The National Art Gallery and the Royal Canadian Mint

OK, so after that wee diversion on the whole blogivesary thing, I’m back to blogging about all the crap I meant to blog about from my trip!

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:

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  1. For the record, even typing the word “spider” wigs me out. []
  2. And typing the word “eight-legged” also freaks me out. Ugh. []
  3. Did I mention that the statue is GIGANTIC? []
  4. 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. []
  5. Or maybe it was one of the other Groupon-type sites. []
  6. 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 []
  7. Paper bills are made elsewhere. []
  8. 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. []