Visiting Nepean Point, Ottawa, Ontario: The Mists of Muted, Local Territorialities Submerged During a Federalist Phase?
A picturesque locality's further history yet to be written?
It is surprising difficult to define where Nepean, Ontario, is. Quite apart from other locations, we must bear in mind that Nepean Point (see photo, above) is the promontory on which the Ontario side of the Alexandra Bridge — linking with Quebec at Gatineau — rests. Nepean Point lies in fact to the north of Parliament Hill, east of the Rideau Canal. We may remember also that that the Canadian Pacific Railway / Chemin de fer Canadien Pacifique bridge which linked with the northern, Quebec bank of the Ottawa River was at Nepean Bay. One must surely come to the inescapable conclusion that Nepean is historically at the heart of Ottawa, even if it is also the name that is 'allowed' to stick to a western suburb of the City of Ottawa, apparently centred around Nepean Creek.
So when the question perhaps inevitably shifts from 'Where is Nepean?' to 'What is Nepean?', the answer may be surprisingly uncomfortable, to some people, at least: Nepean is the historic, submerged Ottawa — the pre-existing locality onto which Ottawa was superimposed (via its Bytown manifestation).
Ottawa seems therefore to be more of a Federalist state of mind and superimposition. Since in 1995 Quebec missed by a mere hairsbreadth becoming independent, one may therefore legitimately wonder what would become of that Federalist state of mind in the event of Quebec becoming independent at some future juncture. We may also ask, What would become of the spatial dynamics between Nepean and Ottawa, if a significant part of the original raison-d'être of that Federalist state of mind were suddenly to disappear?
In this event, would Nepean Point in time come to symbolize an international point of transition (similar to Queenston-Lewiston on the borders of Ontario, Canada and New York, USA), rather than — as at present — a somewhat muted rocky footprint beneath a superimposed Federalist state of mind, the foundations of which may actually be surprisingly shallow?
At Ottawa/Nepean, in the event of Quebec's independence, would a dilemma await the locality similar to that of Bonn, a united Germany's former federal village that furiously still tries to proclaim a federal indentity, even as many of its ministries and the designation of Federal Capital have moved on? But despite Bonn's loss of status, Bonn's importance and identity still revolve round the proximity of Cologne and associations with the towering historical personality of Dr. Konrad Adenauer.
No such towering historical figure seems to have been commandingly identified with Ottawa/Nepean as a locality resulting in defining its historical memory (1).
Perhaps significant parts of the history of Nepean and Nepean Point have yet to be written?
March 2, 2020
(1) Here, some people may optimistically cite Pierre Elliott Trudeau (1919-2000), yet he was as much if not more identified with Montreal as he was with Ottawa; and indeed an independent Quebec — facing Ottawa from across the Ottawa River — would be the negation of Pierre Elliott Trudeau's aspirations, rather than showing responsiveness to any repository of wisdom linked with him and Ottawa/Nepean.
Also worth seeing
At or close to Nepean Point, features include Alexandra Bridge, the National Gallery of Canada, a large statue of explorer Samuel de Champlain and Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica. Nepean Museum (distance: 12.5 kilometres from Downtown Ottawa; https://ottawa.ca/en/arts-heritage-and-events/museums-and-historic-sites/nepean-museum) has particularly strengths in a large collection of old, local photographs and in the Hydro history of the Ottawa Valley.
In Ottawa itself, among the numerous visitor attractions are: Parliament Hill; the National War Memorial of Canada; Château Laurier; the Rideau Canal; Laurier House; Rideau Hall; the Bank of Canada Currency Museum; the Supreme Court of Canada Building, and many others.
Gatineau , Quebec (distance 1.8 kilometres); the Canadian Museum of Civilization (Musée canadien des civilisations), in Gatineau is Canada's most visited museum. Gatineau's Citizen's House (French: Masion du citoyen) has a noted art gallery and the Hall of the Nations (French: Hall des nations ) containing valuable cultural artifacts from around the world. Gatineau Park (French: Parc de la Gatineau) has exceptional recreational and scenic possibilities.
How to get there: Air Canada flies from various North American destinations to Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport / Aéroport international Macdonald-Cartier d'Ottawa; car rental is available; however, visitors may wish instead to use OC Transpo public transit for travel within the Ottawa / Gatineau area. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent. You are advised to refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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