Go Go Jason Waterfalls!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


I recently spent a week with my uncle in Ottawa. I'd been experiencing a lot of anxiety the past couple months, going stir crazy. This was a big step for me; I've never gone a a big trip by myself before. It was terrifying and exciting. I gained a ton of XP (I believe I even levelled-up). On the bus ride there, I had a burst of initiative and struck up a conversation with the traveller who sat beside me. Laura and I talked all the way to Ottawa, and I now have a new friend!

My uncle and his fiancée worked during the day most of the week, so I was on my own to explore the city. I had come with a list of things I wanted to see, mostly museums. They have a special admissions "passport", which gets you into 9 museums in the area for only $35. Ottawa is a lovely city. There are statues around every corner (sadly, a dying art these days), the architecture of even the most mundane buildings, such as apartments, has style, intricate brick work. The transit system is highly efficient (unlike the rubbish they call public transportation here in KW), with double-length buses connected in the middle by a swivel device which looks like an accordion. Everything is bilingual. You see people holding hands all over, including many gay couples. I found there were a great many beautiful people there, too (I think it's from the mixture of French).

I first went to Parliament Hill. There was a free tour of Centre Block, which is simply gorgeous, but at only half an hour, it was quite rushed. The Library of Parliament, which I had wanted to see most, did not disappoint. There's something so appealing to me about circular libraries. The observation floor of the Peace Tower, just under the clock, afforded a grand view of the city. All 3 buildings of Parliament are built of various types of stone symbolic to Canada. At the back of the Hill is a small sanctuary for the stray cats in the area; they come and go as they please, paying little attention to the humans.

I went with my uncle to Little Ray's Reptile Zoo, a reptile sanctuary, on the outskirts of town. They take in discarded pets. We got to see bearded dragons, a rat snake, and alligators being fed. We also got to touch a wood turtle, a tiny possum, an albino Burmese python, and hold an emperor scorpion. The scorpion was neat. They don't feel like spiders, which barely touch you as they walk on you; their pointed legs press firmly into your hand. Along with numerous reptiles, there were also many amphibians, a number of arachnids, 2 skunks, a macaw, and a group of marmosets. The marmosets would sometimes watch you, mirroring your head movements (if they paused long enough from zipping around their enclosure, anyway). Ray's had some great warning signs: "if you put your fingers in the macaw's cage, it will bite you" and "if you throw something into the alligators' pen, we will make you go in and retrieve it'.

I also went with my uncle to the Canada Aviation and Space Museum. Kids got to ride around in pedal cars shaped like planes; it looked fun. We saw some lovely aircraft, including parts of the Avro Arrow, a Harrier (one of my favourites), a Spitfire, a Lancaster Bomber, a Sopwith Camel, and the Messerschmitt Kommet. There was a model display which explained how First World War fighters were able to fire their machine guns through the propeller.

My uncle's fiancée and I went to the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec, just across the canal. Taflemusik, a group my violin teacher had played with, was holding a concert in the great hall. There was a postal gallery, with some neat things like how people would hollow out loaves of bread to smuggle alcohol in the mail. There was also a lot of native art and artifacts, including metal swords (I didn't know they had those). The main display was a trip of Canada throughout its history. It was like wandering through a town, there was so much to see. It started with the arrival of the Vikings and kept going. We wandered through the town gates into military forts, early homes, shops, churches, whaling operations, an oil rig, on and on. We weren't sure it would ever end. Everywhere you turned there was something else. There was a child's coffin in the window of the furniture/undertaker's shop. Behind the Ukrainian church was an outhouse; if you tried to open the door, someone would shout, "hey!" There was a store selling all sorts of neat things, like a banjo for $20. The Chinese dry cleaner's had a wax man at a counter having a conversation with another man behind a clothes line (his silhouette, washing laundry, was projected onto the hanging sheet). Numerous times we stepped out from a building onto a cobblestone street, the stores and lamp posts changing appearance as the times progressed. The ceiling was made up of a number of canvas pieces, lit dark blue as we entered the exhibit, and becoming pink/orange as we neared the end. The top floor consisted of mini galleries devoted to influential Canadians.

I met up with Laura and we went to the Canadian Museum of Nature. They had a live black widow spider (another thing crossed off my bucket list)! The marine gallery had a blue whale skeleton, various sea creatures, and an aquarium of pretty fish. There was also smokey quartz the size of my head with 500 thousand year-old water trapped inside (this is known as enhydro). To get to the top floor we had to ascend a glass tower built onto the front of the castle-like museum. A short glass walkway connected the two. Terrifying. The mineral gallery was superb. Though smaller than the ROM's, it had the same touchscreen technology for each display case. There were a lot of meteorites, some absolutely gorgeous garnets and dioptase, and many minerals I've never heard of before. The security guard there was quite knowledgeable, even telling us of his own experiences visiting mines up north. Apparently you can bring in your specimens to be identified by their geologists! There was an activity area across the hall where kids could earn points to trade in for mineral, fossil, or insect specimens. The most valuable treasures cost 100 points, and points could be accumulated over many visits to the museum. I was jealous; some of the gems they had would have cost me quite a bit to buy in a store. The bird gallery had many species I want to see in the wild some day, including swallows and ravens. The dinosaur gallery was great. It had a life-size diorama of 2 Daspletosaurs attacking a heard of Chasmosaurs. The skeletons included a Carnotaurus and a Dromaeosaurus. I was very impressed with this museum. The cafe was reasonably-priced, with delicious food. I had a potato and curry soup which was not overdone with the curry. The gift shop had the best selection of gems of any other museum. I got many affordable specimens of minerals not already in my collection, including the very rare weloganite.

I left Ottawa early because I felt I was about to get sick (I didn't), but it was an incredible trip.

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