Tuesday, August 23, 2005

I went to the National Art Gallery and all I got was this stupid post card of The Voice of Fire

Seriously? The most disappointing part of the whole trip was I didn't get to see The Voice of Fire. (For everyone else who's giving me the "Huh?" look - about fifteen or so years ago when the National Art Gallery bought The Voice of Fire, there was a huge public art cry about how much it cost, and how public money was being spent, and who was responsible, and what is "art" and who defines it, yada yada yada. Basically, the painting is an orange stripe with blue stripes on either side. Your five-year old neighbour could have painted it, but that's not the point. The point is that I didn't get to see it.)

Oh, the other disappointing part was that I forgot to take a picture of the really cool manhole covers. They have fish on them! How much fun is that! But I didn't take a picture of them, nor did I take a picture of the sidewalk in the Byward Market, which also had fish on it, but that was because Julie was looking at me funny.

(And the Byward Market? Huge big fun. Loved it. Was thriving and busy at 4pm on a Sunday afternoon. Would spend oodles of time and copious amounts of money there if I lived in Ottawa.)

Right - the rest of the trip. My hosts - Julie, Randal, and Rion (their Jack Russell Terrier) - were fabulous. I highly recommend staying with them if you're in the Ottawa area, especially since they live a very convenient distance from everything, including Parliament Hill, the Elgin Street Diner, and two Thai restaurants.

I pulled in around 3:30 or so, having left Sudbury later than I expected. The journey took about 6 or so hours, and I learned that I should not get the large tea if I don't know how far it is to the next Tim Hortons (answer: from North Bay to Deep River, about two hours. Exactly 45 minutes too long.)

Once the introductions were done and I was settled in, we went for a "snack" at the Elgin Street Diner, which is a very cute little place. Excellent milkshakes and carrot maple soup. After the "snack" (it was around 4ish, and we were going for Thai later in the evening) chats and naps were had. I'd been craving Thai food for the longest time, and it didn't take much arm-twisting to get Julie and Randal to take me to the restaurant a few blocks from their place. We split orders of Pad Thai, Green Curry Beef, and Cashew Chicken (*drool*).

The next day, Julie and I went for breakfast at this place called Eggspectations, so you can imagine what much of the menu consisted of. Yum. Afterwards, we walked up to Parliament Hill and saw all the government buildings and the obligatory Mountie on a horse posing for the tourists. Now, Julie suggests that I wouldn't let her take my picture with the Mountie, but the truth is that by the time we started heading in that general direction, the Mountie had taken off. I will have you know I was prepared to live the cliché. All for the sake of posterity. So we wandered around, took pictures of statues and buildings, and confirmed theexistencee of the stray cat garden.

(In a nutshell: there is an enclosed area on Parliament Hill where a colony of former stray cats live. They are well-cared for by an elderly gent who looks after them, and there are lots of trees and shelter and hiding spots for the cats.)

Then we were off to the market, which overwhelmed me with its abundance. I made it out with some loose teas, beads, and Lush bath products. Julie made it out with some fish and veggies, having resisted the lure of beads and Lush.

That evening, I met up with Robin, a friend and former co-worker who moved to Ottawa last October, and we went out for Cambodian food. Which is much like Vietnamese food - really, I'm not sure what the difference is. I don't remember exactly what we had, except for the raw spring rolls (delish!), something with udon noodles (the look and taste of really big spaghetti), and something with rice noodles. The chicken in one of the dishes didn't sit well with me, so we stayed in and watched the best episodes of season 5 Farscape.

Monday I was pretty much left to my own devices, so I went to the National Art Gallery. The common wisdom is that the purpose of a journey is not all about the final destination, but also the getting-there, in which case I'm wondering what the purpose of getting lost in Hull, Quebec was. (Short version: not only the wrong street, but the wrong province.) And then the getting lost at the far end of Sussex Drive, around number 24* (Hi Paul! Sorry I missed you!) and Rideau Hall** (Hi Adrianne! Sorry I didn't have time to stop for tea!) The worst part was I hadn't eaten that morning, there was much construction and many detours, and I always seemed to miss my turn. The highlight was when I started shrieking at the person behind me who was honking their horn, "I just want to go straight for more than two blocks, you idiot! Why won't you let me?" I'm sure the driver of that cement truck was very amused.

(* 24 Sussex Drive is the Prime Minister's residence.)
(** Rideau Hall is theGovernorr-General's residence. The G-G is the Queen's rep in Canada, and currently it's Adrianne Clarkson, but she's due to be replaced in the near future by Michelle Jean. I could go on at length about the G-G because it's an interesting topic, but I'll spare you.)

The National Art Gallery was also overwhelming in its awesomeness. I shelled out the extra cash to see the special Renaissance exhibit, and it was well worth it. My whole day was spent there, and I only got to see the Canadian and Contemporary art exhibits.

Since there's an Ikea in Ottawa, and since Julie and I are physically unable to resist the siren's call of cheap pre-fab Swedish furniture, and since I have a car and Julie doesn't, that's what we did last night. Two plants and several pots, an area rug, CD holders, and a cutting board later, I managed to drag Julie and Randal out (I don't remember what they got, but there were two huge plants also.) The three of us were too tired to go out for a late dinner, so we made do with grilled cheese, chicken nuggets, and three-shot martinis. I know - life's so hard.

Sadly, the fun had to end and I came home this morning. Happily, I didn't repeat the tea mistake again, and made it home on good terms with my bladder.

(There were going to be pictures, but now there aren't - Blogger is awful pokey tonight. Given that I still haven't posted the pictures from my North Bay-Timmins trip, this could take a while.)