Ottawa has been on my bucket list of Canadian cities to visit for quite awhile. It is more provincial than Toronto or Montreal but certainly has its charm. Canada’s capital city is what I would describe as low profile. It is the obverse of Toronto. Its population is under 900,000, Toronto’s is almost 3 million. Skyscrapers in Toronto rise to almost 1000 feet. Ottawa’s tallest is the Claridge Icon in Little Italy at 469 feet. There is a reason for this of course, Canada is very proud of its capital and protective of its iconic site, Parliament Hill. The National Capital Commission established 21 viewpoints across the capital region from which Parliament Hill and the Peace Tower must be seen, so height restrictions are in place in different areas. You wouldn’t think that this policy is controversial, but you would be wrong, some developers would like to kill the restrictions. So, what else is new?
Iconic sites and how about those spires?
Parliament Hill sits up on a 170 ft. bluff overlooking the Ottawa River. The view of the Gothic Revival buildings is visually striking and compelling. I ventured out to the Hill, as it is known locally, missed a turn and ended up across the Alexandra bridge in Quebec. I parked my car and looked toward the Parliament across the river, through the bridge.
This perspective placed the Library in front of the Freedom Tower obscuring its view. I walked down the river a bit looking for another shot and found this cluster of green roofed buildings, part of the Parliament Precinct that houses various government agencies. I returned to the Ontario side of the bridge and took a series of Parliament Hill.
Coming down from the Hill is the the American Embassy taking up an entire block along Sussex street, and it is imposing. Adjacent to it are the painting “Dancing Steps.” Go up the steps to Major Hill’ Park and you will see the lighted art installation “Humanity.”
I spotted The National Gallery of Canada is a few blocks away, across from the Notre Dame Cathedral, the oldest and largest church in Ottawa. (at first I thought it was a shopping mall). The two make an interesting juxtaposition of architectural styles. The contemporary Gallery is home to a giant bronze spider sculpture named Maman by artist Louise Bourgeois. It is 30 feet tall with a sac full of 26 white marble eggs planted under the belly. It is quite strange.
The Notre Dame Cathedral has its roots in a small wooden Catholic church built in 1832. It got its bell tower a year later. In 1839 plans were made to replace the wooden church, which was in danger of collapsing, with a stone church. That was 1841, the beginning of a journey that that wasn’t concluded until 1956. Various missionaries, priests and bishops altered the plans several times before it morphed into the magnificent Gothic structure it is today. A few tidbits: Stain glass windows were installed in 1879, the current sacristy was built in 1933, church bells went in in 1944, in 1956 the stain glass windows were replaced with a different theme. I guess supply chain problems are not a new thing after all.
This is my first trip to Ottawa and I planned a full week here, which may have been two days too long. I must say I have enjoyed Ottawa immensely. I think of it as having many faces.
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