Thursday 1 November 2007

And away we go again, feeling at times more than a little like a gerbil on a treadmill! Packed up again, ready for the flight from Charleston to Chicago and from Chicago to Ottawa.

Called a cab/van from the same firm that we had when arriving. Left the motel about 9:00am for a 12:00pm flight from Charleston to Chicago. Changed at Chicago for our 4:00pm flight which arrived in Ottawa at about 8:30.

No problem with passport control or customs, which was good and we managed to successfully negotiate the weight limits and one bag rules.

[Right - McKenzie-King's summer residence]
[Below - McKenzie-King Park]

McKenzie-King's Residence
McKenzie-King Park

It was great to see Aline Laliberté again.  She's settled back in to work after her Australian adventure, but tells us that they haven't yet replaced a couple of people who have left for greener pastures, so things have been quite hectic at her work.

We stayed up 'til all hours just catching up with the news. Aline has a beautifully kept three bedroom house about 20 minutes from the city. Two stories of course, plus the basement which is pretty much standard in north America.

It was about this time too that I realised that we (actually I) had left our converter (US/CAN style power plug to AUS style power plug), battery charger for the camera and one battery sitting in the room in Charleston.

[Below - Fake ruins at the McKenzie-King residence.  Please note that Margaret and Aline are not fake ruins!]

That generated some quick thinking about what we had to do. I rang the Lost and Found at the Charleston hotel and asked them to Fedex the items to me, care of our hotel in Toronto and bill my Amex. It might sound like a weird way of speaking, but that's what they understand!

In the meantime I had a reasonable charge left in the battery I was using and decided that if necessary (and it was) I could supplement this with still shots or even movies using the digital movie camera. Problem solved, or at least deferred.

Friday 2 November 2007

In the morning Aline took us for a look at the McKenzie-King summer residence in the park whose name I need to look up when I next get access to the internet.  He was Prime Minister of Canada for a record period of time, but was a rather strange character.

Aline and Margaret in the park

[Left - Margaret and Aline]

He never married, absolutely adored his mother and built what was effectively a shrine to her in his house when she died.

At the lake he bought a single house and then added to it over the years with guest quarters, a coach-house, boat-house and even a bunch of fake ruins that he built partly from material which came from the Parliament house which burned down in 1906(?).

He had no family and left the whole shebang to the Canadian people.  The complex now serves partly as a museum, a learning centre and gallery during the summer season.  Unfortunately by the time we got there it had been boarded up and sealed for the winter.

I imagine that the modern day shrinks would have a field day with him, but he is much admired by the Canadians, and justifiably so, serving thirty something years as Prime Minister. An excellent rival for Robert Menzies and his protégé John Winston Howard. Perhaps John will give Kirribilli House back to the Australians one day, but I don't think that we should be holding our breath!

The whole area is absolutely beautiful and with the last of the deciduous trees still holding their colour it was a great time of year for us to see it.

From there we went for lunch in the markets then for a walk around the Parliamentary precinct and up into the Peace Tower in the Houses of Parliament.  It's a great view from the top, and at the bottom is the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

McKenzie-King Park
Parliament  from the Museum of Civilization
Detail from an Indian mural

[Above - View of the Parliament buildings from the Museum of Civilization]
[Left - detail from a Native Canadian mural in the Museum of Civilization]

Canada of course paid a high price for membership of the Commonwealth, in both World Wars and Korea. The death toll from their current adventure in Iraq is already 71, far higher than I had realised.

The parliamentary buildings are built in a style reminiscent of the British Houses of Parliament, right down to the replica of Big Ben in the Peace Tower. All the roofs are made from copper which over the years has mellowed to a dull green.

Last stop for the day was the Museum of Civilization. Of course we didn't have time to see it all, but concentrated on the Native Canadian exhibits on the bottom floor.

[Below - decorated clothing, Great Lakes area]

It was particularly interesting from the perspective of someone who possibly has some connection with the Iroquois. It's a much different culture to the plains Indians, more settled, more permanent.

There appeared to me to be a lot more decoration of clothing and normal household items, and the houses and boats were made from wood rather than lighter materials which were designed to be moved on a regular basis.

The Inuit material was also very interesting with a lot of carvings, some walrus ivory, a few wood and a lot of stone, particularly the more modern ones. There were also some carvings from the Lakes area which are pretty good.

I was very impressed with some of the paintings which used modern materials, colours and techniques to deliver images and messages of traditional subjects.

Decorated clothing
Stone carving,Museum of Civilization [Left - modern stone carving]

Very similar in lots of ways to our modest collection of Papua New Guinea art which impresses for the very same reasons. There are some good things which emanate from a fusion of the old and the new.

Unfortunately most of these paintings were behind glass and it's difficult to take high quality pictures.

The material is very well presented with plenty of information and a lot of space dedicated to the native Canadians.

On the way we stopped off to pick up dessert and some bread for the dinner that Aline had arranged for the evening.

[Left - modern stone carving]
[Below - Margaret, Aline and Clive on Mount Royal (Mont Real) overlooking the city]

The guests were David and Ann Coderre, Robert who's Aline's boss at the moment,   Aaron da Zilva and Aline's daughter Ann Renée. 

David visited Australia some years ago and we've met several times since then because of his world-class knowledge of data analysis.  Aaron is Alan and Doris da Zilva's son, and he is certainly the image of his father and also sounds like him!

It was a great evening and I really enjoyed it except for about a half hour about 9:30pm. For some reason - oddly enough, unrelated to alcohol - I was really really tired. Pushing through that I got a second wind and felt fine for the rest of the night.

[ Below - Photo montage of Montreal from Mount Royal (Mont Real)]

Margaret, Aline and Clive overlooking Montreal
Montreal from Mount Royal (Mont Real)
 Montreal City Hall

Saturday 3 November 2007

We got off to an early start this morning, catching the bus from the depot in Ottawa to travel to Montreal. The trip took about an hour and three quarters. Aline's daughter Genevieve picked us up and was kind enough to drive us around the city to have a look at the sights.

First on the agenda was the old town which has a lot of historic stone buildings, some dating back to the 17th century, cobbled streets and a real ambiance. 

City Hall is a stone building with copper roof and spire, architecturally similar to the Houses of Parliament in Ottawa.

The Ramezay Museum is situated in a house which was the home of the Ramezay family from 1705 to 1745.  It housed the East India Company from 1745 to 1764 and the Canadian Governors from 1764 to 1849. It was variously occupied (even by the US when they invaded in 1775-76) and has been a museum since 1895.

It houses a wide-ranging collection of household items, clothing, uniforms, weapons and so on, as well as contemporary paintings and furniture. We found it very interesting to go through there.

Afterwards we went to lunch in the Bonsecours Market,  with some upmarket clothing shops (lovely furs, very non-pc) souvenir places and restaurants.

[Left - City Hall, Montreal]
[Below - Bonsecours Market, Montreal]

I'm intrigued by the fact that Canada is the only country where I have seen complex roofs done in aluminium (or is that aluminum?) in both Ottawa and Montreal.

Maybe there are other places where this has been done, and I just haven't seen it. The aluminium probably oxidises, but not to the extent that copper does, and it remains the same silver colour, which is a really distinctive look.

The Bonsecours Market (pictured right) is an example of this alloy roofing, and it's a very distinctive landmark in Montreal.

We didn't really have time to stop for a look at the Notre Dam de Montreal Basillica, but I have to say that the even the exterior of the building is very impressive.

After this we went parked the car and went for a walk in Mont Royal Park (or Parc du Mont-Royal), a public park designed by the same man who designed New York's Central Park.

 Bonsecours Market, Montreal
Original stone building, old Montreal [ Original stone building, old Montreal]

After a couple of wrong turns, we ended up at the Chalet where we took some terrific pictures of the vista from the paved area in front of the Chalet. You've actually already scrolled past them so go back here if you need a reminder!

It was a quiet drive back to Ottawa, as darkness is falling about 5:00pm now. In none of the broadacre farms did I see any animals, and Aline informed me that it was cold enough now for the farm animals to be taken into the barns where they will spend the winter.

She commented that she hadn't seen too many farm buildings when she was in Australia, but given that there are shearing sheds, machinery sheds and so, it's perhaps the case that what she was seeing was not what she expected to see!

When we arrived back in Ottawa, it was to find that Ann Renée was in the process of cooking chicken breasts stuffed with Brie, mustard and rosemary.

She cooked it first in the microwave to make sure that it was cooked through and then finished it off on the barbecue. She's a great cook, intelligent and very good-looking - Aline will have to look out or she'll be back to cooking for herself!

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