02 September 2005

A Trip to Canada - Day Two

Pictures to accompany this journal entry are here. I'll have more pics to go with the next entry, so stay tuned!

The great thing about having my computer with me (besides the wired or wireless net) is that I can "dump" my pictures each day and take lots and lots of pictures. Since I didn't get to take too many yesterday (mostly shots from the plane and airport at SLC), I'll make up for it on the train ride. I'm thinking of setting up iPhoto galleries and posting this on the blog -- I might even get a domain name! :)

So I actually got up with little difficulty at 6 (lay in bed till 6:15 though) -- I don't find it difficult to get going early in the day if I'm excited and not stressed/rushed (and now you know why I'm not a "morning person" when I work -- who gets excited about work?).

Had a shower, packed up, checked out (Thanks Tristan!), had breakfast -- pretty pathetic. I was hoping for at least some eggs, but all we got was some barely-warmed-over "waffle" like thing, and some sausage patties and (raspberry) yogurt. I like yogurt ñ why don't I eat more of it? Oh yeah, because it's loaded with sugar.

The cab ride to Amtrak was quick and cheap ($9.50+tax) -- so far I'm still living on the cash Galanes gave me before I left, so my bank account is pretty untouched so far. I still have about $90 of it ($50 of that in CAD dollars), which means I've spent about $100 all told so far. Not bad.
The driver and I had a nice chat about Las Vegas, Orlando and Seattle. I saw the Space Needle, the Seattle Center and much of downtown (all according to my evil plan, bwa-ha-ha). I don't think I was in the Amtrak station for more than five minutes, I went almost directly from cab to train.

As I type this paragraph, we are speeding through endless cornfields, having left Everett, WA. There have been lots of picture opportunities, but with me having a fairly shitty digital camera I'll be amazed if any of these turn out any good. I really must try to score a better camera in the near future. So in the meantime, my strategy is to take LOTS of pics and hopefully a few will be salvageable. I'm spending the time (this ride should take about four hours) reading up on Vancouver sights to see (I'll probably take an inexpensive "city highlights" bus tour, particularly if you can get on and off at will), taking pics and trying to stay hydrated (they give out bottled water everywhere here, and between that and my usual soda I'm doing okay ñ it's actually quite a bit more humid than I'd reckoned, but it is different to Florida's humidity).

I was a bit afraid that my long absense from colder climes would have thinned my blood so that I'd notice the average 30-degree (F) drop in temperature, but apparently my blood is as thick as country music -- far from being a bit chilled (even at night), I'm in heaven. It's so mild and pleasant -- if it rained a bit less I would call it paradise. If BC is going to be like this, I'm really going to have more fun at night than I'd anticipated.

We've stopped the train in Mt. Vernon to fix a loose electrical cable -- it's not affecting the train, just the lighting/air in the club car (and presumably elsewhere). This is apparently a different model train than the one that usually makes this run -- I got a call a couple of days ago from Amtrak advising me that I'd have to go by bus instead of train, then they called back a few hours later to say "nevermind." The bus would have been a lot less cool, but I'm sure the picture-taking would still have been good ñ and I would have been able to sleep in. :)

I walked out of the train station and across the street to the Science World/Skytrain terminal, bought a pass (good for the bus as well, I discovered), walked onto the train ñ and discovered it was the wrong train. Got off at the next stop, took the train going the other way, and was at Granville station before you could say boo. Caught the bus and made my way down Robson. The #5 bus that goes up and down this street seems to go by every five minutes or so -- now THIS is my idea of public transport! Electric busses are cheap and much quieter than gas-powered ones.

The rest of the day can be summed up as follows -- walking. I strolled down Robson after checking into the Barclay (a small and vaguely moldy faded grade-B place, but hey free wireless!) and sought out a good pub I had spotted when I originally overshot my bus stop. It was a long walk (almost a mile, I later discovered), but I found it. A complete slice of UK heaven right in the heart of the West End, which like the rest of Vancouver is at least 50% Asian. Lots of Scotch and Irish and English (and Canadian, of course) brogues to be heard, complete with one old duffer who had too many and challenged one of the younger fellows to a fight. He was gently and expertly led out by the owner, and the waitress apologised to me. She probably sussed out that I'm a writer because I had a huge stack of newspapers on the table in front of me ñ I'd picked up every free paper I found along the stroll, and believe me there are plenty.

So, what did I learn from reading those papers as I noshed on my fish & chips & dark beer(aaaahhhh...)?

First, I learned that there's a fair amount of opportunity for me in the publications world. I had at least eight free papers, only one of which was non-mainstream or altera-weekly (Xtra West, a gay paper), and all of which need to do a much better job with their arts coverage. For the life of me I couldn't find a simple, calendar-esque approach to "what to do" (a la TimeOut or the Orlando Weekly) to save my life!

I also learned that Vancouver fancies itself a major fashion capital like Paris or London (actually, Vancouver reminds me of London very much). Far far too much ink was spilt on fashion shows, designers and related ephemera -- I say this not because I'm not interested in fashion, but it's a very photographic topic -- writing about fashion is like dancing about architecture, to borrow a phrase.

There's obviously a healthy economic climate if all these papers can find enough ad support not to charge. I have to admit that I'm only keeping three of them for the journey back, though -- the Georgia Straight (probably the all-around best of the free papers), West End and the Vancouver Courier.

Last, I found out that there was a Fellini Film Fest going on through Saturday. I am sooo there.

After walking around the Denmore/Robson area for a while, I decided to head back by cutting through the just-off-Robson residential district. Lovely tree-lined streets with tall blocks of flats everywhere. Masses of people walking, skating, running with dogs. Lots of dogs.

Since this was all uphill, I was fairly bushed when I got back to the Barclay. I took a short break to watch a little TV (jeebus, New Orleans is in a bad way!) before heading out again to seek some dinner. After much walking around the south end of Stanley Park (lovely, but surrounded by glass hi-rise condos I'll never afford), I ended up at Dairy Queen out of sheer exhaustion, went back to the hotel and crashed shortly afterward. Legs VERY sore. If I'm seriously thinking of living here, I need to get in better shape. Of course, that appears to be national pastime here (skating/jogging/walking dogs/biking), so I guess it won't be that hard.

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