This writerly blog will splinter – at least for a while – into a traveler’s diary (or perhaps a hybrid). G and I are roaming around the world indefinitely so I thought it best to keep a bit of a log. But don’t expect a bombardment of posts.
After a few conniptions at the start, we had only two days in Vancouver rather than the planned week so we made good use of the HOHO bus. Despite the rain, we had a bracing hike through Stanley Park, roamed around Gastown (great cheap snack at Jack’s Place, tucked away in the back of the Army and Navy Store) and Chinatown (including Dr Sun Yat-Sen Garden). We tapped our feet at a pub open mic, gawped at ice-skaters, ate a classic hot dog and watched glassblowing and skateboarding at the Granville Island Market.
Our very first Canadian sit is in a beautiful suburb of Calgary, at the foothills of the Canadian Rockies and we are so lucky to have two adorable pussy-cats to care for (one is a stunningly beautiful but very aloof Princess, the other, who was rescued in great trauma years ago, now lives a princely life and loves cuddles). Our temporary home is just perfect and the weather has been kind. There were reports of lows around the minus thirties in the week before we arrived which left us with a welcoming carpet of snow but we’ve eased through nights of minus thirteens and days of plus eights so far, although there is a cold snap forecast next week.
We spent more time than anticipated snuggled up with the cats and unwinding but have begun to unfurl and venture out. We caught the bus into the city for a day, whizzed up the Calgary Tower for a good view, had a bite at the James Joyce Irish Pub and spent a few wondrous hours in the Studio Bell building lapping up all things Canadian musical. Of course, I swooned over the much-missed Leonard Cohen but there are so many great artists who’ve come out of this country and the five stories of the Studio Bell building are packed with them. You get a chance to listen to music across genres or, indeed, make some music of your own. Here’s me, belting out something (I call it a tune, G would beg to differ) on the drums.
Yesterday we took ourselves off for a little ‘roadie’ to Banff and Lake Louise. Good friends had urged us to also visit Moraine Lake but that road is closed during winter. I would love to see Lake Louise again in the spring or summer – they say its hue is beautiful – but I’m also glad we got to see it as a winter wonderland, complete with ice sculpting finalists.
Banff is such a quaint little town and after a good walk around, we decided it was time to try something culinarily Canadian. I’m sure we will get to try many interesting dishes in the coming months (butter tarts?) but the only lunch one we’d heard about was Poutine (French-Canadian) so that’s what we ordered. Basically, it’s a bowl of yummy hot chips with cheese curd and rich brown gravy. You can have them plain or with meat such as braised elk! Naughty but nice!
Some things of note:
- If Vancouverites and Calgarians are typical of Canadians as a whole, then they are as friendly and polite as their reputation suggests.
- It is important to perfect a certain type of duck walk to avoid slipping on hidden ice spots. And keep your core switched on. So far, so good.
- Every time I see one of the quaint yellow school buses, I wonder: ‘Who Killed Kenny?’
- I must stop standing still on the footpath. Canadian drivers always stop to let pedestrians cross the road. Anywhere. Any time.
My writing brain has cranked into overdrive (how could it not, with place names like Crowchild Trail and Dead Man’s Flats) but I am trying not to spend too much time at the computer as there is so much to see. Tomorrow is a university ice hockey game. The following day, I’m hoping to try tubing at Olympic Park. Watch this space . . .