A trip to France

Late in May I surfaced from what felt like a fog due to lack of sleep and tried to find out when the Doors Open Ottawa event was. It’s the one weekend a year when buildings, many not usually accessible, are open to the public for free. I was in luck: it was the upcoming weekend. Even more lucky, I was able to secure reservations for us to see the French Embassy in the only remaining time slot: 9 am.

The children had to come with me (Ron was busy that day), and we all needed a picture id to enter. It’s a good thing we all have passports! I sold the kids on the trip by telling them that we were going to France and explained a little bit about embassies.

Getting from the outskirts of Kanata to downtown Ottawa proved an almost insurmountable problem that morning. Having been out of touch with current events, I didn’t realize that it was the weekend of the Ride for Dad, and that the route went right by the embassy. There were roadblocks at every turn, but just in time we ended up parking almost within sight and dashed across the road in time for our tour.

The French Embassy is on a lovely parcel of land on the Ottawa River just next door to the Prime Minister’s house. It was built in the 1930s and has many custom-created features done by artists of the period. As an Art Deco fan, I had to get to see it. You can do a virtual tour, so I did just to figure out what I needed to pay close attention to.

Here are some of the highlights:

French Embassy in Ottawa

There are large tapestries by Marcel Gromaire representing the seasons. Spring in Paris, Summer in St. Malo & Winter in Canada are visible. The fourth tapestry is in the ambassador’s private residence.Gromaire tapestry: Spring in Paris

Gromaire tapestry: Summer in St. Malo

Gromaire tapestry: Winter in Canada

The Smoking Room is unique. The walls & ceiling are covered in birch. I’m sure it is a bit of a challenge to keep the temperature & humidity in that room at the right levels!Smoking room, French embassy

The Round Salon was my favourite room. The carpet was made especially for the room. Round Salon, French embassy

The Round Salon also has three amazing terra cotta panels by André Bizette-Lindet. This one depicts Joan of Arc.


There is a representation of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in the hallway upstairs.Vimy Memorial, French embassy

Oh, and the gigantic doors to the Grand Salon are impressive. There are 2 pairs of these doors.

Doors to the Grand Salon

The handles of the doors have unique castings by Robert Cami with different themes:










I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to the embassy. It was well worth the wait and the kids held up fairly well, taking plenty of their own photos.

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2 Responses to A trip to France

  1. ML Egan says:

    Beautiful! One of the places I lived in Ottawa was down the street from the then-Soviet Embassy, a horror of concrete block. I can’t imagine it was better inside.

    • natalie says:

      I don’t doubt it! There were a few embassies on the list. Perhaps now that I’ve visited almost every Art Deco building in Ottawa I’ll start ticking off the interesting-looking embassies.