academia aunty blogging awesomeness BC birthdays blog Blogathon Blogathon 2009 Blogathon Vancouver 2009 book learnin' Canada Canucks coffee doing good events family food friends funny geek Geekery hockey Longest Game Longest Game For CF NaBloPoMo Nerdery people who are cool enough to travel with me photos politics rampant consumerism rampant narcissism random rants running science shoes shout outs sports stuff on the internets tech stuff thesis travel travels Vancouver wtf
Since we happened to be in Our Nation’s Capital1 this morning, which just so happened to be Remembrance Day, we went to the ceremony being held at the War Memorial2. The ceremony was very cool – there were fighter jets and helicopters flying by and cannons being fired and all sorts of wreathes laid upon the War Memorial monument. It really was quite a cool experience – if you ever get a chance to be in Ottawa on Remembrance Day, I highly recommend it.
Next we headed off to Montreal, enjoying some delicious scones from the Scone Witch on the way. Our Montreal adventures so far have included enjoying a fine dinner of burgers at Mister Steer, doing some window shopping (everyone in Montreal is so freaking fashionable!), and now we are relaxing in the hotel, enjoying a glass of wine to celebrate my mom’s last day as a “regular” citizen (as opposed to a “senior” citizen, which she’ll be tomorrow).
And now, in a very not surprising turn of events, I’m going to head to the hot tub!
- Nancy insisted that we all refer to Ottawa as “Our Nation’s Capital” for the entire time we were there. And it had to be pronounced in a big, important sounding way, such that I feel she was pronouncing it capitalized. [↩]
- Props to Sarah for pointing out to me when we were talking on the phone the other day that it would be Remembrance Day while we were in O-town and thus, we totally needed to check out the Remembrance Day ceremony [↩]
I can’t believe that my trip to Ottawa & Montreal is almost here! I’m going to Ottawa for a two-day workshop on Wednesday & Thursday, but due to the length of the flight, the three hour time zone difference, and the fact that my workshop starts at 8 am sharp, Tuesday is my day to travel. I get in to O-town around 2 pm, which gives me time to check in, enjoy the hot tub, grab dinner and go to bed early, since 8 am Eastern time is going to feel like 5 am to me! Wednesday and Thursday are full days of workshopping, and because Friday is a holiday, I decided that I may as well stay out east for the long weekend. My mom, my sister and my nephew are going to join me in O-town on Thursday night, where we’ll have dinner with our friend Shelley1 and then we are going to head to Montreal to visit some of my aunts, uncles & cousins that live there. Also, it’s my mom’s 65th birthday on the 12th, so we’ll get to celebrate it in Montreal! So. Excited!
And now – a list. Because who doesn’t like lists?
Things I’m Excited About For My Upcoming Trip (in no particular order):
- hotel hot tubs
- learning a whole bunch about Outcome Mapping (the topic of the workshop)
- seeing my family
- going to Montreal for the first time since ’05
- eating a Montreal smoked meat sandwich at Swartz’s for the first time since my childhood!
- drinking some spruce beer!
The National Art Gallery
One of the things I like about going to Ottawa (in addition to seeing Sarah and Dave, of course), is that there are tonnes of cool cultural things to do, what with it being the national capital and all. On previous trips I’ve had such awesome adventures as attending Question Period at Parliament, going to the Canada Science and Technology Museum and my favourite – the Diefenbunker! I had not, however, been willing to go to the National Art Gallery, because, for some reason that is completely beyond my comprehension, they decided to install a GIGANTIC SPIDER outside the front door. I’m talking GIGANTIC. And I am talking SPIDER1. Up until this trip, I’ve been unable to go near the place, despite the fact that I really wanted to see the art there, because of my terror at the site of even the smallest eight-legged monster2, let alone a GIGANTIC one3. However, with Sarah’s assistance and reassurances, I was able to steel myself enough to be near the place – basically, Sarah told me that we could drive in through the parking garage, so I wouldn’t need to walk by the statute to get into the front door. And I could keep my eyes closed when we drove anywhere near the statue – including when we were walking inside the Art Gallery where you could see the statute through the window4. Plus, she scored us a Groupon5 to go for high tea there. And who am I to turn down high tea? So we managed to get me into the NAG without me having to actually face my fear, we enjoyed a leisurely high tea, and we walked around a few exhibits. I wish I had something intelligent to say about the art, but I really am a neophyte when it comes to art6. I basically look at it and go “Wow, that’s awesome. I like how the colours are bright.” Or, “Meh. This one is boring to me.” I did, however, enjoy our afternoon of perusing the art, because there were lots of cool things to look at, even if I’m not able to appreciate the nuances of it all.
On the way out of the NAG, we decided to stop in at the gift shop, just to see what they had. I jokingly said, “I hope I can get a postcard with the giant spider on it to remember my trip here!”, to which Sarah replied, “Uh, don’t come over to this section!” And then, just when I thought all was safe, we headed to the door to leave and what do you think was right in front of me? A freaking T-shirt with a freaking picture of that freaking spider statue on it! Gaaaahhhh!!! So close, but yet so far.
The Royal Canadian Mint
The next day, we decided to go to the Royal Canadian Mint. The Mint, for the uninitiated, is the place that makes coins7. The Mint in Ottawa makes collector coins and medals (like, for example, the Olympic medals), whereas circulation coins (i.e., the ones in your wallet) are made in Winnipeg.
Ordinarily on a weekday tour, one would get to see the Mint running through its production. Unfortunately, the day we went the workers weren’t on the floor as they were all off doing some sort of union voting thing. Instead, they had videos of all the processes, so we still got to see how they make coins. I learned a tonne of stuff, most of which I can’t remember. But I do remember that I learned that the Canadian Mint was the first place that was ever able to make 99.999% pure gold – usually “pure” gold is 99.99% pure. Also, I got to pick up a bar of gold that was worth more than $500,000!8. The other highlight of the tour was when the video showed how the edges of coins are formed, a process known as “rimming.” That’s right, “rimming.” During the tour, Sarah stayed at the back of the crowd, as she had baby Veronica in her stoller and didn’t want to get in the way of people trying to see things on the tour (she’s been on the tour before) and had suggested that I should go ahead to get a good view. I think this was a very good thing, because I’m sure that *neither* of us would have been able to keep a straight face if we’d been standing together as the narrator on the video kept saying “rimming.”
And finally, here are photos of what coins would look like if Sarah and I were on them:
- For the record, even typing the word “spider” wigs me out. [↩]
- And typing the word “eight-legged” also freaks me out. Ugh. [↩]
- Did I mention that the statue is GIGANTIC? [↩]
- Basically, Sarah just led me around as if I were blind so that I could keep my eyes closed and not walk into any walls. Or people, for that matter. [↩]
- Or maybe it was one of the other Groupon-type sites. [↩]
- Though I believe that using the word “neophyte” in that sentence will give me some snob cred to make up for snob cred lost by knowing nothing about art [↩]
- Paper bills are made elsewhere. [↩]
- That is not, however, the most expensive thing I have ever touched. When I was an Intern in the Alumni Office at McMaster in the summer after my fourth year, the Director came around with a cheque, saying to all the alumni employees: “Touch it! Touch it!” It was a donation from the estate of an alumna who had recently passed away and left $1,000,000 to Mac. [↩]
Hey, remember when I said that I was planning to do a much better job of blogging this trip than I did of blogging my last trip. Apparently, I was full of crap. So, let’s see if I can do a quick summary of all the awesome things I’ve been doing instead of blogging. Let’s begin at the beginning.
When I left Vancouver on Tuesday night, I was sad that I was going to miss being in the city for game 7 of the Stanley Cup. As it turned out, the thing I’m actually sad about (well, in addition to the Canucks not winning) is that a bunch of punks decided to act like complete assholes, burning up cars and looting stores and wrecking my city’s reputation to boot. On a more happy note, many of those jerks were stupid enough to commit their crimes on camera, so they are getting nailed for it, as they should. They don’t represent my city or my team. The real fans and the real Vancouverites are the ones who were out the next day cleaning up the mess left behind by the jerks.
Wednesday, before the unpleasantness that was Game 7, Sarah and I had a lovely time at the National Art Gallery. The NAG will get its own blog posting, because this is just quick summary posting of my adventures so far, but suffice it to say that with Sarah’s assistance, I made it both into and out of the NAG without having to see the massive spider outside. It was not an easy feat, but I accomplished it.
Thursday I got up much later than I’d been hoping to, mostly due to having stayed up late watching coverage of the riot, but also because I’d only slept for about 3 hours on my red-eye flight from Vancouver on Tuesday night. Regardless, we still had enough time to enjoy the day. We got to tour the Royal Canadian Mint – which was my first choice for things that I wanted to check out that I hadn’t yet seen1. The Mint is totally getting its own blog posting as well, because it’s freaking cool and I learn many interesting things that I’m sure you are all dying to know. Suffice it to say that I picked up a gold bar that was worth more than half a million dollars2! On the way back to Sarah’s we stopped by 24 Sussex Drive for some photo opps.
While we were there, Prime Minister Harper got a Coca-Cola delivery:
You know who else gets Coke deliveries to their house? Totally normal people.
Thursday night Sarah made us some kick ass eggplant parmesan – her Nonna’s recipe – and we drank some lovely Stoneleigh wine. We also watched “Too Big To Fail,” which was rather mind-blowing. If you haven’t watched it, I suggest you do!
For Friday morning, we’d thought about fitting in one more tourist-y thing before we headed out to drop me off at my family reunion, but decided it would be a much better plan to just relax around Sarah’s place – definitely a good call on our part3. Then it was off to pick up Sarah’s Nonna in Kingston, with a quick stop at Canadian Tire so I could pick up a Father’s Day gift for my Dad, and then off to drop me off in Gananoque for my family reunion.
The family reunion will require a blog posting of its own, but definitely the most exciting thing about it was that it was where I *finally* got to meet my nephew in person! He’s the cutest little baby boy I’ve ever met! Here’s a picture of me, my nephew, and my niece4 :
Now I’m in Toronto at my sister’s place. It’s getting rather late, so I think I’ll hit the hay. Tomorrow, I have to finish up my guest lecture for Dr. Dan’s class, make something for my parents’ upcoming 40th anniversary (!) and make a “chicken” pot pie5, because I’ve been telling Nancy & Jeff how freaking delicious it is and now I have to prove it!
- There are sooo many cool things to see and do in Ottawa, what with it being the capital and all, so despite having been there a few times, there’s still so many things I have yet to see. On my last trip we did the Diefenbunker – have I mentioned how much I loved the freaking Diefenbunker? [↩]
- But which is not, however, the most expensive thing I’ve ever touched! You’ll have to wait for my Mint blog posting to find out what is! [↩]
- Plus, I know I’ll be back to visit again, so I’ll get around to visiting all the sites I want to visit eventually!! [↩]
- Who just so happens to be the cutest little girl ever! [↩]
- Note: Does not actually contain any pot [↩]
The last time I was in Ottawa, Sarah and Dave’s attempt to bring me to the Diefenbunker was thwarted by holiday closure of said bunker. On this trip, to make it up to me, Ottawa gave Sarah & me free admission! More specifically, the Ottawa Public Library offered free admission and Sarah, a regular at said Library, picked up said free passes so that she and I could enjoy all the awesomeness of Canada’s Cold War Museum for free, free, free! Poor Dave couldn’t join us as he had to work, like a sucker!
The Diefenbunker, which operated from 1959 to 1994 as previously alluded to, is Canada’s Cold War Museum. More specifically, it is a bunker that was built, under the government of Prime Minister Diefenbaker – who you may remember from my Prime Ministerial series as the blog posting guest written by the aforementioned Sarah – as a place that prominent Canada politicians – along with all the gold in the Bank of Canada – could go in the event that Ottawa got nuked with an atomic bomb. Back in those days, everyone was sure that it was pretty much inevitable that such a thing would happen, so a series of bunkers were built across the country, with the biggest and most elaborate one being the Diefenbunker, locate 30 km west of Ottawa and intended for the Prime Minister, the Governor General, various federal Ministers and military big wigs. The idea was that they wanted to ensure that Canada could be re-built and governed after a nuclear attack and so they needed the people with the power to do that to be kept safe in this bunker. Plus they needed the money to do it – hence the giant vault built to house all the gold from the Bank of Canada1.
Of course, such a bunker system was only useful in the event that there was enough forewarning of a nuke on its way that all these important people could be brought to the bunker before the bomb hit. Which was true when they started building the bunker – the delivery of bombs via plane from Russia at that time would have been slow and there would have been several hours warning of such a bomb on its way. By the time it was finished, that wasn’t really true anymore, but that didn’t stop the bunker from being staffed for many years after it was built! In fact, it was operated until 1994.
After decommissioning, the bunker was turned into a museum and much to the surprise of even the people running it as a museum, people were clamouring to see it! I mean, how often do you get to see the inside of a previously secret government facility like that? If you ever find yourself in Ottawa, I highly recommend you check it out. It feels like walking onto the set of a movie about the Cold War2 and I had to keep reminding myself, “no, this is the real deal!”
Also, in a move that I can only imagine coming from a guy like him, Dief never once set foot in the Diefenbunker. At some point, he was told that should he need to go to the bunker, he would not be allowed to bring his wife with him. The bunker was built to accommodate the government officials and bureaucrats deemed necessary, along with the support staff needed to run the bunker3, plus two CBC radio personalities who could broadcast messages in familiar and comforting voices to those left up on the ground – around 500 people in total – and stocked with enough food to sustain those people for 30 days (at which point it was felt that it would be safe to go back outside). If all those people were allowed to bring spouses (and not even their kids), it would need to be twice as big and stocked with twice as many supplies – and that just wasn’t feasible. And it was decided that if everyone else in the bunker was leaving their spouse behind, how could the Prime Minister not do the same? Dief decided that he wouldn’t leave his wife behind to get nuked and so he boycotted the facility, refusing to ever step foot into it.
Another interesting story that the tour guide told us was what happened to all the other bunkers around the country. When the bunkers were decommissioned, the government had to figure out what to do with them. After all, they couldn’t all be museums – and truly it’s just the Ottawa one that was really big and decked out – so what do you do with a series of underground bunkers designed to withstand a nuclear bomb? At first, they figured they could sell them to recoup some of the costs of building them all, and they sold one of the bunkers to a farmer. A farmer who proceeded to sell the bunker to some Hell’s Angels, who used it as a clubhouse! Realizing that they didn’t want the bunkers to fall into the hands of just anybody and that they could control what happened to them once they sold them off, they bought the bunker back from the HA and proceeded to fill them all up with concrete!
The next time you find yourself in Ottawa, I highly recommend a trip to the Diefenbunker! They have guided tours as well as self-guide audio tours – we did the guided tour, which was cool because you can ask their tour guide questions and find out things that might not be on the audio version, and then after your guided tour you are free to roam around and check out the different exhibits!
- When we were talking about our trip to the Diefenbunker later at Sarah’s parents house, Sarah’s dad said his favourite part of this is that if the bunker ever needed to be used, it would take hundreds of people to get all the gold from the Bank of Canada in Ottawa onto a train, ship it to the bunker, and then load it all into the vault in the bunker. And then those men would be sent back on that train to Ottawa to wait to get nuked! [↩]
- and, in fact, it as used as a set for The Sum of All Fears, because where else are you going to find a nuclear bunker that you can film your movie in? [↩]
- think cooks, doctors, nurses, mechanics, etc. [↩]