Sep 30, 2013

Unique Aspects of Ottawa

I love discovering unique aspects of a city.  At the Remic Rapids in
Ottawa there is one of the most incredible art displays I have ever seen. Each spring John Felice Ceprano, using riverside stones, creates balanced sculptures that seem to defy gravity. Visitors are cautioned to avoid touching. Most people have heeded the warning, but I did a small portion of one of the works of art that had toppled mostly from being touched. I can see why people touch them because it is hard to believe that some of them are not glued in place but they are not.  They are perfectly balanced.  Each year during high water the art is washed away only to have new balanced creations created by Ceprano again when the water recedes.  We drove to the spot but it is also accessible via the bike path.

At the National Gallery of Canada don’t miss the amazing reconstruction of the Rideau Chapel from the Convent of our Lady of Sacred Heart. The Chapel, called by some the most “beautiful chapel in the land,” was on the road to destruction when it was purchased by the National Gallery. It was moved, piece by piece, and rebuilt in the center of the museum. I was so busy looking at all the other great art at the museum I almost missed it. The entrance is tucked off to the side. Take note of the towering columns that reach the ceiling in unique fan vaults, the three altars, statues and other artwork.  

One afternoon we drove out to the Mackenzie King Park Estate. The beautiful country estate in Gatineau Park was home to Canada’s 10th prime minister. It is a great place for a hike and afternoon tea. But, what interested me were the ruins in his garden and woods. What looks like ruins in situ are actually pieces Mackenzie rescued from destruction and had them placed throughout the property. The entrance pillars of the old Bank of British North America make a triumphal arch with a view of the forest and the most extensive display are called the Abbey Ruins with stones that came from various places including the old Parliament building that was destroyed by fire in 1916. 

At Rideau Hall we didn’t have time to tour the official residence of Canada’s Governor General but did walk around the property where over 120 commemorative trees have been planted.  The first one was by Japan’s Prince Fushimi in 1907 and most recently Prince William and his wife planted an Eastern Hemlock to commemorate their marriage. I was especially interested in the Inuit stone markers called Inukshuk that have been found throughout the arctic.  It is thought that these stone figures resembling humans were a means of communication indicating someone passed by here or that the traveler was on the right path.  There were many people picnicking, playing games, and walking about.  I tried to envision such a scene on the equivalent property in the United States – the White House. 

People seem to love paranormal stories and that was evident on the
Haunted Walk of Ottawa. As our group wandered from location to location we learned where the “spirit” of the person who suffered an untimely demise haunts the property. While it is their most popular tour they also offer other tours that have been thoroughly researched to reveal a darker side of Ottawa’s history.