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March 11, 2011

Ottawa Winterlude Winter Break 2011

I needed a February midwinter break and headed to Ottawa with my wife  for Winterlude and among other things looked  for some heritage insight. The Winterlube Festival, in its 33rd year drew 60,000 people. I love Ottawa with all of its museums and galleries and visit regularly especially now that my daughter lives there.  I was especially impressed with a couple of events I will report on here. 

The Canadian Museum of Nature 

In May after an 8 years and a 216 million dollar facelift the Canadian Museum of Nature showplace was reborn. The 100 year old building has a remarkable history going through many reincarnations. It is Canada’s oldest museum. It is close enough to the parliament buildings to have originally accommodated the Senate and the Commons used the third floor.  When the centre block on Parliament Hill burned in 1916 the House of Commons met there for 4 years. 


New glass tower on the Canadian Museum of Nature. D. Mackey photo 

When I lived in Ottawa in the 1950s my wife & I & the kids made regular trips there when it was the National Art Gallery.  I remember the A.Y. Jackson’s Maple Leaves and other paintings painting to this day. 

It later became simply the National Museum until it was split into the Museum of Nature (Eventually the Canadian Museum of Nature) and the National Museum of Man (eventually the New Canadian Museum of Civilization in Quebec) 

Part of the recent restoration was the replacement of a tower that began to sink in inappropriate soil in 1915.  The new tower is glass and is called the “Queen’s Lantern” honoring Queen Elizabeth II who visited in 1910. 

The glass tower has profiles of previous uses of the building including the Geological Survey of Canada where original survey results from across Canada were stored.  There was a photo and profile of the famous William E. Logan (1798-1875) who surveyed the Upper Ottawa & Mattawa Rivers in 1845.  I have a recent book on his travels & it was interesting to stand where he undoubtedly stood. 

The sparkling new building has 4 floors divided into a complex of nature categories – birds, mammals, water, earth, etc – all state of art showplaces.  There is an excellent Nature Boutique and a Nature Cafe.  We spent several hours there with a break for lunch and will go back.  A great place for kids and there were many there when we were there.  Check Wikipedia for further information.

The Skateway on the Rideau Canal. D. Mackey 

Ottawa Outdoor Events 

There were more outdoor events than one could handle with buses to move you around if you chose.  We went to the Rideau Canal and the activities there and nearby.  We entered at Lansdowne Park and walked beside the skating strip where there were numerous venues on the ice.  The Beaver Tails outlet was one of our stops.  There were thousands of skaters and walkers young and old.  Many babies were pushed in their strollers while mom & dad skated down parts of the 7.8 kilometre skateway. 

The Zamboni 

We wondered how the ice was maintained and as occasionally happens the answer dropped in my lap or into my mailbox.  My Maclean’s magazine (Feb 28) had the story of the evolution of canal ice making.  The man who had the contract was going crazy keeping up with his regular Zamboni so he designed & built two long arms which allowed for easier nightly watering of the 20 meter wide skateway. 

One of the busy on ice venues on the canal. D. Mackey

He starts down the canal at 10pm & skaters are back on the fresh ice as soon as the water freezes. We also spent some time in The Glebe ,a section of Bank Street, where Charlotte Whitton, who I wrote about recently lived, while Mayor of Ottawa for years 

Great exercise, food and people watching – highly recommended as one of the many other outdoor activities too numerous to mention here. 

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