Exit through the gift shop and a brief jaunt into Quebec

After spending the miserable, rainy morning catching up on writing and e-mails, I was ready, on my last day in Ottawa, to have a final exploration. From research, and the still mixed weather forecast, it made sense to head to the Canadian Art Gallery. It was a short walk away from my very centrally located accommodation.

The Guaguin exhibition was not open until May 24th: I just missed that, so purchased a general admission ticket: which at $14 was unbelievable value. The first problem was to know where to start; deciding on the Canadian and Indigenous Art Gallery as the most appropriate.

It was a fascinating journey through time and place, best recorded in the following images of some of my favourite exhibits.

Taking us back to Montreal, in 1790’s this picture of Beaubien by François Beaucourt captures the essence of the bourgeois elite. The subject is seated at the gaming table and with a confident smile towards us, he lays down an Ace of hearts next to a pile of gold coins.

Two details taken from the large painting by Legare. The setting of night time, with the inclusion of great detail, skillfully captures the horror and devastation that the plague caused.

Portrait of a nun,  seated with the back light emphasizing the black veil in contrast to the white wimple.

I loved the quietness and innocent beauty of this portrait of Sister Saint-Alphonse.(Antoine Plamondon) The clever use of light in the background emphasises the contrast of the black veil and the immaculate white wimple. The viewer is caused to linger aand absorb her inner depth of peace and spirituality.

Both these paintings are by Cornelius Krieghoff illustrating his use of his native Dutch style. Even though they have the same style and attention to detail in colour and texture, I love that they show the artists ability to capture changing moods and subject matter. First, pause in front of the storm, and feel the wind blowing through the pines, whistling down river and pulling us towards the river tumbling over the rocks in white topped foam. Then, watch the horses strong, confident gait as they pull their load, finally, to the shelter of the Inn. They have served their master well, and deserve the rub down, food and evenings rest they know will be their reward.

All these show the intricate designs of glass bead work on fabric. The moccasin in black is striking in itS floral pattern and intricate bead work. They all reminded me of works I had seen in the textile museum in Toronto.

Another work by Antoine Plamondon. This is just a detail of the flautist’s eyes and mouth because I admired the skill in giving enough detail to show the perfect position of the lips and the concentration and thoughtfulness in the upwardly looking eyes. The master works at painting a master at work.

Homer Watson 1901

The Flood Gate

Both the subject matter and the style reminded me of Gainsborough and Constable.

It took me a long time to work round that section of just this gallery, and I was aware of time passing quickly with much more to see. I was also in need of some refreshment, so headed for a the Second Cup: indulging in a large Earl Grey Latte.

Image shows a china cup of Earl Grey Latte tea.
Always a favourite, Earl Grey Latte. A large cup serves well as a nourishing snack.

Wanting a contrast of styles, I tried the contemporary gallery for the last hour. Obviously a complete change, with much to challenge and consider. A few of my favourites follow.

Danie Mellor

Maba-I-Bala Rugu (of power in Darkness)

This work records the presence of indigenous peoples within the imperialist landscape. The details of star’s and celestial bodies, reference the stories from indigenous perspective.

Kelly Mark: REM 2007

This one was particularly interesting as the artist is from Welland, close to Port Colborne where I lived when in Canada.

It is also an incredible work.

The captions are my estimates of the years represented. What do you think?

Watching the film a little in each room was also fascinating; a trip down memory lane watching familiar scenes, characters and clips from films and TV shows, unfold in a new drama.

As a former teacher it was interesting to catch glimpses of school student’s reactions as they stormed through the gallery…

Particularly this work

Chloe Wise 1990

Olive Garden of Eden.

A satirical view of our modern Western habits of consumption and branding based on desire.

As I was contemplating this work I witnessed a teacher expertly guide her no nonsense, “this isn’t art” students into helping them find the skill in the exquisitely formed pieces, the pattern of randomised placement, and find an interpretation for themselves. So, is it art?

Olive Garden of Eden – detail.

So much more to observe, admire and ponder but it was almost closing time. Shall we exit through the gift shop?

Tourism and promotion at its best but who can resist? I bought books for the grandchildren, and resisted buying anything for myself mainly due to limited luggage space. I have all my photographs and most precious memories; more valuable than any trinket.

Out into the real world, and a fresh rainfall enticed me to take advantage of all the beautiful parks and green areas Ottawa provides. Tulip time!

Sights and sounds of Ottawa in the spring.

Just enjoying the views, and the fresh air and exploring I chose the long way home: via the Alexander Bridge, a short walk in Quebec and back across the Portage bridge to the now familiar Wellington Road. A perfect ending to Ottawa adventure in the art of man, and the creation of God.

And now my story is done. Taking over a week to process the images, complete the writing and work between other activities and family duties has given me a taste of the writing life for real. Thank you for being patient. Most of all, huge thanks for your support, likes and comments.

Now, for these last few days in Toronto, before I return to England, I will be concentrating on gathering more material, having mother-daughter time and last minute business. I may not have much chance to post but you can always follow me on Instagram and Facebook.

May is ending, June bursts forth. Happy Summer.


Fiddleheads,chocolate, tea and a story.

My second day in Ottawa had to be taken up with the market. Who can resist the promise of stalls selling local produce, flowers, artisan items and browsing a variety of independent stores?

Having said that, actually, the first store I went in was The Bay, I can’t even remember now, why I did, but something was calling me, and that something was chocolate. In one section of the store Lindt chocolateirs had a small chocolate demo stand, and coffee bar. This day they had a big sale, and huge pic-‘n-mix stands of more varieties of their chocolates than I had seen before. How could one resist?

I figured I needed to do way more than my 10,000 steps to walk all that off, so best get going!

Now into the market. There were cheese stores, and bread stores and places to savour local delicacies. All the stalls were bright and cheerful offering fresh flowers local produce, maple syrup and honey. As well as ethnic stores selling bright coloured clothing, material and accessories. The atmosphere was just as bright and cheerful alive with chatter, and venders shouting, traffic noise and coming and going.

Selling local produce

For once the camera was put away in favour of senses and memory telling the story.

Locally grown Fiddleheads

What a treat to be able to take some of these ‘home’ and be able to cook my own dinner.

I wandered here and there and everywhere, exploring more stores and finding more areas of market, including an indoor market and a bakery; a fresh made bagel will go well with the Fiddleheads.

Then, I saw the sign. It simply said TEA in bold yellow and green lettering. Well, yes, I could do with a cuppa, the British in me screamed!

As soon as I opened the door I was in love. WOW!

Immediately along the left wall was the counter top displaying lots of goodies, and the proprietor was busy kneading a batch of dough whilst welcoming me both with words, a smile and the heavenly smells.

All other walls were shelved with jar after jar of delicious looking tea blends. Names such as Buckingham Palace Breakfast Tea, loganberry, fruit teas, spice teas. Teas from Ceylon. Teas from India. Black teas, Green teas, blended teas and Nut teas. Did I want to take a seat and have tea?

Although there were many different types to choose from, it was tea time, so I asked for the best blend of Earl Grey he could provide. Whilst waiting I looked at the displays, and savoured every minute of being there. Taking tea is an experience deserving our time and attention. Not to be hurried. Tea is served. Would madam like anything else. Oh dear, yes madam would. The lemon and cranberry slice was irresistible.

I enjoyed the first cup of tea, hot, just the right amount of milk and correct brew. The second cup was taken with the cake, which was also delicious, lemony and correctly balanced with the cranberries. I was also enjoying the ambience; not too busy with just the right amount of customers to make business but not too busy. The staff obviously enjoyed working there, and engaged with regular customers and those new and needing help choosing, showing great knowledge of their produce. I felt right at home, it was my kind of store, one similar to the place of my dreams if I were ever to be blessed with the opportunity to own a business. I did not have my tablet, but I always carry a note book and pen, so out they came, imagination was fired up, and produced a Little Teasers story, first draft to be worked on later.

Ideas abound when surrounded by tea!

I did further exploration of the area which will merit a separate blog. Just one last thing…

Fiddleheads in a peanut sauce, baked beans, toasted bagel. Ginger and lemon grass pressed. Crystalised pineapple and matcha covered almonds, and a chocolate to complete this repast.

Heavenly fare.

Thank you for enduring this long epistle. Join me for further meanderings through Ottawa and my mind, as you deem fit.

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All for less than a cup of tea

Monday, first day in Ottawa. Although the weather was cloudy, cool and with promises of rain, I was ready to explore. Ottawa, capital city of Canada so, first port of call had to be Houses of Parliament and government buildings.

Not to be daunted by the interruption of major road works, I walked up Elgin to Westchester so that I could get good views of the buildings. Unfortunately, there was major construction on the tower and Parliament buildings also, which limited photograph and visiting possibilities. Was I also a little disappointed as to a similarity to a certain building in London, England?

By this time the promised rain was producing a grim outlook and decidedly cool conditions; the centennial fire memorial became an appealing sight. 4

First constructed in 1967 as part of the centennial celebrations of Canada being a confederation. The fire burns natural gas and is surrounded by a fountain. Around the rim are shields of the Provinces, originally 13, as Nunavat was not a Province until 1999. A shield for Nunavat was added in 2017.

A further interesting fact concerns the money that generous tourists throw into the fountain. The money is collected and is given towards the Centennial Flame Award, providing funds ” to a person with a disability to enable him or her to conduct research and prepare a report on the contributions of one or more Canadians with disabilities to the public life of Canada or the activities of Parliament”. (News Release: Centennial Flame Research Award for Persons with Disabilities,” Subcommittee on the Status of Persons with Disabilities(2005): accessed January 24, 2012.)

Suitably warmed by the flame and its origin it was time to move on. Taking the walkway, leads you around the back of the building including magnificent views of the river, the architecture of Ottawa, the bridges and across the river back to Quebec.

By now the sun was playing with us, appearing every now and then to provide warmth and a brighter outlook which prompted more exploration on my part.

Finding my way down to the canal and lock system was a good start.

Notice the evidence of highwater and flooding.

The canal was started in 1826 and completed in 1832, an amazing feat of engineering, skill and hard graft by mainly Irish and French-Canadian labourers. It was built primarily for military defence, but it quickly became an important factor in Ottawa’s commercial development. The architect and supervisor of the canal was John By; with other manufacturers assisting during construction. Well known names such as John Redpath and Thomas McKay.

The remains of the storage facility, office, and store has been beautifully conserved and is now a museum.

There were was so much to see, it was impossible to take time to photograph everything. Not only did it give details of building the canal, but also insight into the history of the area and prominent families. A little gem possibly not as well known as some of the tourist spots.

Browsing in the shop, later, I found this cute wooden container of Maple tea. It will be a tasty reminder of my visit to Ottawa.

Wooden canister of maple tea

Satisfied with this days viewing, with much to consider and try to remember, I made my way back to the apartment. Once back, and fed and watered, I thought about all that I had done, all I had learned, and distance I had walked realising that I had done all this all for less than the cost of a cup of tea.

Good job!

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How was your stay? Where too next?

Waking up to a beautiful morning gave me the incentive to have one final trip up Mount Royal. Taking just 5 minutes to climb the steps, I was rewarded with great views and peaceful surroundings.

Thank you, Montreal, for welcoming me and allowing me to call you home for a few days. I appreciated the challenge of Mount Royal, I learned about your culture and some of your history through discovering your art, through meeting beautiful people and tasting your food. For now I must say goodbye, but know that I will return to explore once more.

Now, my bags are packed, the taxi awaits and I am leaving on ‘a greyhound’ ; Ottawa bound.

A short, two hour bus trip through amazing countryside, brought me to my next adventure, Ottawa. My first impression, even as we crossed the Provincial border, was to notice, again, how different was Quebec and Ontario. I felt a familiarity in the surroundings even though I had not actually been to the city before.

As it was only afternoon, I decided to walk to the apartment I had booked for my stay. Booking through Booking.com app was easy, and the host had been in touch, so I could let myself in and drop off my luggage before exploring the neighborhood to buy basic food supplies.

The apartment was lovely, immediately feeling like home. After shopping I decided that this night merited the luxury of tea made in a teapot, a hot soak in a bath, listening to my favourite Spotify list as I unpacked, and a movie before bed.

Tomorrow would be the day to explore our capital city.

Thank you for reading my ramblings, you are appreciated.

Join me tomorrow for further adventures in Ottawa.