So far… James Taylor, Lunch at Allens and Ex Cathedra at Salisbury Cathedral. Two more concerts to go. Meanwhile… we’ve just returned from a (another) brief visit to Ottawa, Canada’s capital. I’ll conclude the “concert set” in my next post and indulge myself in a short(ish) travelogue today.
An hour’s drive from our home is the Stratford Via (train) station. And from there it’s about an eight-hour trip to Ottawa. After the previous day’s journey to Niagara Falls to attend a funeral (and return) and our train trip we were seriously travel-weary by the time we arrived in Ottawa. Our first day thus consisted of checking into our hotel room (Business Inn and Suites in Ottawa [which I would highly recommend]), getting some supper (The Greek Souvlaki Shop [also recommended]) and a walk around the city’s centre. And, of course, that included…
We were content to return to our room and just “put our feet up” for the remainder of the evening. The next day, after a solid night’s sleep, we breakfasted at the hotel and set out for the National Gallery. Now the gallery is always good for a visit and we usually manage one whenever we are in the capital. This time, in addition to the permanent collection, the gallery featured an extensive exhibition by Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (1755–1842). She managed to live a full life in spite of the turbulent period in which she lived (ie. one which might abbreviate longevity). Exhibit A…
Although born into an artistic family, she was largely self-taught and became the French queen’s portraitist at the age of 23. By 1783, she was accepted into the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture, an honour accorded few women.
The exhibit included a number of self-portraits and paintings of her family.
Although her attractive looks, cultured manner and wit often provoked jealousy Vigée Le Brun “commanded the respect of her clients because she succeeded in giving her models – women, men and children – a beauty, distinction and elegance not far removed from reality.” (from National Gallery website)
Following her flight from France in 1789, Le Brun travelled to the great capitals of Europe. Her talent made her much in demand and her reputation as a portraitist was unparalleled in that era.
Lots of other things seen…but we were getting a tad overwhelmed by mid-afternoon and adjourned to our hotel for a break. Evening saw us amble out again, this time visiting Parliament Hill for Northern Lights, a Ottawa summer tradition for over 30 years. The combination light show/narrative projected onto the Parliament Buildings is revised every several years and is certainly worth attending whenever in the capital.
The next day…
Up early…a sturdy breakfast at the inn and on our way…this time to the Museum of History in Gatineau (across the river from Ottawa).
Like the National Gallery, the Museum of History has an extensive permanent collection along with various exhibitions. This time the museum’s special exhibition offered an interesting counterpoint to the Le Brun collection. As her destiny was affected by the events of the French Revolution, so was the destiny of this guy…
The events which forced Le Brun to flee Paris eventually brought Napoleon to Paris and on the path to power and fame. This exhibition, Napoleon and Paris, looks at the relationship of le petit caporal (the little corporal) who rose to become the Emperor of the French and master of much of the European continent with his capital, Paris. His innovations in law (the Napoleonic Code), culture, education and warfare had lasting impact both in France and beyond. Although much of his time was spent on campaign, Paris retains his imprimatur two centuries later. I have long had considerable fascination for this historic figure whose genius has created a complicated legacy. Needless to say, the exhibit was a highlight of our visit to the museum.
We were getting both hungry and “museum-satiated” by mid-afternoon and decided a late lunch/early supper (lupper?) was in order. We trekked back from Gatineau and wandered around the Byward Market. In so doing we passed a Mexican restaurant (Ahora) we had enjoyed on a previous trip and decided it merited a return visit…a good idea. It was a hot day and the cool, subterranean setting of the restaurant and the tasty menu items were a welcome break after our travels.
I should mention that a little shopping is in order whenever visiting Ottawa and this outing included a visit to Paper/Papier (a fine papers store) and Chapters/Indigo (bookstore), both in the Byward Market…the market itself being an area well worth exploring.
The following day we were on our way back home (via Via)…it was a short break but a welcome break.