A travel journal
to Ottawa by girlfromals
Quote: The Canadian Museum of Civilization, located across the Ottawa River in the newly amalgamated city of Gatineau (now encompassing the city of Hull), is really many museums in one. Check out thousands of years of Canadian history, special exhibits, and the IMAX theater in this 4-level museum.
The Museum of Civilization hosts the Canadian Postal Museum, the Children's Museum, First Peoples Hall, and Canada Hall. Each of the sections of the Museum offers fantastically detailed displays with explanatory information in both English and French. Kids will be kept busy with all the interactive displays geared towards them.
For more information on the Museum of Civilization, check out their website or give them a call at 819/776-7000 or toll free in Canada and the United States 800/555-5621.
Bienvenue and Welcome to Canada's cultural showcase! Enjoy your stay!
The sight upon walking in to the Great Hall is unforgettable. Everytime I go to the museum, it takes my breath away. The building was designed by a First Nations architect and his influence can be seen most noticeably in the hall. As you take the escalator down to the floor of the Great Hall, you will notice the four-story ceiling and the huge floor to ceiling windows on the left side of the hall. As you ride down the escalator, look up! You will see what is meant to be the underside of a boat. Along the windows on the left side of the hall you will notice what looks like large oars extending down to the floor. As you continue your journey down, take a keen look at the floor. The floor was designed with both shiny and matte tiles to give the effect of rippling water. In summer, the fountain outside the Museum reflects into the hall increasing the water effect. When you reach the ground level of the hall, you can explore West Coast First Nations houses and the largest indoor collection of life-size totem poles.
I suggest starting your museum exploration in the Great Hall as it truly begins your trek through thousands of years of Canadian history.
When you enter the museum you will see the ticket desk. You can choose a museum entrance ticket, IMAX ticket, or both. The museum offers a family rate which can be used even if your children are adults! Sunday is half-price day.
There is a complementary coat-check on the entrance level. I suggest that you use the coat-check as the museum can get very warm -- you will wish that you'd dropped off your coat!
To pick up a map of the museum, stop at the information desk on the entrance level. The staff at this desk is very helpful.
Remember that Canada has two official languages, English and French. All information is provided in both languages and all guides and staff are bilingual.
The museum is fully wheelchair accessible and offers special services for the physically challenged. I also noticed booklets in large type available for visitors who have difficulty reading the small type posted next to the exhibits.
Taxis are a convenient and inexpensive way to get to the Museum from downtown Ottawa. It costs around Cdn from the Market Area of Ottawa. Taxis stop often at the museum so it is easy to catch one back to Ottawa.
If you drive, you can choose one of three bridges to cross over the Ottawa River, Pont des Chaudieres Bridge, Pont du Portage Bridge, and Pont Alexandra Bridge. If you want to avoid the congestion of traffic in the Market area avoid the Pont Alexandra Bridge; this, however, is the quickest way to drive if you are in the Market area. As Ottawa is a major tourist destination, maps and streets are well-marked out so it is difficult to lose your way.
Attraction | "The Canadian Postal Museum"
There are two ways to enter the Canadian Postal Museum: through the Canadian Children's Museum, or near the elevators and escalators on Level Two. I recommend entering from the elevator side. When you enter, you will see a number of old post-office signs--some of these are from small-town post offices which no longer exist. Further along your way, you will see a set of post-office boxes with DOC written on them. This means "Dominion of Canada."
Upon entering the museum proper, you have a few choices of direction to begin your exploration. To the right is one of the newest additions to the museum: a complete collection of Canadian stamps, including stamps from pre-Confederation colonies. After Confederation, the stamps are organized according to themes like sports or art. At the entrance of this collection, there are small magnifiers which you can use to check out the detail of the stamps that interest you. My dad is a stamp collector, so many of these stamps are familiar to me. If you are surprised by the number of stamps with Queen Elizabeth II on them, remember that we are a constitutional monarchy and she is our head of state.
If you choose to begin your journey by heading straight into the museum, you will begin your journey through thousands of years of postal systems and delivery. There are a number of ancient and not so ancient artifacts, from Egyptian and Phoenecian messages to letters that were delivered 50 years after being sent to items from postal delivery shool!
If you are looking for the kids' area, take the first left upon entering the museum. There are a number of desks at which kids can sit and design their own stamps, check out cool holographic stamps, and make other projects. This will be sure to occupy their busy minds!
Along the back wall of the kids' area are hung framed special editions of Canadian stamps. These multi-stamp sheets were designed for special occasions, such as the 125th anniversary of the RCMP, Queen Elizabeth's Golden Jubilee, and even something for Pope John Paul II.
Another new addition to this museum (as of 2002) is the T. E. Eaton's section. Eaton's was a Canadian department-store chain but began as a catalogue order business. Be sure to check out the fancy hats! Did you know that many houses on the prairies were actually ordered from Eaton's House Catalogue, all supplies included?
Canadian stamps, produced by Canada Post, are collected by stamp enthusiasts around the world. Check out its website if you are interested in starting your own collection.
Admission to the Postal Museum is included in the ticket to the Museum of Civilization, and the operating hours are the same.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 21, 2003
Canadian Postal Museum
100 Laurier St
Hull, Ontario J8X 4H2
+1 819 776 7000
Attraction | "The Mysterious Bog People"
The stories of contemporaries of Tollund Man are told in a special exhibition, entitled The Mysterious Bog People, at the Museum of Civilization until September of 2003. Travel back thousands of years to learn about the peat bogs, the people who used them to survive, and the fantastic archaeological treasures that give us clues about how these people lived and how these particular people ended up in the bog.
Begin your journey by discovering who these people were through displayed artifacts and interactive displays that the kids will love, and which explain how the artifacts were used. There are the every day tools to hunt and prepare food as well as the ceremonial, like large horns the purpose of which is not entirely known.
The exhibit is quite dark but the exhibits themselves are well-lighted. The darkness, though, might make you miss one of the unique features of the exhibit — the winding walls of the exhibit are actually a reproduction peat bog!
The preserved bodies which are a part of this exhibit are not the best preserved in the world. I admit that having seen the actual Tollund Man in Denmark (he is never allowed out of his museum) I was a bit spoiled and a bit disappointed at the condition of the bodies in the exhibit. The Tollund Man is so perfectly preserved, you can actually see his beard and fingerprints! But, if you've never seen a bog person, you won't be disappointed.
Some of the most fantastic artifacts are decorative. The jewelry and coins buried with these people are absolutely amazing. It is sometimes difficult to believe that objects of such beauty were created with such artistic finesse thousands of years ago!
The final portion of the exhibit is mainly scientific and really seemed to grab the attention of the kids. It will show you how the bodies and artifacts are preserved from deterioration. You can also see the process of face reconstruction. It is quite amazing to see the face of a bog mummy staring back at you even though he has been dead for thousands of years!
Entrance is included in the ticket for the Museum of Civilization and the opening hours are the same. A trip in time through the peat bogs of Northwest Europe is a definite must if you can make it to Ottawa.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 18, 2003
Mysterious Bog People
The Museum of Civilization
Bus fares reflect the fact that OC Transpo offers a number of different services to riders. The bus fares changed on July 1, 2004. Most buses which visitors travel on require normal fare: Children 5 and under ride for free; Children (aged 6-11) $1.35 or 1 bus ticket; Adults $2.60 or 2 bus tickets. Express routes are more expensive and run either in the city of Ottawa or to the rural areas during the weekday rush hours only. You will be able to figure out which buses these are because they display a bright green fare sign in the front window -- you can't miss it. City Express Buses: $3.75 or 3 tickets; Rural Express Buses: $4.75 or 4 tickets.
If you use cash, please have the exact fare ready as the bus drivers do not provide change. Annoying, yes, but that's the way it is. Each bus posts a fare sign in the front window so you can always check to make sure you have the correct fare before getting on. 'The Ticket', which you can use in lieu of cash, are a great deal: they are 90 cents each, much cheaper than paying cash - a regular adult fare costs only $1.80 when using 'The Ticket'. Therefore, I highly recommend using 'The Ticket'. You can purchase 'The Ticket' at a number of places around Ottawa including OC Transpo offices. I usually get mine at the OC Transpo office at the Rideau Shopping Centre right downtown (one of the main transit system transfer points). This is probably the most convenient place for visitors to purchase 'The Ticket' as it is close to a number of museums, hotels, and the Market.
Bus Passes can also be a good deal if you are travelling with a family. You can purchase a Day Pass at one of the many vendors (check the website for locations) or on the bus. A Day Pass allows you individually or as a family (2 adults and up to 4 children aged 11 and under) to ride the bus system all day without worrying about the correct change or where you put those blasted Tickets! If you pre-buy a Day Pass at one of the OC Transpo locations it will cost $6. If you buy it on the bus it costs $6.50.
The bus system in Ottawa runs on a Proof of Payment system. If you are paying cash or are using 'The Ticket' be sure to grab a 'transfer' from the bus driver as your proof of payment. You certainly don't want to get dinged with a fine on your trip to Ottawa! The proof of payment also acts as your transfer for other buses. It is valid for 1 1/2 hours after first payment - good for short trips but not so good if you are travelling around the entire day or with a family. Therefore, I highly recommend the Day Pass.
There are 3 main kinds of routes in Ottawa: Black - regular routes; Red - weekday rush hours; and Green - weekday rush hours requiring premium fares. Bus stops list each bus by number and colour so it is easy to determine which bus stops at which location.
The 95 and 97 are the main cross-city routes which operate almost exclusively on the transitway (except in the downtown area). These two routes will get you from one point to another in an efficient and quick manner.
You can check the various routes, maps, and times on the OC Transpo website, but if you are like me and hate doing that, you can always pick up a paper copy of the route schedules at the OC Transpo offices. This is much more handy if you are travelling with your family and have to figure out where to go and at what time. You can't whip your desktop out of your backpack whenever you feel like it!
I've found the bilingual staff at the OC Transpo offices and on the buses very helpful whenever I've had questions. They know the city and the routes well and will be able to help you plan the best (whether the fastest or the most scenic) way to get to your destination.
There are a few special routes which you should be aware of. The 800-series buses run from 4am-6am. Bus 103 will get you to Jetform Park for Ottawa Lynx baseball games. The 400-series buses run to the Corel Centre for Ottawa Senators games and special events. These buses run across the entire city. Check the website for more info and look for the Connexion 400 signs for your bus stop when you are actually in Ottawa.
Problems: I've noticed that OC Transpo service on Sundays is not very reliable or efficient. Service is cut way back -- on some routes, only 1 bus per hour! The more busy and main routes are better but it is best to check with OC Transpo before you find yourself stranded.
Bus racks are provided on routes 1, 2, 7, 85, 95, 97, 105, 118 and 180. Unfortunately, there is space for only 2 bikes per bus. It is, however, more convenient than riding from one end of the city to the other when you hadn't planned on it! The use of the bike racks is free with your bus fare. If the racks are full, wait for the next bus.
Accessible buses run on a number of routes in Ottawa. Some routes are accessible all day, others on only some trips. The OC Transpo website will tell you exactly which bus routes and which trips have accessible buses and low-floor buses. These buses are not only convenient for wheelchair users but also for families with children in strollers.
Special Days and Activities: On particular days, bus travel can be free or discounted. For example, during the Tulip Festival, a free shuttle bus was provided to get visitors from one location to the others. On Canada Day, bus travel will be free after 10pm in order to facilitate the clearing of the crowds from Parliament Hill after the fireworks display (well, I suspect it also has something to do with getting people who've had a few too many to drink home safely). OC Transpo posts this information on its website.
Changes to Service: OC Transpo makes frequent changes to service because of the school year, road construction, etc. I hate waiting for a bus only to discover that the bus schedule has just changed.
Service was cut back on June 27, 2004 due to budget constraints. Most routes which tourists would use are generally unaffected. Check out the website or stop by an OC Transpo office for the full scoop.
Gift of the Gods is a variation on an exhibition of the same name at Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), with one major difference: this show traces the history and cultural significance of wine from its beginnings through to the development of the Canadian wine industry. As I began my journey through history, I couldn't help but notice the corporate logo of the SAQ, the Quebec Liquor Board, emblazoned about the entrance of the exhibit. I couldn't help but wonder if I were the only one who thought it ironic that the only wine Quebecers could look at was in an exhibit thanks to a long strike by SAQ employees across the province. The disruption in service actually highlighted the importance of wine in modern society, meshing quite nicely with the exhibit.
The plethora of ancient Greek artwork on display keenly highlighted the importance of wine in ancient culture. Images of Dionysus, or Bacchus, the Greek god of wine, graced exquisite statues and everyday items, including impossibly small cameos. My favourite piece was a red terra-cotta face so thin it looked like a mask. A small, but impressive, collection of amphorae and serving vessels were on display. Ranging from the incredibly large to the small, amphorae were not just used to hold wine. They also held the other important ingredient in the enjoyment of wine: water. All civilized people knew that you were supposed to cut your wine with water; you never enjoyed it straight. This social practice required the development of what was likely, if the variety of vessels on display was any indication: millions of uniquely decorated serving vessels in which the wine and water were mixed and then consumed.
The Greeks gave us many gifts, including democracy. Democracy did not just apply to electoral voting, however. The Greeks also democratized wine. Prior to the Greeks, wine was considered a luxury reserved only for the wealthy. The Greeks made wine available to all. When I read this interesting historical tidbit, I thought that it was too bad they did not consider fit to democratize other facets of their society! The wine culture also gave us words like symposium, although its modern meaning is somewhat different. The ancient symposium involved men drinking and carousing to excess around low-legged tables like the reproduction on display. Women were only allowed in to, uh, entertain the men. Somehow, I doubt this is the kind of symposium the dean of the law school had in mind when my club organized an international symposium.
The medieval era shifted the focus on wine from everyday use for pleasure to the celebration of the glory of god. The drinking vessels on display ranged from simple wood bowls to ornately decorated chalices, but the only thing I could think of was how these shared drinking vessels were the perfect medium to spread disease! Religion would prove to be a driving force behind the development of the wine industry in Canada, as the French Catholic Church required a reliable supply of wine for religious purposes. But I get ahead of myself.
The next section of the exhibition illustrated the revival of all things ancient, including the fascination with wine and its pleasurable enjoyment. Unlike the ancients, whose objects were designed to be both beautiful and functional, the post-Renaissance objects were designed with a kitschy flair. Reproductions of classic images are completely overdone, with gaudy colours indicating that the designers thought, "Why not add just a little more embellishment - it can't possibly hurt." Sometimes there is such a thing as too much!
The Venetian glass makers definitely got design right. Functional and elegant, every wine glass is a work of art in its own right. Somehow, when the Venetian glassmakers added embellishment, it looked graceful, not kitschy. The qualities that make this glass so beautiful also make it extremely fragile - many of the pieces from the ROM were too fragile to be shipped from Toronto.
And now, back to the Canadian wine industry. As Europeans settled North America, the powers that be searched for ways to exploit their new colonies. Wine was not exactly one of the products that was high on that list - Canada is known as the Great White North after all! It was, however, necessary for the Catholic Church to acquire wine for religious services. Once again, necessity was the mother of invention.
Not all Canadians saw the benefits of alcohol. I was starkly reminded of this by a Temperance pamphlet on exhibit. Actually, I laughed when I saw it. I completed my undergraduate degree in a prairie city settled by men and women belonging to the Temperance movement. The Temperance movement hoped to rid society of the evil of alcohol. While they did not succeed in reaching their ultimate goal, they did leave a few reminders behind, including a street named Temperance. It is, however, quite ironically located at the heart of the student housing area near campus and plays host to many a student party complete with alcohol. I don't think the students get the irony.
The quirkiest portion of the exhibit included odd offerings from the 1970s with names like Baby Duck, Baby Bear, Tiger Cat, and even one called Zoom, a cola-flavoured wine. The wine industry targeted the youth market with these offerings, but I wondered who would ever drink this stuff. No wonder Canadian wine became the biggest joke in the industry.
Luckily, some Canadians had the vision and determination to improve upon the sad state of Canadian wine. A trip through the interior of a vineyard building illustrated how Canadians adapted the grape to the Canadian climate, how they modified the oak barrel, and how they developed the much coveted ice wine, all an indication of the versatility and adaptability of wine.
The exhibition ended on a positive note with row upon row of award-winning Canadian wines on display. It certainly made me think just how far wine has come since the days of the ancients. Who would have thought that wine would be drunk without water, or that frozen grapes would result in a delectable treat? Wine is truly a remarkable gift of the gods.