We took the bus from the train station - an adventure in itself for my country-raised kids - and headed for Parliament Hill to see the Changing Of The Guard (with its bagpipes and brass band and ceremonial sword salutes and fixing of bayonets), and to wander around the grounds.
And we took a tour of Centre Block. We had to go through security to get inside. Kind of like being at an airport. They actually confiscated my corkscrew(?) - try explaining that to a 6, 8 and 9 year old...!
Inside we saw the House of Commons, the Senate, the beautiful architecture (the kids liked the wonderful reliefs and gargoyles carved out of the limestone) and the awe-inspiring Parliamentary Library which took our breath away (a fortunate turn of events as talking is prohibited inside). Then it was up, up, up to the Observation Deck of the Peace Tower. We were there at noon, just as the 23 bell carrillon was ringing out over the city.
After, we walked through Ottawa and the Byward market, past the US Embassy where a hunger strike was being staged (more explaining to a 6, 8 and 9 year old - who really didn't get why people would voluntarily not eat!) and onward to the National Gallery.
After lunch at the Cafe, we saw the Papal Art by such 16th century masters as Raphael, Michelangelo and Titian, although the kids were only really impressed once - at the large and somewhat gruesome painting of David holding up the head of Goliath.
We did the Canadian Gallery because I just like to sit in the Group of Seven gallery and absorb their work (I particularly like Tom Thomson's The Jack Pine with it's layers of colour), but I somehow managed to miss the work of Alex Colville, who I also like very much.
We looked at some of the modern art where huge canvases of colour (and one that was just painted black) were hung, making me feel ignorant because I have never really understood what makes them art. (If you're reading this and you can explain it, please do so).
And we visited the Rideau Street Convent Chapel, because it is calm and serene and has marvellous presence, and sat by the adjacent Water Court to (pardon the pun) reflect on what we had seen.
But of course, all of this paled beside one piece of art: the 30 foot tall giant bronze spider, Maman, that sits at the entrance to the National Gallery. And if art can be measured by wide eyed wonder, thrills and chills, this sculpture by Louise Bourgeoise won hands down.