring the various parkways maintained by the National Capital Commission, where you feel compelled to follow the speed limit so as not to miss any of the wonderful views. Afterwards, a visit to the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum:

Into Québec

Wednesday and Thursday were spent wandering through Gatineau Park, admiring the various lookouts and winding roads throughout:

And, of course, there is Kingsmere, where Mackenzie King lived and retired. His retirement cottage, The Farm, is off-limits as it is occupied by the Speaker of the House of Commons, but the other two establishments (one from his younger days, as well as the later one built when he became Prime Minister) are open to all, although the black flies are now starting to come out:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Wednesday and Thursday nights were spent at the Comfort Inn just off Boulevard St-Laurent. Relatively cheap, in the middle of an industrial area. It has seen better days, but it was OK for a short stay.

You are in the French-Canadian side of Ottawa here, as well as where most of the recent immigrants have settled. It’s quite a different flavour from downtown, but still revealing in its own right.

And so to home…

Friday came too soon, but it was time to head back, and I was determined to avoid the 401 as much as I could. The itinerary I assembled worked out this way:

  • 416 to Johnstown
  • Highway 2 through Prescott and Brockville
  • Thousand Islands Parkway through to Gananoque
  • 401 to Highway 15, and then down to Kingston
  • Highway 33 along the lake and through Prince Edward County
  • Highway 2 through Brighton, Colborne, Grafton, Cobourg and Port Hope
  • up Highway 28 to Rice Lake
  • across the top of the Great Oak Ridge to Highway 35/115
  • generally along Taunton Road and then up to Highway 7 until Brock Road
  • along the 407 to the 401 just before Trafalgar Road
  • off the 401 at Milton, and then going along the Campbellville Side Road, up to the Aberfoyle Road, jogging up to Highway 24 west of Guelph, and then along the Kossuth Road and Fairway Road to Highway
  • along Highway 7/8 to Stratford.

Definitely much less stress on the return trip, although the construction of the 407 East extension through Durham has really muddled up that part of the drive.

Considering all the cheap excitement in my life this past year or so, this was a well-deserved break!


Other ghosts arise from the Web…

It’s interesting what you stumble across these days when you’re searching on the Internet. I’ve known for years that the fact I lived in Acton means that all my family history as reported in The Acton Free Press in those years is now completely online. That is embarrassing enough, but I have discovered that another year in my life later on is available for viewing as well.


I’ve never hidden the fact that I attended Carleton University for a year after graduating from Acton High, but have never bothered to mention it on my résumé. After all, you only mention the places you graduate from! I have essentially treated it as my “gap year” before going to Sheridan and later heading into the business world.

However, I was a reporter with The Charlatan while I was living on campus, and all the work I did is available for the world to see. All you have to do is click on the above image, type “Ellerby” in the search box, hit “Go” and see what pops up.

The first few issues see my name misspelt as “Ron Ellery” in the masthead, but then I start getting bylines and conducted some interesting interviews, including one with the eventual winning candidate for the presidency of the Carleton University Students’ Association. Towards the end of that year, I was even editing the events section and working on layout at the printers.

Since then, I have always had a great appreciation for the work of the media, especially for those in print. Perhaps that could have been a better calling? Who knows? For now, though, take a look back at what a bunch of intrepid reporters for a minor student newspaper were up to in 1972-1973.

How about something really important?

The news south of the border is depressing right now, so let’s talk about something that people consider far more important. I’m asking about where the best fish-and-chip shops are in Ontario these days.

I dropped in on one in Toronto yesterday that I haven’t seen for quite a while. High Street Fish and Chips in North York has an excellent selection on the menu, including your choice of four different types of fish for your meal. There’s a lot of good old British-style favourites there as well! There are very good reviews on Trip Advisor.

Mind you, the fish is always fresher when it’s just been caught, and I’ve come across a couple of places that take advantage of that outside Toronto. Up in Southampton, Duffy’s Fish and Chips certainly fills the bill. Their prices have really risen in recent years, but it is worth dropping in on even if you don’t want to proceed on to the outstanding beach just down the road.

The best one I have ever come across is the one that is the most out of the way, but the meals are so good and fresh that people fly in to the neighbouring airstrip, boat in to the adjoining harbour, or rumble in on motorcycles to line up for fish that has literally come off the boat. Last summer, I went with some friends up to Killarney Provincial Park, and one day we went down to the end of Highway 637 to check out Herbert Fisheries in the village of Killarney, which is on the North Channel of Lake Huron. These are definitely the best fish and chips I have ever had, and the feeling in our group was unanimous!

I’ve heard tell of a similar operation down in Wheatley on Lake Erie, but have not gotten any details in order to check it out. That may be a project for the better weather. Mind you, other recommendations will be greatly appreciated.

Life is good…

I normally don’t pass on postings like this, as Ezra Levant is quite well-spoken on his own. However, his observations about our Prime Minister playing hooky at Whistler are spot on, and how the CBC gave him a free ride on it (as noted here) provides quite a study in contrast.

I was there in 2007, having decided to treat myself to a bus ride up the Sea to Sky Highway (which is a great experience). As it turned out, while snow was falling up there, Vancouver was having a disastrously huge snowfall, which I only found out when experiencing long delays on the return trip that evening. It was still a great day!

Take a look at these views:

At the hill side of the village, there are the gondolas for going up the slopes:

And the village itself it easy to walk around:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’ve never been one for the slopes, but the village itself was great. The shops are pricey and the restaurants definitely cater to the kind of crowd that can afford them, which has to be seen to be believed. Definitely worth returning to sometime down the road, to see how the élite get to meet in such environs!

Musings on what can be…

Flag of the Republic of China

The last time I was in Taiwan, they were gearing up for their next election. The campaign was quite raucous, and I was fascinated with how they went about it, as well as the refreshingly different posters being posted all over. They convey the message more bluntly than in campaigns I see over here!

Here is how the presidential campaign ended in March 2008:

ROC 2008 Presidential Election Township level

Here are the results from the elections that were just held recently:

ROC 2016 Presidential Election Township level

Over there, blue represents the Kuomintang (国民党), and green signifies the Democratic Progressive Party (民主进步党) who won this time around. That one orange district was taken by the People First Party (親民黨).

As you can see, the KMT is retreating across the island, but is still strong in the rural, mountainous districts. The DPP took practically all the populous areas, and that is quite a radical change. I wish the winner, Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) all the best.

What happened there was significant for the entire Chinese-speaking world. No other nation in that area has become capable of peaceful transitions of power such as this. The Mainland obviously won’t allow it, and Hong Kong and Macao have elections that are relatively rigged. Singapore is somewhat better, but they always arrange for the same party to win all the time, with the winner always being a Lee.

As an avid follower of election results, I always care about how events like this turn out. May things continue to improve.

A Canadian in Taiwan…


It’s amazing what you come across in your travels. Take this picture, of a memorial located just outside of Taipei, in a port town by the name of Tamsui (淡水|区), also known as Danshui (depending on which method of transliteration you prefer).

It’s dedicated to George Leslie Mackay (偕叡理 or 馬偕), who was a Presbyterian missionary who was stationed here. He married 張聰明 (Tiu Chhang-mia), and is still highly regarded there.

Here’s an image of the plaque in front:


It was said that Mackay “allowed himself to truly encounter and to be transformed by the people he sought to serve.” The Mackay Memorial Hospital in Taipei is named in his honour.

Why am I fussing about this? It turns out that he came from the small village of Embro, located just south of Stratford.

Why am I bringing this up? It appears that a person’s influence can last well beyong their time here on Earth. When I was there in November 2007, there was a good cool blast of air coming in from the Pacific, which really cooled down Taiwan at that time, as well as drying out the normally humid air. It was quite refreshing, and I had my jacket unzipped in order to really take it in, while everyone around me seemed to be wearing sweaters! I wasn’t paying any attention, until I noticed that some locals were talking and pointing towards me, until someone said, “Oh, Canada!” That seemed to explain what people were wondering about.

And I didn’t mind at all…

Taking a look back…

It’s hard to believe that the last time I was in China on my own was in November 2007! The above is what greeted me in Hong Kong when I checked in to the Excelsior Hotel in beautiful Causeway Bay.

That was my favourite place to stay, and I had been there every year from 2004. I just liked the location, and obviously was becoming a regular by then.

Why Hong Kong? Victoria Harbour is just a stunning place to be, as these pictures show:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I just loved the Star Ferry. Where else in the world can you get such a stunning view for just a quarter?

Another city I love to see is Taipei, and a really good place to stay is Les Suites Ching Cheng. It’s a boutique hotel and relatively hard to find, but it’s amazing inside!

Hong Kong is very easy to travel around, whether by land or sea. Taipei is landbound, but walking around is excellent, and anyone who loves motorcycling will find lots of company there. There is plenty of opportunity for hiking in the hillsides south of the city, which are quite accessible by the Maokong Gondola.

It was always fascinating to see how close the countryside could be to such a bustling city:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Taiwanese are such avid hikers that the trail maps that were posted in the hills all had GPS coordinates marked on them! That is an innovation that I still have not heard of being introduced here, but it would really be helpful.

There were other destinations as well on this trip, such as Shenzhen, Macao, Vancouver and Whistler. It was the first time I had taken three weeks’ straight for a vacation, and it was very much needed at that time.

Is it time to return to what I still feel is one of the most beautiful parts of the world? Let’s see what the future brings…