Daily Post prompt: Meander

Peak_1524

Close to a farm’s track where the GPS (Satnav) led us. That road in the distance is where we wanted to go!

The Daily Post at WordPress encourages writers to blog and offers two ways to inspire a new post on your blog. They have a weekly photo challenge which I’ve taken up lots of times since my travel photography is one of the reasons I started this blog. They also suggest a word once a week that you might relate to in some way that might not even *be* about that word/prompt. But if it gets the creative juices flowing, it worked, didn’t it?

This week’s word is “meander”. To meander is to follow a winding road or curved path. To me, that meandering path is random, zigs and zags, unexpected turns. Traveling can be like that, too. I tend to be an organizer. Not to the minute or even necessarily to the day but I like to make sure I have a bed booked for the night and I like to know I’ll be getting from A to B on the day when the hotel in B is booked. Generally how I get there is predetermined as well. If we are driving the roads or walking through a city, then those streets and roads have meandering potential and we often take it. The end result is usually always been worth the veering off the beaten track.

My first ever big trip was in high school on a tour sponsored by the French department. We flew in and out of Rome, taking the train to Paris then to Nice on the French Riviera and the train again back to Rome. There wasn’t a lot of time for meandering. The tour did give us some free time and we headed out with specific destinations in mind but I don’t really recall any meandering, just looking for the best way to get where we wanted to go. To add meandering into the mix meant we knew we would get to destination B but didn’t really care how we got there or how long it took.

The next big trip was a bus tour of the UK when I was all grown up, divorced, and finally able to afford to travel to my first bucket list destination. London and the UK and I had been soul mates most of my life. The bus tour would hit the highlights of England, Scotland and Wales with a few days in London at either end. Of course the bus didn’t meander, it had a schedule to meet. But we had free time to do what we wanted, whether it was an extended lunch period or an afternoon. Most evenings were free as well. Plenty of chances to see new things while meandering and exploring.

Neil’s Yard from a later visit

My first visit to London in 1993 was mostly free time aside from a tour around the Tower of London and I found myself in the Covent Garden area one sunny afternoon in late August/early September. I spied a narrow alley and I wondered where that would lead. There were lots of people coming and going through it so I walked into the shade it provided, the tall buildings with small shops lining each side. I came to the other end, out into the open. It was a sunny courtyard. There were benches where you could sit. There were shops and a couple of cafes. There were brightly coloured flags hanging everywhere. It was Neil’s Yard and it was enchanting. I’ve been back once or twice but it’s never had the same effect as discovering it that first time.

Cornwall (St. Ives) 2011

Later on, when I was involved in a long distance relationship with a lovely man who lived in the UK, we would book a rental car for a week of my UK visit to him and plan road trips or day trips. We generally weren’t in a hurry so meandering was often involved. We’d see a sign for a museum we didn’t know existed. We’d notice a really great view to stop off and admire. We’d often have a GPS (“Sat Nav” in UK-speak) directing us to our destination but don’t think that took the meander out of the equation. Oh no. Sometimes I think the GPS had a meander chip of its own, judging by the spots it tended to direct us to. The little track across the back of someone’s farm comes to mind as does an impossibly narrow lane in the old centre of St. Ives. We laugh about it now.

I haven’t yet taken a trip where we have no accommodations booked ahead of time. We talk about it now and then. We may even do it someday. We’re looking at a potential road trip around Scotland this fall and maybe that might be a good time to take the leap of faith, head into the Highlands and see how long it takes and how difficult or easy it would be to find a bed for the night at the end of each new day. Maybe with the help of a hotel app on our phone and a decent signal in a town centre it’s doable. Or is that cheating?

Daily Post’s weekly challenge – A Face in the Crowd

WordPress’s weekly photo challenge this week is “A Face in the Crowd”, and they want photos that can capture portraits anonymously. The writer of that post talks about being too shy to ask people face on and I can identify with that. I have few photos of the portraits

Here are a few I think might play on the theme.

Papua New Guinea Clan Pole

Another face in the crowd…. Papua New Guinea Clan Pole representing the faces of the tribe as a whole. Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver

Matthew Street Brick Wall, Liverpool

Another brick in the wall. Matthew Street, Liverpool. Not faces, but names that will always stand out in a crowd of talent.

Citadel soldier waiting

Waiting to fire the daily noon cannon from the walls of Halifax Citadel.

Fun Fans

Fans of Coronation Street, a British soap, wander on the old outdoor set, disguised as their favourite characters. Superb! Anonymous and yet not. Every tourist on that tour would recognize those faces.

DP Challenge- Variations on a Theme

I haven’t done a photo challenge for awhile but this one appealed to me. WordPress suggested variations on a theme. My interpretation is numerous varieties of the same thing. It’s details like this that I photograph on my travels. It’s one thing to take a picture of an attractive shop window or interior but it’s even more interesting to see detail about what’s actually in the window or on a shelf! I give you…variations…

Dumon choccies

Belgian chocolates. Dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate. Smooth top, curly top, soft centre, hard centre. In the end, it’s all chocolate and Yum! some of the best in the world. From the famed Dumon shop in Brugges.

Flowermarket souvenir houses

Amsterdam and other cities in the Low Coutries are famous for the gabled eaves on the houses. They all look like lacy decorations on a wedding cake! Of course you’re going to take a picture of the actual houses but this souvenir display of miniature gabled houses, see in Amsterdam’s Flower Market, was too difficult to pass up. Yes, yes I did buy one!

Multples

There’s been a fund raising trend over the past decade where a plain, white form, usually one that has meaning to the area, is painted by various groups, artists or businesses and displayed around the city centre. They are later auctioned for a cause. These are ship’s mastheads or figureheads, common sights on ships for centuries, to ward off bad luck Halifax, Nova Scotia

Sherbrooke Tailor Buttons

Buttons, buttons, who’s got the buttons. Seen in a replica historic tailor shop in Sherbrooke Village, Nova Scotia.

A Photo a Week Challenge: Reflection

Untitled
Nancy Merrill Photography challenge this week is Reflection so in keeping with the season, though it’s not a travel photo, here’s my take.

Hawaii – Honeymoon Central

Waikiki rainbow best
We were in Vancouver when last I wrote. We transferred to an airport hotel, a Ramada, so we would be handy before flying out to Honolulu. In retrospect, considering that it wasn’t that expensive to get a cab to the hotel and wouldn’t have been much more than that for the airport, we should have booked an extra day at the Rosedale on Robson and spent the last day downtown with the luggage being held until we could go directly to the airport. Lessons learned.

The flight takes about 5 hours and the airline is Air Canada Rouge, not a great choice but that’s what they have for the flights to Hawaii. We did pay extra to get seats with extra leg room and I think the Travel Gods we did because even with that, the seats felt cramped and uncomfortable. Daylight flight, no chance for a nap. We arrived late in the evening and eventually nabbed a cab into the city. Two tickets on an airport bus wasn’t a lot less. For the convenience, taxis are it.

We checked in to the Hilton Garden Inn Waikiki Beach nearly 11 p.m. The travel agent had forwarded a message that we are on our honeymoon and celebrating a milestone birthday so they upgraded us from a “partial ocean view King room” to a one bedroom suite with a partial ocean view. Nice! But we were taken aback when we got to the suite. Two double beds instead of a king size or queen size bed. For a honeymoon. Someone missed the boat there, I think. We went back to the desk since we were heading to a little shop that was in the lobby anyway to stock up on drinks and snacks and asked them about it. Oops! They were full up for that night so couldn’t change us but offered to change the next day, just let them know.

We were more amused than irritated, really. When we went back upstairs, we decided to unpack and keep the room. Considering how badly I’d been sleeping so far this vacation, I think he’d have had a better sleep with me in the other bed and we could always cuddle in one if we want. The room is on the 19th floor  so it’s quiet and has a pretty good view towards the city and Diamond Head, the inactive volcano at one end of the city and we can see the ocean when looking down to our right from the balcony that we have with the room. It’s pretty amazing to stand outside as the sun comes up over the buildings. It’s already nice and warm.

Fancy Drinks Hula barHawaii is going to be different things for different people. A vacation based out of the city of Honolulu is going to be more commercial than at one of the resorts on Maui or one of the other islands. Waikiki has shopping, boy, does it have shopping, top end designer gear. There are, of course, plenty of souvenir places, restaurants and cafes for all budgets. They have museums and galleries and malls (oh my!) and another major attraction is Pearl Harbour which is still a military base of operations in addition to a memorial to the attack by the Japanese that pulled the United States into WWII. Ironically, Japanese tourists are the major group of tourists to Hawaii these days.

We want to get oriented so our Day 1 intention is to find the hop on hop off trolley tour and get around on that. There’s a desk for an Expedia rep in the lobby and they set us up with vouchers though we still have to go to the starting point to exchange. We also used them to rent a car for Saturday so we can explore some of the island away from the city. The depot for the trolley tour isn’t too far, in the basement/garage of a department type store. They have four routes and you can use the ticket for 48 hours in November (probably all winter, not just November but I didn’t ask) We made time for two of the routes, one through the city and one that went up to Diamond Head and got a good look around.

We had a late lunch at the Hard  Rock Cafe, a place we always like to visit in a new city because we know the food is always good. We then picked up the Diamond Head route tram with some go views along the way up. I’m not a hiker so never did plan to do any of the hiking there but in any case the hike to the top was closed due to wind. Even though the sun was shining and any cloud cover seemed quite far away, we felt sprinkles of rain now and the. A bit disconcerting but on the plus side, there were rainbows!

On our second day, we had tickets booked to Pearl Harbour via a tour operator. We were picked up at the hotel in a nice mini-bus with a uniformed driver who was a very  informative guide as well. Pearl Harbour entry prices can cover a variety of things. I think the basic set up is the USS Arizona memorial with a film included and that’s what we got. There are other museums on the grounds and while some are free, some are not. I’m sure you can get a one-ticket-covers-all at the gate and you certainly could spend all day if you wanted to see everything.

Arizona Memorial

The USS Arizona memorial, Pearl Harbour, Hawaii

The film was about how America got into the war, focussing on Japan’s aggression and the politics of the time. Very sobering. They discussed the Japanese attack and the aftermath which was also sobering. Then we were on a boat that took us out to the USS Arizona memorial, a long white structure that sits over the actual battleship, still sunk in the harbour with over 1000 sailors’ bodies still entombed in it. Some of the ships that were bombed and sunk were brought up but the Arizona was left as is, far too damaged by the huge explosion set off by a bomb. Some of the bits of the ship were salvaged but most of it was beyond repair. It’s a very peaceful memorial. You can look down on the remains of the rusted ship and watch the fish swim and in and out of the blue water surrounding it.

We wandered around the grounds for awhile, looking at various information signs and markers and having a look in the very good gift shop. They also had a kiosk where you chose an oyster from a bowl and they would open it up for you to reveal your pearly treasure. Then, they hope you will buy a gold or silver setting to put the pearl in and that’s where it gets very expensive for the most part. I tried the oyster, and I actually got lucky and got two pearls! I did eventually find something to put a pearl in but they offered me another go for free. That oyster came up with another single pearl and I contributed that to the charm I had picked out. I saved the two pearls and brought them home. My cousin’s husband makes jewellery and I sent them over so he could put them in a pair of silver earrings for me!

Punch Bowl Cemetery memorialOn the drive back to the hotel, the driver/guide took us up to the Punchbowl volcano where the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific is. It’s a military cemetery with all of the stones set flush into the ground. there’s a lovely memorial at the end with steps and a huge statue representing Lady Columbia or Justice. There are good views over the city from up there, as well.

We finally got to the beach the next morning. Waikiki beach seems to be a long series of beaches, or just one but which seems to be segmented when a hotel juts out into it, probably to keep their bit of it more exclusive I suppose. It’s not quite what I expected, but it is in the middle of the city. The sand is white and warm and the water wasn’t cold either. We aren’t “beach bums” and we weren’t there to sit and soak up the sun or to swim but we did walk along the beach for a little way, people watching. There was a lot to see, too. You could rent surfboards and boogie boards, chairs and you could take surfing lessons and boat rides.There were a number of food and drink kiosks as well and some huts with public toilets.
Splash
Waikiki Beach to Diamond Head

There were palm trees. Oh dear God the palm trees! Having seen them elsewhere in the city, I noticed one thing.They had all been stripped of coconuts, probably safer that way so one didn’t fall and knock out a tourist! Because there was no large expanses of beach that didn’t extend for miles, it seemed more intimate, cozy and quite a nice place to spend a few hours. We saw another part of the beach later on, at the end opposite to Diamond Head, which did seem to have a large expanse of sand by the water with the tree line away in the back. I think it was Fort Derussy beach park. It seemed rather dull, actually. Not as picturesque as the main beaches in Waikiki.

We picked up Captain with a viewa quick lunch at a food truck which was quite tasty. For the afternoon excursion, we had booked tickets on the Atlantis submarine. We went with the Premium cruise as it gives you a little more personal space in the submarine. Each person has a large porthole and the sub goes down to 100 feet. The photos on the website make it a lot brighter than we saw it. It was very blue and a bit murky but you could see the fish and the reefs quite well. We saw a couple of white sharks, too, lying in the sand by the artificial reefs, created there in addition to a couple of wrecks. They turn into proper reefs over time and the fish make them their home.

It was fascinating and the guide/narrator was entertaining, as well, with lots of bad jokes and gentle humour. It is something we will never get a chance to do again and we really wanted to have something special to splash out on for our honeymoon! We were taken back to the hotel and we wandered around the neighbourhood looking at the shops. I allowed myself to get pulled into a skin care store for a little mini facial, with a hard sell for the creams and cleansers of course. It’s fun to see how low they’ll go and what they’ll do for you to get you to buy something. In the end, the young man found a “damaged” box of one item and offered it less than half price. I very much doubt it was damaged when he went into the stock room to get it but who cares!? We walked along a bit further when G. noticed a sign for a revolving bar at the top of one of the towers so we went up for a drink. The bar revolved so slowly you never even noticed until you glanced out the window and saw a different aspect of the city! I think this was also the evening where we discovered Japanese Ramen Noodles! Our first time with this kind of cuisine and it was very nice. We saw the tail end of a hula show in a shopping mall. One other evening we at at the Hula Bar in one of the better known hotels where we had fancy drinks with umbrellas and my creme brulee came in a pineapple bowl. That is,a bowl which was the actual pineapple! You’ve gotta do these things when you’re in a place like this, right?

North Shore Laniakea Beach Surfers 2

North Shore Laniakea Beach Surfers

The next day we walked around the block to pick up the rental car and headed out around the coastal route. There are lots of photo stops  and we took advantage of a few. The scenery was lovely, with beach and ocean on one side and mountains on the other. There are small towns as well, with little cafes and shops. We made a stop at the Polynesian Cultural Centre to have a look at the shops and have some lunch. The centre holds special exhibits like a living museum and they do big luau shows at night as well, I believe. But the cost of just the basic ticket to get onto the grounds where the bigger exhibits are is scandalously huge and we didn’t want any part of it. We did like the shops, though and there was an exhibit in the main building with artifacts from various Pacific cultures.

One of the things I really wanted to see were the surfers on the famed North Shore beaches. Unfortunately, we were losing the sun and the wind and the waves were not any higher than those we get at home on Lawrencetown beach! Winter is the best time to see the championship surfing with high, crashing waves but not today! We drove a little further along the north of the island and then headed back to the city.

North Shore Laniakea Beach 4

North Shore Laniakea Beach

Rabbit Island Makapuu

Rabbit Island, Makapuu

We did have a bit of trouble finding a gas station and when we did, of course we were too many lanes away and the traffic was horrendous! When we finally managed to get into the gas station, the directions on the pumps were not very bleedin’ obvious as per the rest of the trip! Eventually we got it done. The next challenge was finding the hotel where the car had to be returned. The GPS is partly to blame here, I think and we ended up in a private residential parking garage that was narrow and very tight when we tried to turn around and get out again. We ended up with a door scrape but luckily we did choose to get the extra coverage that day. We found the right place and left the car. All the stress of the last half hour, the traffic and gas station and parking debacle kind of put a damper on the day but it was a nice day over all.

On our last day, we got a little extra time before check out because we wanted to use the coin laundry in the hotel . Yes, boring, but it had to be done! After checking out and leaving the bags at the hotel, we took at taxi to the huge Ala Moana shopping centre. We were looking for lunch primarily and found a Korean food place in the food court. We walked around a little bit but we’re losing our energy and decided to go back to the hotel. We went to the pool and had a drink to kill some time and finally decided to go to the airport a bit early to give ourselves extra time. We faced another overnight flight which was just as uncomfortable as the flight out so I didn’t get any sleep. And because it’s Air Canada Rouge, there’s no entertainment unless you use your own device and stream it through the Air Canada App or you rent an iPad from the flight crew. (Business class gets the iPads for free).

Another night of no sleep and finally back to a rainy Vancouver for the last couple of days, spent with my cousins catching up. We didn’t do a whole lot as we were pretty tired by this time though did have a damp and foggy drive up to the town of Squamish at the foot of the Rockies.

Honeymoon came and went and it was worth the wait of two had a half years. We saw and did some new things and enjoyed the company of friends and family as well.

Squamish marina

Squamish marina under a rainy sky

Vancouver: The Weird and the Wonderful

After our first full day in Vancouver, what next? Turned out, the weekend was full of weird and wonderful.

In addition to seeing a bit of the city, one of the things we did while in Vancouver was attend a Fan Expo, similar to the Science Fiction Comic Con (convention). Fans of SciFi, Fantasy, comics, super heros and their worlds and Japanese animation flock to these conventions. Many of them dress up as favourite characters. There are guests from popular televisions shows and artists of graphic novels and comics there to talk to fans. People can pay for autographs and photos with their favourites and sit in the audience and listen to the actors talk about their craft and the show.

There is usually a huge hall full of vendors where you can buy all manner of related items. It’s a great place to get swag, tshirts, memorabilia and related items to your favourite genres and programs. We bought a one day pass though the convention goes on all weekend. The Vancouver Convention Centre is enormous, covering two buildings on the waterfront. It was a rainy day so we decided to take a taxi to the centre. We still ended up trekking about between the two buildings because we weren’t sure where to go.

Vancouver Convention Centre from Stanley Park

The convention was in the main building that looks like a ship with full sails on it. It’s also where cruise ships dock. As you walk down the length of it, in the ground are inlaid plaques with various Canadian cities from the West to the East and then to the North as you walk along. We finally got in and got our entry bracelets and tried to figure out where everything was. My husband has a ticket to get a photo with one of his favourites and we wanted to sit in on two panel discussions and still have time to peruse the vendors. One section of vendors was Steampunk oriented which is something I really like.

The convention was hugely crowded so it took patience to work your way along the vendor stalls and through the hallways to find the various rooms. We have a similar convention here called Hal-con which, while crowded, seems a little more manageable.

We spent a great afternoon looking at all the items, listening to the panels  talk about the other actors and behind the scenes and people watching for all the great costumes. Lots of people go to such a great deal of trouble to represent characters in painstaking detail.

The second allocation of weird and wonderful was the Museum of Anthropology at University of British Columbia. One of the prime focuses of the museum is the indigenous art of the people of British Columbia which is absolutely gorgeous. It’s very distinctive and it’s different from the art of the First Nations people from the east coast of Canada where I’m from which is also lovely, don’t get me wrong.

The museum has totem poles and pieces of them, as well as other artifacts such as bent wood boxes, feast “bowls” and intriguing sculpture. It’s also got collections from a great many other cultures around the world, primarily Asiatic and from the South Seas and Oceana but also from Europe and Africa. There are treasures, and maps and papers.You could spend all day there and never see it all. It is very intriguing and you’ll learn a lot. I don’t think you could see it all in one go because there is just too much to take in. We spent a couple of hours wandering about and spent a few dollars in the gift shop, too.

We had gone there with friends who live locally and after the museum closed, we found a Chinese restaurant for a nice meal to top off the day and the weekend. This is pretty much the end of our visit to Vancouver as well. The next day, we used the coin laundry in the morning before we had to check out and transferred to a Ramada by the airport, thinking it would be easier to get to the airport the next day if we were already nearby. In retrospect, we probably should have just spent an extra night at the Rosedale and enjoyed that last full day in the city. Turns out even a taxi to the airport from downtown wasn’t all that expensive.

We checked into the Ramada which was a couple of blocks from a large shopping mall, the Richmond Centre. We plodded over there under cloudy, rather wet skies and had some lunch in the food court along with a bit of a wander through the mall. Both of  us are on pins now, excited to leave for Hawaii but we still have to wait until tomorrow afternoon. We did end up getting a shuttle to the airport a lot earlier than we needed to after checking out of the Ramada just so we didn’t have to sit around the hotel lobby. At least in an airport, your baggage is checked and you can walk around and look at the shops. Pretty soon it’s time to board….
MOA - Haida items

The “NBO” tour (Not Bleedin’ Obvious)

Does anyone know where the toilets are?

Do you ever have days when you just can’t seem to grasp the obvious? Oh yes. And when you’re traveling and in places you’re not familiar with, it’s twice as frustrating when something that should make sense doesn’t. This recent trip to British Columbia and Hawaii was one of those.

It could be something as simple as trying to work out how the shower functions. In all my life,  every hotel room is different and every single shower works differently. Some are easy to figure out but some are hugely confusing. The one in our lovely hotel in Vancouver had a diagram for the shower but even thing, we had difficulty working it out.

Trying to find the breakfast room wasn’t obvious, either. It was called the Stadium Room which sounds more like a function room to me, than a little breakfast room.

The fan expo in the convention centre was an exercise in “not obvious” when it came to trying to find the “ballroom” where the main panel discussions were. There was no map in the Expo guide. Well there was but for everything except the ballroom area. We asked several people and got a different answer from each one, at least the ones that did know. Or said they knew. Down that hallway over there just before you get to the big doors, turn left. Nope. There were escalators there and nothing resembling  ballroom at the top. Turns out you go *through* the big doors into the lobby of the convention centre and there it is.

Now we’re in the airport trying to navigate the screens of the check in area. I did check in online and I did get a boarding pass sent to my phone but it seemed to be only the one, not one for both of us. The Best thing to do was check in with the code and get it all printed. That worked. Why let you check in both people if you’re not sending the boarding pass, either two to the one phone or one each? Even when you do print off boarding passes at home, the airline invariably reprints them for you in the airline standard style, in my experience.

Another machine to work out at the US departure area for pre-screening. You try to follow instructions but they’re…not always obvious but someone came over straight away to help. Over to the security scan. We saw other people taking shoes off but there were no signs to say we had to. But they did ask when it was my turn. Why not put up a sign? Too obvious? Likely.

Don’t even ask about the frustration getting hooked up to the airport wifi. My phone doesn’t seem to have the capability to open the corresponding website to agree to Terms of Condition. It’s happened a few times but works with other connections. Even with my laptop it was a bit of a production because it kept trying to connect to an open network and I didn’t know what it was.

The un-obviosity didn’t end there. (yes, I know that’s not a word but stay with me). We’re in Hawaii now and we rented a car for a day to drive around the island. Nice day, now we have to fill up the gas tank before returning the vehicle. Never mind trying to get to the gas station across several lanes in heavy traffic, when we got to the pump, we had a heck of a time getting it to accept our credit card. Gas has to be prepaid but the instructions just weren’t comprehensive and we weren’t the only person trying to work it out. After I went into the attendant in the shop and got some instructions, it went better, much better than it subsequently went trying to find the right ramp to the parking garage to return the car. Let’s just say I’m glad we purchased the extra insurance coverage and leave it at that.

After an overnight flight back to Vancouver, we are faced with electronic customs clearance. I was aware of this and downloaded an app to enter all the information and generate a scannable code to save me time. Except there was no instructions for scanning that code, not that I could see so we had to enter the information all over again. Maybe I could have scanned the code as a first step even though there was nothing to say I could. Certainly not obvious. Even then, it wouldn’t have saved a whole lot of time because after that information was processed, we then had to have the most grotesque photos in the world taken. How the border guards could look at those and look at our faces and connect them as the same people or the pictures in our passports I have no idea.

Never mind. We’re finally back on home soil and after two overnight flights in a few days, we both need time to recover from our vacation!

Onward to Vancouver

A few days on Vancouver was a great way to start our visit to Canada’s beautiful west coast. Family and friends always make a visit enjoyable. We chose the bus/ferry/bus route across the Juan de Fuca straight to Vancouver on the mainland and paid a little extra so that the bus would take us straight to the hotel after the end destination of the main bus terminal. Worth every penny and cheaper than a taxi, especially trying to navigate and haul luggage around in the dark.

Our hotel is the Rosedale on Robson and is a suite hotel. We found out that they upgraded us to a higher floor and a room with a separate bedroom. The windows in these are floor to ceiling and the decor is light and airy. We had good city views from the18th floor! The staff were excellent and the room had everything we needed though there was one thing missing that seemed odd for a hotel like that. No in-room safe! Seemed odd.

North Vancouver from Stanley Park

We unpacked because we’ll be here for a few days. Our friend Annmarie came over later with wine and we had a great catch-up.

The sun was out on our first full day in the city, one of Canada’s largest. It seems even larger because of all the communities and cities that surround it such as Burnaby, Richmond, Coquitlam etc. I’ve been to Vancouver before but my husband hasn’t so we thought an orientation would be a good idea. The hotel is close to the circular central library where the hop on hop off trolleys stop so we jumped on one there and took the day to do the route.

We wound our way through the historic centre and decided to get off at the gorgeous Stanley Park, a 1000 square acre park on the tip of the peninsula of downtown Vancouver. The area has been settled with indigineous peoples and others for centuries and was turned into a park when the city was incorporated in the late 1880s. It’s a naturaly park, no landscaping or manipulating. The forests have evolved naturally. There is now a seawall built around the perimeter which is  a great place to walk and run and there are other very interesting things to explore as well such as the Vancouver Aquarium.

Totem poles in Stanley Park

We stopped at a spot where there are about 8 totem poles some dating as far back as the end of the 19th century. Each totem tells a story, a family, an event, a heritage. The style of art of the First Nations people  on this coast is really distinct and I really like it. We had a good look at the poles and did some shopping at the gift store there which had quite a lot of locally made gifts. I started my Christmas shopping!

We walked all around a point at the end of the area, saw a little lighthouse with great views over to North Vancouver, and back around where the trolley stops. We got on the next one which found it’s way through the rest of the park and around English Bay. We got off again at Granville Island which isn’t an Island but a spot of land under the Granville bridge over the False Creek area. There are craft and artist studios here, a huge famer’s market, restaurants and cafes, a theatre. We were quite hungry, though, so we looked for a restaurant first thing.

After a meal in The Keg, we went over to the market and were suitably impressed. More than fruit, veg and seafood, there are local crafts, anything you can think of. Lots of things and even the food was top quality and there were quite a lot of unusual items there. We popped into one ceramics/pottery shop which was also the studio for the studio for the artists. I have to say, even though one of the bus drivers or the prerecorded spiel said that Granville Island is designed to be pedestrian friendly, it isn’t. Cars everywhere and the roads are narrow and not logically laid out. It’s a really good place to visit but be warned, watch your step!

Aquabus across False Creek at Granville Island

Granville Island also has a number of small, brightly painted boats as a ferry service for a small fee to areas across the water on the main area of Vancouver. They almost look like toys!

By this time, we are ready and done for the day so we trudge back up to the trolley stop and get back to the hotel. We had a rest and then headed out to meet up with Annmarie, her partner Brian, her son Tristan and his girlfriend for cocktails and a meal and a very nice meal it was, too!

A good introduction to Vancouver if ever there was one and the best weather we’re going to see. Weather-wise, it will be downhill from here.  Tomorrow will be spent in the Vancouver Convention Centre, the large complex on the waterfront with ‘sails’ as a roof. But more on that another time.

Vancouver Convention Centre from Stanley Park

Cathedral Grove, Vancouver Island

Between the city of Parksville and Port Alberni on Vancouver Island is a little oasis of calm and peace. It’s a stand of trees, very old trees, mostly Douglas Fir with Red Cedar as well. The oldest standing tree is about 800 years old and stands over 250 feet tall, taller than the Leaning Tower of Pisa apparently.

Recently we visited Vancouver Island. Most of the few days we were there were spent in the capital city of Victoria with relatives, doing a bit of driving around and hanging out. We rented a car and drove “up island” to see some friends in Parksville and before returning the next day, I really wanted to see Cathedral Grove. It was a long-standing destination on my list and it’s only about a half hour drive from Parksville on an inland road from the coast.

The weather is overcast with rain threatening but we only got a little heavy mist. There had been a tiny dusting of snow and in the forest there was still a little on the ground, enough to make the path slippery so we trod carefully. The light was low due to the cloud cover. No sunlight streaming through the branches picturesquely. The air was damp and cold. The breeze rustled the leaves. It was completely quiet aside from an occasional car that drove by. The grove is part of the MacMillan Provincial Park and its near the road. In November, there were few tourists besides us three. I hate to use a cliche word but it did feel a bit magical. Just when you think Nature can’t throw one more jaw dropping sight at you, in comes a curve ball. Here is a bit of video I took and a few photos.

The drive to Parksville is only about 2 hours from Victoria. You could easily visit Cathedral Grove in a day. You also drive past Goldstream where, in early November or very late October, the salmon return to spawn and you can watch them flipping through the water trying to get upstream. We were just a little late and there were only a few fish left alive (yes, that’s Nature again. The fish return to where they were hatched to spawn, and once the eggs are laid, the fish die and are food for eagles, birds and bears)

We stayed overnight since we were visiting friends and booked the Travelodge. Not a bad choice. There are quite a few hotels and motels in Parksville as it’s a resort area with some nice beaches.

WPC: Peek

WordPress‘s weekly photo challenge is Peek. They want examples of photos that make you want to see the larger picture, showing just a part or a corner. They say “a photo that reveals just enough of your subject to get us interested. A tantalizing detail. An unusual perspective. ” So here’s my take on it, ,mostly from my favourite city, London.

Regal

Houses of Parliament, the old Palace of Westminster. Top of Victoria Tower

Chelsea Royal Hospital Dining Hall

Portion of the dining hall at Chelsea Royal Hospital

St Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral

Lincoln's Inn, Old Square

Old Square, Lincoln’s Inn (the traditional legal sector of London)

Stealth Ginger

Stealth Ginger. Not London, but I couldn’t resist.