Seattle & Vancouver

                

  Monday. July 22, 2002- Amherst, N.Y.

We were up and rolling by 5 a.m. A  5:45 a.m. taxi delivered us to Buffalo International Airport. Although no one else was present at the American Airlines counter, we were pulled for a bag search. We resigned ourselves to thinking that it is the post 9/11 world, and we will all have to get used to these inconveniences when travelling. Afterwards, we had coffee at “Jakes.” The security screen was perfunctory, but I got “selected” for another scan at the boarding gate. Now I know what the felons and miscreants feel like when the constabulary pulls them over for a random frisk.

The run down to Dallas was  2 and 1/2 hours and uneventful. As we approached Dallas/ Fort Worth, I could see the flat Texas plain extending far onto theh. The shimmer of heat, rising from the earth promised another Texas-style scorcher. The Dallas/Fortworth airport was crowded with passengers heading everywhere. The hour layover passed quickly. We soon lifted off on AA # 2753 for Seattle- Tacoma. It was a three and one half hour leg of the journey, so we settled in with books and read most of the way. The great jagged expanse, of the Rocky Mountains below, was mesmerizing as always. The geology of the continent is much more apparent to the casual observer from 40,000 feet.

At SeaTac, we retrieved our bags, with little effort, and found a Grayline bus for the ride into Seattle ($8.50 each). So far, we had encountered no problems. The Crowne Plaza lobby was uncrowded as we checked in. The staff was both pleasant and helpful. It was sunny and 83 degrees, out, but we were flagging from the trip in. We unpacked and settled into our 29th floor aerie to recharge. The one large room-window faced to the Southwest and afforded us an ever-changing tableau of sun, sky and the mountains surrounding Seattle.

After a brief respite, we ventured forth to “see what we could see.”  The walk down Seneca Street is precipitous. Seattle is built into the hillside of a bluff on the ocean shore. A seven block section of its streets, from Pine to Madison, traverses down to the ocean mud flats about 250 feet below. We are always amused when we see streets with such precipitous drops, thinking of our frosty abode of ice and snow in Buffalo, on the shores of Lake Erie. A descent with this steep a gradient would become a toboggan run after the first snow, sending hundreds of cars on a lickety-split, out of control run to the ocean flats, far below.

We later found out that Seattle had been founded on the Ocean mud flats as a small encampment. The surrounding heights had existed as 200-foot palisades far above. The enterprising settlers, with huge, high-pressure water hoses from mining concerns, had succeeded in eroding the high banks into a series of gradually sloping terraces, that descend on a 45 degree gradient, from Seventh to First streets. At each street level, a flat area for shops and the street and been leveled off. The last drop, from First, to the mudflats of the Oceanfront, is negotiated by three “hill-climbs.” One in particular, the “Harbor Steps” is an artfully designed set of concrete steps, lined with shops, flowers and rest areas. We compare it favorably to the Spanish Steps in Rome. It is an attractive place for people to gather, as well as a means of access to the flats below. As we negotiated the last slope down Seneca St., we came upon the Seattle waterfront. I could see immediately that they had made the same planning errors that plague Buffalo. The early planners had inadvertently cut off their waterfront from the rest of the city. A set of railroad tracks, and an overhead highway, separates downtown Seattle from the oceanfront.

In spite of the poor planning, the waterfront had thrived, principally because of the need to get to and from the surrounding islands and communities of Puget Sound by water. Several large ferry docks and restaurant-laden wharfs had been built on pilings extending out into Puget Sound. We walked about enjoying the waterfront and its busy activities. The 3-masted, Ecuadorian, tall-ship  “Guayas” was moored along the Elliot’s Oyster House wharf. We watched and admired the old, wooden, nautical beauty. She has five levels of sails on her main and mizzenmasts, and a large spanker, lateen-rigged on her royal mast. A band was playing something Latin and fast paced. The ship’s company was tending to the grand old lady. Under full sail, she must appear cloud-like as she floats across the Pacific.

The hunger monster was summoning us so we decided to try Elliott’s Oyster House for a late lunch. It was a good choice. The place is woody and nautical in appearance. We enjoyed huge bowls of a delicious crab chowder and the “Elliott house salad,” all washed down by cold Corona Beer. It was wonderful. ($51)  From Elliot’s, we wandered along harbor-side, watching the profusion of tourists wandering busily in and out of souvenir shops, the aquarium and any number of other food kiosks and gut stuffing emporiums. This area is a busy place.

Though tiring, we decided to push on along the wharf and explore superficially, the birthplace of Seattle, Pioneer Square. The architecture here is both eclectic and interesting. Most of it dates from the late 1800’s. Our first impressions, late in the afternoon, were less than positive. Panhandlers, riff-raff and lay abouts seemed to dominate the squares and streets of the area. A large, leaf covered square and adjacent pedestrian shop area looked interesting. The small park boasted bronze statues of firefighters in action and other ornate metal work that we planned on returning to see. Lots of inexpensive ethnic restaurants and plenty of saloons also give color to the area. We returned later in the week to explore Seattle’s “Underground,” but more about that later.

We were tiring from the day however, and decided that discretion is the better part of exploratory valor. We headed back to the Crowne Plaza to call it a day. A vodka martini took the edge off the travel weariness, as we settled in to read (“Dropshot” Harlan Coben) and relax. We enjoyed watching the changing light tableau, from our hotel room, as it played across the mountains around us. We were glad to be here. Morpheus summoned and we responded gratefully to his embrace.

  Tuesday 7/23/02. Seattle, Washington

We were up early at 6 A. M., still on EST. We had coffee in the room and watched the early morning news. I called the office to make sure the vandals weren’t looting the place and then we set out for an early morning visit to Pike’s Market.

It sits on First Avenue, at the foot of Pike Street, and runs for three blocks, along Western Ave., with a commanding view of the bay. The first part of the market we encountered is a huge fish market, already abustle with activity. The workers performed for the small crowds by throwing fish to each other and carrying on. The display of fresh salmon, octopus, and all manner of Fruiti di Meri is appetizing. Along the corridor of stalls, several fresh flower vendors were setting up their display in a profusion of color and fragrance. The visitors were few at this hour, so we got to see and enjoy many of the tastes and smells of the market without the confusion of the usual throngs that crowd here daily. Two smaller fish markets, and tables for a flea-market sales, fleshed out the remaining space along Western Ave. On the floor below, are located antique shops and all manner of curiosity and gift emporiums. Most were still closed at this early hour. We found the original Starbucks coffee shop across the street from the market. We stopped in to this caffeine shrine to partake of the nectar from the original font. It was old fashioned, yet unprepossessing. A small brass marker in the store commemorated the company’s founding date as 1971. 

At the end of the market, overlooking the bay, sits a small park decorated with a few native totem polls. It also is the apparent nightly resting-place for a score of homeless and miscreants. We sat there for a time, uncomfortable as always around those who had lost their way. From the Park, we wandered back along the market street watching the rising activity levels as the morning waned. We stopped at “Panier” a small French bistro, where we had chocolate eclairs and café au lait, while sitting and watching the busy activities of the market.

From the market, we walked up to First Ave and the “Harbor steps.” They are a series of broad, ascending concrete steps with several terraces. Each level holds shops, shrubbery, flowers and places to sit and watch the flow of people going by, much like the Spanish steps in Rome. Backtracking to the “Elliot’s Oyster House” pier, we were just in time to watch the aforementioned tall-ship,  Guayas,  unfurl her sails, raise anchor and sail from port. Her crew climbed the rigging and stood along the five levels of masts high above the deck, resplendent in their colorful uniforms. They unfurled sails at every mast to form a triangular, lateen-rigged fashion that produced a “row of diamonds” effect in the rigging. The ship’s band was playing a lively salsa tune, as this white oak beauty drifted out into the harbor, headed for her next adventure. News helicopters cruised overhead and throngs of tourists, in a shutter clicking army, watched this slice of nautical history drift off into the bay. We were pleased that we had come upon her. Waterfronts are like that, there is always something interesting happening at all hours of the day.

Next to Elliotts, is a kiosk for “Argosy Tours.” We signed up for a two-hour cruise of Lake Union and the Ballard Locks. ($30 each) A bus ferried us over to Lake Union where we boarded the “Goodtimes III,” a fair sized, double-decked tourboat. As we left dock, we watched several small passenger seaplanes, from Kenmore Air, land and take off on the smooth waters around us. It was picturesque viewing the graceful craft land like oversized ducks on a pond. The surrounding lakeside property is filled with a mix of high-rise condos, some bio tech industries and a hodge podge of commercial activity. The sun was shining. It was in the 80’s and a beautiful day to be out on a boat. We sat topside and enjoyed the ride. Through the Fremont cut, we saw commercial shipping, dry docks and marinas in a huge profusion of floating vessels of all types and sizes, both commercial and recreational. This city’s lifeblood is the water.

We waited for a few minutes before we pulled into the Ballard Locks and began the process that would drop us 26 feet from Lake Union to the level of Puget Sound. It is interesting to watch the ship descend, with all manner of tourists on the walkways around us, staring curiously at the regular spectacle that locks have become. The barnacles and the slime covered walls marked our progress to the lower levels. Finally, the huge hydraulic doors swung open and we were out into the narrow causeway that would lead us into Puget Sound. Clusters of expensive homes marked the channel as a “place to be.” “Ray’s” a popular seafood house stood mutely on the shore, waiting for its nightly horde of seafood chompers.

Puget Sound itself beckoned us, this long and narrow expanse of ocean that can run to 1,000 feet in depth along the Washington Coastline. We motored along listening to the narration of the City’s founding and the corny jokes from the guide. The real attraction was the sea and the sky above as the waves rocked our passage. A lazy sea lion was perched on a channel buoy and clowned for an appreciative audience. The “west channel light” is picturesque, as were the surrounding hills and shoreline.

Seattle, from the water, if beautiful. The graceful Space Needle, its many hi -rise buildings and its brisk sea industry all sparkled in the noon day sun. Several large dry-dock cranes, each costing over six million dollars, stood like gangly orange-colored prehistoric birds feeding along the shore line. They attested to the commercial viability of the oceanfront. Seattle is an enormous port for the transshipment of sea/land cargo containers from the Pacific-rim countries. A huge array of Asian manufactured goods arrives here daily and is then shipped by rail throughout the United States. The Pioneers knew rightly that the seaport is the source of Seattle’s wealth. How could they possibly ever envision Boeing and Microsoft, two industries and inventions as yet unborn at Seattle’s founding.?

We docked wharfside at the “crab pot.” Several small restaurants and a children’s arcade insured a continuous array of customers. We chose the “Crabpot” as less congested for lunch. Clam chowder and salad, with ice tea were welcomed, though not the quality of Elliots. ( $26) 

From the Crabpot, we walked up the Harbor steps to First Avenue, to the Seattle Art Museum. It was hosting a small exhibition of French, Impressionist paintings. ($10 each) The collection itself was of middling quality, but we enjoyed three wonderful Monet’s. One depicted a fiery horizon, another a gray, pastel castle and the last more like his normal style, a bright pastel rendition of flowers. Another colorful Degas caught our eye. In a leafy green haze, a pretty danseuse drifted across a French stage. The man must have really enjoyed his subjects. The exhibit even held a passable (and intelligible)Picasso from his ‘blue period.” We counted ourselves fortunate to see these works.

After the Art Museum, we drifted up Pike Street. The Pacific Center, City Center, Rainier Square and a core of pricey and hi fashion shops are interspersed with restaurants, coffee shops and all manner of commercial activity. The city is alive and bustling. We bought some decent Merlot and a good cork screw in Union Square and then headed back to the room for some R & R. It was sunny, hot and 87 degrees out.

A glass of Merlot and a one-hour nap, recharged us. We set out at 7 P.M. for a stroll along Sixth Avenue. It was awash with shoppers, people and vehicular traffic, attesting to Seattle’s wealth and economic vigor. At 7th and Pine, we found and decided to try the “Oceannaire Sea Food Room.” It is nautical, pricey and comfortable. We settled in for a seafood platter and crab cakes. They were both delicious and filling. ( $90) The place was crowded, despite the pricey menu. Microsoft and Boeing must draw them in by the throngs.

After dinner, we wandered along the shops and through the open expanse of the four-story atrium in the Pacific Center. The shops were open until nine P.M. and customers wandered in and out, even at this late hour. This is a downtown similar to New York or San Francisco in its commercial vigor. It was warm out at 85 degrees and muggy, as we walked back to our aerie to sip more wine, read our books and drift off to the sandman’s call.

Wednesday, 7/24/02 - Seattle, Washington

We were up at 6:00 A.M. read the USA Today, watched the television news and had coffee in the room. It was 64 degrees and cloudy out. I checked in at the office and the vandals had yet to realize I was away. 

We walked amidst the hurried workers, along 5th Avenue, and stopped by the Starbucks in Union Square for a morning jolt and to sit and watch the busy tableau of downtown Seattle. FAO Swartz, Tiffany’s and several other fashionable boutiques were already drawing in the trade.

Nearby, on the third level of City Center, we boarded the elevated monorail ($3ea.) that would take us out to the Space Needle and Seattle Center. It is a short ride of a mile or two and we enjoyed looking out over the surrounding streets. At Seattle Center, we walked through a large indoor arcade and food court. The graceful and towering Space Needle is the main attraction here, but there is also a Music center dedicated to Jimmy Hendriks, a Seattle native ($20), an inter active Science Center for children and various outdoor rides and attractions for the Piccolo Mostri. The Center area is really designed for families with children. We ambled about enjoying the cool morning air and the relative quiet of the park areas. A new opera theater was under construction nearby. We passed on the ride up the Space Needle. People aren’t meant to ride in glass elevators up tall needles, not without good drugs anyway.

We had hoped to explore the City’s Fremont section, a lively Bohemian area of good shops and restaurants. We started walking in the general direction of the Aurora Ave Bridge, but soon realized that the walk would be several miles and we would be too tired when we finished. We reversed course to the Center and hopped the monorail for the quick ride back downtown.

The Fifth Avenue Café drew us in for coffee and bagels as the crush of noontime office workers swirled around us. The beauty of the Pacific Center attracted us and we wandered amidst the many attractive shops in its four-story open atrium, enjoying the hustle and bustle of the day. Barnes and Nobles was good for a browse and then we stopped by the St. John Knits store on fifth. It has beautiful clothes, but is pricier than ice cubes in Panama.

 	The traffic was busy along Fifth, as it heads out to Rte. # 5. It was warm and sunny out as we headed back to the hotel for R & R. We read some ( Body & Soul- Frank Conroy) and then succumbed to a one-hour conversation with Ozzie Nelson ( nap).

In the late afternoon, we walked back over Sixth to the Pacific Center where we saw “Road to Perdition” in its fourth level Movie Theater. The idea of showing movies, on a Tuesday night in the down town area, and then seeing lots of patrons there is novel to us. We enjoyed the movie and wished we could do the same at home.

After the movie, we stopped by the “Desert Fire,”  a Tex-Mex restaurant in the mall. We had some pretty decent seafood taco dinners with Corona beer. ($38) We dined al fresco on their fourth level exterior balcony and watched the birds and the sky over head. Downtown Seattle holds many small treasures like this one. We were glad to be here.

On the way back to our hotel, we enjoyed watching the many dinner patrons and after hours commandos who populated the shops and cafes along fifth and fourth Avenues. The night was balmy and we reluctantly repaired to our 29th floor aerie to read and relax. We slept like dead logs in a swamp.

Thurs. 7/25/02- Seattle, Washington

We arose at 7 A.M., had coffee and read USA today as we watched the morning news and the riotous roller coaster of the stock market, as it caught the nation’ s attention. It was cloudy and a cool 60 degrees outside.

On the elevator, in the Crowne Plaza, we ran into our charming tour guide, Melanie McDonald. She was on duty early to meet the arriving members of our excursion up into British Columbia. We chatted with her briefly and then headed out for the day.

Walking along First Avenue, we browsed the ethnic restaurants and saloons that led into the Pioneer Square area. A sign on a lamppost directed us to “Underground tours.” ($9 ea.)  A ticket kiosk, in an older building, signed us up for a tour. We sat in a gold rush era, western saloon and sat through an interesting, 20 minute talk on the City’s history. The narrator made many humorous references to the lack of plumbing pressure and the reverse pressure in that system at low tide. That same problem, high tide, eventually forced the city’s founders to begin constructing raised walkways and then  raised streets. This process eventually buried the first floor sections of many of the older buildings, giving rise to the “underground city” of Seattle. The “underground” is a series of connected basements in pioneer district buildings that are linked together and rented from the various buildings owners to the tour operator. We saw and heard more of the humorous anecdotes about the city’s early history. The many soiled doves, of that era, all listed “seamstress” as their profession in the early surveys of the city’s history. It once boasted 650 fully employed seamstresses in Seattle, a very well dressed population for the frontier. The quality of the “stitching” apparently determined the price. Madam Lou was the premier entrepreneur of the era. Her “sewing circle” was both large and regionally acclaimed for its labors.

The guide gave us the genesis of the Seattle name. A local chief, whose name sounded something like “Seattle,” was paid $500 a year for the use of his name for the remainder of his life. It was a device to secure the good will of the local tribes. Most thought the elderly chief would pass on in a few years. The 65-year-old chief confounded the larcenous settlers by living another twenty years and collecting for every one of them.

  	As we walked through the underground, I thought that an engineer or an architect would much appreciate what I was seeing. Vaulted arches of bricks were the underpinnings for many of the areas outdoor sidewalks above us, some crowned with colored glass. Bracing and short I-beams held the structural walls both apart and erect from the constant threat of earthquakes. Finally, at tour’s end, we wandered through the small museum and gift shop. A series of photos and displays detail the many anecdotes we had heard on the tour. The original mayors, saw mill owners and other notorious frontier characters are all duly set down in several works available for purchase.

From the underground, we walked along the streets of the Pioneer District enjoying the late nineteenth century architecture and looking in the older shops and restaurants. At “Terrafazlione Itaila,” we enjoyed some very good Panini’s and mineral water ($16). We sat for a time  in the pedestrian square and enjoyed people watching.  Further down First Ave., we espied a small Internet café and stopped in to send several messages, through the ether of cyber space, to friends and business acquaintances back east.

At First and Pike, we walked down the Harbor steps and across the crowded waterfront. People were eating, strolling and enjoying the nice weather. The Pike Street Hill climb led us back to the Public Market. It was awash with tourists and shoppers of every kind, shape and manner. We fought the stream of people for a time  and then settled in for another chocolate éclair and café au lait at the Panier across from the market. We were glad that we had seen the market in the early morning hoursbefore the crowds descended. Walking North on Pike, we sat for a time in Westlake Square and listened to a bag piper playing “amazing grace. “ This area too was awash with shoppers, tourists and workers scurrying hither and yon. We browsed the Ann Taylor loft and then headed back to our room for a late afternoon conversation with Mr. Nelson. Melanie was still on duty in the hotel’s lobby.

In the early evening we headed out across Sixth looking for a place for dinner. The Seattle Mariners were playing in town tonight and the rush of traffic and people was considerable. Most of the restaurants, including our intended stop, the Cheesecake Factory, were loaded to the gunnels with patrons. We settled for the much quieter “Pike Street Café,” in the Sheraton Hotel  and had some decent shrimp & mussels over angel  hair pasta, with a glass of Merlot. It was very good. ($62)  We wandered back along the busy streets, stopping in the West Gate Mall to browse shops and buy some trinkets for people back home. It was warm and in the 70’s out. We were tiring with the day and so headed back to our Crowne Plaza aerie to read, sip another glass of wine and drift off to slumber land. It had been a very nice day in Seattle.

  Friday 7/26/02  Seattle, Washington

We were up early, showered, and prepped for the day. Our bags had to be ready for pickup by 6:30 A.M. We then assembled in the 2nd floor, Parkside room for breakfast and to meet our fellow Colette tour members. We chatted,over breakfast, with Karen Peterson and her mother, from Providence, R.I. and then listened to Melanie McDonald’s program for the day. 
A bus collected us and our luggage for the short ride over to the ferry terminal for the 2 hour ride up through the San Juan islands to Victoria, the provincial capital of British Columbia.
At the ferry wharf, we found out that the Victoria Clipper was broken down like an old clock. They couldn’t get the sucker started. Long lines of unhappy passengers stood grimly in line trying to shift reservations onto the next available ferry. Melanie appraised the situation and decided that a two-hour bus ride to the Tswassen ferry-port, just over the border, made more sense than turning us loose until the 3:15 P.M. ferry to Victoria. It was a good call in a pressure situation. 

Amidst some grumbling about missing the San Juans, we set out North on Rte. # 5. The scenery got greener as the countryside got more rural. Migrant laborers were harvesting leafy vegetables in several large farms along the way. The pastoral countryside lulled many of us into a late morning torpor as we headed for the border crossing at Blaine, Washington. Customs was perfunctory and we were literally waved through. As Melanie pointed out, it is much easier to get out of the U.S.A than to get back in. It is a metaphor of some complexity that I will save for another time.

At Tswassen, B.C. we pulled into the line for buses on the ferry and got out to stretch our legs. The sun was shining, it was in the 80’s out and a beautiful day. After a 30 minute respite, the loud speaker announced “start your engines.”  All of the prospective passengers scurried to their vehicles to board the huge triple decked ferry that would carry us for the 90-minute ride to Swartzs Bay, on Vancouver Island.

On board, we walked topside and found a seat along the port side deck. The ferry was SRO and passengers were scattered everywhere. The huge waterbus slid from her ways and entered Puget Sound, turning 180 degrees to head outward, bow first.

We were in tight ways amidst the Channel Islands, so we could see and admire the coastline. It much reminded me of Maine. The Douglas firs covered the rocky slopes as they slide precipitously into the cool ocean water. Stands of the red barked Madrona Trees grew here and there amidst the conifers. It was a full moon and low tide, so a few of the passages, between islands, were traversed gingerly by the boat skipper, who could probably navigate these passages in his sleep. Occasionally the powerful blast of the boat horn would signal to other vessels that we were coming on through the channel. We walked about topside and sunned ourselves, enjoying the cooler sea air and the delightful scenery.

One of the crew spotted a pod of orcas off to port. We watched these beautiful creatures gambol in the waves. A large and impressive private yacht sailed by and another crew person identified it as Ted Turner’s yacht.  Swartz Bay hove into view and we all scurried to our vehicles in preparation for docking. We had another 30 minutes across Vancouver Island to our destination, Victoria, British Columbia.

The small settlement had shared provincial capital duties, for the territory of British Columbia, until B.C joined the Dominion of Canada in 1871,a few years after the country had officially been formed by act of the British Parliament in 1867. It is very much a “government town.”

The bus drove us through the tourist crowded streets to give us an over view of the area. Trendy boutiques, restaurants and all manner of shops lined the main boulevard. The waterfront area, in town, is a large horseshoe. At the center of the “U” sits another of those grand hotels built by the Canadian Pacific railway, The Empress. It runs a very long block, with a classical façade and stately architectural lines common to late 19th century Canada. Next to it, on the corner, sits the Royal Museum of British Columbia, with its interesting clock carillon. The most captivating edifice on the square is the Provincial Parliament Building. Its three wings are a portrait in “government granite” with picturesque green-copper domes.” In front of it, down the rolling expanse of green lawn, on a small pedestal, sits a dark bronze statue of the Empress of India, Victoria Regina, for whom the City is named. It is impressive by any ones standards.

Running the inside of the ‘U” is a grassy and flowered esplanade where strollers, all manner of vendors and throngs of tourists comes to see and be seen. Funny little water taxis, yachts and diverse power vessels sit next to several large ferries, one of which was the same “Victoria Clipper” that had booted us off earlier in the morning, curse her crusty engines.

The bus brought us to the rear of Parliament, where Melanie had lined up a very pregnant photographer to take a group picture of us, for mementos, on the rear steps of Parliament. That accomplished, we gathered up and drove the few blocks over to the Chateau Victoria, where we would be staying the next two nights. We checked in without problems and were assigned room # 321. It is small, but was clean and pleasant enough. We settled in for a bit before readying to go out again.

From the hotel, we walked down the small hill, to the esplanade and found and ATM in the visitor’s center. We withdrew $200 CDN for any expenses we would incur in the next two days here. Then, we wandered along the main drag watching as always the fascinating tableau of Touristus Canadianus/ Americanus as they scurried hither and yon. We espied a Starbucks and bought two cups of this uplifting nectar. Then we sat by the waterfront esplanade and enjoyed the late afternoon sun. There were throngs of people everywhere around us. A small army of cute, Chinese kids, in neon-green windbreakers, walked by chattering and smiling like kids do the world over. The back of their parkas read “Chunan Schools.”

Musicians and performers were entertaining any one who walked by. We drifted over and enjoyed the many floral gardens and hanging flower baskets along the esplanade. The Grounds of Parliament were also pleasant for a stop. We were tiring from the day and decided to stop in that Grand Hotel “Empress” for an afternoon libation. The lobby was cool and elegant. We walked to the “bar area.” It is paneled in dark English Oak and furnished with clubby leather chairs that you could sleep in. We sat comfortably in a pair, ordered some Merlot, and enjoyed watching the interplay of those around us.

I reflected on how many British Colonial Officials, returning from service in the far East, had probably sat in this far outpost of the British Raj, and harrumphed at some problem or other, while sipping gin and bitters. Like many former colonies, Victoria is very much “more British that the British.” We enjoyed our glass of Merlot, paid the tab ($20) and then ambled slowly back to the hotel, browsing shops and kiosks along the way.

We unpacked some of our tangled clothes, made them presentable and showered. It had been a long day and we were looking forward to dinner. It was 70 degrees, sunny and beautiful out when we met Melanie in the lobby. She escorted her brood of chicks across the street to Barkley’s, a seafood and steak house of good quality. We met and sat with Gary and Doran Jacobvitz from New York City. We had a very good lobster bisque, filet of salmon and a cheesecake desert, as we talked over various issues and got acquainted with Gary and Doran. Both were employed in Education for the New York City Schools, so we had a lot in common. It was a delicious and enjoyable meal after a long day. A few drinks and a good dinner erase any of the small inconveniences that spring up while you are travelling.

After dinner, we strolled down to the esplanade. It was windy and cooling off considerably. We were glad we had brought sweaters with us. Parliament’s building periphery was outlined in strings of lights. It reminded us of the Tivoli gardens in Copenhagen and was just as picturesque. In spite of the cool temperatures, the esplanade was crowded with tourists and strollers. We enjoyed the night air and the carnival atmosphere for a time before surrendering to our age. We returned to the room, read for a time and fell gratefully into the arms of Morpheus.


  Saturday 7/27/02 Victoria, British Columbia- Canada

We were up at 6:00 A.M. We read the Globe & Mail and had coffee in the room, before ascending to the 19th floor “Vistas” restaurant, for breakfast. “Globus” and “Our Country” tours had  groups there as well. It was a conga-line of prune juice drinkers waiting for breakfast. We sat and had coffee looking out over the harbor area and enjoying the view. After a time, the hordes were stoked and we got in line for eggs, fruit and potatoes.

Thus fortified for the day, we set out to explore the area. It was in the 50’s and cool out. We walked over the esplanade and past Parliament, down Belleville Rd. and out to Laurel Point Park. It is a lovely vantage point from which to watch the seaplanes land and the water traffic enter and leave the harbor. The Laurel Point Inn looks like it would be rather nice to stay in. The walkway led us around and through a small water-front condo complex. Small boat marinas and floral gardens abounded, making for a very picturesque section of town.

From Laurel Point, we hiked on over to the Royal British Columbia Museum, hoping to beat the hordes of piccolo mostri that usually frequent these museums.($10 ea.) We had no luck today. A brigade of youthful Canadian Scouts, with clod hopping brogans, was everywhere in evidence, enjoying what the museum has to offer. It is a Mecca of sorts, to the province’s youth, to discover who and what they are.

We walked through the exhibit detailing the British Monarchy and its frequent contacts with far away Victoria B.C. Mary, Elizabeth, the Georges and the other royals were all displayed in memorabilia plentiful enough to satisfy even the most ardent anglophile. The memory of Princess Diana lingered on in several glass showcases.

The Natural and geological history of the area is also nicely portrayed. We learned about the areas volcanic origins and its emergence from under the glaciers 10- 15,000 years ago.
Another whole floor paid tribute to the native tribes, their masks, implements and costumes. Totems and masks are of great interest locally. Lastly and most interesting is a small section dedicated to the marine life from the shoreline. We saw a whole array of water creatures, including starfish, needle-nosed gars, eels, and various mollusks. It was both interesting and informative.

The small, 2nd floor, cafeteria section was laid out for “tea” but had not yet opened. We walked down to the first floor and found an interesting gift shop and a larger cafeteria. We had some coffee and muffins to tide us over. Over all, it was an interesting stop and worth seeing.

From the museum, we walked up Main St. shopping for souvenirs and browsing the many gift stores. The hanging flower baskets and decorations are picturesque. We snapped several photos to remind us of the area’s beauty. Bastion Alley hosted art vendors and small flea market stands. It led us down to the Maritime Museum and the waterfront area. We sat for a time and watched the various sea planes, from Cooper’s Air, West Coast and Kenmore Air land gracefully in the small basin of the harbor.

A squadron of whale watchers marched, in their red watertight suits, to the fast moving zodiacs that would speed them around the harbor in pursuit of the leviathan. As they walked down the dock, to their high-speed craft, they looked for the entire world like Apollo astronauts, in their awkward flight suits, headed for the space shuttle.

The sun was gaining height on the horizon and the temperatures were rising. It was 11:30 A.M.. We elected to have something to eat at “Sam’s,“  a cafeteria style bistro on the main drag. I knew that at noon, the bell would ring and the hordes would descend. Shrimp bisque and sour dough bread at Sam’s were wonderful, as we sat and watched the crowds walk by.($15) Next, we stopped by “Roger’s Chocolates,” provisioners to the Queen, for a small supply of their delicious sweets. They are indeed delicious. No wonder the Queen is a size 14.

The flower gardens of the Empress Hotel drew us next. We sat, sunned and enjoyed the early afternoon. A flock of our colleagues were having “high tea” at the Empress. Finally, it was time to go back to the hotel and ready for our excursion to Butchart Gardens.

At 2:30 P.M. the bus collected us and drove the 30 miles up the island to the sight of an old stone and sand quarry from Portland Cement. It had been transformed,by the owner’s wife, into an elegant formal gardens. The cars and buses streamed into the place, off loading throngs of people who had come from far and wide to see the beauty herein contained.

We wandered past the sunken gardens and admired the riot of color, the elegant floral composition and the sheer visual beauty of the place. The rose garden has at least 50 different shades of roses, all neatly labeled with name and year that they were cultivated in their multi-colored  splendor. I am not given to paroxysms of expression over flowers but this place is a visual banquet.

The Italian gardens, with small fountains, the Japanese gardens, with their raked-Zen stone beds and subtle Shinto shrines are not only interesting, but a palliative that rested both the eyes and the mind. A small band shell and seating area is on the grounds for philharmonic concerts and a grassy area above a small pond is laid out for Saturday fireworks displays. This is a regional attraction that draws people in by the thousands daily.

It was very warm and we were tiring, despite the beauty around us. We walked back to the gift shop area and bought coffee. We noticed Melanie sitting nearby and joined her, chatting about travel and things related. It was nearing 5:00 P.M. and she had to tend to the flock. We walked over shortly after and joined the group for a dinner in a rear room of the dining pavilion. We sat with Lillian and Irene, two of the more colorful elderly women in the group. They are from Northern California. I asked if they were trying to pick up thirty year old men and they laughed uproariously. We enjoyed our conversation with them immensely. The dinner was cafeteria food. Come for the flowers. Forget the food.

After dinner ,w e still had time, so we walked up to the concert area to hear “Katinkus.” It is a small combo of fife, guitar, drum and horn who play some interesting music. Irish in origin, they had also worked in blue grass, Cajun and shit kicking country into a lively melange that is fun to listen to. As we sat and listened, throngs of people walked by headed for the fireworks display later that night. They had blankets and coolers. It apparently is a regional happening. It is better than cow tipping I guess.

The day was getting long. We met the bus at 7:30 P.M. The incoming traffic was horrendous. Scores of double deck buses, more school buses and hundreds of cars competed for the available parking spaces. It was time to leave. The short ride took us back to the hotel, where we packed it in to read and relax. It had been a long and interesting day, in a story book city, on a fantasy island in the Pacific Ocean. We were glad to be here.

Sunday 7/28/02 Victoria, British Columbia  - Canada

We were up early, read the globe and mail and had coffee in the room. We decided to forego the crush of breakfast and idle for a little longer. The bags were ready and out by 7:15. We took one last walk to the esplanade to see again the storybook setting and then joined our tour for the 8:30 A.M. bus.

The bus carried us north on Vancouver Island along the Saanich Inlet of Howe Sound. As we crested Malahat Hill, the setting became fjord-like and we enjoyed the beauty around us. Stands of red-barked Madrona mingled haphazardly with the tall Douglas firs as the land spilled into the water below. The fractured strata of the sedimentary rock is tilted and heaved up, attesting to enormous tectonic pressures far below us.

Our first stop for the day was the town ofDuncan. It is a small community of Native Indians, or First Nation members, about two thousand in number. A small stand of totems was our focus. Melanie told us of their significance. The tribes would gather in a ceremony that they called a “potlatch.” They would carve different types of totems to commemorate an event or celebrate some seminal right of passage that the tribe experienced. Birds, fish, and all manner of creatures of the sea and forest would be carved on top of one another to tell a story from top to bottom. It was an early way of telling a tribal history that others could read in coming generations.


Sometimes the ashes of a chief would be placed in a small square box atop the totem and it would be his memorial. The mysticism surrounding these gatherings made the far away bureaucrats in Ottawa nervous. They outlawed the practice from 1881 through 1951. It may seem silly to us now, but taken in context of British colonialism and the rising of native tribes in their far-flung empire, it seemed a rational measure to them to control the native populations from any type of insurrection. All it did was to foster more native solidarity and drive the meetings underground.

 From Duncan, we continued north. The cattle and dairy farms are interspersed here and there with agricultural production as the land becomes more rural, the further one gets from Victoria. 

Our next stop was an old sawmill town named “Chemainus.”  The town elders were faced with a dilemma in 1980 when the sawmill closed. They either had to come up with a new source of revenue or close the town. They settled upon an idea to create large-scale murals on the sides of area buildings. The murals would relate the town’s history from pioneer times to present. Artists came from far and wide to paint grand murals of the sea, railroad, native and pioneer life. The resulting collage is both interesting and eye appealing. It draws in a continual stream of tourists who patronize the many small restaurants, cafes and gift shops in the town, keeping it economically viable. We all off-boarded and followed the trail of small yellow feet, painted on the sidewalk. The trail took us around the town past the various murals. Some were Grant Wood style, others more like Norman Rockwell. They told a story, in a colorful and interesting manner, of a town and its people. 

In the river next to town, we could still see a few “log jams” of timber that were waiting to be dragged down river for sawing. It is an attractive area. We got our first taste of a local treat called “Nanaimo bars.” The treat is two squares of chocolate that sandwich a cream or custard filling. It is both rich and delicious. Local legend has it that they are called “lard ass bars,” for their ability to fill ones stomach and weigh one down while diving in the waters for clams and fish. It was said that after eating several of these, a body could sink right to the bottom and scavenge for fish and mollusks with little trouble. Of course getting back to the surface of the water was probably difficult, but that part never made it into the legend.

From Chemainus, we pushed on to the largest city in the area, Nanaimo, for which the bars had been named. It is a substantial port town with high rises, large marinas and all manner of other commerce. Melanie mentioned the “bath tub races” that were taking place today in the river. I was reminded of my own experience with Bathtub boat races. In 1979, I was representing the Mayor of Buffalo at the opening ceremonies of the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto, Canada. Part of the ceremonies involved a bathtub boat race around a quarter miles oval of track on the Ontario Lake front of the Exhibition. I tried my best, but the boat they gave me was a dog. I finished well back in the pack. But the Canadians, gracious as always, gave me a nice bathtub Trophy  that I still have today.


We never did find or see the local race, but we did find and board the ferry that would take us across Howe Sound to Horse shoe Bay and the mainland. Mary and I had lunch on the ferry and watched the stream of piccolo mostri run up and down the decks. The wind was both cool and strong topside, so we sought shelter below decks. The sea was shining, the sun was high above and it was a nice day for a boat ride. As we approached the mainland, small, sail-craft drifted by. We could see various tankers and container ships  along the horizon.

The approach to Horseshoe Bay is majestic. Towering mountains drop to the sea all around the bay. Gray garlands of misty clouds ring their peaks giving them a Tolkienesque appearance. It has the look of a land of fire and ice, volcanic origins in a cooler climate. We stood topside and enjoyed the visage all around us as the ferry made its way to a small protected inlet that sheltered the ferry stop. 

From Horseshoe Bay, the bus entered the “Sea and Sky Highway” for the two-hour ride up into the Tantalus Mountains, to the popular ski resort of Whistler. The ride along Howe Sound is majestic. The far hills were still snow capped. Their steep sides careened down to the water far below. We were reminded of Norway and its beauty. It looked like this. The fractured rock formations, of the hillsides, are also steep and covered with some netting that Mary dubbed as “rock bras.” It is a steel mesh netting that prevents rockslides onto the road below.

We passed through the small mining community of Britannia. There is a miner’s museum here and an old processing facility for copper ore. It is also one of the venues where much of the television program “X Files” is produced. A huge, open, dump truck and the promise of panning for gold are draws for passing tourists. In the water, we could see a string of barges, filled with sawdust, being nudged along by a tug to the nearby paper mill.

As we approached Whistler, the Tantalus Mountains appeared to grow larger. Clusters of housing complexes sprang up along the road as we neared the ski resort. On the mountains, the chair-lifts stood in bold relief against the green grass meadows, growing in the narrow treeless swaths beneath them. Finally at 4 P.M. we pulled into the beautiful ski village of Whistler. We were staying at the Delta Chelsea Suites hotel. It is very nice. We unloaded the bus, walking by the large wooden statue of a bear with a trout in its paws, and into the comfortable lobby. They were ready for us, so we had no wait. We dragged our baggage to our room and unpacked. The suites are small apartments with all of the amenities. We were well pleased with the accommodations.

The village itself is a picturesque, well-planned collection of hotels, restaurants and shops all connected by pedestrian, open air malls. It is Alpine in visage and colorful. We spotted a Starbucks and succumbed to the urge to have more of their potent nectar. Then, we espied an Internet shop. I sent several e-mail messages into cyber space. 

It was time for dinner, so we filed into “Milestones” the hotel Chelsea restaurant. We were somewhat amused at one irate patron’s song and dance about service. We soon understood. It took us two hours to get dinner, which when it came was decent enough. We passed on desert in favor of getting out of there. They should call the place “yearstones” because it takes you a year to be served.

Even that annoyance couldn’t dull the pleasure at being here. We walked again through the village admiring the mountains around us. The ski slopes came right down to the village and the entrance to the Black Comb ski lift opened right into one of the squares. It would be very convenient to stay here.

The light was waning and we were tiring, so we headed back to our room reluctantly. The air was cooling. You could smell the pines in the hills. We hope we come back this way sometime for a longer stay. We had a glass of wine in our room, read for a time and fell asleep, tired from a long and interesting day.


Monday 7/29/02 Whistler, British Columbia- Canada

We were up at 7 A.M.. It was cloudy, cool and 61 degrees out. We had coffee in the room as we packed and made ready for the run down to Vancouver today. We were getting a later start so we stopped by “Yearstone’s” and had breakfast. Melanie, on behalf of Collette Tours, must have reamed out the manager last night because the waiters were all over us trying to be of service. It brought back an old political aphorism, “When you have them by the balls, their hearts and minds will soon follow.”

A last walk through the picture-pretty alpine village was pleasant. We hope to come back again for a longer stay. We sat for a time at a small café over coffee   and admired the skyline, enjoying the cool mountain air. It really is a delightful slice of earth to find yourself in, on a summer’s morning. Reluctantly, we boarded the tour bus at 9 A.M., wishing we could stay longer.


The ride down the Sea & Sky highway is just as interesting as the trip up. The mountains were clouded in somewhat, so we had to focus on the rock formations and greenery. A few rock climbers were scaling a sheer peak along the way. Ai caramba, nothing else to do today?

About an hour down the road we came upon and stopped at Shannon Falls Provincial Park. From a sheer cliff face, several hundred feet above us, a small torrent of water slides down the slippery rock face and into a stone spillway that roars through a forested area. We hiked up the gravel path, and crossed a small wooden bridge to stand near the place where the water crashed into the stony bottom. It is picturesque and refreshing on a hot day. We could only imagine what this spillway must look like in the late spring when the snow run-off roars through here like a rushing torrent. I noticed a fairly unique form of local architecture at the park. Smooth stones had been piled into trapezoidal gateposts, the blank spaces were filled in with concrete. Each post was topped with a domed, dollop of cement. The same structures, only smaller, served as fence posts and were linked with split cedar rails. It is a decidedly forest like effect and enhanced the area aesthetically. 

Brian, the bus driver told us why the water appeared to be a milky green as it comes down off the mountain. The glaciers above grind the rock and soil to a fine powder as it recedes over the ground. The fine powder sediment or “glacial flour” hangs suspended in the water and gives it a milky opaque coloring until it stands still in some quiet lagoon. The sediment then drops to the bottom, clearing the water.

Continuing down the Sea & Sky Highway, we again studied the rock faces. Layers upon layers of sediment had created these formations eons ago, under some great ocean. The tectonic plates rubbing up against each other had heaved these sheer walls many thousand of feet into the air. The angle of their perpendicularity gave testimony to the magnitude of the forces at work far below us. Finally we came to the ocean level and horseshoe bay. Melanie pulled us in to retrieve a camera left on the ferry by one of the group. She did this deftly and didn’t embarrass anyone. We all appreciated the act and knew she would have done the same for any one of us.

The Lion’s Gate Bridge reared up in front of us and we crossed into the City of Vancouver, named after Captain George Vancouver who had first explored and mapped the area for the British in the 1790’s. The tall glass buildings sparkled in the noonday sun. It is a picturesque way to enter into this beautiful city. Its skyline is impressive and they seem to be throwing up buildings everywhere. We drove through Elizabeth Park briefly. Melanie promised we would return later. Our destination was Granville Island. It is a public market and small collection of gift shops and restaurants on an island in the bay underneath the large bridge, whose name I can’t remember. The traffic inbound was considerable, but the driver Brian, managed it deftly. He dropped us all off to shop and browse. Then, he and Melanie fought the traffic back to our hotel to drop off our bags and see what rooms were ready for us.

Thus afoot, we wandered down to the small marina and watched the water ferries and boat traffic come and go. A performer was entertaining the crowd outside the market. A comedy festival was in progress. We watched for a time and then decided to slip into the market for lunch. We bought huge bowls of seafood chowder and enjoyed it immensely. Then, we purchased enormous sized nanaimo bars and wolfed them down like hogs in a wallow. We would sink like a stone if we ever got near water after eating these “lard ass bars.”

We browsed the shops and enjoyed all of the fresh food and seafood on display in the market. A cup of fresh ground coffee from a young French cutie, at the coffee stand, put us in good favor. We sat for a time and watched the performers. The people watching were a supporting Greek chorus without their knowledge. It was good theater. A few more gift stores attracted us in, as we made our way back towards where the bus would meet us at 3:00 P.M. 

Nearby, stands the “Emily Carr Institute.” She was a local artist who painted mostly between the world wars of the 20th century. Her subject matter was usually the forest or some variation of totem poles and native scenes. We were to see a collection of her works at the Vancouver art museum, but more about that later. We decided that the art institute accounted for the over all quality of the many arts and crafts we had seen for sale. Students and apparently mainstream beatniks from the 60’s had congregated in the area and made it an artist’s colony of sorts. Water taxis are available to ferry shoppers from the downtown waterfront to Granville Island.

Brian and Melanie made it back on time and we departed from this quaint market area headed for the Bloedell conservatory. We arrived and were pleased with what we saw. A very large, rounded dome supported several diverse habitats of exotic flowers and plants. We enjoyed a few parrots and macaws that screeched within the exotic flora. My days as Erie County Parks Commissioner came to mind, at the similarity of the conservatory to ours in Buffalo.

The real treasure of the place is another abandoned quarry right behind the conservatory. It had been sculpted and lined with artfully composed floral arrangements like Butchart Gardens. We walked and enjoyed the scent and sight of their many colorful flowerbeds. From the top of the rise, near the conservatory, we also had a broad vista that looked out on the mountains around us. A last curiosity is a life like study in bronze of a photographer taking a picture of another couple and his wife. Behind the trio, the other guy was patting the photographer’s wife’s butt. We all enjoyed the sculpture and took photos of it.

The bus continued on. We could see the site of the 1986 Expo in the distance, the “eco- sphere, now a science center. Then we drove along East Penders St., through the maze of China Town. The Canadian Pacific Railroad had imported 17 thousand Chinese men to help build their line through the mountain in the late 1800’s. Most of their descendants had settled in Vancouver. The signs were a riot of reds and gold in loud Chinese characters. Vegetables, poultry, clothing, sex, drugs and anything in between is on sale at one of these hundreds of shops. I think the Chinese Tong runs the show here and will for many years to come.

We passed by the unique architecture of British Columbia Place with its touching statue of Terry Fox and his run for life story. Then, on in to Gas Town, with its colorful statue of “gassy Jack” in Maple Square. It is an area of trendy shops and antiques, some nice restaurants like “Brothers” and several coffee shops. An ancient steam clock drew the tourist’s attention as it piped off every fifteen minutes when the steam underneath boiled over.
   
The real cache’ of the area comes from a nineteenth century bartender and saloon owner named John Deighton. He apparently had been a tale-teller and “gasbag” of the first magnitude. The locals called him “gassy Jack” for this trait and repeated bouts of flatulence. His Hotel Deighton had burned down and been rebuilt in 24 hours with the promise of whiskey for the carpenters and saw mill owners. They must have had Irish workmen. 

From Gas town, we drove by Canada Place. Five huge sails catch your eye, in a fashion similar to opera house in Sydney Australia. The facility is a cruise ship terminal, convention center and site of the Pan Pacific hotel. It is architecturally elegant. The Fairmont hotel across the street is also posh and appealing. We continued on headed for a real jewel of the city, Stanley Park. This scenic expanse of greenery and beaches sits across the inlet from Vancouver proper. We drove over bridge to get there admiring the gorgeous skyline of the city. We were stopping at a site where several large and ornate totem poles are settled. Each had an explanation of the story told by it available on a bronze plaque. We took pictures, read the plaques and admired the ceremonial woodcarvings, mindful of their history as related to us.

 	The group was tiring and it was time to head into the barn. We passed the “nine o’clock gun.” A canon was fired every night at 9 P.M. so the area sailors could set their clocks to it. Legend had it that originally a stick of dynamite had been set off for the same purpose but that practice was ended when the expert had blown up his wagon after a few long conversations at gassy jack’s. The remainder of the park was well tended. We passed the ornate “Teahouse” on the waterside and then the “Fish house “ in the park. Both are fine restaurants. Then first, second and third beaches led us out to the highway, back over the bridge and along the waterfront to our hotel the Renaissance Harbor Place, just down the quay from Canada Place.

We checked in and were assigned rm.# 1440, where we unpacked and settled in with a glass of Merlot to take the edge off. It seemed almost surreal that we had started out high in the Tantalus Mountains this morning and ended up in an elegant hotel on Vancouver ‘s waterfront several hours later. You do get sort of disoriented from the rapid movement and the many different sights and sounds. You begin to understand the old cliché,” If it is Tuesday, it must be Belgium.”

Dinner sounded interesting but we were tired and not interested in exploring far afield. Brian, the bus driver, had recommended “Joe Forte’s” as a quality seafood house nearby. We dressed and headed up Thurlow Street several blocks until we came upon a classy looking two-story establishment named “Joe Forte’s.” Along the way, we had collected tour members, Fran and Rose, from St. Louis and asked them to join us. Fran is a contractor. His children designed toys for the major toymakers. Mary and I ordered a grilled seafood platter of tuna, snapper and salmon. It was very good. A glass of Merlot set the mood. At meal’s end we split and ice cream dessert that was enormous. We chatted with Fran and Rose and exchanged stories of work and family life and enjoyed their company.

 	The day was waning and we were tiring. All four of us marched down Thurlow to the waterfront and our hotel. It was time to pack it in. We stopped briefly in the hotel’s casino. It is small, mostly peopled by oriental high rollers playing black jack.It was also smoky from cigarettes. That was enough to send us high above to rack  it in for the day. It had been another long and very interesting day on tour.

Tuesday 7/30/02 Vancouver, British Columbia- Canada

We arose later this morning, tired from the previous day. We read the globe and mail and had coffee in the room, while watching the television news programs. Breakfast was served in the second floor ballroom for Colette tour members. We sat with two couples from New Jersey and Texas chatting about what we had seen and done these last few days. Meeting people from all over and talking with them is one of the nicer experiences on a tour.

After breakfast we headed out for the day. We followed Thurlow and then Robson to the city’s old Court House in Robson Square. This stately, granite, former- home of the judiciary is now the Vancouver Art Museum. A large banner advertised an exhibition of Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keefe and Emily Carr. It was before ten, so the museum wasn’t yet open. We wandered around the area, admiring the fountains and open area of Robson Square. Then we had coffee on the second floor terrace of the museum. Several docents and museum staff were chatting before work. The Museum opened promptly at 10:00 A.M. For $25, we entered and began exploring the three-floor exhibition. The building itself is an art form, with a central domed skylight and wide corridors of marble floors and tasteful furnishings. The collection was not as exquisite.

Emily Carr, is not exactly to our taste. Most of her works were completed during the period between the world wars. As such, she came in on the tail end of Kandinsky and the post impressionists. Her non-angular representations of forest scenes in deep, velvet green are dark and brooding, perhaps reflective of the deep woods in the area in the early twentieth century. A few of her native pieces, with totems and Indian motifs, are more interesting to us. Perhaps we are philistines, but I would pass on seeing her works again. Georgia O’Keefe is more simplistic. Her Southwestern Motifs are more colorful but hazy in an impressionistic manner. Frida Kahlo I think has to grow on you. Many self-portraits of Spanish women with mustaches are something you have to get used to. In any case, we always count ourselves fortunate for the exposure to new painters and their works and were glad we had stopped by to visit.

Across the street from the Museum sits the venerable Vancouver Hotel. We walked through its elegant lobby admiring the opulence on casual display. I think it is the furrier in the lobby with several minks and sables on display that best characterized the clientele that stay here. From the hotel, we continued on down to Hastings and the harbor area, admiring the visage of water and mountains around us. We walked over Hastings to Water Street and entered Gas town. A large sign on a viaduct welcomes you to Gas town. It was still early so the crowds were yet light. The panhandlers were out in force though and particularly aggressive in begging for spare change.

We stopped by the curious “steam clock” and watched like all of the other tourists as the clock piped music every fifteen minutes. It sits across from Starbucks and draws tourists all day every day. We browsed the shops and notions stores and stopped by a small Internet café to send out a few messages. The sun was shining brightly and it was a beautiful day. We passed by and looked in “Brother’s restaurant” where the waiters all dress as monks.

At the end of Water Street, under a large Maple Tree, is a small area designated as “Maple Square.” A Bronze statue, of a man in 19th century garb, stands on a pedestal. The inscription reads John “Gassy  Jack” Deighton, and details that it is the sight of the Deighton House Saloon and hotel founded by Mr. Deighton. He is the man for which the area was named and a character of local legend. The plaque mentioned a fire that destroyed his hotel and the guide books make reference to the fact that he served whiskey from a board layed across two saw horses. Melanie told us that he had his saloon built in 24 hours by the sawmill workers whom he promised to pay in whiskey. In any case, he was a colorful local character of early Vancouver who much adds to the cache’ of the city.


We retraced our steps through gas town and walked back along Hastings to Canada Place. The Fairmont Hotel sits across the street. It too in another of those elegant hotels that add to the area’s cache’. Canada Place is a large Ferry dock and Cruise ship terminal attached to the Pan Pacific Hotel and the Vancouver Convention center. Outside of the complex, a walkway affords a wonderful view of the Harbor and the mountains across the bay. The elegant five sails are the visual hallmark of the exterior and give the place its identity. We wandered inside amidst the convention center meeting rooms, shop and restaurants and then sat for a time, amidst workers and visitors, in an outside courtyard with coffee and raspberry muffins from Starbucks. 

We were a little foot sore, so we headed back to the room to rest and relax for the afternoon expedition. We read and relaxed for a time and even conversed with Mr. Nelson for a time before dressing and getting ready for dinner at the Capilano Suspension 
  Bridge.

At 5:30 P.M., the bus picked us up, at the hotel, for our last evening together. It ferried us back across the Lion’s Gate Bride to North Vancouver and on up into the small village of Capilano. There, we entered a park of that name. Inside are several stands of interesting native totem poles, an interactive exhibit of saw mill memorabilia featuring the founder of the mill and a large gift store, with very upscale merchandise.

The main attraction of the Park is a 400-foot pedestrian suspension bridge that hangs 231 feet above the Capilano River Gorge and connects two sections of the Park. Most of the tour ventured over and back. I decided that I would do it in another lifetime, maybe. A native group was chanting and dancing at the story center under the gaze of several large and colorful totem poles. It is an interesting and beautiful site.

From the park, we walked across the road to one of the two restaurants there, The Canyon House. Our group sat around several large tables for a final Salmon dinner. We sat with several women from New Jersey, a Mother and daughter from Missouri and one from Northern California, as we chatted and talked over various things we had seen and done. One of the women was friend of Brad Pitt’s mother in Missouri. Another worked for a “Johhny on the spot firm” in New Jersey. Who says the Soprano’s aren’t for real? We finished out meal and then gathered for the short ride back to the hotel. We all had thoughts of packing our gear and readying for the 5:30 A.M. bag pick up tomorrow morning.

Mary and I decided to visit the revolving restaurant atop the Renaissance for a nightcap. We sat and sipped a glass of Merlot as the facility slowly revolved on its axis. The harbor and lights across the bay sparkled in the dark of the evening. It must be very scenic here for lunch or early dinner during the daylight hours. It was time for us to go home.

Wed.  7/31/02 Vancouver, British Columbia- Canada

We were up early at 4:00 A.M. to finish packing and ready our bags for the 5:30 A.M pickup. We showered and then joined our bleary eyed group in the second floor ball room to breakfast before setting out at 6:20 A.M. for the three hour run to Seattle and the Seatac airport.

The trip was uneventful. At Blaine, Washington, we crossed into the USA. Customs made us all get off and put everyone’s luggage through a scanner. It was an annoyance, and as a veteran of thousands of border crossings at home, unnecessary in my opinion. These knuckleheads were bored and looking for something to do.

We repacked our luggage and saddled up for the two hour run to Seatac. The scenery is green and flat, filled with rural farms and orchards on the way into Seattle. Soon enough, the Space needle passed by and then the long hangers of the Boeing complex as we neared the airport. 

Melanie shooed several of us off who had earlier flights. We gave our fond good-byes and thanked her for escorting us along this interesting journey through British Columbia. She had been helpful, pleasant and a pleasure to be around.

American airlines surprised us by being neither crowded nor intrusive. We breezed through the security scanners and headed for a Starbucks for one last jolt before boarding.

The flight from SeaTac to Chicago was uneventful. I watched the Snake River valley, the Rockies and then the extensive agricultural lands of the Dakotas, Minnestoa and Wisconsin pass by underneath. Then, we settled into Chicago’s O’Hare field. The one-hour wait passed swiftly enough and we boarded our plane for the short 90-minute hop to Buffalo International. Two teenagers sat behind us. They had apparently downed a few cups of coffee and were gabbing to beat the band.

Finally, at 10:10 P.M. we set down at Buffalo International. Our bags arrived with us and we hailed a taxi for the short ride to Amherst. We were tired from the long day’s travel but grateful to be home. It had been an interesting and enjoyable trip through the Northwest. We were glad that we had gone.

                                                        -
                             -30-

                       (12,164 words)
                                                           
                        Joseph X. Martin
                                                           
                            8/6/02


HOME







          
                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                                           



Home.htmlshapeimage_2_link_0