X-Country Trip Part 4

The weather in New Brunswick and forecast for the St Lawrence Valley was for a couple of days of very unsettled cool weather, so we decided to press ahead for Ottawa. We had intended to take 4 days for the almost 1000 km drive, but instead decided to do it in 2 days. We had never intended to stop in Montreal or Quebec City, having had previous stays in both, but had expected to make some stops at points of interest along the way. We arrived in Ottawa in a thunderstorm, but had no trouble finding our destination which was a condo in the Gatineau Hilton Hotel. The couple who drove our van east (Richard & Christine) had originally contacted us about home exchange, so we had access to their condo while they were in our home in Victoria en route to a cruise to Japan. The apartment is lovely and we found it was most enjoyable to luxuriate in the vast expanses of a home after the confines of the van for almost a month!

Alimay’s back was acting up a little so we achieved a little less than we might have done otherwise and we hope that a visit to a massage therapist will have done the trick. We did still see lots, starting with a 2 hour visit to MosaiCanada which is a series of 33 large sculptures the surfaces of which are all living plant material. They are in Jacques Cartier Park and entry is free although most of the surrounding parking was $20! The theme was, of course, Canada, and each province had a sculpture as had several First Nations, the CPR, hockey (the 1972 winning goal!), the Voyageurs and Glen Gould. Perhaps the most impressive were the two huge sculptures, gifted by the Chinese government. The Chinese invented the art and are incredibly skilled. We couldn’t believe how good a condition all the plant material was in considering it is September.

We did most of the usual tourist things and spent a day on the Ottawa side of the river. We managed to get tickets for a conducted tour of the Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings which included visits to the floor of the Commons, the Senate and the Parliamentary Library which we were told was unusual but possible on Sundays when the house was not in session. We finished with a visit to the viewing gallery of the Peace Tower, just below the clock face, which afforded views over the city – fortunately with the aid of an elevator. We also visited the famous ByWard market, the exterior of the National Art Gallery, the war memorial, Nepean Point and the eternal flame. The Canadian Museum of History is a magnificent structure in the banks of the Ottawa River across from the Parliament Buildings and I spent over 2 hours going through the three large galleries of the history of Canada from prehistoric times to the present. It was well laid out and they had included many video loops and interactive displays – but there was still a huge amount of reading.

We spent half a day exploring Gatineau Park, an enormous park that stretches about 70 km north from the Ottawa River and covers 360 km2. There are hiking trails, camping, many lakes, canoeing and all this within minutes of downtown. It includes the summer home of MacKenzie King (for non-Canadians, he was a leading Canadian politician and prime minister for much of the second quarter of the 20th Century, including WWII) which is now a museum and tea room and, as in France, closed on Tuesday, the day we were there! It also includes the famous Meech Lake where our Constitution was hammered out in the 80’s.

Our final day here was again a beautiful, sunny, warm fall day and we spent the morning taking a cruise along the Ottawa River which was very peaceful and afforded us great views of various homes along the river including 24 Sussex Drive, still under renovation. Part of the afternoon was spent on a tour of the Canadian Mint which was again very well done and interesting. There they do not produce Canada’s coin, that being done in Winnipeg, but concentrate on commemorative and investment coins. They also produce the medals for the Olympic Games and the military.

We could not have seen our nation’s capital under better conditions and we were hugely impressed. It gave me goosebumps to stand in many of the places we had only seen on TV and the green space, the architectural interest of the public buildings and diverse sculptures make the Parliament Hill area quite spectacular. Now we realize what it means to be proud Canadians!

Sent from Stratford having survived 600+km of the 401!