This was a big day! It was the one I was most excited to plan and I am 100% sure when I look back on this trip that it will be my favourite, favourite, favourite day spent in the Nation’s Capital. Why? All geeky stuff, that’s why!
My tour of the Supreme Court started at 10 am. I have to be honest, the tour was pretty boring. I realize these kids have a pre-determined spiel that they are supposed to give, but when she asked if any of us were familiar with the Canadian law and the three people on the tour are a legal assistant (me) and a judge and his wife from Alberta … maaaaybe you can skip fifteen minute run-down on how the Canadian judicial system works. Just a thought. Does anybody really tour the Supreme Court who doesn’t already have the hots for law? I mean, really.
The Supreme Court building actually houses three courts. The Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal are on the first floor, the Supreme Court is upstairs. The Federal Court was in session on the issue of the long-form census and we were told we could go in and check it out but we all felt weird about waltzing in. In retrospect, I wish I had gone in. We were allowed – ARG. Anyway, we checked out the Federal Court of Appeal and The Supreme Court, both all lovely old wood and art deco design. I practically felt like I was in church, I felt so reverent. Court! Yeah!
Next I headed to the Parliament Buildings, just a short walk away. I was early for my tour, which gave me just enough time to go up the Peace Tower to see some truly beautiful views of the city, the rivers and the Library of Parliament.
I was moseying back to meet my tour, when I saw Michael Ignatieff in a stairwell. Michael Ignatieff! In a stairwell! We had a very Canadian moment, where he was like, “I know you know who I am, Canadian nerd girl who is bizarrely wearing a patriotic red coat,” and I was all, “I know you know I know who you are, but don’t worry, I won’t alert this Chinese tour group I am trapped behind that you are a prominent politician.” This was all obviously communicated in the Canadian way: Silence and eye contact.
It was around this time, just before my tour that this dude who works in the Parliament buildings sidled up to me and asked where I was from and why I was in town, etc. It generally takes me some time to figure out what’s really going on so of course, I stand there chatting with this guy for awhile. So, he wants to know if I am staying for Question Period, which I very definitely was. He wants to know if I had pre-arranged my Member’s tickets.
Here is the thing. When I was planning my trip, I knew that I could request this special pass from my Member of Parliament that would guarantee me access to Question Period. The trouble with these tickets is you are seated on the side of the room and you can only see the opposite side of the room (in my case I faced the Opposition). But, there are also a certain number of seats reserved for the public who haven’t got these special tickets. These seats are at the back of the room, facing the Speaker of the House. From there, you can see BOTH sides. I wanted to see both sides, so I didn’t prearrange my passes.
I really felt like this was a risk I was willing to take in order to see the whole thing. But I’m standing there, and this guy, is being slick and asking who’s my Member and calling my Member’s office to get me the pass. My defences were down I guess. I was tired, starving and I’d been on my feet for, like, three days at this point. I didn’t even realize the Prime Minister was in the House*, thanks to my boyfriend Steve and my seat facing the Opposition. I found out later when I watched it on CPAC. (It wasn’t so terrible though, it was still pretty neat to see, for example, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe in action).
The tour of Parliament was amazing. Centre Block is architecturally so beautiful and the inside of the Library, I think, would take your breath away, even if you didn’t like books and libraries. (I went to Ottawa on a grade 8 trip and I am not exaggerating when I say, the Library is the only thing I remember from that trip – this was another reason I decided to go to Ottawa).
Luckily, I had been tipped off by a pal on Twitter and also by Bryony, that there is a cat sanctuary behind the Parliament Buildings. It was four o’clock and raining by the time I was finished inside Centre Block, but I was dying to see some Parliamentary Cats. I missed my cat, you guys! I easily found the little cat shelters and what did I see? Three raccoons and nary a cat. Baaaah. I left the other tourists to look at the raccoons and wandered off. I was looking at the river when a black cat jumped through the fence into some shrubs … I snuck back and the cat came through to my side of the fence, introduced himself and indicated I was to scratch his head. He circled around my legs a few times in the you-are-now-mine fashion of cats, and then got on with more important business. I was pretty excited – the websites say not to expect to pet these cats because they are essentially wild, and he was the only cat who was about.
Today I also learned about Bridgehead coffee and feel sad that I didn’t discover it earlier in my trip. Fair trade, organic, shade-grown and purchased from small-scale farmers – it’s probably the most ethical coffee you could choose and it tastes sooo delicious.
I ended my day by catching some yoga at the gym. It turned out to be my first yin yoga class, and was quite an experience. But this is for another post. Or, at least I’ll add it to the list of things I plan to blog about and never do. (Like my eye correction surgery, hello?)
* This is embarrassing. I can’t recognize the Prime Minister’s voice? All I can say is, he was speaking a lot of French, and it’s tough to hear what’s going on, even with the little listening devices because it is so rowdy. Especially when you cannot see who is speaking.