12 May 2008


I am writing this from near Creemore, Ontario, as I sit at J’s parent’s kitchen bench looking out over the front lawn, trees with sparse pale green and bronze growth, a black squirrel noodling across the grass, and four small red (house) finches bobbing and flitting around the feed post. Oh! And there’s a bluejay and a YELLOW finch, too! So bright! Amazing! Can you tell that someone got a birdwatching book down from the shelf for me? I don’t think I mentioned, also, that I saw a HUMMINGBIRD in L.A., which was pretty exciting! Anyway, J, L, A, D and I drove up last night after cutting short our stay at SexGeek’s party, and we arrived a bit after 1am. Waking up to the beautiful views and the warm honey glow of the lovely house was pretty special. There are books EVERYWHERE.


But let me go back to Vancouver. On my second non-conference day, I took it fairly easy, starting with a late-ish breakfast at the recommended Templeton diner (near Granville and Helmcken). I ate the Farmer’s Breakfast – two perfectly (for me) poached eggs on an amazing mix of their rosemary potatoes, slices of fresh zucchini and green capsicum, and grated cheddar, seemingly fried together and served with a small bowl of oh so delicious tomato and red onion salsa and yoghurt. Wow. If you are ever in Vancouver, this is a meal I recommend. In fact, this is a must-visit place, IMO.

From there I walked over one of the bridges to the Granville Island Public Market. I actually stopped someone to ask if I could cross the bridges, and she was so friendly and recommended I take the little aquabus at least one way. I didn’t know where it left, though, so I decided to take it on the way back. Walking across the bridge was quite an experience – I didn’t quite know where I was going to get off it (the overpasses confuse me!), it was very high, and there was no barrier between me and the traffic. However, looking back and seeing the Downtown area framed by mountains, and looking down on the boats and construction sites made the walk worth the slight anxiety. When I finally got off the bridge I saw this little play equipment park with a play excavator/digger thing, and I had my first real wave of homesickness of the entire journey – compounded by my instinctual recognition of a bird as a currawong, and realising I wasn’t at home when it turned out to be a crow standing behind a dandelion clock.

The market is amazing. It’s quite trendy and bourgie, new and undercover, but it’s nonetheless very fun. I almost wished I hadn’t eaten! I was tempted by the pyramids of strawberries, cherries, and other fruit I didn’t know (looked like those yellow Chinese lantern berries, if anyone knows them), trays of red and orange and yellow tomatoes piled above red, orange, yellow and green capsicums. I drooled over the array of colourful cakes, towers of meringue, and foot-high banana pies, and eventually chose to sample pumpkin tart – something I’m not likely to find much of in Australia. I bought maple syrup from a guy (an old queen, if my gaydar is working), who gave me a snap lesson in Canadian geography, which I really appreciated. After that I found the Granville Island Tea shop, which my coworker C had recommended. I sat down and enjoyed a cup of Monk’s Blend black tea, then chatted for a few minutes and bought a few teas I thought might be able to make it past customs – two rooibos teas and a black tea, and they gave me a sample of mocha rooibos, which I can’t wait to try, too! I eventually dragged myself away from the cheeses (tiny goats cheeses with flowers pressed on top! Delicious looking blue cheeses! Huge wedges of smoked cheddar and rounds of Emmenthal!) and headed down to the aquabus (they look like toy boats, seriously), which ferried me quickly back to the other side.

I dropped a few things at the hotel, then wandered down to W Hastings, having the strange feeling that maybe if I just nipped into the Harbour Centre I’d find the conference still going on. I visited Spartacus Books – the (to my Melbourne eyes) huge radical bookstore, and wished I could buy half the stuff there. I settled on a few smaller items, then consulted my map and made my way to Chinatown to visit the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Park and Classical Chinese Gardens – the only one outside of China, I think. As anticipated, they were beautiful and calming, and I took my time watching the orange and gold fish slide around in the reflective ponds, spotting a few turtles along the way. I sat in one of the rooms drinking complimentary oolong tea and reading my book for well over half an hour.

I got back to my hotel at about 5:30, and I was going to be meeting one of my internet people at 6, but they unfortunately had a crap day, so couldn’t meet up. That meant I could have a wee lie down before heading back to the Templeton for dinner. I had quite a nice burger with Portobello mushroom, and ended up staying to watch Eagle Vs Shark (which seemed to go down quite well with the Canadian audience). It was a relaxing evening, and I headed back to the hotel with a smile on my face.


On Tuesday I packed everything up and left a tip for housekeeping (it’s so strange to remember to do this all the time, and sometimes I forget, and sometimes I think I haven’t tipped enough, and argh! The guilt!), and checked out, getting the people downstairs to hold my bag while I gallivanted. And by ‘gallivant’ I mean ‘go back to the Templeton for my third meal in two days’. I lingered over the ‘mangled eggs’ with brie on a croissant with the rosemary potatoes. Not as good as the farmer’s breakfast, though. I also chatted to a fellow diner, who was an English teacher at one of the community centres, and who got her degree in Brisbane. We talked about politics and queer stuff and it was just so awesome. Canadians have totally lived up to their reputation of being friendly, helpful and lovely. I wonder if this – and other treatment I’ve received in various places – has much to do with travelling alone and ‘passing’ as a younger person than I am? I probably talk to more random people when I travel alone, because I’m in a situation conducive to this kind of interaction more frequently.

I then headed back to the hotel via one of the chain coffee stores, where I had a cup of oolong tea – I’ve really been craving it! The cups here are huge – I feel ill having a ‘small’ cup of coffee sometimes, because it’s a medium size back in Melbourne, and I never drink that much. I’ve also noticed that places are much more likely to not have ‘eat in’ crockery, etc: people just eat at the tables using the takeaway packaging. Wasteful. Hm. Anyway, I was paranoid about security etc after my horrid experience at LAX, so I took the Airporter bus (about $14, but worth the extra for the lack of stress involved) and arrived with two hours before takeoff. And I walked through security in 2 minutes, with barely a second glance from anyone. Oh, Vancouver, I love you.

The plane flight was actually quite enjoyable, with amazing views of the mountains, forests and then I guess prairies – vast plains cultivated in stripes, all running north-south, in various shades of yellowbrown. I was sitting next to a woman, Sheila, who was a software developer, who is in the process of selling and installing her software in hospitals across North America and (this week) in Britain. We chatted quite a bit in the second half of the flight (the screens weren’t working) about travel and cultural differences, and she demanded to know what made the Sydney Opera House so special that it is one of the world landmarks along with the pyramids and the Great Wall of China. I couldn’t really do much but give her the smallest bit of architectural history of the place and say that even as a Melbournian I thought it was a pretty cool building. She also wondered what Toronto had, and I said Robarts Library. Heh. Next to her was another woman, Gail Vanstone, who was writing a review for a book on . . . feminist cinema. Cinematic Howling: Women’s Films, Women’s Film Theorists by Hoi F. Cheu Pretty odd, the connections you make, hey?

And then L picked me up at airport. With apples! Nom nom nom. It’s been absolutely awesome meeting so many LJ friends in the flesh for the first time! I’ve been having a lot of fun. I miss home, but at the same time I don’t want to only have 5 days or whatever left!

1 comment:

  1. Oh, hi! I missed you this weekend! Less than a week til snuggle time!