In two days in Ottawa, I managed to reignite that patriotism that is often inert in us Canadians. I mean that in a positive way. Americans with their pledges of allegiance and intense love of their country are off-putting in a way that Canada’s quiet love for itself cannot compare to.
You see, not only did I have a picnic lunch on Parliament Hill, I also saw the nightly light show. While the content was basic enough – Canada’s road to confederation, mostly – the last projection morphed into the flag of Canada and sure enough, the anthem started. With thousands on their feet singing along, it was hard not to feel something.
Besides the luminescent reminder of my country’s glory, I also went back early the next morning to see the changing of the guard. The nice folks from Indianapolis I stood next to said it was exciting that they “didn’t have to go all the way to Britain to see this.” They were some of the many people that filmed the changeover. I myself took many a photo but was a little disheartened when I heard a different woman say “I thought there would be more of them. When I was younger, I could have sworn it was bigger.” I suppose there’s less for them to guard now? There’s more soldiers off on deployment? I feel strongly that her opinion was based on being a child where everything is larger. For example, my dad would swear up and down that Penguins chocolates were larger when he was a kid. But no, it was that we used to be smaller and thus everything was far more grand and exhilarating.
As listening to bagpipes approaching goes, I enjoyed the show. A large portion of the half hour or so is spent watching (along with the silent band) as sergeants scrupulously check each soldier
on both sides of the field for uniform and weapon perfection. After the guard changes and everyone marches away down the street, flocks of people hurry away to go see other things. For me, this was heading to the Canadian Mint.
Value for your Money
While they don’t actually produce money for circulation there (that’s done in Winnipeg, M.B.) I did enjoy seeing what little work was going on. It being a weekend, the admission price is cheaper. At first I thought that was a backwards way of running the place but then I realized that no one is working on the floor on weekends and thus, the poor girl had to continually tell us which machines would be running and heavily relied on the video on televisions around the walkways to show us “what would be happening.” She was nice enough and had samples of collector coins for the group to pass around.
I learned from that tour (which cost a whopping $4.50) that the monetary value on collector coins is just a formality. It’s illegal to sell currency without any value attached to it, which is why a coin that is worth 50 cents is sold for hundreds. In theory, you could try to use it in a store but its internal value is so much higher that unless you really wanted that pack of gum, it’s best to hold onto your investment.
Speaking of investment, there’s such a thing as investment coins. Which again, are given a value but the actual worth of the coin is essentially whatever the price of gold or silver is going for. The coins themselves are basically just a disk of money that you sell off much like a gold bar whenever the price is high enough. The tour guide didn’t spend much time on that topic, but the robots worked endlessly to produce these coins.
While I didn’t see anything in the gift shop that called out to me, I was hoping to take home one of the spools of gold they use to make the gold coins. That would set me back about $20-million. The mint had a bunch of them, I’m sure they’d take a pocketful of lint and a bit of string as a fair trade.
After the Mint, I walked some 6 or 7km along beautiful paths and parkways to the Canadian Aviation & Space Museum. They participate in a wonderful idea where after 4p.m. admission is free. Some places only do this on Thursdays, but thankfully CASM does it daily. So at about 4:01, I walked in.
As soon as I walked in to the Aviation and Space Museum and saw there was an exhibit on space I shot off much like a rocket to that area. There were a few games and things for young kids – shoot foam projectiles at a wall, land a rocket, launch a rocket, etc – but what got me most was seeing Chris Hadfield’s videos on a giant projector. I spent hours watching him on Youtube brushing his teeth and cooking and other miscellaneous things so to see him again was most touching. He was also on a giant wall of Canada’s astronauts and was one of three that had been on multiple missions (along with Marc Garneau and Julie Payette).
There was also a big exhibit on life on the International Space Station which included things like how to use a space toilet, space food, pressurized gloves where you could try to comprehend the difficulty of using fine motor skills on an EVA and some other neat things. I didn’t realize that while you grow taller in space due to a lack of gravity pushing on your spine, you also age faster. Maybe that’s why the average age of an astronaut is 34, with the oldest ever being 77.
I took the bus from the museum back to the hostel and while I didn’t argue with the driver, I find that Ottawa’s bus fare of $3.55 is just odd. I mean, why the nickel? Is there a low number of single use tickets purchased so the daily commuters don’t sympathize with me? I’m just nitpicking at this point.
Ottawa has some great museums and attractions I never got to go see, but if I had the time (and the money) I would have loved to go to the Canadian Museum of Nature and the National Gallery of Canada. I do genuinely hope to return, so maybe next time. There will be a next time.