Browsing "Ontario"
Oct 26, 2012 -

The Canadian War Museum (Very Briefly)

My eight year old nephew, R, expressed a desire to visit the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. I decided that it would make a nice day out for us and mentioned this to my mother. She came over last night to let me know that today was R’s last day off from school for a while and that he had nothing planned. So if I wanted to go to Ottawa with him, I had to decide immediately. Needless to say, I was on board!

I picked him up at about 8:30 this morning and we set off westward. Getting out of Montreal was tricky enough for R to actually worry about whether or not we’d make it. He was very relieved when we finally hit the open road!

I asked him why he wanted to visit the War Museum and his answer was delightful; he was just curious. He’d been to the Nature and Science & Tech museums already and felt that his education was missing a visit to this museum.

At some point along the way, the subject of lunch came up and I mentioned that we would be eating at a restaurant. His eyes lit up and he said, “Sushi!” Ah, R and I are kindred spirits! πŸ˜€

I really should have done some research ahead of time about Ottawa sushi restaurants as I didn’t eat sushi back then, strangely enough. Now that I think about it, I really can’t figure out where my sushi obsession came from, but I digress. At any rate, I decided to just head for the heart of Chinatown, where I knew I’d find several suitable options on Somerset.

We parked at the corner of Arthur right in front of Koreana, a Korean BBQ place that also serves sushi. R said that there was no sense going any further, or crossing the street, so that’s where we ate. We had a great lunch!

I ordered a combo meal with nigiri, tempura, delicious glass noodles, veggie pancake thingies, and more. R asked for ‘shrimp with rice’, which I correctly guessed was ebi nigiri without wasabi, as well as ‘cucumbers with seaweed’, which I also correctly IDed as being kappa maki. I thought that there would be more than enough food for the two of us, but I wound up having to order him another six pieces of the kappa maki, of which he ate four, and I had the last two.

What I most appreciated was that the meal came with a complimentary delicious miso soup and a bunch of Korean sides! I had a chance to try radish pickles (YUM), kimchi (it’s true what they say, the stuff needs to grow on you…), potatoes with a sweet glaze, and some unidentified tasty green veggies with sesame seeds.

Our Koreana spread.

Chinatown is tiny, but then again, so is Ottawa proper. But there’s no mistaking you’re there as the area has the ubiquitous arch:

The second to last time I went to the War Museum I actually left my car parked in Chinatown and hoofed it, a distance of just a couple of klicks, but I didn’t want R to be tired before we arrived. The last time I went to the museum, I lived just north of it in Gatineau, within even closer range, so I just ambled over.

So we piled back into the truck and I drove us down to the museum, which is located at the intersection of Wellington and the John A. MacDonald Parkway (no, dear, he did not launch the McDonald’s restaurants). I didn’t get to take a picture of the exterior, so I’m borrowing this one because the Canadian War Museum is housed in a spectacular building!

http://www.navy.forces.gc.ca/cms_images/centennial_images/events/canadianwarmuseumnightview_530x352.jpg

Parking is underground and I worried that my truck wouldn’t fit. My mother scoffed at that, but my fear was justified. I had only a couple of inches of clearance from the lowest points in the ceiling, but my roof rack brushed against the clearance signs! I parked right at the bottom of the entrance since I just fit down the ramp and figured I could just squeeze back up.

There is now an admission to the museum, and it’s not cheap when you factor in parking. Admission for the two of us was $23 and then I had to add another $12 on top of that for parking!

The museum feels like a bunker:

Lobby area.

The theme of the museum is Canada’s place in global conflicts. So it starts right at the beginning with wars against the Native Americans and between European powers before Canada was even a nation, then moves to the Boer and First World Wars, the Second World War, the Korean and Cold Wars, and then modern conflicts. This year, there is a special exhibit about the War of 1812.

R liked this exhibit and the beginning of the main museum a lot because he is currently studying the Iroquois at school and he got lots of information for an upcoming project. He especially enjoyed an activity where we were shown how to do ‘wempum’ style beading like the native peoples did. It was explained to us that the beads and patterns all told a story.

Arts and crafts are fun! I beaded this purple and white key chain. πŸ™‚

The interpreter teaching this activity told us to keep an eye out for a blue and white belt symbolizing two powers (as rivers made from blue beads) sharing one land peacefully (white beads). I dryly commented that Quebec could learn something from that belt and the guy burst out laughing. This is the belt:

We moved on to the US Civil War era, where I found my gaze falling onto a Gatlin gun. I still can’t believe that machine guns like these existed that early on!

the first machine gun, US Civil War era

The WWI exhibit has a fun bit where you can determine if you would have been eligible for service by making you check your height, foot arch status, eyesight (I’m apparently blind), and teeth.

We have normal feet; not flat, not over arched!

We spent some time at a computerized display listing all the Canadians who served in WWI. I typed in Henry Blake and my great-grand-father’s listing showed up:

My great-grand-father’s enlistment papers for service in WWI.

I tried to convey to my nephew that this was his great-great-grand-father and that he, R, wouldn’t be here if this man hadn’t existed, but I don’t think that sank in.

And then came my favourite exhibit. I remember seeing it at the old war museum way back yonder with my dad and it never ceases to fill me with a sense of awe that it is here, in Ottawa:

Hitler’s car

That caption is correct. This is the car you see in photos of Hitler standing in a car saluting his troops. Through some miraculous circumstances, the car survived the war and was shipped to Canada, where it is now available for all to see. That car gives me the shivers.

Believe it or not, R walked into this exhibit area and said, “Oh, Nazis!” He actually had a little bit of knowledge about the era and a sense of who Hitler was (“A very bad man with a little mustache.”) What amazed me the most was when I told him that the car is Hitler’s, he asked if it was “built for the museum to be like Hitler’s car or an artifact?” I was stunned! He casually replied that he’s studying artifacts at school and understands that some things in the museum are reproductions and others are real. Wow!

This exhibit also includes a captured Nazi flag:

captured Nazi flag

I was disappointed to not find the exhibit that completely ruined Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade for me. In the movie, there’s a scene where Jones literally runs into Hitler and gets his autograph. ‘Hitler’ signs his name using a pointy A for Adolf. The old war museum had a bunch of documents signed by Hitler, showing that he made round As. (Yes, I’m a history nerd and this kind of detail fascinates me!)

There is also a sad reminder of Hiroshima in this exhibit:

This was a temple roof shingle that miraculously survived the atomic bomb while the temple itself was destroyed.

I rushed us through the more modern era stuff as R reads really well and some of the texts were very graphic, as were the photos. It’s all well and good that he learns about the dark side of human nature and another to bring him home completely traumatized. Moreover, I started to get emotional as we went through exhibits of conflicts that have occurred in my life time, including the Rwandan genocide and the current conflict in Afghanistan.

At the end of the exhibits, you can enter the ‘point’ of the building:

And then you enter a huge space filled with just about every military vehicle ever used in conflicts Canada has been involved in. R said this is what he will remember most, and with good reason. This section is impressive!

Just a tiny corner of the vehicle exhibit.

Me: “I want one of these amphibious German vehicles to tow behind my motorhome!” R: “You’ll need to go back in time and ask the Nazis for one. That doesn’t sound like a good idea.”

Both of us in unison: “Hey, it’s the Bat signal!”

This vehicle’s front end was destroyed when it hit a landmine in Afghanistan in the early 2000s. Thankfully, the vehicle was so well armoured that everyone survived.

Just a few of the tanks on display.

R noticed that this tank was missing its chains.

We did a quick tour of the gift shop on the way out (he asked for and received a $1 post card!). By the time we headed for the truck, it was past 4PM and I had said I would bring him home by 6. So I called in with the change of plans and that we’d be getting supper en route.

Getting out of Ottawa was a little tricky because of traffic and construction, but I know that part along the Queensway so well that I just wound and wend are way around until we could finally get onto the highway. It was stop and go to the Orleans junction and there was a bit of construction along the way, so we did not make good time.

By the time we hit Rigaud, R needed a break so I decided to stop early for dinner. He wanted poutine and I decided that he’d had a nutritious enough lunch, so I agreed. We split one, but it wasn’t enough for him, so he asked for something I have seen in years, a pogo:

pogo

I think the English world calls these corn dogs. I can’t stand them, but R was thrilled with the treat. I’m just glad that’s not the first thing he mentioned to his mom when he got home! πŸ˜€

Today was completely off the cuff and unplanned, like a proper adventure. R is a great kid and I couldn’t have imagined a better companion today. It’s been a very long time since I’ve gone on a day-long adventure with a youngster and I enjoyed it!

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Aug 2, 2012 -

Catching Up With Friends in the NCR

Yesterday, Wednesday August 1st, I had a lunch date with my former colleagues at Industry Canada. I was delighted that what was supposed to be a quick meeting at the food court was turned into a proper reunion at a restaurant and that the organizer even remember that I love Thai food, so she reserved at La papaye verte (The Green Papaya) on Laurier right in front of the Museum of Civilization.

The old gang hasn’t changed, I apparently haven’t changed, and the work environment has changed. It was great to see everyone, catch up, laugh, and be reminded that I was lucky to work with those people for three years.

After work, I headed up to La PΓͺche (fishing), the community in the Gatineau hills where I lived for five years (one year in an apartment, one year renting my house, three years owning my house). The community has a number of villages, the biggest ones being Masham and Wakefield.

Wakefield is very picturesque and touristy. A popular thing for visitors to the National Capital RegionΒ to do is to take the steam train from Hull to Wakefield for a lunch at a quaint bistro and an afternoon of shopping in the boutiques. The steam train was having financial difficulties when I left and is not running this summer. I hope this is a temporary setback.

The drive to Wakefield along autoroute 5 was a little different as the autoroute is finally, after 30 years of planning, being extended. It used to stop at Tulip Valley, but not goes a few kilometres farther to Farmpoint, just before the grocery store. It will soon come all the way up to Wakefield and the junction with the 366 to Masham. There is no way that kind of road work won’t change life up in those sleepy little hamlets. Wakefield now has a Tim Hortons, a major sign that life is about to change radically.

I was early to meet my friend for dinner, so I decided to push on to Lascelles to see if the old homestead is still there. It is! There were cars parked out front, so I didn’t go up the laneway to get a better look at the house because I used to freak out when people did that.

Back in Wakefield, I parked outside the Black Sheep pub and grabbed an outside table at the Rutherford Bistro on the main floor of the pub. I had time to check out the menu before my friend arrived and was rather disappointed that my top two choices for dinner were sold out. I wound up having a decent buffalo chicken burger with delicious fries.

After gabbing for ages, I headed out to my friend’s house. She has been building it with her dad for six years as time and money are available. It is her dream home in her favourite place in the world.

The house is inspired by the Swiss chalet style, but is built with modern eco features, including walls lined with styrofoam and filled with concrete. The house feels really out in the middle of the bush, but she’s only a couple of minutes on a horrible dirt road from main highways and the autoroute. She can get to Ottawa in 25 minutes now and it will soon be no more than 20 minutes. The extra 10 minutes I had to drive to get to my house combined with the lack of services made a future there unappealing.

A lot of people, including politicians, have cottages in the hills and I think that the extended autoroute will bring more people to have their full-time home in the hills. Even without the autoroute, it takes much less time to commute from Wakefield to downtown Ottawa than it does to go from Orleans or Kanata (the eastern and western edges of the city respectively) to downtown.

The drive back from Wakefield was not without incident and I will get into that once I’ve caught up on sleep. πŸ™‚

 

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Jun 8, 2012 -

Through the U.P. Along the Shores of Gitche Gumee

I made it to the Soo Ontario!!!!!!!!! I left Thief River Falls, MN, at 5:45AM CST and pulled into my final destination at the Soo (no room at the first inn) at about 9:00PM CST (10:00PM EST). It’s been a very long day, not aided by the fact that the fastest speed limit all day was 55MPH. At least, most of it was through the U.P., the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, a gorgeous stretch of country.

This long day was soooo scenic. I love northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan! I went through a little bit of this area between the western and eastern tips of Lake Superior back in ’05 when I did my grand tour of the Great Lakes. I highly recommend making that road trip once in your life!

I really wanted to get across the border tonight to get it done, figuring that a couple more hours waiting to cross and then being interrogated wasn’t going to kill me at this point. So, of course, I only had to wait a minute and I got the nicest Canadian Customs officer I have ever dealt with!

Her: “Where are you from?”
Me: “Lethbridge, AB.”
Her: “My God, dear, what are you doing all the way out here?!” (that is verbatim, LOL!)

I explained that I was coming to visit family. She asked where I crossed and then we had a discussion about the fact that Montana extends into Saskatchewan. Bla bla.

Her: “Did you buy anything en route?”
Me: “I didn’t have time; I just drove straight through.”
Her, handing me back my passport: “Well, you be safe now. Have a good trip!”

No questions about booze, drugs, guns, nothing. She made my day. I wish I could have hugged her. πŸ™‚

Tip: Like at Sarnia/Port Huron and, presumably, Detroit/Windsor, there is a bridge connecting the US and Canada. You will need to have some small change with you as there is a fare. Today, it was $3 both CAD and US. When I crossed at Sarnia/Port Huron in ’05, the dollars weren’t close to par so the amounts were different and I remember opting to pay in US dollars as it was better value!

My destination tonight was the Super 8 motel. That chain is my standby on road trips as it is always clean and sometimes is very nice. But they were full and told me to try the Comfort Inn across the road. I did and blanched when I entered the lobby in my super casual skirt and tee-shirt to discover this is a much more luxurious hotel than I normally stay at. Everyone in the lobby was dressed to the nines and the next person in line with a suitcase had on a business suit. But I was there and the clerk didn’t even blink when she saw me so I figured I might as well inquire about rates even though I was sure I’d be turning around and sleeping in my truck at the casino.

I asked about a single, non-smoking, and was told that the singles were actually mini-suites with king beds, and their least expensive option at $99. What?! Had the Super 8 had room, it would have been $88. What was an extra $11?! I took a room, went back to the truck to get all my valuables, and then hoofed it to my ‘tower’ room. Pictures are below. It is insanely luxurious. I love the shower and that there is a proper work desk. I actually feel comfortable walking barefoot in here.

First order of business was a very long shower, which included a test of all the bath products available. This is such a fancy place that there is both body and facial soap. πŸ™‚

I’ll be heading to bed shortly. It’s 11:15 here, so I’m pretty sure a super early start tomorrow is unlikely. I have another 14 hours or so of driving to do, but it’s all familiar territory, so I’ll get home when I get home.

Driving the truck for such a long day has really made me see my Accents in a new light: I’m not even remotely sore. Moya pretty much drives herself, making her name very appropriate! I laughed when I stopped for gas just before lunch when a guy came up to me and said, “So, how do you like YOUR Ranger?” I looked up and saw Moya’s fraternal twin, a dark green topperless 2000 ‘sport’ Ranger. Not sure what makes it ‘sport’ since it’s not a side step model.

The pictures below are out of order as I finally got my camera pics dumped onto the laptop. So far on this trip, you’ve only seen what I’ve taken with my iPad. Tomorrow, I will see if there’s anything worth sharing from the phone since I didn’t bring the mini card reader adapter. That’s a crazy number of camera options, but I finally learned how to add pics to my posts from the iPad, so I’ve been favouring that camera since I’ve only cracked open the laptop a couple of times.

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