Saturday, June 4, 2011

Voyage Home

For our trip back home we followed the traditional route, passenger ferry from Bellingham, Washington in Puget Sound and up the Inside Passage to Skagway, Alaska. Bellingham's port has remade itself has a trendy little community with a great bookstore, a selection of fine restaurants and an extensive network of walking trails. Cherry blossoms were the icing on the cake.

In summer the ferries are packed with enthusiastic tourists coming and going on their Alaskan adventure. But in spring and fall the ferry runs about 2/3 capacity, locals returning from a winter Outside or traveling between the coastal communities. The pace on the ship is relaxed and conversations run to chain saw modifications, the merits of different types of commercial fishing boats, job prospects in the timber industry, the fervent explanation of entrepreneurial dreams/prospects and, without fail, strong opinions on Sarah Palin.

The Kennecott, typical of the Alaska Marine Highway fleet, cannot be mistaken for  a cruise ship. The staterooms are modest and comfortable, the dining cafe home style, the bar folksy and recreational opportunities confined to a couple of pin ball machines and two second rate movies each day (at least the one I watched). The pleasure of the voyage rests within the comfortable lounges with their spectacular views of the coastal mountains, interesting conversations, relaxed reading and the chance to stand outside amid the sun, winds and spray of the Pacific Ocean's reach into the rugged coast of North America.

A few staffed lighthouses still operate along the Inside Passage. They look romantic on a nice day.

The fishing fleet at Ketchikan, Alaska. This was my first time in Ketchikan when it wasn't deluged with rain. The record annual rainfall is just over 5 metres. We actually had a sunny day. Everybody was in a good mood.
Early morning in Juneau. A view of the Mendenhall Glacier. We're only hours from home now.

Spring Travels - the big city

In March we traveled to visit family in Toronto. We stopped in Vancouver's Chinatown to visit our favorite Chinese bakery and enjoy a wander through one of city's the many interesting neighbourhoods. On these occasions  I wonder why we bother traveling further afield to see the world, a lot of it seems to have come to Vancouver.

While Vancouver's Chinatown also has its modern aspects, there is still a sense that it is a traditional Chinese place in Canada. Not a reflection of modern China but a representation of the place and time these people emigrated from. In Toronto the Oriental community, both new immigrants and Canadians from British Columbia, is newer and there are some adaptations to being Canadian.

 There is a lot of traffic in Toronto, Couldn't really get used to it.

Southern Ontario however does have its charms, not the least are the lovely women who live there. And once one leaves the confines of the metropolis the rural landscape of the Caledon Hills and the charming small towns that manage to maintain some control over their existence, offer alternatives to the modernist frenzy of conspicuous consumption. Fancy coffees and pastries are inconspicuous consumption so they don't count.