9 July 2013

All Aboard the Train to Ottawa

My husband and I boarded a VIA train last week for a four hour excursion to our nation's capital.  For those who know me well a trip across the pond to another nation's capital would have been my first choice but if you squint a teensy bit...

After a relaxing journey through more forests and fields than one could think possible we arrived at our lovely hotel, The Lord Elgin, smack dab in the middle of downtown Ottawa.  After unpacking the few things that we brought we made our way through the bustling pedestrian walkway to scout out a few shops and restaurants before making our way to Byward Market.  It's all about the food!  

There was something familiar about a bakery called Le Moulin De Provence and we clued in pretty quickly - it was the bakery that President Obama visited while in Ottawa in 2009.  He chose a few 'Canada' cookies for his daughters and hopefully a little something for the First Lady, Michelle.  Despite not being the slightest bit hungry after a late lunch I couldn't resist tucking a blueberry and fig scone into my bag for later on.

A highlight for both of us was exploring the Canadian War Museum and speaking with a ninety year-old veteran for at least half an hour.  The museum is every bit as fascinating as the Imperial War Museum in London and I instantly fell in love with this portrait of Sergeant M. E. Boreham who joined the RCAF in 1941.  She served in Canada before joining the RCAF office in London, England from 1942 until 1945.  Her grandson wrote a touching article about her for Maclean's magazine which you can read here.

Laurier House is another place to visit that comes highly recommended.  Previously home to two of Canada's Prime Ministers, Sir Wilfred Laurier and William Lyon MacKenzie King, its proportions are just short of grand so it feels cosy and oh, the library!  One of the young ladies working as a guide showed us the elevator hidden behind a wood panel.  During a visit by Winston Churchill the guest raced up the stairs while King took the elevator to see whose route was quickest but I can't remember who won.  If you visit the house ask for someone to install a paper roll of music into Lady Laurier's player piano.  It's ever so slightly eerie to see the keys move unaided but fun just the same.

On our third day and with an approaching departure time looming my husband and I parted ways - he to the Royal Canadian Mint and I walked to the National Gallery to have a peek at an exhibit featuring Canadian bookplates.  A guide asked me if there was anything she could help me find and as I whizzed past her on my way to the second floor I said 'Thank you but no, and one of these days I WILL be able to visit a gallery without watching the time!'.  Heading straight for the European wing I drank in the beauty of works by Renoir, Monet and Constable to name a few and if pressed to choose a favourite it would be Tissot's 'The Letter'.  The scene apparently depicts Lady Holland vigorously tearing up a letter from her adopted daughter, Maria Liechtenstein.  Having been up close and personal I can safely say that she doesn't look best pleased.

Close-up of a window at Notre-Dame Cathedral

A thoroughly enjoyable time was had and we look forward to making the journey during autumn at some point with the trees in full colour.  

My favourite bookplate from the exhibit at the National Gallery of Canada


  1. If I squint at a building down the street I can almost think I'm in Paris (not really) so I am a devotee of the foreign-travel-by-squinting approach! But your trip sounds so lovely... I would settle for it!

    1. Hahaha, so I'm not the only one doing that - good! How lovely to have that building down the street as a refreshing mini-fantasy whenever you need one, Audrey. And as I remember the building you live in is quite lovely as well!

  2. Lovely Tissot. Think that's Holland Park ... not sure if you chose a London Park by design or does it come instinctively, Darlene?
    He lived in St John's Wood and the house - but not his lovely garden - is apparently still there. I've always meant to hunt it out but never got round to it.

    1. It never fails to shock and amaze just how instinctively I am drawn to an English landscape...painting...clock...stationery, etc. Also, having a mild interest in textiles means being drawn to voluminous skirts in paintings - I can't explain it!

      Now my interest is really piqued. St John's Wood is an area I've wanted to explore just to see what it feels like and now there's a purpose!

  3. Lovely portraits, Darlene! The Tissot is especially divine - my first glimpse of his art in Paris made me fall in love for life! Who knew Ottawa had so much to see?