As newcomers to Ottawa since last summer, we still can’t help but find it interesting to see the many foreign embassy residences scattered throughout the city.
Driving around by car, or especially by bike or foot, one will often notice the grand homes that serve as embassies (and residences) of approximately 125 countries.
Many of these buildings are simply large-scale homes converted for official use, while others are massive complexes.
A few of them appear to be almost ordinarily homey, while others have an almost bunker-like appearance due to the need for heightened security. (Which reminds me of this post I made last December).
Last weekend the City of Ottawa hosted Doors Open Ottawa 2012, which is an event that gives access to over 100 buildings that are either historically, culturally or architecturally significant. Each of these designated “Doors Open” buildings, which tend to vary each year, are open to public access for one weekend.
Since we had a rare chance to check out some of these embassies from the inside, we went on a little tour of Ireland, Sweden, and Norway – all within an hour or two.
Our son Alistair was at a birthday party (coincidentally at one of the Doors Open buildings – the Canadian War Museum) during our tour, so below are a few shots, mostly of Fin and Mary Frances at these first three sites.
The Irish embassy was recently upgraded to 24,000 square feet (!), which might be a fitting size considering the historical link between our two countries.
Inside it has a classy yet warm beauty to it, with walls of windows illuminating the spacious bit o’ Ireland. The celtic-tinged interior decorating was tasteful and gorgeous, as was the collection of Canadian and Irish works of art. I failed to take any notable pictures from the inside (except for maybe a prominently displayed work by James Joyce – the Dubliners), but I snapped one shot of Fin exploring the dining room.
Compared to the Irish residence, the Swedish embassy was down right folksy, it was smaller and more understated; it had an older and more relaxed, almost countryside feel to it. Indeed there was furniture that looked very modest, and, dare I say, Ikea-ish. The staff were friendly and the residence had a genuine charm to it that seemed reminiscent of our visit to Sweden seven years ago.
After Sveeden, we made a quick trek over to Norway. The Norwegian embassy was also large and beautiful, however it was quite crowded by the time we arrived and only a few rooms were available for viewing. While there I noticed a signed self-portrait by Edvard Munch hanging on the wall of the living room and I wondered if anyone would try to make off with his painting the way they seem to do with his most famous painting – the Scream. Hope not.
Although we didn’t stop in for a visit (mostly because we had to sign up in advance due to security), below is a shot of the (bunker like) American embassy, as well as the (bunker like) Russian embassy, which, rumour has it, was the base for many espionage-related events over the years.
As a side note, my work office was across the river from the Russian embassy this past year and on a few occasions I heard rumours that during the cold war Canada had a surveillance team on the top floor of our building and that we monitored the goings-on night and day (i.e. had our own spy-a-thon). Our building still has what we call a “secret floor” in that the main elevators only go up to the 17th floor, if you want to get to the 18th floor, which I had to everyday, you still have to walk to the back of that floor and take the sneaky stairs… hmmmm,… very interestink!
On one of our next outings I hope to hit the Diefenbunker – which was designed to protect members of the Canadian Government in the event of a nuclear strike. We hear from our friend Tom that the tour is a bit long for kiddies so this might be a solo event.
Time now for me to hit the U of O library and for MF and the boys to hit the Orleans Soap-Box races with the Keenan clan. Happy Saturday y’all.