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    At night, a flame burns in the centre of a circular fountain, with an imposing neo-Gothic building with a tall tower in the background.
    Many people, myself included, believe that the Centennial Flame has been burning since its inauguration, and that it will burn forever in front of the Canadian Parliament. In reality, it requires several maintenance stops, the main one being to replace the water in the fountain with nontoxic glycol before the first frost. A little love preserves this symbolic fire.

    Parliament Hill, a place of celebration and meetings

    Day 110 of my solo bike trip across Canada.

    After the scorching heat, the headwind and the evening thunderstorm, I’m comfortably settled into a hotel in downtown Ottawa! Thanks to my friends Alain Desjardins and Michel Gauthier for using their contacts to get me into a hotel for the first time since I left Newfoundland.

    At 9:30 p.m., the rain finally stopped and, to round off my first day in Ontario, I decided to explore Canada’s capital. Just as I turn right onto the street, I see some imposing monuments less than a kilometre away. A few more steps and I realize the scale of a vast neo-Gothic complex of three buildings. It’s hard not to be impressed by this emblematic Canadian landmark, home to Canada’s federal government. The 92-metre-high Peace Tower gives me vertigo, then I revel in all the architectural features, vaulted doors and windows, stained glass windows, towers and more. Monumental!

    Just a few months ago, I filled out my citizenship application. And in less than a year, if I pass the selection exam, I’ll become a Canadian! The sound of my footsteps in a puddle snaps me out of my thoughts. A little further on, my eyes catch a glimpse of some kind of yellow light, like fire. Wow, a circular fountain with a flame in the middle. I walk all the way around it, discovering one by one the crests of the Canadian provinces and territories, along with the dates of their entry into the Canadian Confederation.

    “It’s unusual for me to bump into people here at this hour!” says a stranger dressed in black. A little surprised, I simply reply, “It’s my first time.” That’s how I meet a 47-year-old named Tim, who seems to have a passion for people and dreams. We talk about our lives as the rain slowly picks up again. Sitting by the Centennial Flame, I tell him about my dream of exploring Canada’s ten provinces by bike and publishing a book about the adventure. At this moment, I’m still unaware that my second book will be launched right here in the heart of Parliament…

    In 2010, I travelled to Ottawa to speak with Michel Guimond, the Member of Parliament for the constituency of Montmorency-Charlevoix-Haute Côte-Nord. Thanks to him, echoes of the Coffee Table Book Ô Canada, 10,000 Miles from Coast to Coast reached the Speaker of the House of Commons himself, from 2001 to 2011, the Honourable Peter Milliken, MP for Kingston and the Islands. Finally, on Tuesday, December 14, 2010, co-author Éric Clément and I officially launched our latest book in the presence of friends and family, Peter Milliken, Michel Guimond and several members of Parliament, including Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe and Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s son, Justin Trudeau. 

    To this day, I’m still amazed by this prestigious launch. But looking back, I realize that Canadians of all backgrounds have walked here. For over 150 years, Parliament Hill has been a place of celebration and meetings. 

    Three men in black suits and colourful ties smile at the photographer
    Official launch of the Coffee Table Book Ô Canada, 10,000 Miles from Coast to Coast on Parliament Hill. From left to right: photographer Bertrand Lemeunier, politician Justin Trudeau and journalist Éric Clément. (photo taken in 2010)

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