40 for 40: Day 40 – Biking to the National Gallery of Canada


After yesterday’s long, late bus ride, and knowing that my primary activity today would be a gallery, I had originally planned on getting up for a jog this morning. Didn’t happen, but when Rene mentioned he had a bike that he wasn’t using, I figured “why not” and began the long, relatively scenic ride from Nepean to the National Gallery of Canada.

Approaching Parliament from the Rideau Canal.

The ride was actually quite smooth, in spite of the time and distance. The first bit was regional roads, but anytime I got to an intersection, two white lines appeared to let drivers know that that was where the bikes were supposed to go, and the shoulders at the side of the road were broad enough that you never felt like you were in danger of getting hit. As you get closer to the city, the path takes you right alongside the Rideau Canal and, if you keep going, right to where the Canal enters the city. I took a turn from there to get myself to the Gallery.

The National Gallery with Norte Dame Basilica in the background.

The National Gallery of Canada is arguably the best art collection in the country, maybe with Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario rivalling it. With pieces from the Group of Seven, Emily Carr, Alex Coville, Norval Morriseau and other Canadians, plus a solid international contingent representing such stars as Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso and Gauguin, it’s a solid collection, exceptionally laid out over two floors in a massive space. They had a special Impressionists exhibit, with Monet, Manet, Gauguin and others on display, which was an extra $5 and, while not as amazing as the gallery itself, was still pretty interesting. I spent several hours here looking at the different pieces, not getting bored. Definitely worth the ride down.

Work by Norval Morrisseau

Across the street is the Norte Dame Basilica, a beautifully build building from the 1800s with a striking blue interior and some fantastic statues. I stopped in there for a few shots before heading across the river to Gatineau to score some pictures of Parliament from across the river, as the sky got greyer and greyer. From here, I biked my way to the Mackenzie King Bridge for a last shot of Parliament before checking my weather app, which showed thunderstorms were closing in fast. With another hour and twenty minutes to bike back to Nepean, I figured that was my exit point. I managed to avoid getting rained on too badly until the last half-hour, at which point the moderate rainfall had me moderately soaked and primed for a nice warm shower and change of clothes when I got back to the house. As I was biking along, I though about that Amy Schumer skit where various women were talking about leaving decisions to “The Universe”, and while I’m not convinced I’m personally important enough for that to be a thing, if you believe that signals do go out, this rainstorm was probably my signal to start making my way back to Toronto.

Parliament from Gatineau.

When I got back to the house, Meeka had brought out a scrapbook of the summer I was working at camp with her and Sarah, which would have been 20 years ago, a literal half lifetime away. There were some pictures of me directing kids in a production of Guys and Dolls, sporting the classic 90s middle part, and all I could think is how much of a kid I was at the time, but how much of an adult I probably thought I as well. 20 years ago, I don’t think I could have ever imagined being on most of the adventures I’ve been on, let alone this one.

These past 40 days, I’ve seen places I’ve dreamed of since childhood, with a partner I could never have dreamed of at the time, while reconnecting with fantastic friends from various stages of the latter half of my life. I fully recognize that most people don’t get to do all, if any, of those things, especially not in the context of leaving home and travelling for 40 days. I’ve thrown out the word “blessed” a few times on this blog, but it definitely seems like the most appropriate.

The best thing is that more adventures await. Here’s the to the next 40!

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