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Touring Our Nation's Capital

Although the union committees I sit on meet in Ottawa two or three times a year, I usually fly in, attend the meetings, and barely have time to fit in a visit with a friend, a concert or a play. I rarely have any time to see what our nation's capital has to offer the tourist, so this summer when my friend Marcia Cummings said she had never visited Ottawa, we decided to become tourists in our nation's capital, and the more we researched available attractions, the more we discovered it has to offer the visitor.

When I was a teenager, I visited Ottawa and toured the Parliament Buildings. At that time, there was only one tour available, which covered the Centre Block which includes the House of Commons, Senate and Parliamentary Library.

In the summertime, there are now three tours available, the Centre Block tour, a second which covers some of the monuments around the grounds and a third which is in the East Block where four rooms have been restored to the way they were in the 19th. century. While we tried, without success, to book special tours of the Parliament Buildings in advance, and didn't know about the three tours until we actually arrived, we joined those regularly scheduled tours and had a wonderful time.

As a history buff, I love visiting museums, and the Museum of Civilization and Man is one of the best and most accessible to blind visitors. We had pre-arranged our own special tour, and had ample opportunities to touch items on display throughout the regular collections and the special Viking exhibit.

A relatively new exhibition, the Canada World Pavilion, provides an interactive perspective on Canadian achievements on the international scene in areas of the arts, sports, space travel, science and technology.

A highlight of our visit to Ottawa was the special tour we arranged at Rideau Hall, the official residence of Canada's Governors General, which was led by Jason Merkley and his dog guide, Rolex. We had more time to absorb the history of the Hall, and to touch much wonderful sculpture. Jason Merkely's work is profiled in more detail in an article elsewhere in this issue.

Ottawa has a hot humid climate in the summertime, perfect for outdoor dining. We had a great lunch at D'Arcy McGee's Pub, where we had some of the best bread pudding we have ever enjoyed.

Ottawa offers many options for accommodations, many in the central area near most of the important attractions, including hotels to fit various pocketbooks, and bed and breakfast lodging. My "hotel of choice" has become the Radisson Parliament Hill (formerly the downtown Travelodge), which is reasonably priced, centrally located and small enough to make getting around very easy. it also has a fine Mexican restaurant, the Southern Cross, attached, which is handy.

Our nation's capital has much to offer. Come and experience it for yourself.