Sunday, May 9, 2010

Oh, Ottawa!

Four days in Ottawa last week--which I almost backed out of for fear I'd be bored--wasn't enough as I ran out of days and nights before I ran out of things to do.
Toronto Mayor Miller recently asked: who would want to live in Ottawa? Well, I wouldn't mind. Perhaps it takes a Torontonian to appreciate public waterfront that hasn't been zoned residential, stunning new cultural buildings, uncrowded recreational trails with straightaways you can really get up some speed on, grand public spaces, good shopping, clean pavements and even cleaner air.
It's a very walkable (and bikeable) city and it was a pleasure to stroll from one museum to the next. Moshe Safdie's landmark National Gallery of Canada I'd seen before; it has one of Louise Bourgeois' giant spider sculptures in its plaza. I caught the pop-scary Camouflage: from battlefield to catwalk show (direct from London) at the five-year-old Canadian War Museum, Raymond Moriyama's sombre stunner.
The biggest revelation for me was the Canadian Museum of Civilization. Pictures really can't do this building--by Canadian Native (of Metis and Blackfoot heritage) architect Douglas Cardinal--justice. From the outside it appears part of the riverbank landscape, carved by wind and glaciers. Inside it is massive, soaring, and holds beautiful artifacts from Canada's 20,000 years of human habitation. Seeing the giant, weathered Haida totem poles in person was a revelation.
If all this wasn't enough, the Canadian Tulip Festival opened while we were there. Three million bulbs in bloom.  Where are you going to see something like this outside of Holland?  Ottawa is a great place to wander, relax, breathe and dream.
While I didn't cry when we left Ottawa, five hours in a rental car did eventually bring tears to my eyes. Next time I'll take the train!