I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Not quite Astronomy Tuesday

There was a circular rainbow ringing the sun when we left Vancouver on the Rocky Mountaineer; here's a glimpse through the glass dome on top of the train.

I spent yesterday going through all the pictures I took from the train and will post the best ones today.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

A few comments about hotels

I've stayed in all kinds of hotels all around the world, including some real dives, so maybe that's why I'm not as demanding as some of the travelers I know. I want a reasonably quiet room with a clean bathroom, a comfy bed, and coffee available in the morning. I am appreciative of warm cookies delivered to my door, but I don't require them. I've had surprisingly bad rooms in allegedly very good hotels, and surprisingly good rooms in hotels where I didn't expect to be impressed.

That's the lobby of the Chateau Lake Louise on the left. This is the sort of hotel that you can only describe as grand -- more than 500 rooms, more than 100 years old. The hallways and grounds are bustling. The service is impeccable without being snooty. And the room I had, though very comfortable, did show its age. The bathroom was almost as small as the one in my apartment, and they made up for the lack of outlets by providing power strips under the desk and next to the bed.

It also had a view of the lake.

The artsy picture of rumpled bedclothes on the right is from my hotel in downtown Calgary, which could not have been more different -- small and very, very modern. (Not modern enough to actually have outlets by the bed, however. Or by the desk. I had to charge my phone in the bathroom.)

And I never did figure out how to turn on the reading lights over the bed, and I went over every inch of them multiple times. I am considered to be a reasonably intelligent person, and they just baffled me. I finally gave up only because I could imagine all too well getting sleepy over my book and then not being able to turn the damn thing off and having to go to sleep with a pillow over my face.

Sunday bird blogging

This isn't a very good picture -- you can't take great pictures of birds from a train -- but I still get so excited when I see a bald eagle that I'm posting it anyway. This is from the first day on the Rocky Mountaineer, in the hot, arid lands between the coastal mountains and the Rockies.

You can barely see the birds in this picture at all, but it's a good picture of a nest. And I like that lone tree against the sky.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

O Canada

Here are three signs that made me smile -- the No Cannabis sign was in Jasper National Park, and the Can O Pop and Great Canadian Pizza signs were in Calgary. (In fairness to Calgary, I must report that I did have a very good pizza there, though not at the place with the sign.)

It's a little embarrassing that this was the first time I'd been to Canada for longer than an extended weekend. There were always other, more exciting, places I wanted to see first, and though the Rockies were always on my wish list, they were nowhere near the top. If I hadn't gotten so sick in Africa last summer, I would probably never have done this trip now. For much of this past year, traveling was the last thing I wanted to do -- I didn't have the energy, I still had bad days, I panicked about ending up in another remote hospital and having to drag myself home. Sometimes I wondered if I'd ever leave the country again.  

I got money back from insurance for the aborted Africa trip, and just left it sitting in a bank account. It was enough to pay for a very nice trip, and I felt it should be used for something special, something that would make up for missing out on those weeks in Uganda and Kenya and Zanzibar. The problem was there wasn't anywhere I particularly wanted to visit, and the thought of going somewhere distant or exotic made me so anxious I almost burned my passport.

And I saw this Canadian Rockies trip in one of the catalogs and thought, I always wanted to do that. Then, I can do that.

Now I am feeling much better than I was last summer, or last winter, and traveling to one of the more remote locations still on my list no longer seems impossible (if not yet all that attractive.) But it turns out Canada is not some boring consolation prize, either, and I'm very much looking forward to my next trip there, to Newfoundland next month.

Apart from beautiful cities, magnificent scenery, and nice people, I have to admit that one of my favorite things about Canada is their currency. Not only have they eliminated the penny -- they round up or round down to the closest nickel as needed -- but their coins mimic the peculiar U.S. system, with the 5 cent piece bigger than the 10 cent piece, so I can pay for things without having to put on my glasses.

I'm kidding, of course. A little.

Saturday reflections

One more walkway in Calgary -- I love the way the reflection captures that house-shaped detail so perfectly.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Old and new

One of the things I really enjoyed in the part of Calgary where I was staying was the old buildings that still existed on almost every block, with the modern office towers as a contrasting backdrop.

These buildings that used to be banks and fire departments and meeting halls are now restaurants and gyms and car rental locations, but I loved that the old buildings remained, old and new mixed together in a way you rarely see.

Urban poetry

The Calgary Stampede had ended the day before I arrived, but there were still lots of men wearing cowboy hats on the streets of Calgary.

Which I did not expect. Between all the oil and energy companies, restaurants specializing in Alberta beef, and country music playing in the Hudson's Bay department store, Calgary is a little like a smaller, cleaner, much more polite -- and Northern -- version of Dallas.

Public art

The sculpture on the left is called Wonderland. It was created by Jaume Plensa, the artist who created the Crown Fountain in Millennium Park in Chicago.

And the shapes on the right aren't really a sculpture. They're called the Galleria Trees, and they are meant to keep the pedestrian street in downtown Calgary from turning into a wind tunnel.

I'll look for you if I'm ever back this way

Because I kept singing this song as I walked along the streets of Calgary my last day in Alberta.

I got home very late Wednesday night, and yesterday passed in a haze, but I'll try to finish up Calgary pictures later today.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019


A few quick looks at Calgary before I pack my bags and head for home.

The first thing you notice about downtown are these walkways, allowing you to cross the street without going outside. There's one on almost every block, sometimes more than one, and while they're mostly utilitarian glass tubes, some of them are quite fancy.

Ian and Sylvia (by way of Neil Young) told me that the winds sure can blow cold way out there, and here's architectural evidence.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The road to Calgary

A picture from the bus yesterday -- flat green farmland on both sides of the road as the mountains recede into the distance.

The weather was beautiful yesterday, and I spent hours walking around downtown. Today it's pouring, so I'm going to visit a recommended museum, which is fortunately just around the corner, and go out for a nice lunch somewhere.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Leaving Lake Louise

I woke up this morning to thick white fog rubbing its back along all the windowpanes, but by the time I'd finished breakfast it was starting to clear. I managed a few pictures before the bus left.

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