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Museums Galore
  Ottawa Travel Tale

by Lorry Patton ...

Ottawa has a list of attractions as long as your arm. First of all, the city literally drips with museums: It has a ski museum with artifacts and photographs illustrating the sport that was introduced to Canada in the late 19th century. (Skiing originated in Europe 5,000 years ago.)

It has the Canadian currency museum where the beads, wampum, and whale teeth on display seem quite logical compared to the historical three -ton Yap stone used in the South Pacific.

It has a Boy Scout museum where the history of scouting can be traced to its founder Lord Baden-Powell; it has a science museum with everything from holography to vintage automobiles, and an agriculture museum sitting on a 480- hectare parcel that not only has pigs and cows and sheep, but also flower gardens, exotic trees and food crops. (The farm is beautiful as well as productive and often used as a backdrop for wedding photos).

Ottawa has history museums, civilization museums, and, if flying machines are your curiosity, a National Aviation Museum. Ottawa even has a museum that should be in a museum: Ottawa's oldest building, the Bytown Museum. It sticks out like a sore thumb on the west side of the canal between parliament Hill and the Hotel Chateau Laurier. Colonel Bytown, by the way, was the lieutenant who supervised the construction of the Rideau Canal. He stored his monies and military supplies here.

Ottawa has an Arts Center, a mint plant and a mineral collection, too. And Ottawa is where the RCMP and those musical horses hang their hats and horseshoes. Everyone has heard of (if not seen) the emotionally charged military pageant performed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and their clever horses, right?

Ottawa also has the fascinating and abundant National Gallery of Canada. Hundreds of ancient treasures hang on perfect pastel walls under perfect natural light (the best kind), under perfect temperatures so that generations upon generations can appreciate gifted artists such as Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Picasso, Canada's Group of Seven and BC's own talented Emily Carr.

Ottawa has natural beauty. In fact, when Queen Victoria saw watercolor sketches of the area, she decided it was the perfect place for Canada's national capital to establish a permanent home. Never mind that it was centrally located and politically appealing to both Canada East and Canada West--she fell in love with the landscape. Perhaps she saw a scene of the rushing Rideau Falls or the tree rivers in Ottawa. The Rideau, the Gatineau and the Ottawa, which meet at the banks of Parliament Hill.

As if it didn't have enough watery highways, Ottawa designed another one. The Rideau Canal was built in 1826 between Kingston and Ottawa so that British gunboats might avoid confrontation with the enemy on the shores of the St. Lawrence. Hostilities never did take place, but today, Ottawa's residents splash around in dinghies and sailboats in the summer and when it freezes, they put on their skates and use it as a speedy ice way to work.

Finally, Ottawa has tulips, the largest display of tulips in North America (in May). Even the Parliament Buildings can't compete.

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