(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!