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

Tuesday, July 23, 2019


Some of the bighorn sheep we saw outside of Kamloops.

The Thompson River

The Thompson River was clear and blue, running through brown desert mountains.

Following two rivers

The route from Vancouver to Kamloops follows two rivers, the Fraser and the Thompson. This is the Fraser, sludgy with silt and reminding me of a Frappuccino.

The Rocky Mountaineer

I always loved the idea of traveling on the Orient Express in the heyday of glamorous train travel, with porters and dining cars and private cabins. The Rocky Mountaineer was not quite on that level, but it was probably the most luxurious train trip I will ever experience. We rode in big comfy leather seats under a glass dome on the top level of the train car, except when we were eating breakfast or lunch in the dining room below or standing outside on the vestibule (which I was amused to see the website describe as an “exclusive outdoor viewing platform”) to get some fresh air or take pictures.

We didn't even have to touch our luggage; we left our suitcases in our hotel rooms when we left in the morning and they were waiting for us in our new rooms that evening, after a day spent reading a little, rocking in the vestibule with my fellow passengers, and just staring out the windows for hours.

Quite a few hours. The first day we spent more than 12 hours getting from Vancouver to Kamloops; the second day was a little shorter, with fewer long delays waiting for freight trains to pass, but still another very long day. And no matter how comfortable the ride, there's a certain point when I just want to get there already, and start wishing I could just get off and walk.

But I'd always wanted to travel by train through the Canadian Rockies and now I have. I wouldn't go out of my way to do it again -- I think I'd rather take the journey by car, with more stops -- but I wouldn't turn down the opportunity, either.

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.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Chateau Lake Louise

I have wanted to stay at this hotel since the first time I saw a picture of it, and one of the reasons I picked this National Geographic tour of the Canadian Rockies was because it ended with two nights here. 

My own picture, taken yesterday evening, isn't quite like the fairy-tale worthy images I'd seen because the lake waters in front of the hotel look blue, maybe reflecting the sky, rather than glacial green. Fortunately, the other side of the lake is just as green as I'd dreamed.

This has been an absolutely wonderful trip. I'm staying on for two nights in Calgary and going home Wednesday, so it's not quite over, but leaving the mountains is breaking my heart. I'm already trying to figure out when I can come back.

And the view from our picnic spot

This is Tangle Ridge. In a day full of perfect views, this may have been my favorite.

Definitely worth putting up with a few noisy ravens.

Sunday bird blogging

We stopped for a picnic lunch along the Icefields Parkway, and these ravens were most insistent that we share our sandwiches with them.

There were a lot of ravens on the grounds of our lodge in Jasper, but they weren't begging so I couldn't get this close to them. (Close enough to see the striking blue eyes on the raven on the left, for example.)

Saturday, July 13, 2019

And today's wildlife selection

A red squirrel at Pyramid Lake.

These are about half the size of the squirrels I'm used to, closer to chipmunk size.

Saturday reflections

Today's reflections are brought to you by Lake Patricia.

We're leaving Jasper this morning, and heading down the Icefields Parkway to Lake Louise in Banff National Park. There will almost certainly be scenery.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Maligne Lake

And one scenery shot. We took a boat across this beautiful lake to Spirit Island and back -- mountains and glaciers on every side and those amazing green blue waters.

Critter alert

I took far too many pictures yesterday to even begin to process them, so here's an easy one: a baby bighorn sheep. It's dark and not very detailed since I took it over someone's shoulder through a bus window, but that face is just too adorable not to share.

We also saw several black bears along the road, and so many idiotic candidates for next year's Darwin Awards that everyone in our group was furious. People were getting out of their cars and running to where the bears were, then trying to pose for family portraits and selfies with the bears in the background. One mother bear with two cubs was at the bottom of a short, steep slope and a man crouched halfway down only a few feet from the cubs grinning into his phone. If he had slipped, or if Mama Bear had decided that he was too close to her babies and she attacked, my sympathies would definitely have been with Mama.

But the bear would still have been euthanized for attacking a human, in a situation that was entirely the stupid human's fault.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Think I'll go out to Alberta....

I'm in a cabin with this view in Jasper National Park.

I am feeling very lucky this morning.

Day 2 on the Rocky Mountaineer

I didn't quite pick these pictures -- Pyramid Falls and a partially obscured Mount Robson -- at random, but I didn't spend much time going through all the possibilities either. Today was all mountains -- rock, tree, and water in a variety of beautiful combinations -- and another very long day.

We arrived in Jasper National Park in Alberta late this evening, and there will be even more stunning views over the next couple of days. Right now I must sleep.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Riding the Rocky Mountaineer

It was a very, very long day today -- we left our Vancouver hotel at 6:30 this morning, and our train didn't crawl into Kamloops until 8:00 tonight -- and we have another long train ride tomorrow, so just a quick post and one picture tonight.

We're not in the Rockies yet, but it was mountains all day while we followed two rivers, the Fraser and the Thompson, north and east. We saw at least a dozen bald eagles, some herds of bighorn sheep, small towns both thriving and abandoned, and dozens of freight trains hundreds of cars long. The one in this picture was on the other side of the river but late this afternoon we had to wait several times until freight trains that were competing for the same track we were using had gone past, part of the reason we got in so late this evening.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Last look at Vancouver

The sun finally came out this afternoon, so at least I got one picture postcard shot from Vancouver posted before we leave early tomorrow -- this is the Lion's Gate bridge, seen from Stanley Park.

We'll be on the train all day tomorrow and Wednesday, so I may not get many posts up until we get to Jasper National Park.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Gray Sunday in Vancouver

And here is evidence that it was completely gray and gloomy in Vancouver yesterday: two pictures taken in Coal Harbour.

The sun is peeking through today, and I hope to see some of the city this morning before meeting up with my tour group this afternoon.


As usual, I will catch up when the trip is over and post the remaining pictures from Victoria then.

But one more picture first -- this is the Parliament building for British Columbia, facing the Inner Harbour. (That's Captain George Vancouver in gold on top of the dome.) Victoria is often described as feeling very English -- I suspect some of that comes from afternoon tea at the Empress Hotel being one of the top attractions, because it seemed much more like Seattle than London to me -- but that Parliament building would fit right in anywhere in England.

And no, I didn't take tea at the Empress. I had better things to do with $75, and I had perfectly lovely tea with a scone at Murchie's on Government Street.

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