My good friend Kyle from business school and her architect husband David have been inviting us to come visit them and their family in Ottawa for the past several years. “Come skiing, come play tennis, come play golf!” they say. Finally this summer we were able to accept their flattering and long-standing invitation. Yes, we were coming! And we would drive… My husband grew up in Ohio and spent his boyhood summers on Cape Cod, so the thought of a seven hour drive didn’t phase him one bit.
We wound our way northward through some recently visited territory, back up through New Hampshire and into northern Vermont on Route 89, through inspirational forested mountains that provide magnificent blue-green vistas at every turn of the road. The aptly named Green Mountain range is a very beautiful part of the world.
We crossed into Canada (Customs and passports at the border) from Phillipsburg, Vermont, and found ourselves in Phillipsburg, Quebec. All the signs in Canada (Quebec especially) are bi-lingual, so you can immediately pretend to test out your high school French. North of the border, counter-intuitively for me, you leave the fastness of the blue-green mountain aeries, and emerge onto a great agrarian plain. You find yourself suddenly surrounded by quaint farmhouses with Victorian gingerbread trim, handsome painted barns, clusters of silver silos, and impressive fields planted with alternating stripes of corn, wheat and soybeans that stretch towards a distant horizon.
Quebec farmland eventually gave way to highways leading into the tangle of Montreal commuting traffic. We didn’t linger, but continued westward towards Ontario. Along the highway, we began to see yellow hazard signs, warning of moose crossing.
We turned off of Highway 417 before reaching downtown Ottawa, and headed into the leafy preserve of Rockliffe Park, home, in this international capital city, to many official Embassy Residences, as well as to David and Kyle.
That of the American Ambassador, and his Danish counterpart, for instance.
On Saturday morning we headed into Ottawa, to the ByWard Market, to shop for our breakfast.
It was difficult not to get distracted… Then, after a leisurely breakfast of freshly ground coffee, pain au chocolat and fresh berries, we headed back into Ottawa (just a 12 minute drive!) to tour the beautiful city.
David made sure to give us the architect’s tour of Ottawa. Ottawa is a distinctly novel combination of architectural influences and periods. Influences both old,
(How I wish I had pictures of the starkly modern Embassy of Saudi Arabia, by Canadian architect Arthur Erikson, which sits next to the stunning Aga Khan Foundation’s Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat designed by celebrated Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki . But we saw these in passing from the car.)
And influences French,
The spectacular Parliament Square
sits atop a rocky outcrop, high above the mighty Ottawa River, and the engineering wonder of the locks of the Rideau Canal.
The interior of the Canadian Parliament Building is just as spectacular as the exterior.
Exhausted by all this culture, we headed back to the ByWard Market,
to shop for dinner.
Once home with the groceries, Kyle and I went for a dizzying bike ride from Rockliffe Park down along the mighty Ottawa River, with the sun in our faces and the wind in our hair.
After dinner, let’s be honest, we sat back and watched the London 2012 Olympics, wishing some sporting success for all of our favorite countries: the USA, Britain and Canada!
Sunday brought more mind expanding experiences. The stunning views of Parliament Square from across the river in Gatineau, Quebec, from the plaza fronting the fascinating Museum of Civilization, designed by Douglas Cardinal.
Inside the Museum of Civilization are wonders aboriginal, architectural and national.
We may have played a round of golf later that afternoon, at The Royal Ottawa Golf Club…..
By then I was pretty tired. Our round of eighteen holes was fun, and hot, and spent in great company. That’s about all that is worth remembering.
We have been invited to come back to Ottawa, perhaps in winter, to try our hand at downhill and cross country skiing, and…
I do know Kyle and David will keep us very busy, and feed us extremely well!