Travel Canada150: Ottawa (Day 1)

Travel Canada150: Ottawa (Day 1)

This year of 2017 marks the 150th birthday of my birth country of Canada!

Although Canada’s birthday is July 1st, just like we like to celebrate our own birth weeks, or birth months, we can and should celebrate Canada’s special 150th birthday all year. And what better way to celebrate our glorious country then by travelling through it and marveling at it’s gorgeousness?

I admit, I have so much to see still of our country.  I have yet to travel to our furthest west and east coasts, as well as to so many provinces in-between. So while I haven’t seen the rest of Canada, currently our capital city of Ottawa holds the number one spot on my list of favourite Canadian places to visit.

So….what awaits you in Ottawa? Well, it definitely makes for a family-friendly trip, and I think it’s an important visit for any Canadian, whether you were born in Canada or not. Spending time in our capital city and touring the glorious buildings and monuments really brings out your Canadian pride, and it’s a great history lesson for young and old.

Now, where to start? I recommend spending at least 2 to 3 days in the city or area of Ottawa/Gatineau, as there are so many superb sites to see, you don’t want to be rushed through your visit. If you plan your visit for during the summer months, there are more events happening on Parliament Hill and surrounding area.  But if you go outside of the summer, Ottawa still has lots of other fun things to offer as well!

For our visits, we wanted to stay as close as possible to the centre of the action, and without too much of a walk (for my spouse’s and parents’ knees!)….and on a budget! However, Ottawa is best seen by parking your car and walking around. We chose to stay at Capital Hill Hotel & Suites as it had the best location without being extremely pricey. It definitely wasn’t the fanciest hotel, and was quite dated, but it suited our needs. There was plenty nearby for breakfast options (Tim Horton’s, Starbucks, etc.) and the best part was the central location on Albert Street, just 3 short blocks from Parliament Hill.

When we arrived into Ottawa, we chose to first visit the museums that were not within walking distance from the hotel, so that once we checked into our hotel we could just park the car and leave it until our departure. The first museum we went to was the Canadian War Museum.

This museum is a treasure and is filled with the military history of our nation. It was definitely poignant, thought-provoking and reflective. It wasn’t a “fun” museum for play, but still really resonated with our family as it gave us time to reflect on our country, our armed forces, the role we played in major events in the world, and how that affected our people and our freedom. The exhibits were for all people, young and old, to remind us of the sacrifices our veterans and current serving personnel made and are making.

 

 

 

 

 

This photo below shows a segment of the Berlin Wall which is on display at the Canadian War Museum.

It was emotional just wandering through at our own pace, reading and reflecting on the pieces on display as well as the thought-provoking messages, such as the one below…

By far, one of my all-time favourite museums is the Canadian Museum of History (previously known as the Canadian Museum of Civilization). This museum is found a very short distance away on the Gatineau, Québec side of the Ottawa River. If you go to the War Museum first, then all you have to do is just cross the Portage Bridge over the river and take a right on rue Laurier.

 

The magnificent and stunning grand hall has spectacular views, and hosts many events. If you’re visiting on a weekend, don’t be surprised to see a few brides and their wedding parties around and inside the museum as it is a fantastic place for wedding photos!

 

And for the children, there is even a Children’s Museum right inside the Museum of History… The kids can have lots of fun travelling the world, wandering through pyramids…

…running a bookstore….

…or working in a tailor shop!

Wander out behind the museum and you’ll see the beautiful views of parliament across the river!

Another tip if you are visiting during the week: every Thursday from 5pm to 8pm, both of these amazing museums offer free admission!

Back on the Ottawa side of the river…. you can’t go visit our capital city and not go for a free tour of our Parliament Buildings. During the summer months, the tickets can get swooped up pretty quickly first thing in the morning, so your best bet is to be at the ticketing office right before they open. This way you can get tickets for the tour which are for a specific time of day, and then you can go visit other attractions and come back to Parliament in time for your tour.

The ticketing centre is located directly across the street from Parliament Hill at 90 Wellington Street, and they open at 9:00am. Be sure to visit their website here to plan your visit, and get your Centre Block and Peace Tower tour tickets!

Here is “the House”! (aka The House of Commons):

And the most beautiful Library we’ve ever seen… the Library of Parliament:

Make sure to go up the Peace Tower for spectacular views of Ottawa & Gatineau!

If you’re lucky enough, you may spot the flag master going through a secret door in the Peace Tower to go up and change the Canadian Flag on the tower! Did you know that the Peace Tower flag is changed every day from Monday to Friday???? Did you also know that you can put your name on a very long waiting list to one day be the recipient of a flag that flew atop the Parliament Buildings? Click here to get more information on the flags and on adding your name to the list (FYI: the Peace Tower flag waiting period is currently 73 years!! Order one now for your babies!)

All around Parliament Hill are bronze statues of historical figures… take the time to explore the Hill and see them up close.

This statue below is of Queen Elizabeth II on her horse Centenial. One of the newer statues on the Hill, this one was unveiled in 1992, during Canada’s 125th anniversary celebrations.

Sir John A. MacDonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister:

William Lyon Mackenzie King, Canada’s longest serving Prime Minister:

The West Block was under construction during our last few visits, and so was not open for tours.

The East Block was open for tours however, only during the summer months. The Changing of the Guard ceremony happens every day on the Hill in July and August at 10:00am!

And also during the summer months, right up until mid-September, the Sound and Light Show is not to be missed. Bring a blanket and the family, and take a seat on the Hill to experience this truly amazing show of Canada’s history.

 

I’ll be back shortly with ideas of what to do on Day 2 in our Nation’s capital…

Happy 150 Canada! 

On Stage Now: The Bodyguard, The Musical

On Stage Now: The Bodyguard, The Musical

I recently found myself in the big city with a night free to myself, and to indulge in what makes me happy: a single ticket to a stage show.

What I needed to decide on was what show to see…and I knew that I couldn’t go wrong with any Mirvish production. So I headed straight down to Yonge Street and right to the box office at the gorgeous Ed Mirvish Theatre to buy my ticket for The Bodyguard – The Musical.  I had already read some great reviews of the show and had heard that although it was was based on the 1992 movie of the same name, that it actually included many more of Whitney Houston’s hit repertoire.

Although there are no discounts offered for buying a last-minute single ticket, buying your tickets right from the box office means you save on any/all of the additional fees you normally pay when buying tickets online (which comes to about $11.00 per ticket!). Also, because I had seen a deal for tickets on WagJag, I was able to use the promo code at the box office and they honoured the WagJag deal! I was able to get a single ticket for a very decent seat for a great price, so I was thrilled!

The show itself was so much better than I even imagined and I was so glad that I made the choice to see it.  The Toronto cast is composed of the West End cast from the London revival production, with the British Queen of Soul, Beverley Knight, in the lead role of Rachel Marron.

Beverley Knight is not only an accomplished award-winning singer and recording artist in the United Kingdom, but has also received the Order of the British Empire from the Queen for her contributions to music and charity work. I thoroughly enjoyed being immersed in her talent and her voice, which lived up to the high expectations of the original songstress Whitney. Listening to her sing such hits as “Greatest Love of All”, “How Will I Know” and “Saving All My Love” gave me chills as it brought me back to the mid 1980’s and early 1990’s, and the great heyday of Whitney. On my subway ride home, I couldn’t stop humming “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and really wished that I had Whitney’s greatest hits on my phone so I could hear them all.

Here is the promotional trailer for the show, where you can get a glimpse of what’s waiting for you…

And just watch this next video to witness the talented Beverley Knight performing “Memory” from Cats for Andrew Lloyd Webber…. (Cats is still on my “to-see” list!)

I wouldn’t recommend taking small children to see this musical, no matter how much you want them to enjoy the music of your adolescence… Some scenes are somewhat “scary” and there are very adult situations.

While the story in the musical varies slightly from the story in the original movie, it didn’t affect my love for the musical at all.  I was thoroughly taken by the exceptionally talented cast, the marvellous sets and the music…oh the music…. Cheers and well done to all!

The Bodyguard – The Musical is on stage now at the Ed Mirvish Theatre on Yonge Street in Toronto only until May 14, 2017, so be sure to get your tickets and see this show before it leaves Toronto!

 

Safety in the New Year: Updating Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Safety in the New Year: Updating Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors

OK, so am I the only one who didn’t realize that a smoke alarm in your home is not good for ever and ever? I don’t even know if that’s what I actually thought…. but I didn’t think that they had a life span of only 10 years.

Yes, you may say “but 10 years is a long time!”. All of a sudden 10 years have flown by… and my smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms were now 12 years old and had never been replaced.

I think I was browsing an article online when I read that carbon monoxide alarms were not good forever and that they had to be replaced when their expiry date came up. “They have an expiry date???” was my first reaction. My second was panic.

“How long have mine been expired?” “Could there be carbon monoxide in my home right now and we aren’t being alerted?” “I need to run out and replace everything right now!”

Basically, the deal is this:  the smoke detectors/carbon monoxide detectors that are currently in your home have a production date or an expiry date on them.  This doesn’t have anything to do with the batteries (whether or not they are battery-operated or hard-wired), but it DOES have to do with the sensors in the detectors being less effective, or having less sensitivity.  So even though you may be able to “test” your detectors by pressing the test button on them and the alarm sounds, that doesn’t test the detector’s sensors for smoke and fire.  If your detectors are 10 years old or more, it’s time to replace them entirely.

We spent the last week researching in-store and online the different types of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors before settling on the Nest Protect Smoke + Carbon Monoxide Alarm.  We bought one for our main floor and one for the upstairs and they are both hard-wired.

I swear, it wasn’t just about the looks…. but it definitely helped!  And so nice and white!! (maybe the yellowing of the smoke detector is also an indicator of age and that it needs to be replaced??  Why do they get so yellow??)

The fact that they connect to each other and then to the app on my phone was a bonus, and since we already have the Nest Learning Thermostat, they are now all connected to my phone and can send me notifications (hopefully it will never happen!).  The Nest Protect also has a voice alarm and a night light and was very simple to install.

Imagine my horror when we removed our current smoke detector from the hallway outside our bedrooms and flipped it over to see the production date of September 21, 2004!  I was thanking God and every other entity for keeping us safe all these years.

No more ugly yellow non-functioning smoke detector!!

And combined with our Nest Thermostat, we are good as gold!  I love being able to check on the temperature of our home from my phone.  It also figures out your schedule as to when you are home or out so that it can adjust accordingly and not be heating or cooling if no one is home, thus saving you energy and money.  It’s a win-win! I certainly like all these features!  (again, I also love the look of this thermostat too…added bonus!)

A good habit to get into at the start of a new year is to look through your home for anything that needs updating or upgrading, especially when it comes to the safety of your family.  Start this year to make this your habit, and check on your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors for any that are getting too old.  Your family and your lives depend upon them!

As always, my reviews and opinions are my own (and my husband’s, as he was the installer!).  We are a Nest family now and would highly recommend these products to anyone looking to upgrade and go techie!

On Stage Now: Matilda the Musical

On Stage Now: Matilda the Musical

What’s not to love about musical theatre? You get a great story set to amazing music and lyrics, and fantastic choreographed dance numbers as well.  I have loved it just as much as I have always loved musicals in movies too… I can’t get enough.  So whenever I get the chance (and let’s be honest: the time and the money), I love to take in a Mirvish production in Toronto.

Lucky for me I happened to be in the big city for a few nights for work and so I eagerly looked online for ticket deals for what I had heard to be a terrific production of Matilda the Musical.  I had never read Roald Dahl’s book Matilda, on which the play is based, and I had only watched bits and pieces of the 1996 movie of the same name.  So I really wasn’t familiar with the storyline…. But I do love hearing good feedback from others, and that’s usually enough for me to trust that I will enjoy something.  I was told it wasn’t totally a story for just children, and that it was very entertaining for adults.  With that in mind, I conned convinced my colleague friend that we should go see it and have a night out at the theatre.  We ordered our tickets online and were able to take advantage of a special deal that was offered for mid-week shows.  Perfect!

Right in the heart of Toronto, Matilda the Musical is on stage at the Ed Mirvish Theatre (originally known as the Pantages Theatre), which still is stunning to look at and really has that gorgeous “I’m off to the Thea-ter” feel about it.

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Always look up!

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We excitedly arrived to terrific seats on the orchestra level, and were ready to be entertained.  And entertained we were!  From the storyline, to the lyrics, to the singing, acting and dancing, and the amazing sets and production, we were amazed by it all!  And of course the children…the child actors were fantastic and really made me wish I was 10 years old again so that I could be a part of this production.

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Matilda the Musical is the story of a 5 year old girl who is exceptionally smart and spends her time reading and going to the library in order to avoid her parents and brother who have no interest in her.  She begins school where she meets a lovely teacher (Miss Honey) and a nasty headmistress (Ms. Trunchbull) and discovers a special power within herself that will help her get through all of the obstacles to her happiness.

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Days later, I was still humming the songs and thinking about the incredible sets and scenes.  “When I Grow Up” is one of my favourite, but then I also love all the rest too like “Naughty” and “Revolting Children”.

Just to give you a preview of the amazingness of this show, this video is from the Olivier Awards (the British version of the Tonys), and it’s performed by the cast of the original London production.

I highly recommend going to see Matilda the Musical in Toronto while you still can.  Take anyone with you who appreciates amazing singing, dancing and acting, and you will not leave disappointed.  The only unfortunate part is that Matilda the Musical is only on stage in Toronto until January 7, 2017.  BUT what a great idea for Christmas gifts!  Give someone the experience of seeing Matilda the Musical!

Go now and check out the Mirvish Productions website for tickets.  I need to do the same, as I realized after I saw the show that my son would love to see it as well…

Remember that in life…”Sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty” – Matilda Wormwood, in “Matilda the Musical”