Ottawa Extremes: Rideau Hall and the Carp Radar Dome

(Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)

In addition to seeing the diplomatic buildings described in my previous post, we took advantage of Doors Open Ottawa to see two other very different locations: stately Rideau Hall and the somewhat creepy radar dome near the village of Carp.

The back of Rideau Hall

Rideau Hall has been the home of Canada’s Governor-General since 1867 and hosts visits from all sorts of foreign and domestic dignitaries.  The Governor-General is the Queen’s representative in Canada and plays a largely ceremonial role.  However, as Rideau Hall is not quite in the middle of Ottawa’s downtown core, it is often overlooked by visitors.  Despite visiting, studying and working in Ottawa from time to time, I had never seen it before this weekend.  And, in a way, I still haven’t really seen it:  the impressive front of the building was undergoing renovations and I was unable to take any photographs there.

The Tent Room at Rideau Hall (Ottawa)

As you might imagine, Rideau Hall has some rather spectacular rooms.  The most distinctive is definitely the “Tent Room”, which is essentially a year-round indoor replica of an outdoor tent.  It is perhaps a little more garish than you would expect in the home of the Queen’s representative, but it certainly feels like the sort of structure that you would see at a well-to-do outdoor garden party in days gone by.

Inside the greenhouse at Rideau Hall

The grounds of Rideau Hall are extremely spacious:  88 acres, to be precise!  In addition to the greenhouse and well-manicured gardens, there is even a cricket pitch.  A couple of teams were warming up for a match when we were there.  In winter, there is also a skating rink.

Cricket on the grounds of Rideau Hall

While Rideau Hall is the kind of place you might expect to see as a tourist in Ottawa, the former radome pictured at the top of this post is (forgive me) not on most people’s radar.

This particular radome (short for “radar dome”) is located just outside the village of Carp.  Yes, it really is called Carp.  It is located on the Carp River and that river did in fact have a lot of carp.  Carp (the village, not the fish) is best known today for the “Diefenbunker”.  Unofficially and somewhat irreverently named after former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, this is an underground bunker that was meant to function as emergency government headquarters in the event of a nuclear war.   It is now a tourist attraction and I enjoyed (if that is the right word) visiting it a few years ago.

Part of the dish inside the radome in Carp

Very close to the Diefenbunker was a geodesic dome that hosted communications equipment (basically a very large satellite dish).  This particular one provided satellite communications between all NATO countries from 1960 until 1999, when it was decommissioned and purchased by a private company (Canadian Space Services Ltd.).   As part of Doors Open Ottawa, that company opened its doors (and fence) to let people check out this remnant of the cold war.

Climbing the dish inside the radome in Carp

These radomes can be found all over Canada.  The first one I saw was in Iqaluit, Nunavut, of all places.  While the distinctive dome in Carp has been left intact, the satellite communications system there is no longer being used.  We were able to climb right up into the 50-foot dish and feel the echoes of a different era.

Leftover warnings at the Carp radome

While Rideau Hall was certainly impressive, the Carp radome was just as intriguing…and something that you simply don’t expect to explore when on a weekend trip to the nation’s capital.   While we still want to see some more diplomatic locations at the next Doors Open Ottawa event,  we will also be sure to include some more offbeat sites.  There are all sorts of hidden treasures waiting to be discovered!

International Adventure in Ottawa

(Ottawa, Ontario)

A recent trip to Ottawa contained some unexpected detours with an international theme.  As our visit coincided with Doors Open Ottawa, we had access to a number of places that are not normally that accessible to the general public.

Our journey began with a visit to the Brunei High Commission on Laurier Avenue.  Brunei is a tiny country on the island of Borneo…but it has a lot of wealth.  The Sultan of Brunei’s palace is apparently the largest residential palace in the world and also the largest residence of any type in the world, at 2,152,782 square feet.

Laurier House, on Laurier Avenue (home of Prime Ministers Sir Wilfrid Laurier and Mackenzie King)

It will come as no surprise that Brunei’s High Commission in Ottawa is a spectacular building.  It is also known as Stadacona Hall (see photo at the top of this post):  it has had many famous occupants over the years, including Canada’s first Prime Minister Sir John. A. Macdonald.   We weren’t able to take photographs inside but we did meet the High Commissioner himself.  And yes, the interior is very nice too.

Overflow crowds at Le Cordon Bleu Paris!

Just a block or two away from the Brunei High Commission was another spectacular building:   Munross Mansion, home to “Le Cordon Bleu Paris – Culinary Arts Institute”.  We had all kinds of high hopes for this place, particularly as it was midday and we were getting hungry.  Maybe there would be free samples?  Alas, the line (as you can see from the photo above) was very long and we were told to expect a wait of 45-60 minutes.  As this is an annual event and there were many other places to see, we decided to take a pass and arrive earlier next year.

The Embassy of the Czech Republic, on Cooper Street in downtown Ottawa

Next on our agenda was a visit to the Embassy of the Czech Republic on Cooper Street.  While many of the surrounding buildings can best be described as “functional”, this is a charming old house dating back to 1879.   As one might expect, I talked about hockey with one of the Czech representatives!

Embassy of the Republic of Armenia, on Delaware Avenue in Ottawa

The final stop on our international tour was the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia, located on Delaware Avenue in the primarily residential “Golden Triangle”.  Here too, we met the Ambassador and familiarized ourselves with a faraway country that does not have a high profile in Canada.  The monument in front of the embassy is apparently the largest sculpture ever made (outside Armenia) from a single piece of tufa.

“Gaeng Khua Sap Pad Rod”: Shrimp with pineapple, lime juice and coconut milk in red curry.

There were a few other embassies that we were unable to see.  We missed out on Algeria, Trinidad & Tobago, Croatia, Hungary, and the United States (which required advance booking and was “sold out” by the time we realized what was going on).  However, as you can see from the photos, we did enjoy a nice Thai meal the night before.

Pad Thai at the ‘Thai Flame” in Bell’s Corners

We were staying in the Bell’s Corners neighbourhood: this is considerably west of downtown and was part of the former city of Nepean.  Fortunately, one of the city’s highest-rated Thai restaurants was right next door.  “Thai Flame” is in an undistinguished strip mall but the food was very good.  The coconut rice was particularly enjoyable and perfectly balanced the burn of my red curry dish.  It once again confirmed my firm belief that most of the best food in Ottawa is located far away from the usual tourist haunts.

Stay tuned for more on Ottawa and the surrounding area!