I think next time we will try to fly there and back. While the train isn't terrible, the odds of us breaking the journey and getting out in Kingston next time are pretty slim. I'll have a more in-depth post shortly with some photos, but I'll just go over the highlights.
I had to push through a lot of work in the morning before we left and ended up working on the plane to Ottawa as well. However, I was able to email a few things out and then take care of the rest on the phone. So I think I was able to keep a few projects on track, even though I was away for the day. (I tried not to feel too guilty about that; I have been working far too hard these past few weeks.)
We took a cab directly to the Canadian Museum of Aviation and Space. It is by a private airport on the north side of Ottawa. In general, I think the Ottawa Airport is kind of remote, but this ride just felt interminable, esp. with grumbling from the backseat and then the rain kept getting heavier and heavier. Fortunately, no one got car sick. It was an ok museum, but it was about 90% planes and 10% space. I suppose that is what happens when a country doesn't really have a space program and all its astronauts hitch rides on other countries' rockets. They do have the original Canadarm on display, which was pretty neat.
It was a much shorter cab ride to the hotel fortunately. We basically crashed for a bit, then walked over the bridge to see Parliament and grab some food. My wife and I enjoyed our food more than the kids did. It turns out if we had only gone one or two more blocks there would have been far more options.
Sat. we woke up early and tried to find the Tim Hortons only to find that the mall it was in was completely shut in the morning (I had assumed it was on the side since the website said it was open 24 hours, which was totally false). We wandered about for 20 minutes, finally stumbling upon a McDonald's. (I had a general idea of its location from looking at a map of Gatineau in the evening.) This made people less grumpy, and we got to the Museum of History just a few minutes after 9:30. My daughter really liked the Children's Museum, which takes up much of the main floor. After this, we went through the Terry Fox special exhibit, which was moving. I don't honestly remember how much Terry Fox was on the news in 1980, but I think I probably saw him once or twice (at that time Michigan tended to be tied into Ontario in a way that most of the Midwest is not (perhaps excepting Wisconsin and Minnesota)). It's always a moving and sad story. It is a terrible shame that he didn't see his goal through or, for that matter, benefit from the amazing improvements in prosthetics.
I actually learned quite a bit about the process of Confederation, particularly the background as to why this was such a pressing issue (and this was after getting introduced to the subject on my recent trip to Charlottetown). There are a couple of things of interest -- first, even though Charlottetown served as the equivalent of Philadelphia in the process of Canadian Confederation, P.E.I. actually stayed out of Canada for quite some time, while Nova Scotia and New Brunswick signed up right away. Second, there were addition conventions in Quebec City and then finally in London after everything was hashed out. Queen Victoria had to give her royal ascent to Canada becoming a country. Also, Ottawa was a brokered location (much like D.C. was) -- Kingston, Montreal, Quebec City and Toronto all vied to be the capital of Canada. I guess from a totally selfish perspective, I would have preferred Kingston, since it would be easier to reach (Ottawa is just so far off the beaten path).
The main exhibits in the Museum of History were almost entirely devoted to First Nations culture. It felt a bit like the Museum of Natural History in New York or the Field Museum for that matter. However, both of these museums have dinosaurs, and in Ottawa those are all in the Museum of Nature. I probably would not go back to the Museum of History unless there was a really interesting special exhibit on. As I noted, we missed the Greek exhibit (which is going to be at the Field Museum in the spring). There is a potentially interesting exhibit on Vikings coming to Ottawa soon, and we might go, though I haven't entirely decided.
There is also a tiny exhibit on Canadian stamps, which seemed a bit out of place. It might just be a hobby horse of one of the curators or major patrons (just like the paperweights at the Art Institute of Chicago). There are a few really nice stamps with images from Canadian artists, though I am not planning on restarting a stamp collection (the one from my youth is long discarded in some move). I also liked this stamp from 1976, though I can't recall for sure if I saw it as a child.
After this we walked over the bridge and went to the National Gallery. We started with the Monet special exhibit, which was quite nice. I think my single favourite was actually this late Monet which is actually part of the National Gallery collection. (I find it a bit Turner-esque though far less violent.) Oddly enough that one was not reproduced particularly well in the catalogue that accompanied the exhibit, or I probably would have bought the book. (This also was not on display on my last visit to the National Gallery, though it might have been on loan to the other co-hosts of the exhibit.)
|Claude Monet, Waterloo Bridge: the Sun in Fog, 1903|
I'll plan to post a bit more on the National Gallery later. I took the family around half of the galleries, focusing on the Group of 7 and other 20th Century art, both Canadian and international. I was glad that I found the George Segal installation, since I thought that had been removed.
We then walked over to Parliament. Unfortunately, there were no more tour tickets. On our next visit, we will stay on the Ottawa side (never again Hull!) and try to get the tour tickets first. Then we'll decide about the Museum of Nature and/or the Museum of History. We probably won't go back to the Museum of Aviation, as that is kind of a one-time thing. It was probably ok to skip the tour. We had already done a lot of walking, and we had a fair ways to go to get to the Museum of Nature. (My daughter really, really wanted to go to this, which was one reason we had done such a short visit to the National Gallery.)
It's a nice museum with dinosaur bones and what have you. It also has an impressive geology section, which is more informative than the ROM for instance. I'd say I like the Field Museum better or even the Museum of Natural History (which is just overwhelming), but it was good. My wife and son were a bit exhausted, however, so we'd have to pace ourselves better on the next trip.
We came back via train on Sunday morning. As I hinted we got out at Kingston and went to the Agnes Etherinton Arts Centre at Queen's. That was nice, though quite small. It is more than a little ironic I had to go there to see the Hart House collection. (As I mentioned here, I would have preferred to see it in Toronto or even at Museum London.) I noticed that one of the Lawren Harris paintings was missing, and after some sleuthing, I realized that it is in The Idea of North show, and that I will finally see it when it comes to the AGO next year. So I guess Kingston just misses out.
|Lawren Harris, Isolation Peak, Rocky Mountains, 1930 (not on view in Kingston)|
While I like the look of the Queen's University campus, I was really put off by the fact essentially all the restaurants only opened at 3 pm (or were closed entirely). That seems a cruel tease. We gave up on seeing any more of Kingston and took a cab back to the train station. Unfortunately, they had no seats together on the next train, so we just sat around in the train station and read or played on tablets and laptops (I was the unconnected one). I finished my second book of the trip (Manu Joseph's The Illicit Happiness of Other People) and decided I would probably not come through Kingston again unless 1) I absolutely had to and 2) I had a car at my disposal.
So a good but exhausting trip all in all.