Monday, 27 September 2010

New York, New York! (again) ...

Ah, I love New York.  There is such a positive, energetic vibe in the air.  Even when it is raining.  We arrived on Saturday night to 32 degree heat (Are you listening Calgary?  That's a real summer!) and enjoyed an Italian patio dinner on Broadway in the Upper West Side.  The next day dawned with perfect sightseeing weather - low 20s.  Perfect for a bagel breakfast and a stroll in Central Park.  We wandered through the park, making our way towards my favourite art collection in New York ... the Frick Collection.  I just love the story behind the Frick family, their home and their art collection.  Mum was equally as impressed. 

Our next stop was coffee on Madison Avenue before hitting the Guggenheim for another shot of culture.  Unfortunately, some areas were closed because they were installing the next exhibit.  However, we were still able to see a lot of great pieces of art, including a Kandinsky exhibit featuring his geometrical pieces from the 1920s.  The Julie Mehretu 'Grey Areas' exhibit was also interesting.

In the mid  afternoon, we headed Downtown to the Brooklyn Bridge, where we joined hundreds of other tourists in the stroll across the iconic bridge.  Upon arriving in Brooklyn, we found the Dumbo art festival, a three day of arts in all shapes and forms.  We arrived just in time to catch the tail end of the festival, some street music performances.  We stumbled across the fantastically trendy Galapagos Art Space where we enjoyed a wine while watching a great French string band.

After a day of walking, we were exhausted, so made our way back to the wonderful Broadway Hotel and Hostel and crashed, ready for day two in New York.

Today, we were up early again, ready for another injection of New York's energy.  However, it was absolutely pouring, which continued, on and off, for the whole day.  We changed our plans to indoor activities and headed for MoMA, only to be greeted by hundreds, possibly thousands of tourists with the same idea.  The line for the tickets and then the cloakroom, for all the wet coats and umbrellas, was huge.  Deciding not to let the rain deter us, we headed off down Fifth Avenue, taking refuge in the shops when the rain proved too much. 

We spent the whole day popping in and out of shops and other New York sights such as the Public Library (still covered with scaffolding unfortunately) and Grand Central Station.  We quickly discovered which shops were within our budgets ... I was searching for a pair of funky New York rainboots and was directed to Saks - $300 for a pair of Valentino gumboots anyone?!  We managed to score some bargains and plan to continue our shopping over the next few days, aiming to hit up some recycled designer clothes stores.

Tonight, we are off to the theatre, opting for an off Broadway play titled 'As Time Stands Still' featuring the lovely Laura Linney and Christina Ricci.  You can read a review here.  Tomorrow, Ellis Island, lunch with a friend in West Village and 'Chicago' are on the agenda.  Ah, I love New York.

(I can't seem to load photos at the moment, so stay tuned for those later on)

Rawson Lake ...

The beginning of the trail, along the edge of Upper Kananaskis Lake

When travelling alone I seem to, understandably, have a lot more time to myself to do things like blogging.  Obviously, while my Mum is here, my priority is spending time with her, so my entries will be short and sweet.   So, I apologise in advance for the scattered, and probably poor quality, entries over the next couple of weeks.  More photos will be posted later.  Once our North American adventure is over, I'll try to eloborate on our time a little more. 

Kananaskis Lake

Welcome to the Rockies!

Last Thursday, I introduced Mum to the Canadian Rockies for the first time.  We began by driving south on the Cowboy trail, with Mum eagerly looking out the window for cowboys and wildlife.  Soon after, we headed along Highway 40, a very pretty drive into Kananaskis Country.  The scenery was particularly spectacular with the autumn colours and evidence of the recent snowfalls.  We parked at Upper Kananaskis Lake and  began our hike up to Rawson Lake, a beautiful alpine lake reached by 2.7 kilometres of uphill climbing.  We were the only ones on the trail, possibly because we had ignored the park staff's warning of ice and snow.  It was pretty snowy and icy, but we found that by walking on the snow on the side of the path and holding onto trees, we were able to reach the top (and the bottom again!) with minimal falls.  At the top, we were met by the incredibly still and reflective Rawson Lake.  We found a perfect spot to enjoy our lunch of beef jerky (a Canadian staple), nuts and fruit.  It was a perfect introduction to the Rockies and now we are both looking forward to 4 days of hiking and exploring in Jasper and Lake Louise.

First glimpse of Rawson Lake

Snowy Rawson Lake

Friday, 24 September 2010

There's a first time for everything ...

Looking out into Ganges harbour

Wednesday marked the day for our return to Calgary.  The day's plan was for the children to have a regular school day (finishing at 2 pm) before we were invited to take a stroll on a private property on nearby Prevost Island.  I was slightly concerned about the timing, given that Mum and I needed to be at the airport (with the dog) by about 4.30 pm, ready for our 5.45 pm departure to Calgary.  After a few miscommunications and a car that wouldn't start, we were, needless to say, too late for the flight.  Luckily, there was another flight to Calgary several hours later.  However, the afternoon stroll on Prevost Island was lovely.  The property we were on was bought in the 1920s by an Irish man named Digby de Burgh, who set up most of the island as a farm, which remains today.  We wandered around the property, followed by 2 inquisitive donkeys.  The calm and peaceful property almost made up for the stress that we felt as we, for the first time, missed a flight.

Old farm fences

The dog and the donkey

Old farm land

Mum enjoying the wild blackberries

Looking out towards Ganges harbour

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Kayaking at sunset ...

This is the time that Mum tells me that she has never been in a kayak before!

Life seems calmer when you are in a kayak on the water.  It's such a peaceful feeling to be so close to the water and to see the scenery from a different perspective.  Especially at sunset when the water is as still and calm as a pond.  Mum and I took a sunset kayak tour last night and we were the only ones in the group.  We paddled across the Ganges harbour and around Goat Island, where we saw seals playing and purple sea stars on the rocks.  When we arrived at Chocolate Beach, we enjoyed tea and muffins while listening to our guide tell us about Indian life in times gone by.  We headed back to Ganges, paddling directly into the setting sun.  Half way home, the sun went down and it got very chilly all of a sudden.  Once we arrived back on Deadman Island, we were grateful for a glass of wine by the fire side, where we felt almost as peaceful as we did on the water.

Getting used to being on the water

Sea star

Kayaking past Goat Island

The outhouse on Chocolate Island

Looking down to Chocolate Beach

Heading back to Ganges

The moon comes up just as we arrive back in Ganges

Fairy door hiking with Mum ...

Fairy door

After a short day of school on Monday, we headed off to climb Mt Erskine, also known as the 'fairy door' hike.  It is one of my favourite things to do on Salt Spring Island - it's an fun exercise option when you can't be bothered running or doing weights because the climb is pretty steep, but you are rewarded for your efforts with an amazing view.  The hike is great for kids because the fairy doors along the way provide the necessary motivation to keep climbing.  This time, we were lucky to have a driver, so we could climb up and over the mountain as opposed to simply hiking up and then back down the same way.  It was wonderful to take Mum on the hike, because I've come to take the scenery for granted since I've done the hike many times during our time on Salt Spring Island.  Mum was suitably impressed and now I can't wait for her to see the Rockies.

Mum on the summit of Mt Erskine

Fairy door near the cave

As dangerous as the Salt Spring wildlife gets ...

Heading down the other side of Mt Erskine

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Sea plane adventure ...

A nervous Mum waits to board the sea plane 

Taking a trip on a sea plane is something that everyone should do at least once in their life time, it's such a fun and exciting experience.  Mum was a little nervous about the trip ... not surprising given that this is a woman who screamed for the pirate ship ride to stop at Sea World many years ago (for the record, they did stop, much to the embarrassment of her children).  However, once we got up in the air, she relaxed and throughly enjoyed the 25 minute trip over the Gulf Islands before arriving in Ganges in time to enjoy sockeye salmon with the family.

Ready for take off ... 

Flying over one of the cruise ships as it leaves Vancouver bound for Alaska

Stanley Park and Downtown Vancouver

English Bay and Downtown Vancouver

False Creek and Granville Island

Logging outside Vancouver

Approaching Ganges

A weekend in Vancouver ...

Spirit of Haida ... a first nations carving at the Vancouver Airport

After a 'blah' week, it was wonderful to be able to go to the airport and wait for Mum to arrive for her first trip to Canada.  We stayed at the lovely Moda hotel, right in the heart of Downtown Vancouver.  After a few bubbles to celebrate her arrival, we had an early night, ready for a day of sightseeing on Saturday.

Totem poles at Stanley Park

Canadian geese watch the cricket at Stanley Park

Saturday's plan went like this - Make our way to Stanley Park, past the Robson Street shops; walk through Stanley Park; meet C. (who was in town for a wedding) in the English Bay area for afternoon drinks; head to Granville Island for a wander before drinks and dinner.

The reality ... When C. called us after the wedding to find out where we were, we still hadn't made it to Stanley Park.  In fact, we weren't even half way down Robson Street.  But, I can say, that we were browsing in several very Canadian stores, namely Lululemon and Roots, so technically, we were still sightseeing.

Salmon spawning pond

Sulphur works at North Vancouver

We finally made it to Stanley Park in the mid afternoon, just as the sun came out and the temperature rose.  We spent a couple of hours wandering along the Seawall, looking at the totem poles, watching a game of cricket and just enjoying the park.  I would love to live in Vancouver just for Stanley Park ... it's filled with hundreds of paths, perfect for a midweek run or a weekend stroll.

Black squirrel in Stanley Park

Mum and Mr Stanley

In the evening, we decided to sample the local seafood.  We began at Rodney's Oyster House for wine and oysters before moving on to Global, a steakhouse that happened to have some delicious local fish, namely halibut and sockeye salmon.

Boat houses

Vancouver sailing club

On Sunday, Mum and I hit Granville Island for more wandering and shopping.  We walked to the waterfront to catch a water taxi across False Creek to the island.  Here, we strolled through the public market, filled with lovely fresh produce and gorgeous shops.  The find of the day was Edie Hats, a beautiful hat store filled with all sorts of both classic and quirky hats.  Granville Island, despite its very touristy feel, has been set up wonderfully.  The island used to be an industrial site (in fact, the concrete works are still there) but has been restored beautifully to house the market, lovely stores and cute little art galleries.  It has retained the industrial feel, with lots of corrugated iron and steel being used in the buildings.  Granville Island is also home to the Emily Carr University of Art and Design which hosts art exhibitions that are open, free, to the public.

Moda hotel in Vancouver

A multi-talented hotel

In the late afternoon, it was time to head back to the hotel to collect our bags ready for the next leg of the adventure - a sea plane ride to Salt Spring Island.  

Chandelier in hotel foyer

Hotel foyer

Community garden

Water taxi

Emily Carr museum on Granville Island

Totem pole carving on Granville Island

Edie Hats ... what a wonderful discovery!

Mum hauls in her new purchase ... yeah, right!