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Sunday, 22 February 2015

The Oscars - Our Annual Tradition!

The Oscars - Our Annual Tradition!

Every year, since we've been together, Mark and I make a point to get to see the Best Picture nominees for the Academy Awards. If we can, we also endeavour to watch the Best Actor and Actress nominees, too.

We make a point to combine a visit to our two nearest major cities so that we can include a visit to one of the movie theatres. Sudbury is just two hours, fifteen minutes to the east, and Sault Ste. Marie (our preference) is two hours and thirty minutes away to the west.

We love both drives through the rocky terrain, punctuated by lakes and surrounded by trees, with the occasional small town or hamlet on the way - especially on the route to the Soo. We have also been able to visit theatres in the Greater Toronto Area to see those movies which weren't on general release. 

As always, we are flummoxed at how comparisons can possibly be made between all the movies nominated. It's like comparing apples with oranges and we are often betwixt and between with our own choices. In the end, it's a matter of opinion - and the actual results are precisely that - a majority vote by those who have that option.

For us, this year, it was a tight decision between The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything, with the latter being our final choice. 

The Enigma Machine
For those of you who have not yet seen either, The Imitation Game is based upon a true story of Alan Turing, who headed up a team to break the Enigma Code created by the Nazis in the 2nd World War, and which threatened to be the downfall of Britain. Through his ingenuity, the code was cracked and experts believe that the war was shortened by at least 2 years because of it - not to mention the millions of lives that were saved. Unfortunately, he died in 1954, just 16 days before his 42nd birthday.

Eddie Redmayne with Stephen Hawkin
The Theory of Everything is the story of Stephen Hawking - a man with a brilliant mind who was diagnosed with A.L.S. (Lou Gehrig's Disease) when he was still a young graduate. He is still alive today, and his story of how he has overcome his challenges to live an amazing life with a stunning career is truly inspirational. Eddie Redmayne's portrayal of Hawking is nothing short of brilliant, and you would be hard pressed to believe that he was not suffering from the disease, himself.

Other movies we liked were: Whiplash, American Sniper, Selma, Still Alice, Gone Girl, Boyhood, The Judge, and Foxcatcher.  Wow - when listed like that, we sure have seen a lot of movies over the last couple of months. Everyone tells us that we should also have seen Into the Woods - but that's something left for the near future!

We thought Julianne Moore's portrayal of a woman undergoing early onset of Alzheimer's Disease was heart-rending and so sensitively handled. We'd love to see her come away with the Best Actress Award for her role in 'Still Alice'. 

Ellen's famous 'selfie' from last year!  Twitter was overloaded!
Of course, we are also intrigued to see what Neil Patrick Harris, this year's host, will do to beat the famous selfie that Ellen pulled off last year! 

Whatever happens, it will be a fun evening - and one that we look forward to every year. 

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Thursday, 5 February 2015

Winterlude et al - Ottawa

Winterlude et al - Ottawa - February 4th, 2015

Coming from a British background, I still find myself in awe of the fact that the low temperatures here in Ontario can sustain ice sculptures for long periods of time. Due to this fact, we were able to enjoy a brief visit to Winterlude in Ottawa, before traveling on to our friends in Kingston.

Several years ago, we had seen some artists actually making sculptures out of ice blocks on the main street in Collingwood and we stayed for nearly an hour as we watched the discernible shapes emerge out of the ice block. It was fascinating to see what was in the sculptors mind being gradually revealed. Here, at Confederation Park in Ottawa, we were in awe of the creations that were before us.

Fairy Magic - Peru
The continual light snowfall did not deter us from enjoying the sights created by these artists and the fascination of how so much detail was captured in the exhibits by the sculptors that came from all over the world to participate in the event.

Joie de Vivre - U.S.A.

Mystery at the Bottom of the Sea - Japan 
Winter's Essence - Canada

Games in the Sky - Mexico

Crazy Juggler - France

Fairy on the Ice - Japan

Illusion - Malaysia

Some of the sculptures were larger than life and - although partly covered in newly-fallen snow - were clear enough to make out very easily.

It was neat to see how even the posts supporting the railings were made out of ice blocks.

Of course, with us, there is the inevitable humour as a photo-op becomes available!

Not sure what this was, as there was no obvious sign around. Apparently, it is lit up at night. As it was during the day in the middle of the week, some of the larger sculptures were covered, and we've added a night-time experience of the event to our bucket list for another year.

After we'd had our fill of wonder for the day, we left Confederation Park and took a short walk along the Rideau Canal. Being a working day, and with weather conditions that precluded a large volume of tourists, we had the canal almost to ourselves.

Stepping out on to the canal still gives me a thrill.I had not done this since 1992, when I discovered, for the first time, that I could actually walk on water (something that we Brits find intriguing, if not a little scary). I also discovered just how cold it could be here in Canada. On that evening, the first time around, the temperature had dropped to a chilling -42 degrees Celsius, with the wind-chill factor. I also discovered the taste of my first BeaverTails Pastry which I was able to use to warm my hands while consuming it with slow relish!

Parliament Buildings - with the Peace Tower in the centre

From the canal, you are able to see some splendid views of the Parliament Buildings and the Chateau Laurier - of course, it would have been even more splendid had it not been snowing at the time!!

Chateau Laurier

We wanted to visit the War Memorial out of respect for Nathan Cirillo, who was standing on guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier when he was senselessly shot last October. The memorial stands as a reminder of how much we owe so many who gave their lives in the many wars so that we may enjoy the freedoms and privileges of Canadian Citizenship.

A trip to Downtown Ottawa without visiting the Parliamentary Building is unthinkable! With its magnificent Peace Tower and the eternal flame, representing all the Provinces and Territories of our great country, it calls out to us all to remind us of the responsibility to pass on the flame of peace and human liberty to future generations 

East Block
A final nod to our Winterlude experience came in the form of an unexpected sculpture outside a street building. Mark couldn't resist... and I dutifully obliged! Ever the patriot!!

We love our Capital City! Proud to be Canadian!  

#happyfitandfree      #travelguys    #winterludeottawa

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