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I attended my first ever Haiku North America conference (HNA 2009) and consider myself blessed that this particular conference was the one I chose as my first.
AUGUST 4, 2009
Deborah P. Kolodji (Debbie) and I roomed together at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, which was so wonderfully situated in what we soon found to be an ideal “walking” city. Ottawa is the capitol city of Canada. We planned for two sight-seeing days before the conference began and put them to excellent use walking everywhere and seeing everything we’d hoped to and more.
We walked to By Marche (Byward Market). Established by Lt. Col. John By in 1926, it is one of the oldest and largest public markets in Canada. Part of the charm are the many fresh vegetable booths comprising the Farmer’s Market. The vegetables are colorful and perfect, and are available to purchase 7 days/week. Coming from Southern California I had to admit that these vegetables could put our own rich farmland produce to shame.
When I commented on how white the cauliflower heads were, a local vendor told me that they don’t allow the leaves around the cauliflower to open up. When they begin opening the farmer ties them closed for protection from the intense sunshine that ultimately discolors exposed cauliflower heads.
We visited St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church where one of the parishoner’s told us of the history surrounding this very old church, including ties to Holland and its royalty. We learned, in fact, that Ottawa has a tulip festival each year as a direct result of Holland’s influence. Holland’s current queen is Queen Beatrix. One of her younger sisters, Princess Margriet (3rd of 4 daughters), was born in the Civic Hospital and baptized in St. Andrew’s Church. (Archival film/story) Her mother was Queen Juliana (though she was still a princess at this time), and our parishoner guide showed us pictures of the royal family during the baptism. Princess Margriet is currently ninth in the line of succession to the Dutch throne.
Parliament Hill is a major part of the landscape in Ottawa. (Parliament Hill webcam) To the left is a photograph of the “Centre Block” and to the right a photograph of the “Peace Tower” – the overcast conditions really enhanced the “eternal flame” situated directly in front of the Peace Tower. It’s an amazing sight. In July and August the Peace Tower’s fabulous carillon plays an hour of the most entrancing music, from 11am to noon each day. We were lucky enough to catch one of those concerts on our first day out. (Youtube Video by YourCTV, September 2008)
The National Gallery of Canada is located in Ottawa, featuring “Maman” – an enormous bronze spider sculpted by famed artist Louise Bourgeouis. (National Gallery webcam) We bought tickets to enter the part of the museum that houses artwork by “The Group of Seven” and Tom Thomson (Youtube “A Tribute to the Group of Seven” and close associates Tom Thomson and Emily Carr), often considered the 8th artist of the group, though he died before the group was formed. I wrote ekphrastic poems for each of three Tom Thomson paintings: “The Jack Pine” (oil on canvas), “Burnt Land” (oil on canvas), and “Northern Lights” (oil on wood).
Across the street from the National Gallery of Canada is the Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica (three guided tours). It’s an awesome presence to behold from outside the structure, and ten-fold more awesome once we entered this breathtaking structure. It’s ornate and the lighting inside shows off every feature in amazing depth. (Youtube video by YourCTV, September 2008)
We stopped for lunch at a charming local Irish Pub “Patty Boland’s” and soon realized we were also on an amazing dining experience in Ottawa. Many of these local spots have seating areas out on the sidewalks/walkways.
As we left the restaurant a thunder and lightening storm moved in. The lightning was startlingly close, so at first we ducked into a quaint bead and clothing shop and browsed around. Then we made our way to a charming tea shop on York called, of course, the “teastore” where we ordered a pot of tea and scone each, and visited until the lightning flashes and rumbling thunder had passed.
Eventually it was time to return to the hotel. Along Wellington Street there’s an underpass located at Rideau Street next to the Rideau Canal. It had still been raining enough to have my umbrella open and the underpass afforded some shelter. A street artist was already there, painting a scene of the city alongside prints of the many others he’d painted.
After our initial greetings the street artist seemed happy to take a break and chat, so he opened up a notebook filled with his prints and guided Debbie and me on a tour through Ottawa via his paintings. Before leaving I bought two of his prints: one of an autumn scene looking down the Rideau Canal toward Parliament Hill and the other of the same scene but in winter, depicting the canal frozen over and filled with ice skaters (a winter scene photo from About.com, showing a view similar to his painting). I understand Ottawans have a wonderful winter celebration each year called “Winterlude” (winterlude videos). There are ice sculpting contests, and if you search Google you’ll discover just how large and elaborate these sculptures are, each made from a single piece of ice. They also have snow sculpting contests, and vendor buildings line the iced-over canal.
Day 1, and I was already in love with Ottawa!
End of Day 1 In Ottawa, Aug 4, 2009