This past weekend we finally made the trip to Ottawa to visit our friends Bruce and Youngja (of my kimchi lesson fame), who have been living there for around two years and we had not yet visited, mainly because it was too difficult to find a dog sitter for Zeus for a weekend, and the drive was too long to take him with us.
While it would have been lovely to have had a few more days, we had a great trip and squeezed in just the right amount of sights in the two days we were there. We did the standard walking tour around Parliament Hill, which is always impressive, and walked across the bridge to Gatineau where we had dinner and drinks at the brand new Brasseurs du Temps, a brew-pub built into an old water works station. If you get a chance, I highly recommend the place, which was hopping. Our friend Bruce explained that this place has been in the works for years, and it includes a very unique treatment of the historic building. The brewery is situated into the centre of the building, and you can take a spiral ramp down three floors and view the tanks and brewing areas via windows into the building core. It looks like they’re still working on a second floor bar area, and a patio near the dam/waterfall at the rear of the building (I’m still working on editing those photos).
But the hilight of our trip was definitely our tour of the Diefenbunker, “Canada’s Cold War Museum.” This four-story bunker is built into an unassuming hill west of Ottawa, near Kanata and the hamlet of Carp. A working military base until 1994, this amazing museum is really something to see. I’ve never felt so transported back in time, and even though much of the furniture and equipment is not original to the facility, they have managed to keep true to the era, and whenever possible returned some of the original items (like phones that have special arms over the receivers to keep them from coming off the cradle in the event of a nuclear blast). While the bunker was built to withstand a 5 megaton blast, ironically, it was already obsolete within about 10 years of being built (nuclear bombs are now capable of releasing charges in excess of 100 megatons, according to our guide). Also, apparently Diefenbaker never set foot in the place, and never intended to, even in the event of an attack (he would pass on his responsibilities as Prime Minister to the next guy in line so he could stick with his family).
The bunker was big enough (four floors, the deepest floor being about 90 feet underground) to support up to 530 people for 30 days. There was enough fresh food supplies on hand for that many people for seven days, before they had to switch to hard rations. The bunker also contained the most powerful emergency broadcast studio in Canada (of its time), a CBC studio designed to override all broadcast signals in Canada, and they played an eerie sample recording of an emergency broadcast, narrated by Lorne Greene.
If you get the opportunity to visit this historic site, I highly recommend going for it. I couldn’t convince the boys on this trip that we should see the Canadian Museum of Civilization or the National Gallery of Canada, but they were more than enthused to check this out (it was their idea actually), and I’m so glad we did.