Distance = 254 km Gas = $46.87 ($1.33/L in Casselman)
Sept. 10, 1939 – 74 years ago today – Canada joined the war against Germany. Coincidentally, I was at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa this afternoon. It was either that or the national art gallery since the weather wasn’t great, but I’d already been to the art gallery when I was in Ottawa in 2004 (definitely worth it), so I decided to see the museum – which is ranked #1 on Trip Advisor for attractions in the capital city. There are four main exhibits, and they span from Canada’s first European and First Nations conflicts to Canada’s military today. Admission is just $13 for adults, and it’s free for teachers and those in the military. While I was there, I realized three things:
- War is horrible.
- Canada has a rich history and a lot to be proud of.
- I am so grateful to live in this beautiful, peaceful country.
There are many amazing artifacts and historical details to see and learn about (the museum even has one of Hitler’s cars that was captured by the Americans in 1945 and later brought up to Ontario), but, of course, it’s not exactly a fun place to be. I held it together until I got to a plaque that told of a Canadian soldier in WWI who carried with him his 10-year old daughter Aileen’s teddy bear every day until he was killed. The bear – which was well-worn and sitting forlornly behind a glass case – was later returned to her, along with a letter from her little brother that hadn’t made it to their dad before he died.
In one exhibit I’m pretty sure I saw a guy wipe a tear, and I definitely heard some sniffles coming from an older gentleman in the hall of honour. It’s hard to take, seeing everything in that building, but I’d highly recommend it to anyone visiting Ottawa. The museum is well laid out, there’s so much to take in, and it ends with a hopeful message in the peace exhibition.
This morning I drove from Morewood into Ottawa through a haze of mist and low cloud, and found my way to Byward Market to park and look around (the market is a few blocks of shops and cafés, as well as street vendors).
Travel tip: Parking in downtown Ottawa is free on weekends, but ridiculously expensive during weekdays. I paid $16 to park for about three hours in a parking garage in Byward, and another $5 for two hours at the museum. (Actually, I let the meter expire and stayed for three, and fortunately didn’t get a ticket.) If you can, avoid driving into town. I think public transit in Ottawa is supposed to be pretty efficient.
After buying some postcards and doing some window shopping, I walked over to Parliament Hill. I’d had a tour of the building when I was in town before, so I skipped it this time and just went up the Peace Tower to see the view and check out the memorial chamber. In the chamber there are books with the names of every Canadian soldier killed in war. Every day, the pages are turned so that in one calendar year, every soldier’s name is given a day to be displayed. It’s pretty impressive because the names were all hand-written in calligraphy and encased in glass boxes with brass angels in each corner praying over them.
The parliament and museum visits pretty much took up my whole day, besides ambling through the market and sitting down to read the Globe & Mail and eat an oatmeal cookie the size of my head, so I got stuck in traffic leaving Ottawa and had to drive in the dark and the rain into Quebec. It was a bit hairy with all the street signs in French and having to negotiate the weird traffic lights (a flashing green light is the same as a flashing green arrow in B.C. and you can’t turn left on a red light or a green arrow), but I made it to my friend Eve’s, where I’ll be staying for the next few days. As soon as I’d dropped off my stuff we went for poutine and she gave me a rundown of all the awesomeness I’m going to discover in this city. If it’s anywhere near as good as the poutine, then I know I’m going to like it here.
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