A Capital Encounter with a Dashing Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman
It’s Canada Day up Canada Way on the first day of July.
And we’re shouting hooray up Canada Way when the maple leaf flies high.
Where the silver jets from East to West are streaming through our skies.
We’ll be shouting hooray up Canada Way when the great parade goes by.
A Canadian Institutio
Oh Canada, standing tall together,
We’ll raise our hands and hail our flag
The maple leaf forever.
It’s Canada Day up Canada Way on the coast of Labrador.
And we’re shouting hooray up Canada Way on the white Pacific shore.
People everywhere have a song to share on Canada’s holiday.
From P. E. Island to the sunny south to the North Pole far away.
It’s Canada Day up Canada Way on the long cold winters done.
And we’re shouting hooray up Canada Way for the great days yet to come.
Where maple trees grow maple leaves when the Northern sun is high.
We’re Canadians and we’re born again on the first day of July.
It’s Canada Day up Canada Way from the lakes to the prairies wide.
And we’re shouting hooray up Canada Way on the St. Lawrence river side.
People everywhere have a song to share on Canada’s holiday.
From P. E. Island to the sunny south to the North Pole far away.
·Canada Day Song by Stompin’ Tom Conners, Canadian Musical Icon
(If reading the song makes you want to hear it, here’s someone else’s Canada Day video on YouTube that uses it).
Library on Parliament Hill
A House made of Straw
I had noticed we would be near Ottawa around July 1st, and when you’re on a cross-Canada adventure, what better place to spend Canada day in than Canada’s capital city? One thing about a lot of Canadian cities is that they have a body of water in the middle, but instead of being one city it’s a different city on each side. Ottawa is like that, but further complicated by the other side, Gatineau, being in Quebec. We came to see Ottawa but we were staying with our friends Liz and Ed’s in Gatineau. Liz and Ed built a straw bale house—-a house made of straw! They also put in a crazy masonry fireplace in the middle. The walls of the house are so thick and the fireplace so efficient that most days they only have to make one small fire in the morning to keep the house warm, even in winter, and they live in Quebec.
The National Gallery Cafe
The Downpour Even a Vancouverite Couldn't Ignore
Of course Ottawa has many sights of historical and national interest, as well as being a very beautiful city in it’s own right. Step and I decided to split up for a couple of hours for a bit of alone time. I spent about half of it looking at a book about clowns in the National Gallery (it was like a train wreck—I just couldn’t look away), and the rest wandering around Parliament Hill looking at statues and the Rideau Canal locks and the preparations for the big celebration. When it was time to go meet Step I got a bit lost and then got caught in a raging torrential downpour. Being from Vancouver, I at first carried on as if nothing was happening, even when I became soaked like I had gone in a shower, and my insoles were so wet the glue came off and the top bit slid around on the bottom bit, but finally I got worried for the camera and stood under a bridge until it eased up.
A Delicious Vegan Green Papaya Salad
When I met Step I was too wet to sit down anywhere so we had to go back to the van so I could change. We called Liz and asked where we could get some hippie food, but the Green Door restaurant was closed when we got there. By this point in our travels we had figured out to find some healthy good freak food the person to ask is the clerk at the health supplement store, and that was how we found The Sacred Garden, a vegan Thai restaurant serving up sizzling hot faux meat and tofu stirfries and a killer green papaya salad (my Thai favourite) that somehow doesn’t have fish sauce yet still tastes great. If you’re ever in Ottawa, I recommend it.
The next day was the big day, Canada Day! Liz and Ed have two children, Maya and Alex, so they went to the Gatineau side of the celebrations which had more kid’s stuff. Step and I went to the Parliament Hill side (weirdly, the day got so packed with stuff we got near The Hill but never quite made it on). At first the enormous crowds were kind of weirding Step out but after we watched a break dancing demo he got more into the spirit of things. We both liked the giant chicken BBQ in Maple Hill Park, which is just under the Parliament buildings, so much that we ate there twice, and I had a giant fresh lemonade. A lot of people were dressed in red and white. I really liked the hat where it’s just a giant felt maple leaf on your head but I didn’t see anyone selling any.
Giant Chicken BBQ
The permanent collection at the National Gallery is free on Canada Day, so even though it was crowded we went in. The elevator man told us to check out room 213 because it has over 4,000,000 dollars worth of expressionist art in it, and all the way there I kept thinking maybe it would just be better to put 4,000,000 dollars in a big glass box for people to look at. I guess that would be interesting once but a Braque you can look at over and over again. We knew we would be back at the Gallery the next day so we only checked out a portion of the collection. (I did see this painting shown here which has a really weird bum in it).
The People's Orchestra
We needed to go to the Lord Elgin Hotel to meet with Step’s distant cousin Ruth and her family, and on the way there we saw the People’s Orchestra playing “I Dream of Jeannie”. First of all, I LOVE the People’s Orchestra. When I lived on 3rd Avenue in Vancouver the local People’s Orchestra would go by on random occasions, and it was always a thrill. Second of all, the fact they were playing “I Dream of Jeannie” and that I had won at the “I Dream of Jeannie” slot machine was not lost on me. It obviously has weighty significance, but what? If anyone has any insight, let me know. Step had his recorder so he was able to record some of their playing.
Glenn Gould Sculpture by Ruth
Ruth’s husband Mark is an inventor and Ruth is a bronze sculpture artist who does national commissions and stuff, so you’ve probably seen some of her work. She has a lot of sparkle and we really enjoyed our visit at the Lord Elgin Hotel. I ordered a teaser plate of appetizers that I thought was really funny. It was little puff pastries and breaded scallops with chutney and the like but it was all kind of clunky on the plate, as if it were trying to be Nouvelle Cuisine but too big. I guess I’m a bit of a rube ‘cause Step explained that it was the Old School Way. When you live in Vancouver you only have 150 years of history so there’s just no tradition.
It turned out the Ruth family had come to Canada Day by accident, because Ruth had to discuss a commission at the National Arts Centre and her son had a soccer game. But then it turned out the soccer game was the next weekend—-d’oh! We went with them to a kind of sampler concert at the Arts Centre, with an orchestra and a huge choir and stuff. Step doesn’t enjoy that kind of music as much but I loved it, and it was my favourite thing of Canada Day.
Canada Day Garbage Pile
When we got out it had turned dark and so had the spirit of the day. Families and older people had gone home mostly and it was still crowded but with hard-core party people who were waiting for the fire works and the all night bars and nightclubs to get going. We found a restaurant called Vittoria Trattoria in the market area where we were able to get some surprisingly good whole wheat pasta, and we left as the fireworks started. It was kind of fun and surreal to be walking around the empty outlying streets with the echoes of the fireworks booming around us.
Maman by Louise Bourgeois
The next day we returned to the National Gallery and saw a really good show : 1930’s: The New Man. It was all art made in the time of and in response to the rise of Fascism in Europe. The show was well put together and told a story of something we need to watch out for, especially in these days when the danger seems to have been forgotten by some of Canada’s neighbours, and some Canadians themselves.
Image by Edward Burtynsky
We also checked out this really great show that was actually from the Museum of Contemporary Photography (they’re having renos) that was all art about environment and climate change. We had seen that movie “Manufactured Landscapes” about the work of Edward Burtynsky (highly recommended, but only on the big screen), and some of his pieces were in it as well as others, so that was cool. It’s kind of wild that destruction can be so beautiful yet chilling—-sort of like Burlington Street.
Another great thing about the National Gallery is the crazy Giant Spider Sculpture outside by Louise Bourgeois, which I photographed in many conditions—-cloudy, sunny, crowded and alone.
The Heavily Guarded American Embassy
It’s kind of wild walking around in Ottawa—there’s a lot of history like the National Mint and the Prime Minister’s House at 24 Sussex Drive. The GovernerGeneral’s House and grounds is right across the street and a lot bigger, because they are the official yet figurehead Leader of the Nation. (The grounds were open to the public while we were there but we didn’t go). There are also all sorts of Embassies. The American one was the freakiest because it is so heavily gaurded and barricaded. It mad me shivery and not in a good way (see 1930’s: The New Man).
Ottawa has a pretty good market district, called ByWard Market, where we were able to get some excellent spicy noodles. I appreciated the many fresh food stands, particularly the ones which labeled wether the produce was local or not. I wish this was a practice which was more widespread. We were still unable to get a really good coffee but you can’t have everything.
Cat Shelter on Parliament Hill
A walk along the river under Parliament Hill is a must, of course, and we climbed a really long staircase from there to The Hill. Not everyone knows that there is a stray cat shelter behind the parliament buildings that has been there for years. When we visited a few cats were napping in the shade and a raccoon was digging into their crunchies. What can you do? Raccoons have to eat, too.
Mountie photographs Tourists
Rideau Canal and Chateau Laurier
The most purest Canadian Moment Ever happened in front of the Tomb of the Unkonwn Soldier, which is in front of the Parliament Buildings. We were walking along when we spotted a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman in full uniform taking pictures of some tourists! The quick witted Step took a picture of the Mountie taking pictures of tourists, and theMountie turned to us and started posing for all sorts of pictures with us. Then he regailed us with many stories! He was part of the secret service so he had escorted many Prime Ministers in his time and had inside information on what they were like. Pierre Trudeau was of course a favourite (come back, Trudeau!) and described as a down-to-earth sort of fellow, which came as no surprise. Brian Mulroney was phoney balogna (also no surprise). He liked Paul Martin, who encouraged him to go swimming in his pool. When the Mountie said he didn’t think his boss would like that Paul Martin replied “I’m your boss!”. He obviously couldn’t say anything about the current administration, but I think we can guess. He told us the Prime Minister of France had just arrived to the Chateau Laurier, which explained all the shiny black cars and guys standing around in suits apparently doing nothing.
Robin Eats a Lobster
Step popped into Moores for a Monkey Suit fitting and afterwards I ate a whole lobster. Later we finally got in a visit with Ed and Liz. They had both had a crazy busy schedule to whole time we were there because stuff was going down at their kids school and Liz is on the board, so it was nice to have some minutes.
No Time for the Glenn Gould Exhibit
The next day we tried to go for a quickie at the Museum of Civilisation in Gatineau because there was a show about Glenn Gould Step was particularly interested in, but when we got there there was a very, very long line up to pay admission. The problem was we had a goal to get to Montreal in time to meet up with my friend Alain and go the the Real Tuesday Weld show at 530 (it was part of the Jazz Festval). We figured we needed to be on the road by 2 and if we waited in line we would only have ½ hour for the whole museum, so instead we had a very nice lunch at the Museum Restaurant and wandered a bit in the Zen Garden. It was nice but it was no Glenn Gould show. The irony was we got caught in traffic in the outskirts of Montreal so we missed the Real Tuesday Weld show anyway.
The Museum of Civilisation