Sunday, August 22, 2010


In my experience, the best way to get to know a city is on foot. (Foot pic is from Vancouver…)

In Seattle, we stayed in a great hotel, the Mediterranean, in the Queen Anne District. (Thank you for the $114 rate.) I liked the hotel but I really liked that you could walk just about anywhere you wanted. After a delicious Cajun lunch, we walked six blocks to Seattle Center.
Seattle Center is a large, car-free hunk of the city with theatres, green space, the Space Needle, the spacey Jimi Hendrix Experience Museum (a museum designed by Frank Gehry and dedicated to rock music from the Seattle area), an amusement park and a huge public sculpture that features a fountain that spouts or mists or dribbles in tandem with music.

Kids come to the fountain in their bathing suits in the summer and try to outwit the spouting patterns. One tweenager came in new jeans and a clean white shirt with what seemed to be his older brothers. The brothers egged him on to get closer to the fountain, which he did, dodging pulses and jets of water. But the music was dramatic and suddenly a blast came out from all directions and he was instantly soaked from his spiky gelled hair down to his new, white Nikes.

Pike’s Market, down by the water, was maybe a mile and a half away so we broke up the walk at a coffee shop. Seattlers (Seattllites? Seattlette’s?) love their coffee, and they also love book shops. We love them, too, and spent some time in one in Pike’s Market. But the best one was the anarchist bookstore. A punk rocker turned Dante on to Kurt Vonnegut there. The V section of the literature shelves has a card that reads something like “If you want a Vonnegut book ask at the counter.” Apparently Vonnegut was a popular shoplift item at the anarchist bookstore so they keep them behind the register.

Dante and Mark read Cat’s Cradle together on the train. At one point in the lounge car they laughed so hard they were wiping tears and could not finish the chapter.


Ever notice that marketing works best when it’s most familiar? When you see it every day the inane names and tag lines seem perfectly normal. But we are traveling, so some of it seems odd…

Take the Canadian chain store, Indigo, whose motto “Books, Gifts, Life” promises a lot when you stop to think about it. Dante really wanted to purchase some extra life there, which inspired Zora to wonder “Do fries come with that life?”

And there’s the discount clothing store, Winners. Zora bought a pair of running shoes (60% off!) there. Mark tried on 5 suits (half off!), and wondered if his travel experience would be much improved if he wore a suit everywhere. I tried on some most excellent German-made leather shoes with a flower on the side (only 25% off). I almost bought them despite the fact that they were too small for me. They made me feel like a winner.
We all felt like winners at Winners, except for Dante who was born with a natural immunity to marketing campaigns and dislikes purchasing things. But doesn’t he look like a Winner in this photo?

Regardless of the odd marketing, Zora’s zest for Canada is increasing with frightening intensity.

The Slower I Go, The More I Notice

"When you walk quickly on the shore, it looks like nothing is going on in the water. When you stop, you can see there is a lot going on."
- Zora on Saltspring Island

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Long Ascent

Starting around the 1910’s, on the North Shore of Vancouver, horses used to drink water from a trough a quarter of a mile up the hill. You can follow the steps of these horses on the sidewalk on Lonsdale Ave. Some metal horseshoe prints buried in the sidewalk lead to a bronze sculpture and that original trough, now worn and rough with age. This is one of my all time favorite sculptures. “The Long Ascent” by Victoria & Edwin Dam de Nogales, reminds me of a Japanese drawing where the minimum brush strokes evoke the spirit of the horse. In contrast, the head of the horse is extremely detailed, showing every vein. Zora climbed on the horse and took the great photo of her shadow.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Mark and I spent have spent many hours walking in our nearly 23 years together. So when my father offered to look after the kids so we could go on a date, it’s no surprise we spent much of our date on foot. We took a bus down close to Kitsilano Beach, walked around the point to Granville Island, and had an amazing dinner at Sand Bar Restaurant: Scallop skewers, spinach salad, wood-baked sable fish and asparagus.

After enjoying the show with our friendly waiter (who had warned us he would be giving us extra service as soon as the fireworks started), we headed down to an Aqua Bus, a small vessel that takes you for a five minute jaunt (at $4 a pop) across False Creek to downtown, but saved us a good 30 minutes of walking. We were meeting the kids at the Seabus, so time was of the essence.

Downtown we walked with a tide of people in the street toward various forms of mass transit - the SkyBus, the "regular) bus and (for us) the SeaBus.

Reunited with our spawn – er kids – we took the bus together on the North Shore. A very high young Vancouverite/skater explained to a confused Spanish woman why Canada is superior to the rest of the world. My English was better than hers, but I still had a hard time following the argument. Something about the low birth rate...


Back on the train again so I have time to blog!!! After speaking to many of you in person and over email, I realize that many more people are reading the blog than I realized. Feel free to let me know you are reading!

When we arrived in Vancouver, we initially got around with public transport, but then ceded to convenience – and realized that many places would be hard for us to reach without a car. More about that later…
My stepmother and her partner graciously let us stay in their house in North Vancouver, an easy walk to my beloved SeaBus.
Feeling a little old here, but I remember back when the SeaBus got started (1979?) and it cost a quarter to make the 15 minute crossing of the Burrard Inlet to downtown. Now it costs $3.75.
Other than the SeaBus, two bridges span the inlet. The Lion’s Gate bridge, modeled after the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco, still boasts only three lanes for traffic. In the morning two of the three lanes are given over to funnel masses of commuters into the city. In the afternoon the two lanes allow people returning home that slight advantage.
In Heat (Monbiot’s book), I learned that adding more lanes to a road only temporarily keeps the traffic down. The more lanes are added the more traffic grows. When roads are not widened, the traffic does not grow – and in fact people find other ways around.
The other bridge is the more modern Second Narrows.
Both bridges carry buses, but the Sea Bus us by far the quickest, and most beautiful way to get your skyscraper fix.

People also get around A LOT by bike and many streets all over the city have bike lanes (darn - I can't figure out how to place the photos except at the beginning of the entry! Any help here would be great...)

but if you are too lazy to walk or bike to the store on when you are clubbing, Connie the Condom Lady makes being safe easy. We learned this when Zora and I stopped at a light and admired Connie’s lovely vintage 50s dress. She thanked us and turned away. Almost as an after thought, she turned back around, sweetly smiled at Zora and introduced herself: “I’m Connie the Condom Lady.” Zora replied “oh.”