I went on a guided tour of the Centre Block of the Parliament building - they are free of charge.
The Centre Block is where the Senate and the House of Commons are located. And the beautiful Library of Parliament. This is where it happens, the heart of Canada, as it were, and I found it so surreal that I could go in there and have a look.
I got my ticket at the Info tent next to the Parliament building and the tour-guide picked us up there and took us into the Centre Block, where we had to go through a security check. From there we were led on a very intense tour of the Centre Block. The Senate Chamber is in the east half and the House of Common Chamber in the west half. There are 105 senators and 308 elected members of Parliament. Stretching through the centre of the Parliament building is the Hall of Honour with memorials of the 7 people who got killed in the fire in 1916, when the Parliament building burnt down, everything but the Library building - it was rebuilt and opened in 1920.
In one corridor there are paintings of the Prime Ministers. I add a photo of the painting of Jean Cretien. He is the Prime Minister who said ... to Bush when asked to send military groups to Irak, telling him that this was not Canada´s war.
What I was especially interested in seeing was the Library at the Parliament - we got to visit it and it was extraordinary beautiful - but unfortunately there were no photos allowed in there.
There are guided tours free of charge from May 14 to June 30. Weekdays: 9:00 - 19:20. Weekends: 9:00 - 16:20. July 2 to September 2 - daily: 9:00 to 16:30. From September 4 until May there are guided tours daily from 9:00 - 15:20.
I do recommend this guided tour and our tour guide was very nice and knowledgeable of the Parliament building and her presentation was impeccable.
After our guided tour was over the guide left us and we were given the choice of visiting the Peace Tower on our own.
Inside the Parliament building there is The Memorial Chamber. After our guided tour we had the opportunity to visit the Peace tower and directly after that visit one enters The Memorial Chamber within the Peace tower. It is a memorial for those Canadians who died in military service.
It was built after the First World War to remember those Canadians who died in this terrible war in 1914-1918. Then came WW2 and more wars followed and the memorial grew (unfortunately) and included all those Canadians who lost their life in these wars.
The Memorial Chamber is just a small chamber, by John A. Pearson. But it is so beautiful and peaceful, as it was intended to be, a sacret and quiet place for contemplation - to remember that peace isn´t reached without human sacrifices. To quote the London Times in 1921: "This National Memorial is not only to be a monument of stone to the brave men who fell in defence of human liberty, it is to be a temple, a shrine of the nation, the symbolic history of the war being wrought into its walls, and its atmosphere thrilled with the heart throb of people who made a great sacrifice in a noble cause."
And the chamber looks like a shrine, with a stone altar, the Altar of Remembrance. On the Altar is the first Book of Remembrance - with the names of 66.655 people who died in the First World War.
Another Book of Remembrance was included here after WW2 - with the names of 44.893 Canadians who lost their lives in WW2. Since then 5 more Books of Remembrance have been added to the Memorial Chamber including all the names of the Canadians who died in military service. The other books are The South Africa-Nile Expedition Book of Remembrance, The Newfoundland Book of Remembrance, The Merchant Navy Book of Remembrance, The Korean Book of Remembrance and In the Service of Canada Book of Remembrance.
Every morning at 11 o' clock pages in the Books of Remembrance are turned.
Visiting this chamber is quite an emotional experience as is to be expected.
There are beautiful staned glass windows in the chamber depicting moments in military history.
There are tours free of charge from May 14 to June 30. Weekdays: 9:00 - 19:40. Weekends: 9:00 - 16:40. July 2 to September 3 - daily: 9:00 to 16:40. From September 4 until May there are guided tours daily from 9:00 - 15:40.
The Parliament buildings on each side of the main building, the Centre Block, are called the East Block and the West Block.
The East and West Blocks were built for the ministries and federal public servants. But Canada expanded so quickly that it outgrew this space, so senators and members of Parliament went to the East and West Blocks and then further on. Now the ministries are all over Ottawa.
The East Block and the Library are built in Victorian High Gothic style and are the buildings which survived from the fire.
There are guided tours free of charge of the East Block from July-September - daily from 10:00 - 17:15. One gets the ticket at the Info-tent. The tour-guide was so knowledgeable and the tour was so informative, but there is so much to take in that I would have had to record it. So I honestly have to say that I have forgotten which room was which :( We were led through several rooms, which have remained intact, as it were, somewhat restored to what they would have been like in ca 1872. The decoration showed how important the person was. One can actually see from the decoration in the ceiling how important the person was, the more decoration - the more powerful the person. One of the offices was the office of the Governor General of Canada - a very luxurious one. Other offices are the The Privy Council Chamber and the Office of Sir John A. Macdonald.
There are hangers in front of the The Privy Council Chamber and members hung their coats there - the most important ones hung their coats closest to the Chamber - it was quite a ranking order. If they were out in the cold they would know as their coat would have been moved on a hanger further away from the Chamber.
Photos are allowed, but without flash, so the quality of mine is not that good. The corridors are dimly lit up, to give one the feeling of the light from the gas lights in the corridors back in ca 1872.
Another interesting part of the Houses of Parliament is the Library. The whole building has strong British influences and the Library is one of those places.
The interior design is just amazing with the circular multi floor bookcases.
When I was at Encounters With Canada, we went to see the Parliament Buildings. It was really cool. We saw the Senate and the House of Commons while on the tour, we learned of the history and what goes on in the buildings. Also, I thought was really cool, we learned about the job of a Page. It sounded neat and fun. The only thing that really dissapointed me was that most of my pictures didnt turn out. Well, and neither the Prime Minister nor the Governer General were around, so I didnt have the oppertunity to meet them, but, I hear that many groups from Encounters have.
On Monday, we went to visit Parliament Hill. We had a big group photo taken outside the Parliament buildings, and we visited the inside. We met a senator who talked to us and answered questions, toured the buildings, went to Question Period (in which many people fell asleep!), and met some girls from the Page program in Parliament (one of which had graduated from my high school the previous year).
We went to the white tent on the grounds of Parliament and got free tickets for an interior English tour of Parliament. Sylvia, our guide was personable and very informative. She whisked us through the Senate, House of Commons, library, and chambers providing information about each and symbolism of objects. We enjoyed the Peace Tower with spectacular views of Ottawa.
One thing you should do when visiting the houses of Parliament is going up the Peace Tower.
The best time for a visit is during the weekend or at days the parliament is not in session.
A visit starts with a security check, so be in time (9AM-4.20PM).
All Parliament tours and programs are FREE of charge.
The Peace Tower has a unique elevator, not going up straight but slightly angled!
On the way up you pass the bells and the clock of the tower.
Once above the view is just great!
If you go on the Parliament Buildings tour, make sure you look way up at the ceiling from time to time. In this room, close to the Senate, you'll find depictions of each of the provinces and territories in Canada.
This is where the federal government of Canada conducts their business. A tour of the building is very interesting and informative.
You may take a free guided tour when you are there or follow my travelogue about “Parliament Building Tour” for more informations.