Oh Canada, Part Deux

Ottawa is the capital of Canada which is in the Province of Ontario. It is a very clean and friendly city that was built along the south bank of the Ottawa River. The Ottawa River separates the Provinces of Ontario and Québec.

Being the capital of Canada, Ottawa is filled with museums, embassies, statues, and of course government buildings. The most impressive was Parliament Hill.

Parliament Hill

Parliament Hill is the where the federal legislative branch of Canada's government comes together. The government body consist of a Senate, a House of Commons, and the Canadian monarch, which for some reason is Queen Elizabeth II. The monarch is represented by an appointed Governor General of Canada. Plus there is a Prime Minister that advises Her Majesty. I am not going to even claim to know how that system works. What I will say is that Parliament Hill is highly accessible. People are allowed to walk all over the grounds. You can walk right up to the building. Take all the photographs that you wish and not even be bothered by a single security officer. Also every morning there is a huge public demonstration of the changing of the Ceremonial Guard.

Ceremonial Guard

The Ceremonial Guard is modeled after the United Kingdom's Queen's Guard. The Guard wears the familiar uniform of bright red jackets and large fuzzy black hats. The changing of the guard is a must see event on Parliament Hill. The front lawn is where the ceremony takes place. It is really cool. There is a band with bagpipers playing songs as the guard members march back and forth over the lawn. It is very much for show, but in many ways feels important and exciting.

I really like Parliament Hill. The age of the buildings and the architecture gives it a regal feeling. You also feel that the grounds actually belong to the people. After the changing of the guard, I thought it might be frowned upon to walk on the grass but there were people out there having picnics, laying on the grass, and even doing yoga. I wish I could have gone inside for  tour, but we didn't have enough time.

One last thing about Parliament Hill, at night there is a light show that is projected on the front of the building. The tells the story of Canada as a nation. It is pretty impressive. Here are a few photos

Parliament Hill at Night

Parliament Hill at Night

Like most capitals, Ottawa has its fair share of Monuments and statues

Canadian War Memorial

Tomb of the Fallen Soldier


Not all capitals have canal locks though. This is Rideau Canal that was created to get boats from the Ottawa River to Lake Ontario. I've never seen canal locks work before. I thought it was very cool. It also helped that it was a beautiful day.

Rideau Canal

I still have much more to tell about this trip, next stop Montréal. So stay tuned to the exciting continuation of Oh Canada!!


Oh Canada!

"Who has a valid passport? If so do you want to go cover sports in Canada?"

That was short email I received a few weeks back. Naturally, I jumped all over it. Not knowing the location or even what I was going to cover I said, yes I will go.

It was soon after I discovered I would be following the UNLV Men's basketball team as they played four exhibition games in two Canadian cities, Ottawa and Montréal.

At first I was confused by this because basketball season doesn't start until November, and why are they going to Canada in the first place? As it turns out, the NCAA allows universities to send their basketball teams to other countries to play exhibition games in the summertime offseason every four years. Why every four years? Well I didn't get a concrete answer to that question. Was it to give the kids something to look forward to if they stayed in school? Was it to promote college basketball in other countries. Was it to do reverse scouting, as in showing potential foreign players what USA basketball has to offer? I don't know. The only answer I got when I asked was, "It helps teams be competitive".

Moving on.  I now had to prepare for a six day trip to two cities in Canada with four basketball games in four of those days. Traveling by airplane can be stressful as it is, but I had more to worry about than the average traveler. Imagine yourself taking a flight somewhere. You may choose to check your baggage in hopes that all goes to plan. The airlines are pretty efficient, right? Well, you've heard stories about bags getting lost in random cities, but that has never happened to you. So you check your bags and hope for the best.

Now, imagine you have to bring a very heavy video camera with you. You don't dare check that. It is the whole reason you're going. If it was lost in checked baggage the whole trip would be a waste. Plus to check it you first have to disassemble the camera and place it in a heavily padded case. So the camera becomes your carry-on item. You also have to bring all the accompanying gear like batteries, microphones, cables, laptop computer, recording discs, etc, etc. I had to plan ahead and bring anything I could think of that I might need while on the trip. All this gear becomes your secondary carry-on item. Hmmm... I am missing something. Oh yeah, my clothing and necessary items that is usually packed into someone's luggage. What could I do? I decided to pack my rolling suitcase with all my secondary gear and the minimal amount of clothing and toiletries. I jammed that thing full. It usually fits in the overhead on a plane, hopefully I can wedge it in because it is busting full.

My plan is to place my rolling suitcase in the overhead compartment, and my camera will also go into the overhead with a sandbag cradling the lens. Yes, I am also bringing my Steadi-bag on the plane. Yet another carry-on. This makes me that jerk who takes up more overhead space than is allotted to him. Whew! I feel exhausted just thinking about how I prepared for this trip. Let's get to the airport.

I did have to check something. I was also planning on bringing a tripod with me. It never stops!!
Although, I had a heavy duty case for the tripod, and if by some chance it was lost on the trip I could make due with still having the camera. That was the most important part.

So the sports anchor and I are at the airport checking it for our flight to Montréal, Canada. I am making him carry-on the editing laptop and some of my gear is also in its case. He checks a bag, and shows the woman at the counter his two small carry-ons. Then I check the giant black heavy duty plastic case that is housing the tripod, and show her my "two" carry-ons. She throws a peculiar look at me as I show her my camera and my rolling suitcase. She then asks, "is that luggage under 22lbs?" What?!! My camera is definitely over 22lbs, and I am positive that all my gear I packed into my suitcase is also overweight. So with quick thinking and without a pause I said, "I think so." Then I "Hulked Up", and lifted my bag over my head as if it was as light as a feather. It is a good thing I have been working out. She bought it!! Ha!

From there, getting through security was as expected with no problems just taking some time. We got on the plane. I placed the camera in the overhead, and jammed my suitcase in another overhead spot. The flight left on time. We were now heading Montréal on a 5 hour flight with a prepaid meal. The flight didn't feel that long and soon we were on the ground in Canada. We picked up our check luggage and everything was going smoothly, until Customs.

At the Customs checkpoint I was told I needed to declare my "commercial goods", meaning my camera gear. They wanted to search through all my luggage. The Customs agent asked a ton of questions about my purpose for bringing all this gear into Canada. So I told him the truth about the my station wanting me cover a basketball team in Canada. The agent said that he remembered checking the team the day before and then he said something to me that had my heart in my throat. He was holding my passport and he said to me, "Are you planning on taking this equipment with you?" In that moment and by the way he phrased the question I thought he was suggesting that my equipment was going to be confiscated. I'm sure my eyes widened and I asked what he meant by that question. Then he repeated the question emphasizing that I plan on taking the equipment back home with me after my trip. I replied, yes. He then said he would be right back and walked away with my passport in his hand. He entered a one-way mirrored room. My heart was pounding because I thought I forgot to fill out some type of paperwork before getting on the flight. I was just hoping the trip wasn't going to be a bust.

Fortunately, after a few minutes the Customs agent returned. He searched through all my luggage. He then gave me back my passport and I was on my way. Whew! I was so relieved. I am not sure what I could have done different to avoid being searched.

From there we picked up our car rental and headed to Ottawa, Canada's capital. The first two games were in Ottawa with the last two in Montréal. The drive took about two hours and seemed quick.

To find out what else happened on my Canadian adventure you're going to have to wait for part two. I didn't want one single post to be too long. Oh come on! The next post will have more stories and photos will be included. I will probably post it in a day or two. Stay tuned...