Sunday, Sugust 10:
Another gorgeous day in Ottawa as the four of us set off on bikes to explore further sites in this lovely city. Even Massey has been comparing Ottawa to Victoria as an accessible people-friendly city – high praise indeed. Ottawa has a wonderful series of biking paths, and we made our way in leisurely fashion along the Ottawa River toward the downtown core. Along the way, we were amazed to see a section of riverbank that contained a huge number of rock sculptures in and around the water. We learned that this “rock balance art” was initiated by the artist in 1986 and later gained support from the National Capital Commission as a unique and natural way to beautify the landscape and provide a place of peace and reflection for the people of Ottawa. These are all natural sculptures, with no mortar used to hold them in place; thus they are generally washed away in November and rebuilt again in the spring with a different presentation, theme and story. As luck would have it, we were fortunate to meet the artist, John Felice Ceprano while we were there, and he spent some time talking to us about his philosophy regarding balance, in his art and in life.
Continuing on our way, we biked along the foot of Parliament Hill until we reached the Rideau Canal, another of Canada’s wonders. Here again our timing was right, as we were able to watch the process of moving some pleasurecraft through the locks into the river. I had never seen this before, so it was fascinating to see them gradually lower the water level in each lock allowing the boats to move in steps until they reached the open water. As onlookers gathered to watch the process, there was a lazy laidback atmosphere – what better way to while away a summer Sunday afternoon! There were all kinds of boats in the water, including the cleverly named “Lady Dive”, Ottawa’s answer to the Halifax “Harbour Hopper”. Certainly the Ottawa waterfront was hopping with activity!
After a short but very steep climb, we arrived at the doors of the National Gallery where we parted company for awhile. I was keen to see the Renoir exhibit (the side benefit of which would be air conditioning. The day had become increasingly hot and humid and I was positively melting by the time we made it up the hill), while Massey, Grace and Paul decided to look for an outdoor cafe and something cool to drink. So I spent the next hour in the gallery, thoroughly enjoying the work of this great French Impressionist master. The theme of this exhibit was Renoir’s landscape phase, and I rented the audioguide to accompany the exhibit so as to gain maximum benefit from my brief visit. And so I had a bit of an art lesson, learning about the “impression in the moment” developed by this school of artists, as they worked quickly and boldly to capture the light and its effects on their subjects. It was a marvelous exhibit of 60 paintings featuring beautiful landscapes in bright happy colours and interesting subject matter from the period 1865-1883. Massey and I had seen Monet’s garden at Giverny a few years ago when were in France, and it was interesting to see some of Renoir’s paintings done in the same locale. In some cases, references were made to scenes painted independently by both Monet and Renoir, and the audioguide also pointed out a few paintings where Monet is thought to be one of the subjects. The exhibit also contained works that Renoir had done in his travels to Italy and North Africa, so it was a very comprehensive overview of his work in landscapes. This was the only Canadian venue for this exhibition, so I was thrilled to have had the opportunity to see it.
I rejoined the group for and ice-cold beer and snacks, after which we made our way through the Bytown Market area and back home, following the Rideau Canal for quite a distance. On previous visits to Ottawa in the winter, I had skated on the canal, so it was interesting to gain a summertime perspective of this significant waterway. It was a picturesque ride, taking us past the University of Ottawa, Carlton University, and through acres of experimental farmland right within the city limits.
We topped off the day with gourmet hamburgers at The Works, a popular spot where you build your burger with any imaginable topping, including peanut butter and cream cheese. While we opted for something a little more conventional (The Big Ben with smoked meat and sauerkraut), the burgers were delicious and a great end to a great day.
posted Tuesday August 2007