Home again

8th and 9th June

There was a Bill Reid exhibit in the airport, lovely airport with water and greenery. Bill Reid was a noted Haida artist.

Travelling home was straightforward. Everything went as expected except I had to sit next to an obnoxious git. His opener was “I am big, and I have to sit in your seat.” I told him that I’d selected my seat online and basically my answer was “no”. He grumbled on a bit, showing me his massive muscles and it’s quite true he was big but I wasn’t going to give in. He then had some fuss about where his bag was to be stowed and he gave in on that too. Basically he was all mouth, no trousers! At least he was wearing some! He then seemed to want to help me to use my multimedia controls. I probably can’t tell you how irritating this was. Only that morning I’d fixed Klaus’s computer, and I’d shown Bonnie how to do various techy things on her tablet, business as usual. After a bit we just ignored each other. It was very cold on the plane, I wore all the clothes I had plus 2 blankets. I watched the film Jackie about Mrs JFK, not very good. Slept a tiny bit with a blanket over my head. Got the evening meal early because special, not great. Had a free lager and a malt whisky to help me sleep.

I still can’t figure out the time stuff and maybe I lost half a day or maybe I lived it twice. I got home about 8.30 in the evening and it was lovely to be back. I’ve slept well since returning and don’t appear to be jet lagged, am a bit tired and glad to be sleeping a bit better. Bonnie and Klaus’s condo didn’t exactly relax me with them in the room next door with their door wide open.

I had thought that this trip would be a form of punctuation in my bereavement but really it hasn’t changed a thing except maybe brought it all into closer focus. There were things I saw and did that resonated very strongly for me in terms of my relationship with Chris. At times the intensity of feeling almost had me in pieces.

At least the trip removed me from worrying about my job situation and one thing that’s very positive is that I feel confident I can deal with the outcome whatever it is. I will be angry if I am made redundant or messed around more than I have been already, but there’s a lot more to life than Bradford uni.

And did I say? Everything in Canada is very big!!

Some things I noticed:

  • There are an awful lot of cedar hedges around private homes in Vancouver.
  • House construction consists of a wooden internal frame where we would have breeze blocks.
  • I saw a lot of female public gardeners and a lot of gardeners generally.
  • Also a lot of female road construction stop/go sign twirlers.


Delta bird sanctuary 

8th June

Raining a lot, first time since the blizzard.

Karin picked me up and we went for coffee in Ladner. She had a coffee concoction with turmeric and spices, I stuck to espresso!

Then we went to the George C Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary crossing an old wooden bridge to get there over the Fraser river. There were floating houses on the river, some of them big. We didn’t meet anyone walking around and saw geese, ducks, coots, a chickadee, blackbird with red bits, heron and others but not the scary aggressive crane.

Back to the condo where I dried off my gear and finished packing. Karin picked me up again so I said farewell to Klaus and off we went to Ladner exchange. Then goodbye to my friend.

Bus to Bridgeport, driver very interested in the election. Skytrain to wrong station but fortunately easily rectified. Finally to airport, very quiet and calm with comfy seats and lots of plants and water.

Canada goose (and Karin!)
Fraser River

Grouse Mountain 

7th June

Got up relatively early and took the 601 bus, the Skytrain (2 mins of sky), the seabus, the 236 bus and arrived at the bottom of the mountain about 11. Then to my horror I couldn’t find Bonnie’s travel card which she had so kindly lent me. It would have been annoying if it had been my own card but absolutely mortifying because it was someone else’s. I turned out my pockets, checked the loo I’d been to…

It took ages to get a ticket for the gondola but once on the very squashed car, we whizzed up the mountain to about 1100m. I got a coffee and headed off to see the end of the grizzly bear “talk”. There was a woman talking electronically loudly for the assembled crowd. Then they all went away and I watched the bears for a bit, one of them was hot and cooling himself against the snow.

Next I moved a few yards across to the birds of prey demo. Rock music blasting away whist we waited, I’m not sure either bears or birds would like that. Quite a good demo, eagle, owl, falcon all flying about, not together, all well controlled.

I walked to the top of the mountain at 1200m, saw a man wearing my t shirt from Bruce in Manchester last May and a grouse who chattered and walked with me for a bit of a way.

After a few minutes I decided to skip the lumberjack demo! It was very crap.
Sandwich not very nice but at least the view was good. 10 minutes of movie about bears.

Back down on the gondola. Met a couple from Birmingham, Pete and Sharon who were on their adventures. We travelled together until I left for the Skytrain and had a pleasant interlude together. They had done a small cruise of 80 passengers in Alaska and had seen lots of wildlife with Uncruise.

It took a while to get back, quick in and out. Fred picked me up. Spent a lovely evening with him and Karen, seeing their beautiful home and garden, eating and drinking spicy chicken sausages, BBQ aubergine and courgette and salad. We walked to the ocean and I stood in the USA so I have entered and exited all within a few seconds. They have been so good to me and taken me to places I just wouldn’t have found on my own.

Night falls on Tsawwassen
Fred and Karin
I’m in the USA
And now I’m not in the USA
Two Lions
It’s off to work we go
Birds of prey demo
Bald headed eagle

Crescent Beach

6th June

Nice easy day. Karin picked me up and we went to the sea at Crescent Beach. Good lunch in little resto with windows wide open to the street. I had crab cakes with salad. These tasted more of crab.

We walked about and saw a heron and a rabbit. Coastal and slightly marshy land.

Then to White Rock with a good view to Mount Baker which is over 3200m. A nice clean seaside town, a bit hippy, reminded me a little of Borth but with sun and warmth.

Saw eagles just hanging about. One has built a nest on an electricity pylon.

We went in the new mall at Tsawwassen. It is huge with huge shops, well Outdoor World was huge and had lots of hunting and fishing equipment including I think an enormous array of guns. We looked at coolers that can keep your food cool for days, Yetis but not cars! Some things very good value and others much the same. I can see why those who live close to the border do their grocery and fuel shopping in the US.

Things I like include excellent plumbing, sensible one knob shower taps, strong sucky loos! Receiving directions for walking that are by compass points and an expectation they will be understood. Portion sizes seem to be mostly big. Salads are amazing.

I still haven’t quite worked out how the driving at intersections goes so probably won’t use a bike, will see if I can make sense of it first.

Poor stuffed bear at Outdoor World
Mount Baker
Beach house
Crescent Beach
Old church

Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver 

5th June

Klaus and Bonnie gave me a lift to Bridgeport bus station at great speed which I really didn’t enjoy. Why is it that nearly every holiday abroad involves a speed merchant at some point? I took the bus to the University of British Columbia which has a massive campus. Asked a chap re correct stop and he offered to point me in north west direction (I love that people use the points of the compass to give directions, must try this at home, ha ha!!) then a woman said I could walk with her. We had a pleasant 7 minute chat/walk about our Virtual Learning Environments! She is a classics teacher and does some of it online. When she went off she said to walk through the parkade, well I didn’t know what to expect, was it a type of park or was it a type of car park? I still don’t know because it was a mini park on top of a car park! Update – Karin says it’s a car park with at least 2 stories.

I spent several hours in MoA, which is excellent and different from the Victoria museum. It’s built on some WW2 concrete defenses. I went straight to the cafe as had not had a coffee. Also had a lunch of quinoa and coconut salad there. Ok, a bit dry.

It took nearly two hours to get back by bus and I managed to spot my stop ok. Popped out for supplies.

Early to bed.

View to North Vancouver mountains from MoA
Bill Reid work for MoA. Raven and the First Men. Haida creation story.
House totems
Beautiful MoA
Bent wood box, only jointed on one edge

North Vancouver 

4th June

Karin and Fred picked me up in the big truck, Nissan V8 Titan! Lovely! We went up to North Vancouver and walked across a suspension bridge (not the Capilano bridge but good for me as not too long and scary and also no charge).  A lot of people out on a beautiful Sunday. We walked all around Rice Lake. From one point the drinking water drops down for a mile.

Then to look at the Cleveland dam on Capilano Lake, this is near to the foot of Grouse mountain and the start of the Grouse Grind. The walk is shut until 12th June. From the dam you can see up to the two lions on the top.

We dropped down into the top of Stanley Park crossing over the Lions Gate bridge which is just brilliant, see picture. A lot of people were out in the sun on the beaches.

Out of the park past English Bay which was where we got to on Friday. Over the Burrard bridge, into where the university is and the Museum of Anthropology so I know for tomorrow.

Back to Kitsilano to The Naam restaurant. We had such a good meal. I had a Mexi Dragon Bowl which was rice, veggies, miso gravy. The resto is veggie, organic and open 24 hours and good on prices. Great atmosphere of calm and good food.

K and F took me home, a lovely day out. There is so much more to Vancouver than the downtown area.

Capilano Lake with Two Lions behind
Karin and Fred
Best foot forward
Log flume
Karin and Fred on mini suspension bridge
Jak and Karin

Vancouver and Tsawwassen

3rd June

Breakfast of pancakes, poached egg and baked beans and maple syrup in the Two Parrots opposite the Ramada. This was a cheap and cheerful cafe.  Totally stuffed. It was like being in an American cop show because a policeman came in and arrested a customer. He gave him a good working over outside, to see what he was carrying as opposed to beating him up. Wandered down to the docks and saw Grouse Mountain and enormous cruise ship. Back to hotel and farewells to the rest of the group.

Karin and Fred turned up and off we went. They showed me Gastown and then we went to Commercial Drive, both nice areas, much nicer than Downtown. Fred told me a lot of history of the areas, great tour guide! We went to Havana resto and I had the Havana salad which was great and had everything in it, guacamole, salsa, beans, cheese…

Drove across to the peninsula to look at the area, Ladner village and then Boundary Bay where K and F live. The bottom of the peninsula is below the 49th Parallel so is one of I think 3 parts of the USA not accessible from the USA. I have an urge to stand over the border just to say I have been to the US of A.

Then they kindly took me to my B&B which is a room in a condominium with Bonnie and Klaus. K and F went off.

First got my laundry done then they took me to the supermarket and showed me bus stops and so on. Very welcoming and friendly.

Talking with Bonnie, her sister died from amyloidosis. Strange the cards that fate plays.

They have a lot of birds who visit. A crested jay and a hummingbird have been since I arrived. I can expect to see bald eagles popping in! Expect all I liked, they didn’t.

Site with interesting things about old Vancouver buildings.

Hudson’s Bay building
Marine Building, Burrard Street. 1930, once the tallest building in the British Empire
The lost language of cranes


2nd June

Up very early. Out and onto 9 a.m. ferry to Tsawwassen. Breakfast on the boat. The port is some way from the city. We arrived at the downtown Ramada and deposited our luggage. For 13 people this takes up a lot of space.

The Ramada is in the centre of things. We took a walk to the beach and bimbled along. Lunch at nice resto on front, the Boathouse. I had noodles and veg. Back to hotel via shops with Jo, Chris and Norman.

All out for last dinner with Mireille. We ended up in an Italian. Nice food but they were very disorganised which spoilt things for us, I think it was called Cibo Trattoria but am not sure. Sally got us a better deal. Farewell to Joy and to Mireille.

With Sally Norman, Heather and Andy to pub where drank a beer quickly, then to goth pub joining hotel. Tried a Jim Beam. Tick.

Downtown Vancouver
Looking across to North Vancouver
Ayoub nuts and seeds shop
Inukshuk, these are used to point the way
Woof, woof
On the boat going to Vancouver


1st June

Slept badly. Up and out to nice coffee in Ucluelet and into bus at 8. Drove back across to the east of Vancouver Island and then south to Victoria. Stopped on the way for Tim Hortons coffee, another for leg stretching and another at Duncan to see the totem poles, there are a great many.

The local community acknowledges that the totem pole collection is located on the traditional lands of the Quw’utsun’ (Cowichan) people. Cowichan Tribes has the largest First Nations population in BC and their oral tradition states they have lived here since time immemorial.

Duncan is in the Cowichan valley, it has a nice little museum. Lunch next to it on the grass. By the time we got to the east side it had stopped raining.

Then dozed the way to Victoria. Into Howard Johnson or hojo which is another tired old place in need of a refit. Quick wash and out again to get into the city. M dropped us off. Joy and I went to the Museum of BC. Excellent First Nation exhibits. I paid a student fee as we had less than an hour. We walked a bit in Beacon Hill Park then around the town.

Met up with our party at Lure. Nice resto, good food but slow service. I had crab, blue cheese, avocado, bacon and egg with lettuce. A beer and then a dark chocolate pot, no berries until I asked for them.

Duncan railway station, now Cowichan Museum
One of many totems. All with different meanings. Some are new interpretations by First Nation artists and some are very old totems.
Victoria government building by night
Argillite carving in MBC. Argillite is stone similar to slate that enables fine detailed carving.
Totem in Duncan



Overslept! From waking to bus in 10 minutes, a record for me. Ok except no breakfast or coffee. Geoff and Steph gave me an Alpen bar to keep me going. Very wet, it is rainforest after all and a Tsunami evacuation zone. We drove direct to Tofino to Remote Passages (!) Zodiac boat company and organised chaos of about 30 people who all had to simulataneously pay, listen to safety talk and get togged up in a too small space. I was already wearing 2 shirts, a Pertex jacket and waterproofs. To this was added a red snowmobile type all in one, very thick and then a yellow oilskin type jacket plus woolly hat and gloves. By then it was hard to move.

We boarded the Zodiac with Alex from the Clayoquot tribe to drive us. We went really fast and saw a lot of bears on the shore, also harbour seals and 2 eagles. The best for me was baby bear, 3 weeks old who was with mum. Alex was funny and informative. Great trip. Awful weather. Wet in and out, was glad to have all the gear on.

Lunch with Steph, Geoff, Chris and Jo in the Schooner. I had a tostada of tacos, eggs, avocado, refried beans and salad. Probably my best meal here. And a very good plunger coffee.

Mireille took those of us not on the Zodiac whale trip to the Kwistis First Nation centre in the Pacific Rim National Park because it was too wet for walking. I learnt a bit about the recent treaty between First Nations and the Canadian government and would like to know more. Sully, 83 told us he had lived in Ucluelet for thousands of years.

Then M took us back to Tofino to the Tofino Brew Co. a pub in a brewery that was very loud. I had a tasting flight of 4 small beers including Spruce tree beer. They were all good and the Blonde was best.

M returned with the rest of the party who were all wet after the whales. Back to hotel and out to nice local resto, Mattersons. I had a steak sandwich with potato salad and a bottle of Blonde Tofino. Joy bought me pecan pie which came a la mode, this means with ice cream, it was great.  Almost no exercise today!

A flight of beer
At Kwistis First Nation centre
From Zodiac boat
From Zodiac boat
I have become very fat