Monthly Archives: July 2015

Edmonton, Monday 20/07/15

i took the Greyhound bus from Seattle to Vancouver. I got talking to a very interesting woman who at the moment is working to try to get better deals for young musicians/singers who are struggling to make any money within the present music industry. Very relevant now, if you know about Taylor Swift’s part in getting Apple to pay artists during the three month free trial of their new music streaming service. My companion got off before the Canadian border and I went on to Vancouver to spend my first night in Canada in a hostel near Jericho Park, one of the beaches along the shoreline. 

The first day in the city I visited the downtown area and the Art Gallery. I don’t know why, but it somehow reminds me of Bristol, though it is newer and cleaner. 

That afternoon I met up with Steve, who had offered to be my Servas host and put me up for a while, even though he is very busy trying to do up his apartment. First we went for a walk in Lynn Canyon Park.  

 Not many cities have such a site of natural beauty so close to the commercial centre. To see how it all fits together he took me to Cypress Provincial Park, high up across the bay.  

   We finished the evening with a walk along the riverside and a light dinner at a Craft Beer Market in a large renovated Salt Building. Steve is a very engaging person to talk to and I drank samples of local beers, so the evening passed very pleasantly. 

The following day I walked over to the university area, (UBC), to the Museum of Anthropology. There are several different sections. The entrance leads on to a large glass hall with canoes, house poles and other large artefacts.  

 There was a small, more intimate and interactive area dealing with the cultural lifestyles of the local First Nation peoples. I admit to knowing very little about them and I was touched by their need to tell their stories and in particular to protect a sacred burial ground in the city.  

 There are some specialist galleries and the large, important, Multiversity Galleries, housing thousands of objects from around the world. Like the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, there are drawers beneath the exhibit cases packed with more collections, but it is newly presented and with better lighting. I’m sure you could spend days in there, especially learning about the Musqueam, the Kwakwaka’wakw and the Haida indigenous tribes. 

Steve had to leave for a few days, but he very kindly gave me a key and allowed me to stay while he was away. This gave me an opportunity to settle in, do a little yoga and meditation and explore the local area. I admit that I did not see that much of the city as a whole, but the shops and cafés in this part of town were diverse and rather trendy, (including lots of places offering “medicinal” cannabis), with friendly people willing to chat. I was able to cook for myself, leave my toiletries in the bathroom and listen to my own music – small pleasures but so rare in my travels. 

When Steve returned, there was just enough time for another beer and a meal before I had to board the train to Jasper.  

 It’s a 20 hour journey. I didn’t sleep much, but spent a lot of time in the observation lounge. Here are some of the things I saw.  

 One of the people I met on the train was a wonderful woman called Marie-Eleni, who is Australian with a Greek mother. She has lived in Canada in the past and travelled, literally, all over the planet. I learnt a lot from her and we discovered we were staying at the same hostel, so we were able to do things together over the next couple of days. 

We went to the summit of Old Fort’s Point.   

 We walked by the Athabaska River and around lakes.  

   On an evening drive we saw Black Bears and Elk.  
 This still gave us time for yoga in the park and periods to go off to do our own thing. But there was only accommodation for two nights, so although there were so many places to   explore and animals to encounter, I had to get on the train. 

I was leaving the majestic scenery of the Rockies behind and I wish I had planned better and had greater funds so as to have spent more time and gone further. Canada is an extraordinary country and I am fortunate to be here. 

Vancouver, 10/07/15

As my flight left Bogotà at 12.15 am, when I arrived in San Francisco I had been up for over 24 hours. We hadn’t been given anything to eat on the flight and I was not allowed in to my dorm until 3 pm, so I went to get some strong coffee and a bagel and then wandered around like a zombie for a few hours, sorting out a new SIM card and buying some trousers to replace the ones I’d had since Bangkok, which were barely holding together. 

Somewhat refreshed the next day, I set off for Golden Gate Park. While I was there I discovered an exhibition of Turner’s paintings in the “de Young Museum”. It was a magnificent collection. In the more formal works there is an incredible amount of detail, but when you get up close it just seems like smudges and brush strokes. The exhibition was entitled “Painting Set Free”, (a little ambiguity there) and one of my favourite images was this, of his hotel room in what appears to be Italy. 

 So interesting, when we usually associate him with landscapes and sunsets and, of course, ahead of his time. 

I had arrived in SF in Pride Week, so that evening I joined guests at my hostel and a couple of others on a “Pride pub crawl”. This involved wearing lots of rainbow colours and lights and wandering around Tenderloin district, one of the less salubrious parts of town. I hooked up with a delightful male nurse from Chile  and some of his friends. He was so happy to be there and especially at a bar called Gangway, which claims to be the oldest “gay bar” in SF. The evening ended with dancing with random strangers and being escorted back to the hostel around 2.30 am by a guy sharing my dorm. A highly entertaining day. 

The downside of being in SF at this time, however, was that the hostel had raised its prices considerably for my third night and that there were no beds to be had at all for the weekend. I spent the best part of the next day trying to find a place to stay and a way to get there. Greyhound buses were putting up their prices by the minute, literally, as “tickets are selling out fast”. 

So I ended up going to Sacramento by train. 

There were several reasons for this. There were no places to stay in Yosemite National Park and a day trip cost over £100, which for a quick tour and four hours in the park I felt was unreasonable. Also that would still leave me with a problem as to where to stay for the night. 

I was hoping to go to Portland, so a stop at Sacramento was not out of the way. Unfortunately there were no cheap places to stay in Portland either. 

As it happened, I enjoyed my time in California’s Capital. I went to a farmers’ market, which was totally different from the higgedly piggedly markets of South America, with everything labelled and laid out on trestle tables. 

I came across a small park concert of African American music and Joe Leavy, (soul singer with a popular single, Standing in the Shadows), was performing. It was all about the love. 

I sauntered into Old Sacramento, which has buildings and a design dating back to the mid to late 19th Century, with a boardwalk and all.  

 I had great fun. 

There was a candy store, like a room in Willy Wonka’s factory, where you can  try free salt-water taffy in all sorts of flavours, as long as you eat on the premises.  

 There was a fun games/ media store.  

 A shop that sold kites of all shapes and sizes . . . 

 and perhaps best of all for me, down a narrow stairway, a treasure trove of old vinyl music in two rooms and old jukeboxes in the third. The owner and I really hit it off, as he let me listen to some tunes and I started with Jeff Beck. He gave me a hug when I left. 

Just a little aside, but important nevertheless. The Supreme Court legalised same sex marriage on 26th July, while I was in San Francisco, so that was another thing to celebrate. While I was walking the streets of Sacramento, however, I got talking to a young woman petitioning for equal rights in the workplace. Her female partner was dismissed from her post as a teacher when it was known that she was engaged to a woman. Discrimination is still exercised and not everyone has the wherewithal to fight it in the courts, while many state’s anti-discrimination laws do not extend to private sector employment.  

Bypassing Portland, I took the train through to Seattle. We passed through some outstanding scenery and quite unlike anything else I’ve seen on my travels, because of the coniferous forests and the sweeping plains. After a night and a day of travel through Oregon and Washington, we reached Puget Sound at sunset. The light was lovely and the weather was fine. 

Seattle in the sun is a good place to hang out. There’s some interesting architecture, though I don’t think the skyline is exactly as they showed it on Frasier. 

 There’s Pike Place market, where you can buy anything that you want in the way of food. There are remnants of the 1962 World’s Fair e.g. the Space Needle and the monorail. There’s Starbucks!!

Because of a serious fire, they had to rebuild Seattle. Unlike other cities, such as San Francisco, which were built on hills, they built the hill around the city.    

The highlights of my time there were my visit to the EMP Museum, (Experience Music Project). There are whole sections devoted to fantasy, horror and science fiction genres, with props and costumes galore.  There is a history of the electric guitar and a Jimi Hendrix corner. 
This is Nirvana’s demo tape.  

 The other best part was taking the ferry to Bainbridge island. On a clear day you can see Mount Rainer from the Sound.  

 The island itself is obviously a very desirable place to live.  

 And once again I was lucky enough to catch the sunset.  

 Seattle was my last stop on the West of the USA. I had to move on, because the States were proving to be very expensive. Also I think I was a bit dumb. I was back in the First World, where people are organised and have very short holidays. Of course they plan ahead and places are booked up. They have their own transport and carry supplies. My habit of just turning up and seeing how things turn out has had to be modified. I have to think ahead. 

Next I will let you know how I get on in Canada.