Tuesday, March 3, 2009

One Crazy Vacation (part 1 of 5)

It's six o'clock in the morning. Linda is still fast asleep, breathing gently beside me. It's warm in bed beneath mounds of blankets but cold in the house. Linda and I sleep better in a cool house so we turn the heat off at night and the temperature plunges to 60F by the morning through the winter months.

It makes getting out of bed an act of courage.

I lay there thinking of warmer days to come and my thoughts drift back to our vacation last summer when the days were warm and the grass was green and we drove through the countryside with the windows down. But most of all, I think of the ghost in the night.

But before I get to that, let me give you the overview:

We had spent a few wonderful days with Linda's cousin Alan in Cambellford, home of Brent Townsend, the man who designed the Canadian Two Dollar coin, the toonie. The town is so proud they have a giant toonie in the park. Alan also took us to the Lang Pioneer Village where I got some great shots of the flour mill recently restored by the Quaker Oats company.

Alan and Lynda live in a beautifully restored home containing Lynda's collection of dolls and Alan's collection of shaving paraphernalia. Cambellford is a popular stop over for million dollar yachts on their way through the Trent Canal system.

To thank them for putting up with us for a few days, Linda had painted a picture of Alan's boyhood home as it looked in the 1960s, with the car he learned to drive in the driveway. The painting now hangs in Alan's office.

Then we were on to the beautiful little town of Perth, where we enjoyed their festival and concert in the park.

After Perth we visited Merrickville, renowned for its arts and crafts. We had lunch at the Dickens Eatery where the menu is the center fold in copies of Dickens books they leave at the table for you to read. After Townsend made a few dollars designing the two dollar coin for the Canadian Mint, he immediately moved out of Cambellord to Merrickville, where he now has his studio.

In Ottawa we visited the Museum of Civilization, certainly one of the best museums I've ever visited. Its Great Hall is filled with twenty or so totem poles is overpowering. The roof of the museum is designed to look like an over turned canoe. When the Native Peoples wanted to symbolize that they came in peace, they would carry their canoes over their heads to show nothing was hidden in the canoe.

We stayed at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa, next to the Parliament Buildings. On a tour of the gardens around Parliament Hill we found the old bell that once rang in the Peace Tower. The Houses of Parliament had burned to the ground in 1916 but in the midst of the flames the bell still rang as if it were just a normal day. Now blackened and partly melted, it rests in a place of honour above the Ottawa River.

The next day we visited the talk of Ottawa, the relatively new American Embassy which is designed to look like a nuclear submarine has restricted public access and is both bullet and bomb proof. It was built in 1999 and dedicated by then President Bill Clinton.

We Canadians are such dangerous people.

Immediately across the road from the American Embassy is the National Art Gallery which has an all glass exterior and is guarded by a giant statue of a spider, designed as a tribute to motherhood.

Linda was so touched.

But the devil, as they say, is in the details, not the overview. Or at least the ghost is. Tomorrow we'll get into the wild and unusual stuff that took place during such a seemingly innocent vacation.