Ottawa and Montreal

Yes, I’m descending into travelogue. I figure, if I use a blog to keep track of books I’ve read (usually with minimal commentary), then I might as well use it as an aide-memoire for trips as well.

Bob and I left for Ottawa on Saturday, August 27. We had a pleasant drive up through Franconia Notch in New Hampshire and across Quebec through Montreal. Our favorite signs (sorry, no photos) were the one that looked like an open dogfood can with the international NO! symbol across it (No Dogfood!), and the one with the diamond dipicting a leaping deer above two smaller rectangular signs: “night danger” and “danger de nuit.” Wouldn’t that make a great drag name, Danger de Nuit?

Sunday was Ottawa’s gay pride parade and festival. It was pretty low-key, but there was a former National Party leader and a group of Crafty Queers carrying enormous knitting needles. I was prone on the grass tending to a very bad backache, and everyone who was passing anything out ran over to dump several on my lap. Bob and I must now have between us a dozen little plastic bags with condoms, lube, and instructions. (Well, if you must know, we tossed the instructions so we wouldn’t be lugging around so much in our pockets.)

I hope to get photos from Bob of the Mackenzie King estate in Gatineau, just across the river from Ottawa. Mackenzie King was a prime minister of Canada who never married and had sceances to contact his mother. He gardened, designed and built lovely country homes, and collected antiques. Hmmm. As my coworker Kathy said today, “Circumstantial evidence, but he’s clearly a Mama’s boy, so what does it matter anyway?” At any rate, his estate made a good outdoor activity on Monday.

The Musée de beaux-arts du Canada/National Gallery of Canada is in a lovely building designed by the same architect who did the Peabody-Essex in Salem, Massachusetts. Two really delightful discoveries there: the Group of Seven, early twentieth-century Canadian artists who sought to evoke the north of Canada; and Janet Cardiff’s Forty-Part Motet, a reworking of “Spem in Alium” by Thomas Tallis, recorded with individual mics for all forty singers and played with individual speakers arranged around the salvaged Rideau Street convent chapel. Sitting in the center of the space and listening to the music was wonderful, but just as wonderful was walking through the Canadian galleries and noticing it just at the edge of hearing.

Our final attraction in Ottawa was Le Musée candien des civilisations/Canadian Museum of Civilization. Building by the same architect as the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., with large organically-shaped spaces inside and out. One of the largest halls houses lots of totem poles and six Native houses from the Pacific coast. Tucked into a seating area on another floor were nine Inuit stone carvings of stylized animals. On part of the main floor is the Canadian Postal Museum/Musée canadien de la poste. So many tiny little pieces of art were just overwhelming. We were lucky to see a temporary exhibition on Pompei. Bob’s been there, but I’ve never seen anything but photos. I thought this exhibit was extraordinarily well done. There were casts of the skeletons and bodies in each area along with some of the artefacts found with them and murals from the rooms in which they were found. Very powerful.

Ottawa dining highlights included an Indian restaurant near our host’s home and a creperie in Gatineau across the river.

Tomorrow: photos from Montreal sites.

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