jamesq: (Default)
I got a late start due to lethargy and the assumption that the weather in Banff was going to be gloomy (weather report was saying it was only 5C). Drove down the highway with light traffic and the occasional sprinkling of rain. No assholes. Parked in the usual spot and bought some fudge.

I was going to go to Bison to try that rum cocktail I saw last time I was there, since I'd have many hours to sober up before driving home. They close at 2 after their Sunday brunch. I got there at 2:05. Alas. I then decided to walk to the Banff Springs hotel along the road. I wandered around the hotel briefly, then walked down the foot path to Waldhaus pub since I had a few hours to kill. Did part of my crossword, while enjoying a Hacker-Pschorr Weisse.  Given I had only eaten potato chips for lunch, the pint of beer hit me pretty hard.  I was tipsy and very happy.  The radio was playing lots of songs I liked, I was just feeling glad to be alive.  i thought briefly about how being alone while travelling often triggers my jerk-brain, but I just told it to fuck off and I was fine.

After finishing my beer, I left the pub and encountered a guy photographing the scenery.  He asked how to get to Bow Falls, and since it was easy, I told him.

"I can't take two steps without taking a picture.  Even if it's the same mountain.  It's all so incredible."
"I know.  Sometimes I get a little jaded because I live in Calgary, and get to come to Banff basically as often as I'd like.  But then I look at all this..." gestures at Mount Rundle"...and I realize just how blessed I am."
"Well, it's Canada."
That made me incredibly proud, given his accent identified him as being from the UK.  A place that is no stranger to beautiful vistas.

I walked to Bow Falls, then back to the bridge and opted to check out the Old Banff Graveyard.  Always a good place for quiet reflection.  Ultimately, I'm going to be cremated, but I wonder if it wouldn't be worthwhile to have a gravestone made, just so someone will look at it long after I'm gone and have them wonder about my life, like I wondered about the lives bracketed by the dates on all those tombstones.  I'll need to look into which rocks last the longest.  Oh, and a place to put it since my body won't be anywhere.

I walked up the pathway to the Banff Centre and was the first person to be seated at Three Ravens, which, as some friends pointed out online yesterday, ain't cheap.  But it is oh so good, and has the best view in Banff.

By this time the sun had come out, and I was facing right into it.  I donned my sunglasses and my server asked if I wanted to have the shades drawn.

"Oh no, I'm enjoying this sunshine - it's filling me with warmth.  I just need to cut the glare a little."

Bread and custom butters was served. I had the duck breast with beats, followed up by a white chocolate mousse and a chocolate apertif.  Then I hiked back into Banff along the hidden corner lookout.

I was starting to feel quite sore from all the hiking, and would have loved rounding out the trip with a soak in the hot springs.  Alas, I'd forgotten my swim wear.  I opted to come home while I still had sunlight.  once again, traffic was light with no assholes.

In fact, the whole trip there weren't many people.  Banff only had a light scattering of tourists.  I suspect the gloomy weather (that went away once I got there) kept a lot of people away.  For me the weather was almost perfect.  I basically just wore a hoodie and was never hot or cold.  It was a goldilocks afternoon.
jamesq: (Don Quixote)
When I was in Vancouver over Christmas, we ended up watching Three Amigos (with Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin Short). Steph mentioned that Martin and Short would occasionally go on tour with each other and hold a show that was basically a melange of comedy, music, and banjos.  Sounds like fun, I said.

Flash forward two months. Steph contacts me and says that they're doing a show in Las Vegas in July.  Hmm, I should be able to make that, I said.  Good, she says, because I've already bought you a ticket.

So I'm going to be in Vegas on July 23rd for that.  Why not plan a vacation around it?

I also really liked last year's road trip, aside from all the driving.  I wanted a vacation that combined Las Vegas with a road trip through the mountains, and time in Vancouver to reconnect.  The only problem is to do all that I'd either need to drive from Calgary to Vegas to Vancouver to Calgary (which given my don't-drive-more-than-six-hours-a-day rule, would take longer than I'm willing to do), or fly in and out of Vegas, then drive to and from Vancouver.  That wasn't ideal either.  What would be ideal would be to fly to Vegas, then fly to Vancouver, then drive to Calgary.  The only problem being that my car would be on the wrong side of that trip.

What I needed was someone willing to drive the car out there.  I was tempted to ask Gerry to do it, but I'd likely have to pay for his lodging as well.  I poked FB to see if anyone was headed that way who would be willing and Wendy volunteered.  She's got a conference in Vancouver, and having a second car (she normally combines this with a family vacation) would help. Just provide me with gas money, she said. Sold!

So here's the tentative plan:

Pre-trip: Pack my folding bike (assuming I've received it in time, they're saying end-of-May now), my laptop (I'll do without it in Vegas because my electronics are none of the TSA's business), a mattress topper, and some extra clothing.  Then give Wendy the car.  This will likely be well prior to going to Vegas, so I'll have to do without my car the weekend before the trip.  Oh well, I have another bike, and car2go.

July 21-24: Vegas Baby! Plans so far include Martin and Short (of course), a Hall and Oates/Tears For Fears concert, the Pinball museum, and lots of gambling when I'm not in the same building as Steph.  We're staying at the Monte Carlo, unless I can get a sweetheart deal at the Cosmopolitan.

July 24-August 1: Vancouver. Grab a BnB, retrieve my car. Spend the small amount of overlap I have with Wendy/Ryan/Miss K to show them some of my favourite haunts.  Maybe some #DNDLive.  Other plans include fireworks on Saturday, andHarry Potter burlesque on Monday.  Hiking, exploring, thrifting, CYCLING.  Hell, maybe I'll daytrip into Victoria.

August 1-2: Penticton. Mostly this is because Penticton is halfway between Vancouver and Nelson.  Nelson really does need to be two hours further west. Or east, I'm not picky. Just close enough to make it an easy drive from Vancouver or Calgary.

August 2-5: Nelson. I'm hoping Rosie will join me for this part.  We'll see.  Fellow philosophers, you should join me for a pint in the Library.

August 5-6: Kimberley.  I've got an AirBnB all booked.

August 6: Home late on Sunday night, after spending an afternoon in Banff.
jamesq: (Vancouver)
Facebook has a feature where it shows you stuff you posted on this day in years past. Turns out, the end of March, beginning of April is a popular time for me to go to Vancouver. There's no mystery to this - I often have vacation time I have to use or lose, and this is when my company's business year ends. So yay, a reason to visit; and yay, my vacation days have recycled.

Here's a recap:

Before I even got to Vancouver, on Tuesday night after my last day at work, I spent some time with [livejournal.com profile] thebrucie and Allison. We went to Craft for a four course meal with beer pairing put on by a local brewery. They were noteworthy for having a luau theme (so Bruce was happy), and an IPA that was actually super tasty - this is how they're supposed to taste.

Wednesday, I checked into The Burrard and took advantage of a special they had. I'm now the proud owner of nine (well, seven now) $25 Amex gift cards!

Being by myself I decided to go have a quiet dinner at Clubhouse Sushi, and then walk to the Rio to catch The Critical Hit Show (aka #DnDlive). It did not disappoint.

Related to the above, the performer I have a mild crush on, revealed she is about ten years older than I imagined! Also, that she was going to perform at a strip club for the first time the next evening.

Thursday, I didn't actually go to the strip club, mostly because going just to see a crush would be kinda creepy, and doing so by myself would be creepy as fuck. Instead, I opted to go to the Comedy Mix to see Sarah Tiana, who was pretty funny, as were the other three comics of the night. I need to go to comedy clubs more. It really is great value for the money.

Speaking of value for money, chicken fingers normally don't qualify. However, I ordered them at the Comedy Mix because I hadn't eaten any supper that night. When they arrived, the house lights had gone down, so I couldn't really see them. I could tell it was piled high on top of the french fries, making it seem huge. I resolved that I didn't really need to eat the french fries, so I'd stop when I got to them. Except there were no french fries - it was chicken fingers all the way to the bottom. By Grabthar's hammer... what a savings.

Friday, I hung out with [livejournal.com profile] stephtopia in the afternoon, inadvertantly filling my hat with soft drinks (wet. sticky. I've felt it before), baked a cake at Port Wood before everyone got home, and then went to the Burrard Pub with Jonathan, [livejournal.com profile] garething, and [livejournal.com profile] othelianna.

Saturday, Rosie and I went thrift shopping in North Vancouver. I figured, if we were going to do this, we should go somewhere farther afield, so it would be unique to both of us. Nope. She's been to every thrift store in the lower mainland it seems. Among our travels we also went to Filmgo sales, which is a thrift store that caters to professional props people, though they will sell to anyone. I found a Chinese Apothecary cabinet (basically a medium sized cabinet with 33 drawers in it), but didn't buy it.

Back at Port Wood, I prepared for Gareth and Steph's anniversary by icing the cake I'd baked the night before. Freeze your cake, it makes icing it way simpler! A little fudgy - I probably over mixed it. I'll need to work on that for the next iteration.

It was also the Sins Against God and Humanity Potluck party that Steph planned in my honour. Basically, all those weird and horrible recipes from the distant past you've always wanted to try? We tried them. I made Spam Musubi. Steph made Bologna Stew. Rosie made Twix Salad, Here's the thing about those recipes - they're actually damn tasty. Not terribly good for you, but if I was health conscious, I wouldn't have drank all that rum.

Speaking of which, Bumbu Rum is probably the best sip-it-neat rum I've ever had! Definitely picking up a bottle soon. Drinking did happen, but there was so much food, and drinking was at a sufficiently slow pace, that no one actually got drunk. Tipsy, sure, but not drunk. Next time, less unfortunate food, more cocktails.

The night required cheese, so I made them all watch The Nice Guys.

About the only real problem of the trip is that I ended up not getting on my bus because I assumed I was getting on a different bus and didn't actually read the instructions Google Maps gave me. And it was sufficiently late when I left the party that the 2 Km walk to Burquitlam station was less time.

Sunday I hung out with Rosie some more, but we did spend a plesant two hours at Dutch Wooden Shoe enjoying pancakes and the company of Steph and [livejournal.com profile] somejauntypolka!

I also remembered an incident where I waited too long to buy a set of drawers from Consignment Gallery and regretted it. I resolved to buy that apothecary cabinet. About two weeks ago I emptied my penny jar and got enough money to pay for the cabinet. That's exactly the sort of thing I like doing with that "found" money. It gets to live at Port Wood until I can get my car out there this summer.

And now I'm actually planning that summer trip. A full week in Vancouver next time, I think. This time was, as is the way of the spring trips, too short.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
Some statistics:
  • Nights: 17.
  • Beds: 11.
  • Estimated distance: 3847 Km.
  • Actual distance: 4258 Km.
  • Fills: 10.
  • Cost of gas: $297 CAD
  • Peanut M&Ms consumed: 85.
  • Depressive incidents: 0.
Overall, a good trip. It was relaxing and fun. I repeated a lot of components of earlier trips, but that's OK because I really didn't want to deal with any stress. I got to visit quite a few friends, including the ones I don't see despite living in the same goddamn city. There were plenty more I'd have like to have seen, or seen more of, but that's often the way these things go.

But it wasn't all wine and song.

I'm sad that I have to put in the effort to maintain all these relationships. I'd rather they were effortless, or that people would come visit me for a change. Still, that's not the fault of the people, it's simply the scourge of distance and finances. I have the time and wherewithal to make these trips, so it's up to me to go 99% of the way and count on everyone else to handle the last 1%.

Loneliness was a constant irritant. But I've long since accepted that I can't let the lack of a partner stop me from travelling. The alternative is to simply not go on trips. Plus, it's not like I'm any less lonely at home. When depression reared it's ugly head, that was usually why. On the plus side, my mental batteries were at peak charge, so all the anti-depression cognitive tools I've learned were easily wielded. No depression for me this trip. Just the occasional, "go away, demon, I don't have to put up with your shit today". Still, it would be nice to simply not be a depressive. Alas, it's not to be.

Well, I don't want to end this on a sour note. I really did enjoy myself, and I might do it again next year (though my travel plans might involve going somewhere farther - we'll see).

Oh, and I bought a bunch of stuff. Swag pictures ahead... )
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
Mostly, I drove. The vacation was winding down and I was anxious to get home, while at the same time not stress out trying to marathon home.

Lots of pictures ahead, so... )
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
I spent a relaxing couple days in Vancouver, partly to visit folks. Got a B&B on Victoria drive that was rather nice. If you're following around, this is a type 2 (mother-in-law suite rented out to make the mortgage), or so I thought. When I checked in, I met the landlord who was upstairs. She showed me around the place and also gave me a warning about her being a musician who sometimes practiced the piano. Oh, and she had a son who would practice drumming - but they'd make sure to keep it to a minimum, and not do it at all at night. As I don't spend a lot of time in my B&Bs, I wasn't too fussed. A few days later, she contacted me to let me know that three French couples were renting the rest of the house. Where she and her son went during this time I have no idea. The French couples? Loud and boisterous, but never when I was trying to sleep. Vive la France!

I went on a shopping spree at Gourmet Warehouse. I need to remember to actually do something with all those ingredients. Actually, I've already started. Between that, Nelson, and Leavenworth, I bought a lot of food.

Bought a pillow and a light jacket at the thrift store. The jacket was because I had somehow forgotten to pack one, and it being Vancouver, the rain was starting. The pillow? I left it at the B&B.

"Did you forget a pillow here?"
"I didn't forget it. I just thought the suite needed one more pillow."
"Um. Ok."
It really did need one more pillow.

That night I went to see Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. Ultimately it was a forgettable little bit of summer fluff. If there's a reason to see it, it's Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick, who have some great comic timing by themselves, and are better than the sum of their parts in this movie. Don't let me oversell it. It's OK with a few funny bits. Wait for Netflix.

Tuesday I had lunch with Ryanzilla, went thrift shopping, because apparently that's how I roll.

That night, I went to see Tickled. At first, it seems to be a weird documentary about a competitive tickling league. Spoilers: there is no league, it's a scam. it's actually about how a sociopath's wealth and kinks ruin lives. Well worth watching, if only for the train of WTFs that arrive at your mental train station as things are revealed.

Wednesday included a visit to FlyOver Canada. Was it good? Mostly. Kind of expensive. There's a pre-show that head-faked me. It's a montage of adorably photogenic folks from around the country. And then it ended, and I thought "did I just pay $22 for this?" And then we went to the main show, which was a fun 15 minute of high-def fly-over footage of my beautiful country, while you're strapped into a chair hanging in the middle of the screen so that it fills your field of view. Also, they spray you with mist at appropriate moments. Worth it? Sure.

That night I visited [livejournal.com profile] whiggy_one and [livejournal.com profile] somejauntypolka at Storm Crow Prime. Much fun was had.

Thursday morning I took Athena to the ferry terminal, and had a nice wander around Granville island. Bought some ingredients and drive out to Port Wood to socialize with [livejournal.com profile] garething and welcome [livejournal.com profile] othelianna back to Vancouver. Oh, and to cook dinner. Not my best creation, but no one complained, or even had gut-wrenching nausea.

It occurs to me that I was there when Rosie left Vancouver, and I was there when she came back. *smiles*

Next morning I met her at the Clubhouse for lunch, and then I was on my way back to Calgary, albeit in a leisurely fashion.

All in all, a nice relaxing trip to Van. I didn't get to see everyone I hoped to see, but that's usually the way of these things. There'll be other visits.

Here are some pictures, behind the cut... )
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
I checked out of the top secret suite and made my way to Commercial drive to have some breakfast. I also bought two large pizzas because you don't show up at a campsite empty handed. After an entertaining and scenic drive, I arrived at Manning Park and checked into my room.

Getting a room at the Manning Park Lodge was actually rather lucky on my part, twice. What I'd done was phone them up about a month earlier to book a room, only to find that they were sold out. Not unexpected. They had a waiting list and I was put on it. The first bit of luck came when they told me that I was no longer on the waiting list, and would I like to actually have a room reservation ("Yes", I said). The second bit of luck came because of when they did this - the night before I left, which meant I wasn't packing camping gear for the whole trip that I wasn't going to use. This removed a lot of stress immediately prior to the trip.

After checking in I drove 5 Km out to Lightning Lake to visit [livejournal.com profile] kermie_canada, [livejournal.com profile] spookiemonkie2, [livejournal.com profile] somejauntypolka, Chris and Cliff, assorted children, and one dog that doesn't like me. Nothing earth-shattering here - just a nice relaxing evening with some friends. It was wonderful.

The one and only picture I took, behind the cut... )

I was hoping to see Troy while I was there, but that didn't happen. Still not sure what happened there, since dates and locations where obtained.

Later, it got dark, kids were put to bed, swiftly followed by the grown-ups. That's one of the downsides to parenthood - you just can't manage those late nights anymore. It was fully dark when I got into my car and drove back to the lodge.

I got to the lodge only to discover that my room key was gone. I spent a fruitless ten minutes searching the car's interior, even though I knew where the key was - it was in the dirt, at the campsite, next to where my car was parked. It was there because the only time it would have fallen out of my pocket was when I was fetching my car keys to get into the car.

So I drove back - contacting my camping friends was not an option since the Lightning Lake campground is in a cellphone dead zone. Actually, so was the lodge.

Now at this point, you need to understand that it was super dark. It was effectively the wilderness, so there were no streetlights, and minimal signs. I largely used my GPS to navigate (it knew about the campground roads), I could not find their campsite again, despite spending the day there. Eventually I gave up (because I could keep driving around in circles, but all that was going to accomplish was pissing off lots of campers with my headlights). I skulked back to the lodge.

One good thing about this whole misadventure: I stopped on the road about part way between the lodge and the campground to see a man about a dog. Concluding that important business, I spent a few minutes just looking at the stars. Hours from the nearest city, I could see all of them. Yes, all of them. It was breathtaking.

I got back into my car to drive the remaining way and, after a few hundred yards, caught what looked like an antler-less moose ducking back into the woods. It might have been some other ungulate, I'm no good at identifying critters.

The front desk is manned 24/7 so I got a new key. Next morning I went back to the campsite and discovered that my GPS did not know about all of the roads in the campground. It was missing the loop that my friend's campsite was on. The turnoff for that loop is not obvious, and in the dark I couldn't see it, and my GPS had no evidence that it existed. Hence my inability to find anything.

"Did anybody find my keys?"
"I did. They're in the front seat of the truck."
And so my keyless adventure ended.

I hung around while people made breakfast and packed their things, then went back to the lodge to check out (I wasn't going to do it until I tried to recover the key, because they'd have charged me $25 for any missing keys). "Camping" was done for me, and I headed back to Vancouver for further misadventures.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
I'm about to tell you all something that will find hard to believe: People in rural Washington and Oregon don't speed. I know, I know, it seems impossible. And yet, over the entire time I drove there, I did the speed limit, and nobody passed me. The only people I passed were trucks (which have a lower speed limit in those states, unlike here in Canada). There was certainly ample opportunity - lots of multi-lane roads or passing lanes. And yet, no one was speeding. I didn't really see any until I got near Portland. There weren't even any in Spokane. This is different from rural Alberta where I would be be doing 10 over, and I would constantly be getting passed by F-150s doing 30 over.

And everyone seemed fine with it. There was no aggressive tail-gating, no one reving their engine as they passed to send a message. People just... drove the way they were supposed to and everyone got where they were going without any fuss.

The second I entered Canada? Someone blew past me like I was standing still.

I wonder what would cause that. I think it's two things. First, people have likely been trained to not speed, probably because of the cops. I imagine enforcement and penalties are stiffer in these states than they are in Alberta. The other reason? I think it's the trucks. The fact that they have to go slower than the other vehicles means that everyone is expecting to be slowed down all the time by trucks. They're mobile traffic calming devices and they're all over the place.

Anyway, I think I've turned into one of those old guys who doesn't give a fuck because I largely drove the speed limit (for a value that may have been +5kph) during the whole trip, including the Canadian parts. People didn't like it? They could fucking well pass me. I wasn't in a hurry to get anywhere because I was on vacation. And it was a lot less stressful.

I got into Vancouver and then had to do a bunch of cloak and dagger to get into my AirBnB suite. The suite was in a luxury condo building in the centre of downtown Vancouver. I had to get the key from a key locker service I didn't know existed, but was all over the place. And now that I've seen them, I recall seeing them all over the place in high density areas. Basically they're a key bank for you to pass your key onto a house guest, or a maid, or whatever - anyone you couldn't meet face to face.

I was under strict instructions to not discuss AirBnB with any of the building tenants, and especially not the building staff.

Now as an aside, there's a few types of AirBnB listings:
  1. People renting out a spare room. I rarely use these because I like my privacy.
  2. Mother-in-law suites. My go-to place on Victoria drive is one of these.
  3. People renting out their primary residence while they're on holiday. These are fun because the place is homey and lived in.
  4. People who are renting out places that they own solely to make money through AirBnB. Basically taking housing stock out of the market so that they can run a casual hotel.
This was the latter, and also the first time I've stayed at one of these that I rented myself (the place Allison rented in SF when we did Bay to Breakers was also like this).

So yeah, I've become part of Vancouver's rental problem. Now I don't think renting from AirBnB in general is a problem. Certainly the spare rooms, holiday rentals aren't - those rooms likely weren't being rented out anyway. The mother-in-law suites? Well, if you just bought a $1.5M house on a middle class income, renting that suite out for $100/night rather than $1500/month might make the difference in affording that mortgage.

But this place? This apartment condo in downtown Vancouver? It was exactly the type of suite that gets up people's asses and triggers class warfare. There is no question in my mind that this place existed solely as someone's one room hotel. From the generic art on the walls, to the basic Ikea cookware in the cupboards, and the fridge empty of even the most basic sauce. It was fitted out solely to be a hotel room. And because of that someone wasn't renting it.

just one little picture... )

Any yeah, I rented it. I don't know which kind of suite I'm getting into until I'm in it. I do feel kind of bad about it though.

I don't think banning AirBnB is the way forward. I have no problem applying the hotel tax to AirBnB suites, and I'll certainly pay the extra cost for that.

Still, the solution to Vancouver's housing problem lay elsewhere. If things cost less, people won't be renting out their extra property like a hotel. And I'd be happy to stay at a proper hotel, except they're rarely in the neighbourhoods that I want to stay in. And that's just odd. One of my lottery fantasies is to open up boutique hotels in Vancouver and Calgary in places where they would be awesome, but there's no hotels at all.

Why isn't there a hotel in the Commercial/Broadway area? It's the largest transit hub in the city outside of downtown? Seriously, there's two sides to the AirBnB equation - one is lots of people who think that renting out their property like a hotel is in their economic interest. The other side is all the people who want to stay in Vancouver and aren't necessarily interested in the cluster of hotels downtown or by the airport. 9000 properties is the estimate I read. Nine Thousand. That's a lot of hotel rooms that could be getting filled. That's a lot of hotel employees that could be working. That's the sign of a big need not getting filled properly, so it's getting filled in whatever way it can.

Anyway, I picked the room for one reason - I wanted to see the American/Disney entry into the Honda Celebration of Light, aka the Vancouver Fireworks thing. I knew it would be a good one, and I've always loved these fireworks. Calgary tries to do something similar, and I've been a few times. It's just not the same.

What I didn't want to do was try to walk (I was still under orders to not overdo it walking/hiking), and transit was a big ole nope - not with 110,000 people all trying to leave at the same time. So I did my level best to find a place in downtown. Only this is the busiest event of the year during the highest of the high season for rooms. The shitty hotel rooms were starting at $400/night, and I saw fees over $1400/night. So that meant an AirBnB. Even there, people were well aware of what the market was like and I've rarely seen AirBnB fees that high. And there were a lot of people trying to get them. I tried several before the one I got, and they either got "cancelled" (I suspect they were taken off the market to be rented even farther under the table for higher fees), of people simply would not rent to me because other people got there first. The place I stayed at - it was the fourth place I got in touch with, and about the seventh I tried at all.

And it was worth it. I watched the fireworks, which were awesome, then I went back to my suite, waited for the crowds to disperse a little, then found a late supper.

I might do it again next year (a friend might be at a conference during the relevant time frame, and it would be nice to play guide), but if I do, I'll be trying to get a deal way earlier than I did this year.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
Driving to Portland was uneventful. But once I was there, I was immersed in the dream of the 90's!

Upon arriving, I went immediately to Paxton Gate to buy a lamp. It was expensive, but given it's a hand-crafted piece of art, I think it was worth it. And I'll have it for the rest of my life.

The lamp, and more, because pictures... )
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
Short, because Spokane was really just a way station.


  • Wonderful drive.
  • Spokane is pretty.
  • Got to see a good play and a decent movie, both on the same day.
  • Sapphire Lounge (the hotel bar) makes a delicious flatbread.
  • Hotel Ruby is a nice example of what I think of as Hipster Motel. You know, an old school hallways-on-the-outside motel from the 50s or 60s that happens to now be in a gentrified area, so it's now upscale, within the limits of the architecture. Excellent, knowledgeable staff, unique art on the walls, better-than-average room furnishings. Hotel Ruby had all of that.
Bad/Ugly: Nothing really.


  • Customs was professional, and somewhat more attentive to detail than I expect, though they're always that way, so I really should change my expectations.
    "Do you have any alcohol or tobacco?"
    "I have a mickey of rum for personal use."
    "Is it Cuban rum?"
    *thinking* it's emergency rum, so it's a mixture of rums from near-dead bottles. Does it have any Havana Gold in it? Would I even remember if it did?
    *out loud* "No."

  • Riverfront Park remains a jewel in Spokane. There were lots of people enjoying it when I went at dusk. Though I seem to have been the only person not playing Pokemon Go.
Man of La Mancha

Solid performances from the entire cast. I'd recommend it, except the run has passed, and when is anyone reading this going to be in Spokane. This is the first time I've seen Man of La Mancha live, which seems odd, given my lj-name. The lead, in particular, inhabited both Cervantes and Quixote as two distinct characters linked by a common imagination. And he had a great set of pipes too! I really like this story, I just wish it had a few more memorable songs.

Star Trek Beyond

First, I think this was the nicest movie theatre I've ever been to. Seriously, check it out.

The movie was decent Star Trek. I think they still suffer from having Earth-shattering stakes. You don't need to threaten millions of lives if we care about the characters themselves. they're own stakes are good enough if we care about them. It's why Deadpool and The Wolverine were the best X-movies.

Anyway, this had a bit of that, but not as bad as earlier efforts.

Where it stands out is in the performances of the leads and the character growth of Kirk and Spock. They both really grow in this. I especially like the idea that The Enterprise is more than the ship - it's really a shorthand for the crew. The Enterprise is the crew, and that's why it's important to Kirk. The vessel is just, well, the vessel. The ship may be lost, but as long as the crew survives there is still hope. I think that message is the best part of the movie. I'm happy that, ham-handed as that message was, they didn't state it out loud - instead counting on the audience being smart enough to get it.

Downsides: The villain was pretty generic and didn't really have a rational motivation. Also, as names go, Balthazar Edison doesn't hold a candle to Stacker Pentecost. The film is very dark and for that reason I recommend seeing it in 2D - that way twice as much light is actually hitting your retinas.

It was solid Star Trek, and not the shit-show that Into Darkness was.

Cut, because pictures... )
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
I'd been looking forward to this trip for a long time. You know, what with the constant nit-picking of details, and trying to find just the right combination of locations, rooms, and things to do. This might sound like a chore, but I actually do enjoy stuff like this (when it's working - when it's not, it's like banging your head against a wall). As the day drew closer, I was more and more anxious (the good kind) to go.

Finally, Friday rolled around. I opted to go into work for a few hours to make sure everything was in good shape, and actually got that done about an hour earlier than I'd planned, so I managed to leave at 11 instead of noon. And I was off down highway 2.

I wanted to get at least an hour on the road before stopping for something to eat, and made it all the way to Nanton. My two choices were a cafe (that was fun, and had a giant lineup) and your standard, small prairie town, Chinese/western buffet, which had basically no one in it. Turns out there was a good reason why everyone opted for the cafe, since I think every single thing in the buffet was deep-fried. Ugh. Not a good start.

behind a cut, because pictures... ) suggested that I take the long way to Nelson - basically up the secondary highway to the Kootenay Bay/Balfour ferry. This was an excellent suggestion. It was all very pretty, even if it did add considerable time to the journey.

Here's a nice shot from the Creston Valley lookout. Creston appears to be one of many pocket bread baskets throughout the Kootenays. Great place to lay low during an apocalypse, I'd wager.

Vistas - get used to them folks, there`s going to be a few.

This is from the ferry. The urge to lean on the forward chain and yell "I'm the King of the world!" was very high. I restrained myself though. I didn't want to get kicked off the ferry. Again.

What I really is need is a willing Kate Winslet

My journey:

The first of many maps.

I did eventually get to Nelson, probably around 9 in the evening. I also think I got the last hotel room in the city. Or so that's what the front desk guy at the Prestige Inn was telling the drop-in couple. I met up with Rosie and we wandered a bit and ended up having supper at Nelson's most civilized venue: The Library Lounge. Ornately decorated in dark wood with statues of naked women, the whole thing had the feeling of a Victorian gentlemen's club (the kind you see in movies, not the kind with prostitutes). I really want to have a philosophy night there. This seems unlikely unless I can convince Joel to go on a bike trip and [livejournal.com profile] halfdane866 to vacation at the same time. Great place for a quiet drink.

I woke up to this view:

Truly, life is an unending nightmare

Rosie proceeded to show me around Nelson. There was a farmer's market which achieved what I think of as "The full-Nelson". It was full-organic, granola, spiritually -affirming and gluten free. The neighbouring Cottonwood Falls park was there (pictures in a later post) as well.

Nelson's main street had lots of nice shops. I also discovered that everywhere likes it's puns, but the locals are so immersed in the puns, they might not notice them - like how a fish doesn't notice it's in water.

*looking at a locally-made chocolate bar*
"Heh. Nelson Chocofellar. Nice joke."
Rosie and store clerk. "Joke, what joke."
"Um. Of Nelson Rockefeller?"
"Oh. Never noticed that before."
It makes me wonder what weird-ass Calgary think I've never noticed that's obvious to outsiders. There's got to be something.

One possibility is how enthused Calgarians are about the Banff Hot Springs. Which might seem a little odd to people who grew up near better hot springs. Like Rosie. She was scratching her head after the first time we all went to Banff together. Here's why:

What the Banff Hot Springs looks like:

Why yes, it is a big soaking pool

Here is what the Ainsworth Hot Springs looks like:

Impressive. Hotter. Plus there`s a soaking pool, but you can actually enter the actual hot springs, unlike in Banff

It was wicked hot. Beside it was a cold pool that was actually cold (I think I managed to immerse myself in it briefly, but only for a few seconds).

We also fed some ducks. As I mentioned on Facebook, this was OK, because a duck later fed me (at Bibo restaurant).

Duck, duck, goose. Literally.

Bibo Restaurant was very nice, and also had great taste in artists. Here's a piece I'd like a print of, made by my friend Kelly Shpeley:

Kelly Shpeley made this. Go buy her art.

(late edit: Turns out there are prints available. Contact Kelly through her website)

Kelly lives in Nelson, but I didn't get the chance to see her. Ironically, because she was at the SCA event I cancelled out of to spend more time with Rosie.

I think this sign sums up the whole Nelson experience:

It`s OK, you`re not reading the sign - you`re reading the picture of the sign.

...That sign and this conversation:

*discussing some weird, hang-on hippy draft dodger. Or something.*
"He must be a Wizard."
"Wait. Nelson has a wizard?!?"
"Nelson has many wizards. One of them is named Wizard."
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
...It would be made the Federal Minister for Cunning Tourism.

Now that I've pulled the trigger on assorted hotel rooms, these are lot more firm:

  • Friday, July 22nd: Drive to Nelson. Prestige Inn.
  • Saturday, July 23rd: Hang with Nelson peeps.
  • Sunday, July 24th: Drive to Spokane. Hotel Ruby.
  • Monday, July 25th: Drive to Portland. McMenamins Kennedy School (alas, only one night).
  • Tuesday, July 26th: Explore Portland. AirBnB near Division and Chavez.
  • Wednesday, July 27th: More Portland shenanigans.
  • Thursday, July 28th: Drive to Leavenworth. Howard Johnson.
  • Friday, July 29th: Receive mysterious packages in Leavenworth.
  • Saturday, July 30th: Drive to Vancouver. Check out the fireworks. Wall Center AirBnB.
  • Sunday, July 31st: Go to Manning Park.
  • Monday, August 1st: Return to Vancouver. AirBnB on Victoria Drive. No, not that one, a new one.
  • Tuesday, August 2nd: Destroy the world, or have sushi in Vancouver.
  • Wednesday, August 3rd: More Vancouver shenanigans.
  • Thursday, August 4th: Last full day of Vancouver high-jinks.
  • Friday, August 5th: Drive to Osoyoos. Sun Beach Motel.
  • Saturday, August 6th: Drive to Nelson. Baker street AirBnB.
  • Sunday, August 7th: Short drive to Cranbrook. Saint Eugene Mission for some gambling.
  • Monday, August 8th: Radium, Banff, Home.
Estimated total driving time/distance is 3900 Km and 43 hours. With farting around, I should easily kick it past 4000. Note to self: get the car checked next week.

I've tried, where I can, to pick hotel rooms with multiple beds, or B&Bs with separate rooms. If people join me, they're not immediately screwed for accommodations, though they might be on my air-mattress.

One of my goals was to not spend more than six hours in the car for any one leg of the trip and I failed only once. This does mean stops in towns I wouldn't have normally considered (Spokane, Osoyoos). The worst is on the first day, going to Nelson (7h). Two of the next three legs are almost as bad (3h15, 5h30m, 4h45m). Still, nothing like the 9h drive I had at the start of this month. The rest are comparatively short.

In general, I wanted a low stress trip, so I picked a lot of places I'd been before.

I'd visited the Kennedy School hotel in Portland before, but this will be my first time staying the night. It's ridiculously expensive during the high season. Also largely sold out. I briefly considered staying more than one night, but the cost was just too much. The rest of my time in Portland is at an AirBnB.

I'm a longtime fan of the Vancouver Celebration of Light. I'll be going on Saturday night, which is also the craziest (and the Disney-est). I paid a little extra to get an AirBnB in Yaletown so that I don't have to brave traffic or transit.

The only night not confirmed is Sunday, July 31st. A bunch of friends are camping in Manning Park and I'm going to go visit them. I'm on the waiting list for the Manning Park Resort, and if I don't get it, plan B will be pup-tent/air-mattress/sleeping bag. One night probably won't kill me.

After that is a week of hanging around. The only downside is that other people have vacations too. Both [livejournal.com profile] stephtopia and [livejournal.com profile] somejauntypolka will be leaving before I do. There is some overlap, so that's OK. It's not like this will be my last trip to Vancouver.

I went with Osoyoos rather than Penticton due to cost and a lack of vacancies. Sorry [livejournal.com profile] wackynephews and [livejournal.com profile] wendy_licious.

I reduced the time in Nelson to one day. Hopefully I can see the people I know in that short amount of time. It will be Saturday night, and their ain't no party like a Saturday Night Nelson Party, or so I've been told.

I'm not feeling a lot of buyer's remorse over my trip decisions, so that's a good sign I've made the right ones.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
My friend [livejournal.com profile] devoidofthought is moving back to Ontario this week. To celebrate many years of joyous friendship, [livejournal.com profile] thebrucie, LA, and I went on a quick jaunt for the weekend. We left Saturday morning and returned Sunday, spending the night near Cranbrook, BC. 4.5 hours out and back. What did we do? Mostly we ate and soaked in warm water. There was some gambling too.

We started by filling our pie holes for breakfast, then took Roo's truck down to see the Frank Slide. We took pictures and wandered around the interpretive centre, but opted not to see to go on the tour due to raging indifference. Bruce observed that there really needs to be a slide at the Frank Slide.

Late lunch was in Kimberly at the Pedal & Tap pub. The food decent gastropub fare (but nothing special beyond that), and they had decidedly discriminatory hiring practices. It's noteworthy because I may have finally internalized the fact that I like Kölsch beers.

We wandered around downtown Kimberly for a bit, discovering lots of kitschy shops, and assorted small-town eccentricities. From there we went to check into our hotel, the St. Eugene Mission Golf Resort and Casino. It was only when we where approaching the parking lot that Allison mentioned that the building wasn't just a Catholic mission, it was also a residential school. Now it's run by the Ktunaxa First Nation. Good on them for turning the site of so much suffering into such a quality resort. I'm a big fan of the McMenamins model of repurposing old sites for modern use rather than tearing them down. Nice to see the local band do that here.

We has supper at St. Eugene Smokehouse; it was very good. We had breakfast at St. Mary's restaurant; it was OK. Somewhere in there we soaked in the hotel pool, which was fantastic. Also, my "cheap" room was excellent. We rounded out the trip with some gambling at the somewhat sparse casino. Mostly it was slot machines, but there was a handful of table games, blackjack mostly. I sunk (gaharf gaharf) $20 on the Titanic Movie slot machine in about five rolls. What I really wanted to do was play roulette. Sadly, they didn't have a real roulette table, with a croupier. Instead, they had an automatic roulette table that's a cross between the wheel and a bunch of slot machines. I staked $100 and won $228.

I would definitely go back to St. Eugene's.

Sunday we drove to Radium Hot Springs and spent two hours soaking in its relaxing waters. Normally there is a hot pool and a cold pool, but they were doing the yearly maintenance on the hot pool in preparation for the high season, and had emptied it. They diverted the hot water into the cold pool, so we ended up with a larger hot pool and no cold pool. As the cold pool is much deeper, the staff had provided many pool noodles, so that people wouldn't get tired and drown in the 3 meter deep water. This worked well.

We stopped at Tooloulou's in Banff for some cajun fare, then returned to Calgary. I'd have preferred a little more time to more fully enjoy every portion of the trip, but it was still a fun trip with good friend.

Rosa, it was a blast knowing you, from the moment I tried to kill you with a train, all the way up until this weekend when we failed to pull off that bank heist. I'm going to miss you, and I hope that we don't loose touch in the future, even if you are living out east. Here's to finding joy, fulfilling work, and fewer migraines.
jamesq: (Ale and Whores)
♪ Out on the road for 'leven days
Last night in Leavenworth, put me in a haze ♫

First, the GBU.


  • Oktoberfest.
  • Portland vintage shops.
  • Me time with the Martian.
  • Some epically nice B&Bs.
  • Assorted McMenamins venues.
  • Awesome traveling companions.

  • Crappy motel beds.
  • I utterly failed to stay within my calories.
  • One very slight depressive incident, largely self-contained.

  • Surprisingly, for a trip this long trapped with the same people, nothing. My demons (with that one small exceptions) stayed buried.
All right, on to the details... )
jamesq: (genius)
I'm trying really hard not to beat myself up mentally now, and I'm largely failing. No self-deprecating comments coming from the demons of depression... I hope.

So anyway, Today was the day that I was going to fly back to Canada. Short version: that didn't happen. What did happen was a combination of problems small and large that conspired to keep me from the airport in time to make my flight.

My flight was to be at 6:50, and I aimed to be at the airport by 4:30. I was a little late getting to King's Cross, where I had stashed my luggage. Getting my luggage killed about 15 minutes of my leeway. No problem, I still had plenty of time.

Next up was trying to find a stamp for one of the postcards I needed to mail. Post office was across the street from King's Cross, so that blew another 15 minutes. Getting on the train, I still had 90 minutes to go, which is more-or-less what they tell you to do.

The train lurched out of the station and a 77 year old lady standing about 5 meters away from me fell backwards onto the floor of the train. There was immediate screaming and she was clearly in a lot of pain. Also she was immediately surrounded by people offering help. At this point she was in major distress and someone hit the train's emergency button. The train immediately came to a halt between stations and the driver used the intercom to ask what the problem was. Once he got an answer from one of the helpers, he slowly proceeded to the next station and asked the other passengers if there was a doctor or someone with first aid on board who could assist. A young lady arrived to help and showed the train officials her official "Me Doctor" card. She was quickly followed by another doctor, who opted to let her be the primary while he just hung around to run interference for her.

"Running interference" turned out to be pretty accurate, as the train officials really wanted to push the train to the next station for some reason (I'm guessing to route other trains around better). They really wanted his or her blessing to do this, and neither were having it (The old lady had apparently had spinal injuries in the past, and you don't just shake and rattle a possible spinal injury. The phrases "As a Doctor we're telling you to not move this train", "That's against our recommendation", and "If this was your mother, you'd agree with us". They eventually 'compromised' by driving really slowly to the next station.

At that point they announced that the train would be here for at least a half an hour, so if you wanted to exit and find other transport methods, to do so. It was at this point that I should have high-tailed it to the surface and grabbed a cab. I didn't, reasoning that - even with a half-hour delay - this was still my best bet to get to the airport in a timely fashion. I settled in to see how this all turned out.

First thing was that it took a really long time for the medics to arrive. I'm wondering if they arrived at the correct station, since they moved the train. The lady doctor stuck by that old woman the whole time, slowly making a prognosis. I fell a little in love with her. A random bystander was helping make her comfortable. Eventually a group of three showed up and took over from the two doctors. They stuck around in the background, just in case.

Next, a second set of medics showed up, so there was now a total of six. They repeated a lot of what lady doctor did, but also used more equipment than she and her stethoscope had. After much assessing, they administering of some kind of pain killer gas (and eventually, a shot of morphine). The gas and the morphine got her laughing towards the end. Then they finally got a back board under her and they were off. The male doctor took off and the lady doctor sat down and, after several stops of people swapping on and off the train, resumed just-another-commuter status. I should have given her the box of chocolates I had for bribing the flight attendants.

Now at this point I was fucked, but didn't know it. I was still in central London and it was 5:30. I had an hour until my flight. Unbeknownst to me, they won't issue a boarding pass after T-45 minutes, and security won't let you through at T-35 minutes. There was no way I was going to get to Heathrow from central London in 15 minutes. To add insult to injury though, they switched the train's destination from terminal 5 to terminal 4, saying that the earlier destination was "in error". NO IT WASN'T YOU COCKSUCKERS, YOU MADE THE DECISION TO CHANGE IT. That cost me another two minutes as I had to get off at a station and wait for the next train to terminal 5.

I got to the airport and ran to the departures level to print my boarding pass. The machine wouldn't let me, and I was directed to the British Airways agents.

"My flight leaves in 25 minutes. Can you help me get on it?"
"Short answer is no, but I can try to help you in other ways."

I explain the problem and she eventually concludes that there are no more Calgary flights that day, and she starts looking at other alternatives. I notice that she's frowning at the screen.

"That's a look that suggests there are no good options."
"Very astute. The only flight I can get you on is the same one, but tomorrow."
"So what's the problem?"
"It's very expensive."

She looks at a few other things and finally decides they're even worse.

"Normally I'd charge you the difference in fares and then £180 fee on top for changing a booking. Seeing as how missing the flight wasn't your fault, I'm going to just charge you the £150 because the system won't let me not charge you something. Is that OK?"
"It sounds better than the alternative, do what you have to do."

She didn't have to do that, so I gave her the box of chocolates, even though I still think lady Doctor deserved them more.

I left to find a hotel room. Heathrow has a kiosk where that's all they do and after some WTF moments ("I have a room for £350." "No!"), I finally got a room at the Marriott for £260 that included supper, breakfast, and wifi. When I told my tale of woe to the front desk clerk, he upgraded me to an executive suite. Note that an executive suite in UK parlance is a standard North American hotel room. Still, after two weeks of sleeping in broom closets, I'll take it.

I'm finishing up the night writing this, and dwelling unhealthily on alternate scenarios that are in the past: What if I had decided to get that stamp at the airport - then I'd have been one train ahead and would never have heard of this or old lady. Hell, maybe she wouldn't have fallen. Maybe I should have grabbed a cab - I'm sure even the most expensive cab would have been better than the near £500 pounds missing my flight has cost me so far. It's unhealthy and depression-inducing, and yet I can't find a way to stop it. Oh well, it's late, maybe if I sleep. Still, I was really looking forward to sleeping in my own bed tonight. I just want to go home.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
This is just a catch all for random thoughts about this trip. No real theme or nothing. Just ponders, observations, and other goodies.

random pictures, and random stories, ho!... )
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
I went to lots of museums this trip, and didn't even get burned out like last time. It helps that I was often with [livejournal.com profile] othelianna, and it also helped that I was there for me, and not anyone else. If I wanted to leave the museum, I could do so any time. Not that I actually did that. I was often the last person out.

Ok, here are some stories about assorted museums in London.

British Museum

A longboat full of vikings, promoting the new British Museum exhibit, was seen sailing past the Palace of Westminster yesterday.  Famously uncivilized, destructive and rapacious, with an almost insatiable appetite for rough sex and heavy drinking, the MPs nonetheless looked up for a bit to admire the vessel.

I love that the British Museum is a bunch of buildings they put another building over. A friend of mine bitched that a Western Canadian totem pole was put in the food fare, but it would be more accurate to say that they put both the totem pole and the food fare in the atrium, as that was the only place large enough to hold either.

Canadians have the most impressive erections

It was rather cool in the museum.

This isn`t the only nipply statue in the museum - just the least arousing.

There were ten thousand people crowded around the Rosetta Stone. There was a 1:1 replica in the next room that you could touch, and there was no one there. everyone loves authenticity I guess. I licked it.

Everybody must get stoned.

I want this for my house as a bathtub. Don't worry, I'll clean it out first.

A tub so relaxing you`ll spend millennia in it

The British Museum has a purpose-built area for the Parthenon Marbles. Lord Elgin is mentioned exactly once, in an out of the way plaque. What they did have was a lot of propaganda suggesting how having the Parthenon marbles in London, and not Athens, was good for everyone, and that it complements the remaining marbles in Athens. It's a big reason why no one who asks for their stuff back is ever going to get it - because if they say yes to anyone, the Greeks will be there saying "Now that we've established that you should give people's stuff back, give us back our marbles."

If anyone ever destroys the British Museum, the loss to the world will be immeasurable.

Well-displayed looting

A lot of the marbles concern Humanity's wiping the Centaur scum from the Earth.

Allegedly, the last centaur`s last words were `aaaaarrrrrrggggghhhhh`

National Portrait Gallery

Apparently, one of Rosie's favourite activities when waiting for a play to start is to wander around the National Portrait Gallery. Not to be confused with the National Landscape Gallery. She took me there when we were wandering around between two show.

St. Sebastian, patron saint of archery targets.

penetrated by multiple shafts.

If everyone looks like Putin, it's Van Eyck.

Seriously, they really do all look like Putin.  Apparently it`s all the same family.

I just really like this one. She's gorgeous.

Countess va Voom

Horniman Museum

If the British Museum is the cool older brother, the Horniman is the little brother that just tries in heartbreakingly inadequate ways to be cool too. It's closer to what a Victorian would think was a museum, then what modern museums strive for. That is to say, it's more look at all this cool shit I found rather than the British Museum's Here is a collection of historically significant antiquities displayed in a manner to educate.

They're famous for their stuffed walrus, so they put it on the cookies.

mmm - Walrus shortbread - delicious.

The walrus itself is significant because all they sent back to England was the skin, then they asked a taxidermist, who had never seen a walrus before, to mount it. I've heard taxidermy described as akin to getting a set of ballerina's tights, and trying to fill it in a manner that will look like a ballerina when you're finished. That's actually really difficult to do. Example one of how difficult is the Horniman Walrus:

Sad, dead, overstuffed, Walrus.

Lots of stuffed things. Including a Dodo!

Caucus race, anyone?

Kiwi! Strangely, it looks nothing like a giant scaly green testicle.

I`m an apteryx, a wingless bird with hairy feathers

The Cowardly Lion. Killed, stuffed, shellacked.

what is this, I can`t even

Science Museum

I was especially looking forward to The Science Museum. It did not disappoint. The exhibit I most wanted to see was, of course, the Difference Engine they built for Charles Babbage's 200th birthday.

I was geeking out left and right seeing this. I may have accidentally splashed Rosie.

I offered to explain the method of differences for solving polynomials.  Strangely, she didn`t take me up on it.  What the hell?

It was a kick in the nuts to see a computer that I once owned (well, not this one specifically, but the same model) in a museum. Damnit, I'm not that old yet!

Kinda wish I still had one.  But not this one, my old SE/30

Victoria and Albert

The Victoria and Albert Museum

The V&A was between the Horniman and the British Museum in tone. I.e. it had a lot of pretty stuff, but they did try to put it in a historical context.

What I loved about the V&A was that they had a movie-making exhibit. It included stage models, props, and costumes! You could even play with some of the costumes!

Stripes are slimming, right?

What's the point of playing dress-up if you can't dress-up as a pirate!

A pirate, or maybe Sargent Pepper!

A 100% accurate depiction of how a Viking woman would have dressed:

Valkyrie needs food - badly

And a final picture for this entry: A girl and her fish.

kiss kiss
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
The plan was to spend my weekends with Rosie, as she works for a living. The weekdays were to be spent on my own. One of my favourite parts from my last trip to the UK was my time on Skye. So much so that I decided to have my SCA persona be from Skye. Having a few days to kill, I found a three day bus tour of Scotland that included two nights in Skye. The whole tour was less than booking a hotel room for two days in Skye would have been (and a tour meant I could see stuff other than Portree while I was there). Naturally I booked it.

lots more, including pictures, behind the cut... )
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
I checked out of the Finsbury Apartments, happy to see them behind me, and made my way to King's Cross station to catch a train to Southampton. Here's the thing about being a tourist who's entire knowledge of London consists of stuff he's seen in fiction - you're assumptions are often wrong. I went to buy my ticket only to discover that all rail traffic in/out of London do not go out of King's Cross - How was I supposed to know that? Hell, I can get to Hogwarts via King's Cross station! Anyway, they kindly gave me proper directions to a different train station (they still sold me a ticket though) and I made my way there. What followed was a pleasant 90 minute train ride through the gorgeous English countryside.

After a few hops and skips, I was in Southampton. The train station was close enough to my hotel that I could have walked, but I opted for a bus instead. I checked into the Dolphin Hotel, which is noteworthy for two things, 1) Jane Austin had her 18th birthday party here, and 2) It was not turned into a smoking crater by the Nazis - a fate neighbouring buildings did not share.

Not mentioned: her epic rap battle with Jane Porter.

This was one of the nicer rooms I stayed in while in the UK. It was huge, had a wonderful bed, and a nice view of the High Street. And staying there felt like having a week's worth of claustrophobia drained from your psyche.

The point of the side trip to Southampton was to get my Titanic geek on. I'd found a brochure online, and I had a copy on me. Everything was stowed in my room. It was time to explore.

A great walk on a beautiful day - it was, and it was.

A quick note: I'm presenting this in the order on the brochure, but what actually happened was: lunch, museum (before it closed), work my way the sites on the map from north to south.

I couldn't fine #1 (the Postal Workers' Memorial and Book of Remembrance) since they were in buildings that had closed for the day. I did find #2, Titanic Musicians' Memorial. It's seen better days, being limestone that's been exposed to 100 years of pollution.

Titanic Musicians` Memorial

The Titanic Engineers Memorial was easily the most impressive of all the Titanic-related sites in Southampton.

Titanic Engineers Memorial

There were other memorials that weren't Titanic related. Some for notable people, some for events. There was, of course, a cenotaph. But the oddest of these was the remains of a tree in Palmerston Park (I think - there's five contiguous parks and I can't remember which one it was in). It was wrapped in rope and there were numerous photos attached. It had the ad hoc feel of a roadside memorial, but if a recent disaster had taken that many people, I'm sure I'd have heard about it. It remains a mystery to me.

Mystery Stump

Holyrood church was next to my hotel. It was the nailed-in-the-blitz building I referred to above.

This is the view from High Street:

Holyrood Exterior - High Street

And this is around the corner, on Bernard Street:

Holyrood Exterior - Bernard Street

It being after hours, I couldn't get inside to get a decent photo of the Titanic Crew Memorial.

Holyrood Titanic Crew Memorial

I also saw a pair of gargoyles that reminded me of Labyrinth.

But which one is Statler and which one is Waldorf?

Outside the hotel, unrelated to Holyrood or Titanic, is one of Queen Elizabeth II's anchors:

Note: It`s the *ship*`s anchor, not the Queen`s - her anchor is cleverly hidden.

This building is noteworthy for being the last place a lot of Titanic's crew slept before leaving port.

Former Sailors Home

And this is the Grapes. Noteworthy for being a good enough pub to save four crew members from death, because they stayed a little too late that day. Chantelle told me I should lift a pint here. Instead, I went out and had really awful Chinese buffet for supper. I should have listened.

You know, the pub where Leo and his Italian buddy won their tickets.

There was a whole cluster of Titanic-noteworthy locations at the south end - pretty much all of them related to the day to day business of running an ocean liner. Here's the old railway terminal:

Photos would be so much nicer without all the crap that gets in the way.

The hotel where the 1st class guests stayed:

It`s condos now.

And the building housing White Star's local operations. This was were relatives gathered to get news about their loved ones.

Canute Chambers exterior

The last of the southern memorials was actually within the entrance to the docks. As this is a working shipyard, I needed to ask permission from the guards to go in and take a picture. I think this was more to acknowledge that there's heavy truck traffic, then anything else. Anyway, I took my picture, thanked them, and left.

I`m surprised they simply didn't move it ten yards so that it was outside the gate.

SeaCity museum included a large Titanic exhibit, but also went into lots of detail about Southampton unrelated to Titanic.

All Titanic museum exhibits require a painting of the ship.

I want to say this is by Ken Marschall, but I`m just not sure.  It`s the safe guess though.

Marble Titanic clock. The one it corresponded to on the ship was wood, so looked somewhat different.

SeaCity Clock, sans clock

Finally, the SeaCity Museum urinals. I took this picture so I could forever marvel just how robust they are. Seriously, these things could be the last artifacts of humanity, they're that solid.

Truly, the palace of urinals.

My tour went into the twilight hours, and after supper I retired to my room, exhausted, and a little melancholy due to dwelling on a tragedy. Next morning would be my flight to Edinburgh.


jamesq: (Default)

September 2017

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