Canada Day–an epic by Homer



July 1, 2017. 150th Birthday of Canada. We rose early on Canada Day, but not as early as the IBBI (Int’l Brotherhood of Balloon Inflators). This arch was over the elevator lobby at our hotel.

We loaded up on breakfast because we knew we would be on the road under time pressure. We had a B&B in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. The normal way to go is down to Vancouver (90 minutes), catch the ferry to Nanaimo (105 minutes) and 10 km to the B&B. The only trouble was we had not done this far enough in advance, and all the Vancouver ferries were sold out. Ferries up the coast took many hours to reach and required intermediate ferries as well. In the end, the only solution was to go south across the border to Anacortes, (3.5 hours + border delay + 1 hour early arrival at the pier) catch the ferry to Victoria (2 hours), and drive to Nanaimo (2 hours).


We saw one of the floats for the parade. The design reminded us of Animal House (“Cut the Cake!”) but the colours were way too cheerful.

We had a pleasant drive down to Vancouver, scenic all the way and no traffic. Everybody was going uphill to Whistler. The border crossing stopped us for 45 minutes but left us with enough time to buy some Bug Remover for the front of the car. When we finally got to Anacortes we had lots of time in the waiting line to scrub the front end and wax it up again.


From the ferry dock, we think that’s Mt. Rainier in the distance.


It’s a great trip through the San Juan Islands to Victoria. This is where you want to live if you own a boat.

After the two hour drive up the island we reached our B&B and almost immediately turned around to go to downtown Nanaimo for dinner and, we hoped, fireworks. Parking was less of a problem than we feared and we even found a table in a restaurant on the waterfront.


Alice had a local Dungeness crab and she finished the whole thing. Very impressive.


Around 9:30 people began gathering on the docks as well as ashore. This is the view from our restaurant – it told us we were in the right spot. Being so far north, the show did not begin until 10:30.


The little blue light was from one of three harbor patrol boats who lit their emergency lights and surrounded the fireworks barge to keep tourists out of the danger zone.


Good show.


And so ended Canada Day.


I [heart] NY

I Red heart NY
(would you believe WordPress won’t let met put a Red heart in the title?

We are here in Norwalk CT in the EVEN hotel. It’s funky. If you like glass, chrome, and kale for breakfast, this is the place. It is obviously designed for the young, hip, and fit youth market. For us old, hep and alive people, it is still a nice hotel but the fitness equipment in the room has not been touched. After putting the 6 ounce box of organic chocolate chip cookies for $7.50 out of our minds, the remaining problem is noise. The sliding opaque glass bathroom doors make every event a public event. The hallway doors are perfect transmitters of sound. We had two wedding parties last night and even the youth trying to sleep came out in the hall to object.

Yesterday we went to The Cloisters. This is an arm of the MET Museum, built to house things created from the Romanesque to late Mediaeval periods, from spoons to entire rooms. Sometimes the ‘new’ building is impossible to tell from the old doorway it contains. Very nicely done.


From a Romanesque chapel near Segovia, Spain, ~1200 AD. This shows how well the museum integrates itself with the artifacts. Also, the mural is from a second chapel, also of the period, near Tredos, Spain.


Southern France, 12th century. Detail from a cloister column showing an unusual imaginative move from the stone mason – tiny busts instead of the more common leaves and animals.


One of four cloister gardens, this one for flowers.


The glory of The Cloisters is the collection of tapestries. This is one of an original set of Nine Examples for Kingly Behavior and it is King Arthur. The 3-crown pattern indicates his (supposed) rule of England, Scotland and Brittany.


And the pinnacle of the tapestry collection is the series, “The Hunt of the Unicorn.” Dedicated readers may remember our visit to Stirling Castle in Scotland where a copy was being completed. The tale the tapestries tell is still being deciphered. In this panel the unicorn is defending itself; in another it has been killed; in the most famous panel it is captured alive. What really happened? What is the allegory?

Why Stirling Castle chose it to be reproduced for their total renovation of the castle is a bit clearer. Apparently James V owned a copy of the original (I didn’t know there were copies).


To my birdwatching mind, this tapestry is the most interesting. It is called, “The Falcon’s Bath.” (Low countries, 1400-1415). Giving a falcon a bath is a fascinating concept. Rumor has it that there was an accompanying tapestry entitled, “Giving a Cat a Pill,” but it was in such poor condition (shredded, actually) that it could not be restored.


Finally, the most exotic item, a chessboard/box made of amber. I mean, wow. The chess pieces are not original, but the originals must have been special too. This was among the items that the MET considered must be encased in bulletproof glass.

Driving from Norwalk to the Cloisters was not so bad, except for the occasional idiot driver. NY drivers are aggressive, and considering the way the traffic and the streets are, one understands. Some of them are insane, like the pickup truck that tried to get ahead of us after the merge lane had disappeared.* Oh well. And the trip home took 1:45 for 36 miles. I’ll be glad when we leave the urban area, but tomorrow we have to go in again for a play. Better be a really good play.

* he failed. We California drivers aren’t made of glass.

The Wonders of the Steam Age*

Some say the Icelanders knew what they were doing, heating their homes with water raised to flashpoint by subterranean lava beds. They say the occasional volcanic eruption is a small price to pay for the free heat. We shall see.

I write this passing over Labrador at 39,000 feet, held up only by aluminum foil and two steam turbines ill adapted to kerosene, spinning at speeds no bearings can possibly stand for more than 3 or 4 hours. Our flight to Iceland will last 5 hours. The plane has wifi, also apparently steam-powered; it’s too slow to surf on so this blog will not be sent from the stratosphere.

Yesterday we undertook a 12-hour drive from Versailles, KY, to JFK Airport. With the help of an audio book I was able to stay awake and functional the whole time. There were two major traffic delays on the interstates due to “work areas” (3-5 miles of traffic cones blocking a lane, with no workers in sight) that cost us an hour, but even with several stops to walk and refresh ourselves, it only took 13 hours. For the last hour the GPS suggested a detour that took us through the Lincoln tunnel. We started in the left lane, not knowing that we would never be able to change lanes and make a right turn at the end of the tunnel. Traffic barriers put us into downtown Manhattan on 34th St, I think, and we were lucky it was 11:00 p.m. on a holiday night so the traffic was not too bad. By the way, toll for the tunnel is $15. No wonder people take the train.

The appetizer on our menu on Icelandair 612 to Reykjavik reads: Sitruskryddlegin bleikja med sultadri fenniku og med solselju-aioli (A Møøse once bit my sister… No, realli!). Well, not really. It’s citrus-marinated Arctic char. Since Alice refuses to get up and get my camera, no photos. Otherwise dinner was an antipasti plate (reindeer sausage and so on), baguette, wine and cheesecake. Not bad.

The rental car was the farthest away in the lot, in 40 degree weather at 1:00 a.m. with wind. Alice suggested reading a good book in bed for the next two days. I turned down a GPS at 15 Euros a day and we fumbled our way to the hotel. The airport is 50km outside of town! Tomorrow I may just buy a cheap GPS for here and for Germany. Six rental days and it’s paid for.

The Skuggi hotel is minimalist Scandinavian but very neat. It’s 2:30 a.m. and I am not sleepy.