Two of your Courier writers headed north for some summer touring to check out Canada during its 150th anniversary celebration . Gabe Webb was in Ottawa and Pat Henderson explored Winnipeg .
In addition to connecting with some very friendly Fam trip hosts and diving into each destination ’ s rich history , they were able to experience unique aspects of local culture . Read on to learn more about a giant mechanical spider and a fire-breathing dragon that roamed the Ottawa streets , a city-wide celebration that shined a light on Winnipeg ’ s multiethnic heritage , a “ Da Vinci Code ” -esque tour at the Manitoba Legislative Building and much more .
A place to stand , a place to grow ( and go )
BY GABE WEBB
PROVINCIAL PRIDE was in full swing at Expo 67 , a World ’ s Fair held in Montréal during the 100th anniversary year of Canada ’ s confederation . At the Ontario Pavilion , a film showing scenes of the province ’ s natural beauty and man-made industry was accompanied by a rollicking song : “ Give us a place to stand and a place to grow , and call this land Ontario . A place to live for you and me , with hopes as high as the tallest tree .”
In late July , I visited Ottawa for a Fam organized by Ottawa Tourism . Fifty years removed from that song beckoning the world with a chorus of “ Ontari-ari-ari-o ,” I saw a city and country marking another milestone . Throughout 2017 , the nation ’ s capital has welcomed special events as part of the Canada 150 celebrations .
The impetus for my visit was one such celebration , the arrival of La Machine , a French “ street theater ” company making its North American debut . The group is most famous for building enormous , mechanical creatures , which are piloted by teams of performers . From when I arrived on Thursday through the weekend , La Machine ’ s two-story-tall dragon and spider ( named Long Ma and Kumo , respectively ) paraded through the streets , accompanied by thousands of captivated onlookers .
When I landed in Ottawa , I was surprised to learn that Kumo was “ sleeping ” about a block from my hotel , in advance of his debut procession later that night . I was staying at the Lord Elgin Hotel , and I was greeted by Amber Van Der Hoeven , the property ’ s tour and travel sales manager , at check-in .
“ Tour groups are an important part of our business , and we take pride in that ,” says Van Der Hoeven . “ Our guests come from all corners of the world , and we are proud Ottawa ambassadors .”
For tour groups , the hotel offers special menus , buffets or boxed breakfasts for early departures , as well as complimentary on-site parking for up to four motorcoaches . City parking passes are available for purchase at the front desk , which also has maps to nearby lots .
“ The Lord Elgin is a well-oiled machine that has hosting motorcoach groups down to a science ,” says Van Der Hoeven . “ We make it fast and simple because we have been doing it for 76 years .”
The 355-room chateauesque hotel is located in the heart of downtown , across the street from Confederation Park . From my room , I had a view of that green space and Long Ma ’ s resting spot in front of city hall . However , my date with the dragon would have to wait .