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! 😀
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!
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:
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. 🙂
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:
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:
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! 😀
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!