Just finished a five-day visit with Hilary to our nation's capital. A beautiful city with an infrastructure overtaxed by the flow of humanity. Parking problems. One-way street confusion. Constant construction bottlenecks.
But there is so much that is pleasing to the eye. A city overlook two hundred feet high from the gothic Peace Tower of the Centre Block of Parliament. A lean over the rail, viewing the cruise boats on the Rideau Canal. A hushed pause before A. Y. Jackson, Monet, Constable or Caravaggio at the National Art Gallery. An unforgettable walk through our history and regions at the Canada Hall, Third Floor of the Museum of Civilization. An uphill drive through the greenery and puffing cyclists in Gatineau Park. A relaxed and informative tour through the profiles and purposes of our Governors General at stately Rideau Hall. Stunning multi-media displays on ocean life, birds, dinosaurs and pre-historic mammals at the Museum of Nature.
Hilary had her fill of shopping. I had my fill of interpreting street maps and pleading for mercy from seasoned local motorists. We ate too much- steak (Luxe), lobster and crab (Big Daddy's Oyster Bar), Jewish Deli (Dunn's Deli - a very pleasant waiter named Aristotle).
We were also blessed by the considerate nature of some of the locals. A hotel desk clerk who told us that we had left our interior car lights on in the parking garage. A cleaning lady with a genuine smile and thorough technique (Cartier Suites Hotel- Cooper at Elgin Streets). A city By-Law enforcement officer on a bicycle who saved us from a parking ticket, in interpreting very confusing signage. Helpful pedestrians pointing the way. Admissions clerks at the various exhibits offering practical tips for our schedule ("see this for sure - skip that").
There was also my one sunrise walk from hotel to Parliament along Elgin Street (only fifteen minutes distant). Watching the morning begin for students, civil servants, office staff, street construction workers, tourist facilitators, restauranteurs, shopkeepers and homeless persons. Everywhere the fascinating mix of English and French languages. I had the "Hill" almost to myself for about forty minutes before the big clock boomed out Seven A. M. Walked around the building overlooking the river, seagulls squawking. Noted the life-sized statues of Baldwin and Lafontaine, of Macdonald, Queen Elizabeth horseback, Diefenbaker, Borden. In one corner at the front the statue of early twentieth century Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier looked eastward toward the sunrise, the future and the country's capability. All backlit by dawning colour for my photographic delight.
Our last stop for Rideau Hall was followed by my roaming the fence at twenty four Susex Drive for a better shot of the Prime Minister's residence. No confrontation with official security, in spite of my wife's teasing (this being the day before the tenth anniversary of the American 9/11 horror). In the drive back downtown along the river, we imagined the start to the Prime Minister's day and his thoughts at that very spot, while being chauffeured and considering stategies, policy and perhaps mayhem in the coming "day at the office", or on the floor of that green room of conflict and table rapping.
I thank Hilary for some very adept planning and budgeting of this power-packed few days. We had fun. Our minds and our tastes were stretched. We have more memories now...together.