Monday, June 03, 2013

City of contrasts

A five-day visit to Ottawa has convinced me the silly polls are wrong. Our capital doesn’t deserve its recent designation as Canada’s most boring city. Boring wasn’t a term I could apply. There was so much to do, I ran out of time and couldn’t get around to everything I’d wanted to see or do.

It’s a city where old meets new, most obviously in its architecture. Turn of the century (that is, the 19th to 20th) houses stand in small clumps beneath office towers. Churches and government buildings lend an air of tradition, while glass buildings and construction cranes crowd the horizon.

The National Gallery, where I spent two afternoons, provides further contrast, with antiquities under the same roof as starkly modern abstractions. The two items that fascinated me the most were a video loop shown on the ceiling (mattresses on the floor to lie on, so you can look up) and a tiny carving of a beluga whale, marked as being 2,500 years old. Wow!

As in any cosmopolitan city, there's plenty of high-end shopping and fancy restaurants. Unfortunately, the same contrasts evident elsewhere -- the ones between rich and poor -- are here as well. 

The market area provided more reasonable food choices -- bakeries, ethnic restaurants, poutine stands, flowers for sale. 

But the biggest contrast of all was the new exhibit on at Canada’s War Museum – an exhibit on Peace. 

One of the coolest aspects of this is the fact that John Lennon and Yoko Ono came to Ottawa on June 3, 1969. It was the day after they'd finished the bed-in events they'd done in Amsterdam and Montreal. By fluke, I ran into a photo of their meeting with Pierre Elliott Trudeau during that historic visit.

Now, if only I could convince the powers-that-be to change the name of the memorial museum to the Museum of War and Peace. 

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