TRAVEL REPORT WEST CANANA 2011

Our trip to Norway was just the beginning. Many people told us, that Canada would be very much like Norway, only much more beautiful and a whole lot bigger. With all the pressure at work, we were really looking forward to get on the plane to Calgary. This travel report tells you a lot of nice details and stories about our trip to Maple Leaf Country, also known as Canada. Clearly, we will also try to focus on music, whenever possible, but since this trip includes a whole lot of lakes, mountains and woods, the scenery in Canada took over the main part of our trip. A trip, that we will surely never forget!

Day 0; On Monday, September 5th, 2011 we took another day off: this is our last chance to check if we have packed everything in our suitcase and also the last day to check our travel schedule for the upcoming weeks. Canada, here we come! Day 1; Tuesday, September 6th, 2011 starts quite early, because we don’t want to miss our train connection. Knowing, that the Dutch Railway service is not always very reliable, we could face a bit of delay, so it’s always better to take more time in case something goes wrong. Before we went to the station, I took a last trip to the post office. After that, it was down to the station. Our trip to Geldermalsen went quite smoothly. The connection to the next train was easy and we arrived in Utrecht in no time. Last stop would be Amsterdam-Schiphol, where we arrived on time. No problems at all, so both thumbs up for the Dutch Railways. At Schiphol we went straight to the Fox info desk, where a kind lady helped us to sit next to each other. Apparently, when travelling with KLM, you have to make sure that you have seats next to each other and they don’t do it for you. Whatever we tried upfront, Rita was in front of the plane and I was in the back. Not that comfortable, when you have a flight of almost nine hours to go. But things were arranged pretty quickly and we eventually had seats next to each other. Now our trip could really start. We had to check in our suitcase ourselves. Just follow the procedure given on the machine and then go to customs to check in. From there on, we had to wait for quite some time before we could check in the plane. The KL 0677 would fly us to Calgary with a twenty minutes delay, but the captain told us, that we would arrive on time in Canada, one hour later than we departed in Amsterdam, because we travelled back in time. The temperature went from 14°C in Amsterdam to 24°C in Calgary. That was a good start already. In the plane we both watched “New Kids Turbo” – there’s nothing better than a good laugh to start your holidays. In Calgary, we went through customs and the passport check was really relaxed and easy. Nothing comparable to the circus, that they perform in America. When we collected our suitcases, we got in contact with our tour guide Bob (Robert) de Lange, a Dutch man, who lives in Luxembourg or in California (whatever is most comfortable for him). We had to get used to him throughout the trip, but he really knew a lot of facts and had some nice stories to tell. We also met up with our bus driver Keith, who lives in Calgary, so we kinda were in his backyard right now. And we finally meet all the people, who are doing the trip with us. Nineteen people totally, all very friendly and easy to deal with. With this whole crew we travelled to our first hotel in Calgary, situated in the neighborhood of some shops. Before we went to diner, we still had a few hours, so we decided to have a short walk. We only went a few blocks, but this was just to orientate ourselves a bit. It seemed that we were near the Bow River, which is only four blocks away from where our hotel was situated. To be able to get to know each other a little bit better, Bob had arranged diner at the hotel. It could be a coincidence, but the people with whom we sat at the table, were also the ones, we were connected with most during this journey (Rini and Ria, and Peter and Marian). Anyway, we had a decent meal, although we already ate lots of food in the plane. Rita ordered spring rolls with fries, while I had my first burger with wild rice. After some financial business had been taken care of, it was time to hit the sack. Tomorrow we would be able to have a nice look around in Calgary.

Day 2; Wednesday, September 7th, 2011 starts quite early as a part of the jetlag. It’s three o’ clock in the morning, when I wake up, but I decide to stay in bed. Calgary is still asleep and I think it is a good idea to do the same. At about five thirty, the same thing happens all over again, but the tour will not start before nine. No worries, I am ready for it. Opposite the hotel is a McDonalds and a little super market. Because breakfast is not included during this trip, we decide to have an early call at the super market to buy some buns for the long bus ride through the city. We make several stops at some interesting places like the Calgary Stampede, where the horse riding takes place and many sport manifestations are being held. This time the Cirque Du Soleil has also found a space at the property. We drive across the Bow River to the outskirts of the town and from there on, we slowly work ourselves a way into the center of town. We see the Pengrowth Saddle Down Stadium (which has the shape of a horse saddle), the new children’s hospital, the shopping street (17th Street) and the Stephen Avenue Walk, which is a district where pedestrians can stroll along the shops without being bothered by traffic. From the ancient Fort Calgary, founded in 1875, you have a nice view at the skyline of Calgary with the Calgary Tower as the most recognizable point. However, the fort itself is not quite original. Part of it is being rebuild, after they started digging there in the early seventies. What you can see is one of the buildings, a wooden gate and a museum with detailed information about the fort. Just inside the gate there’s a man sitting, who was part of a team building program. At the time when I was walking around there, he was doing nothing at all and I thought he was painting the scenery. So we got talking a bit and I told him that we’d just arrived in Canada. I told him about our trip and what our plans are. He was really excited (as I am!) about the beautiful sights that we are going to visit and he told me that he had visited Holland as well for a short trip. One thing is quite obvious to us. You can get in touch with the locals pretty easily, something that we could witness more than once. Anyway, the sun was shining brightly that day and the temperature is slowly rising to a merely thirty degrees, which is exceptionally high for the time of year. Normally in September, Canada is already preparing for a long cold winter. Not this time though and they would treat their Dutch visitors to some very nice ‘holiday’ weather. At the end of the tour, we arrived near our hotel, where the bus would drop us off at about one o’ clock. From there on, we would have some time off to discover Calgary on our own. When we drive through 17th Street with its fancy shops and boutiques, we get the idea to walk all the way to that street, starting at 6th Street, where we our hotel is situated. Ten blocks aren’t that far away and with the sun shining and all, it would be a very nice walk. Just before arriving back at our hotel, we even spot a HMV store along the way. Stop!! Let us out immediately! Whenever we get the opportunity to go record hunting, we just go for it. We try to remember the location of the shop, as we’ll definitely get back to it later this afternoon. There aren’t that many record stores in the Rocky Mountains, so let’s grab the opportunity, while it lasts! Back at the hotel we get in touch with Cees and Nelly, who live in Dordrecht. When we tell them about our plans to walk all the way to 17th Street, they want to join us. This seems like a great idea to me, so instead of just the two of us, the four of us leave on their afternoon walk. A long walk, which starts a bit disorientated at first, but in the end we did find our way through the streets of Calgary. In front of our hotel a free tram drives us to the shopping mall. From there on, we start our walk, knowing that we will be back later that day to visit the HMV store. When arriving at 17th Street, we decide to take a bite at some Italian restaurant. We aren’t that hungry (at first!), but we really do fancy a nice cold drink. Rita takes a small Caesar salad and I order spaghetti with a meatball (half a portion). And to finish it all, we grab some ice cream with white chocolate and strawberry sauce for desert. Now we are getting somewhere! Canada has got to offer some really great and very tasty food, as long as you don’t stick to burgers alone. There is enough other food to enjoy, when you take the time to check out the many different restaurants. Anyway, the shops are very nice indeed, but the sun has made us tired and as it’s still a very long walk back to the hotel, we decide to start our journey back. In no time, we arrive at the hotel. In the meantime, we also get to know Cees a little better. Apparently, he loves steam trains and rumor has it, that he has seen a giant steam train somewhere near our hotel. He also tells us, that he likes to have a look around in CD/DVD stores, while he’s on vacation. So our plan is to search for this steam train and visit the HMV, after having a wash and a brush-up. Nelly stays in the hotel, because she’s kind of tired and so we continue our walk after a fifteen minute break. HMV is just two blocks away on that well-known Stephen Avenue Walk. A very cozy shopping area, where we also discover a nice book store. The HMV almost immediately locks its doors, when we get in. We’ve arrived just on time and we can still have a look around in the small store for twenty minutes or something. We managed to find one CD, the new live CD of VOI VOD, which isn’t available yet in Europe. It was high on our wants list, because of that. Cees, who likes a lot of the sixties rock artists, like THE WHO, THE KINKS and bands like JOHNNY AND THE HURRICANES among others, of course finds some CD’s as well. The first purchase has been done and a few more items would follow afterwards. You could say, that this is a very low score in our book, but from the beginning on we focused on the scenery of West Canada and our main purpose is to enjoy that to the fullest. However, there’s still one thing we have to do and that’s finding Cees’ steam train. I unfolded the road map and in a few seconds a man walked towards us and asked if we needed some help. Apparently, the train was just a five minute walk away from where we are right now …… and it was. After taking some pictures, we went back to the hotel, which was only two blocks away, but we decided to take the free tram, which would stop in front of the hotel. During our walk to the tram station, we found out, that Cees also likes to watch Dutch cabaret like Jiskefet, Waardenberg en de Jong, Freek de Jonge and so on. It’s nice to find out how much we actually have in common! When arriving back at the hotel, we took a little walk in the park, which was opposite the hotel. Some kind of a labyrinth with little bridges and waterfalls, water ponds and some beautiful trees turned this into a nice place to relax a little before we would go to sleep. A little squirrel came to visit us, when we were sitting on a bench near the water. Unfortunately, we forgot to bring our camera… Well, there’s still time to come back tomorrow, before we would go to the Olympic Stadium and continue our trip to Banff. What a busy day, but what a beautiful city. The city center of Calgary isn’t compact, but very much stretched out. The different malls have plenty of shops to buy whatever you need. When living there, you would probably do everything by car. While being on holidays, you want to walk everything, which means that you have to cross long distances. Calgary has got a lot to offer though and it’s highly enjoyable. And this is only the beginning....

Day 3; Thursday, September 8th, 2011 would start much later than expected, while being on holidays with a group. Sometimes when doing a trip abroad, we had to drive several hours and get up at six in the morning. Now we would leave at 10:00, which gave us enough time to do a small walk through the park, that we visited yesterday, buy some breakfast in the supermarket and a pair of sunglasses, because today the temperatures would be up to another 29 degrees Celcius. We hadn’t expected that at all. Of course we didn’t see any squirrels this time, but we made some pictures anyway and decided to buy some postcards for the folks back home, as there was a little post office near our hotel. A good choice, because you never know when the next opportunity would show up. We already printed address labels at home, which would make things a lot easier. After this, we went to the Canadian Olympic Park with the whole group. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see any skiers at work this time, like in Norway. Instead. we visited the large ice hockey hall, where they have three ice hockey fields in one stadium. It’s the ice hockey stadium of the Calgary Flames, for those of you, who are interested. On this early hour however, there were only some teen girls skating. There was a coffee bar though, so the perfect place to take a small coffee break, before we would hit the road again. In 1988, Yvonne van Gennip won two golden medals for Holland, so somehow we have very close ties with Calgary because of that. At this time, they are working on a new ski jump track for the future. Calgary is very keen on getting the Olympic games in again. They were one of the first countries, who organized the games without financial losses, by the way. We make a short photo stop at the Heritage Park, where two old trains are being displayed on the side of the road. This part of the country is called the Kananaksis. When Rita is taking some pictures there, I take the opportunity to walk into the other direction. Behind the dyke is a small lake with some sailing boats. Afterwards we drive to the Boundary Ranch, where we get a free meal. You can do some horseback riding and the beautiful ranch is situated near the woods. When we arrive at the ranch, I notice two old T-Fords on the parking lot and decide to take a picture before going inside with the other people. We will have a look at the horse stables first and inside the ranch they have some stuffed animals, like an ice bear and a mountain lion. The lunch consists of a very delicious burger, some ice tea and a piece of red fruit cake with ice as desert. A delicious meal served by two cow girls. After lunch, we step on a big horse driven car for a ride through the woods. In about half an hour, we do a nice ride with one stop at the buffalo breeding place. When we depart, all the people who attended us, are lined up to wave us goodbye. How nice! The nature of Canada is calling and in a few moments from now on, we will enter Banff National park. From there on, we will continue our trip and move from park to park, until we reach Vancouver. We will follow the Trans Canadian Highway, which is very well-known for being the longest paved highway in the world. The first stop in the park is at Two Jacks Lake. When first reading about Canada, Banff has been one of our favorite spots to visit and they haven’t been exaggerating one single bit! The beautiful scenery looks so mind-boggling, that you almost think you’re dreaming. It’s not even possible to describe in real words - I’m very sorry about that. Only pictures will get (fairly) close to what we’ve seen there. However, the best way to comprehend this beautiful force of nature is to go there and do this trip yourself. You will be really amazed by the spectacular sights. Two Jacks Lake shows how nice it can be to drive around here by camper. Just enter the park, stop at the lake, cook outside and have a jump in the lake and go for a swim. Our next stop is at the Hoodoos, which are in fact small hills made of sand instead of rocks. The Bow Falls is an enormous waterfall. It’s all part of the beginning of this park. Our final destination for today is a boat trip on Lake Minnewanka, which is the biggest lake in Banff National Park. Mountain goats welcome us on the side of the road and the first wild life is ready to pose for the photographers among us. In a way, we’re just like a bus of Japanese tourists, when it comes to taking pictures. Even a ‘regular’ mountain goat can make us very happy. It’s a great day to make a boat trip. The guide tells us some nice stories and we are heading to the end of the lake, where we will sail back to where we’ve started. No wild animals have been spotted by yours truly, although this is the habitat of wolves, bears, mountain lions and sea eagles. When we arrive in the city of Banff, we first drive around a bit to see what Banff has got to offer. We see the Banff Springs Hotel, a huge hotel that looks like a giant castle. It is officially copied from a Scottish Castle. The small village is one big street with some side streets. Our hotel is a little bit outside the village. The hotel is being managed by Japanese people and the first thing I notice is that the hotel has a Japanese restaurant as well. This is a nice idea for the second day in Banff. The first evening we decide to go back to the village with a small group of six people. In front of the hotel is a bus stop and free tickets are provided to have a free ride from the hotel to the village. The group consists of the two of us, Cees and Nelly and Fiennie and Ton. With this group we are exploring the possibilities of having a nice meal in Banff. We did see a nice Greek restaurant among others. But after a nice walk through the village, we decide to have dinner at the Irish pub in one of the side streets to the main street. From the outside, it looks like a small but very cozy place. Inside though, it’s a really huge pub and an absolute marvelous place to have a nice chat and a good dinner. Rita opts for the chicken and I treat myself to the spare ribs. We get to know our table companions a bit better and after our meal, we decide to take a walk back, because the weather is too nice to take the bus. Besides, we just missed it, so it seems. After another walk back to the hotel, our first day in the wildlife of Banff comes to an end. The Internet is for free at the hotel, so we are able to check the e-mail and some music news sites, while Rita checks her Facebook page. Then it’s time to get to bed, but not before writing a few words to our relatives and friends on the postcards. We want to try and post them tomorrow. The weather forecast looks very promising, which is great news for all the activities that we have planned in the next few days, but more about that later. I’ll turn out the lights now and talk to you tomorrow….

Day 4; Friday, September 9th, 2011 is the day, that we will go to Sulphur Mountain by gondola. We’re very excited already. We’ll get a very early wake-up call, because at around eight o’clock, a free bus will pick us up and bring us to Sulphur Mountain. Keith has got another travel group under his wings and won’t be joining us today. Though from tomorrow on, he will stay with us most of the time, that we are in the Rockies. It’s quite chilly this early in the morning, but the temperatures will be rising to about 28 degrees later that day. The Sulphur Mountain rises 2282 meters over Banff and from the top of the mountain, you will have an excellent view over the landscape. Because we arrive far too early, we still have enough time to have a look around in the visitor center from where the gondolas are departing. In the early morning, we saw a nice documentary on TV about the trip we are going to do. You can buy this DVD at the information desk of the hotel. But we noticed another DVD, which contains some extended footage taking the trip down to Vancouver as well. This looks like a much better deal, but we decided to wait a while, before buying anything at all. In the meantime, the coffee shop opened its doors and Rita went in to buy some cakes for our trip along the way. The gondolas are for four persons and in a couple of minutes they take us to the top, where you can make as many pictures as you like. It’s so hard to decide in which direction you want to go first. The view is stunning and in the deep valley you can see the little village, where our hotel is situated. Like I mentioned before, no words can describe these breathtakingly beautiful views, so I won’t even try. You can walk over the hills to the highest top, where an old weather station is situated. A nice and easy walk with more stunning views leads us to the weather station on the highest hill. On our way up there, we notice some chipmunks and nutcrackers (birds). The walk back and forth has been taken with many different people, which makes it a very special trip. Then it’s time to go back to the visitor center, where we started off this morning. That’s where the men are being separated from the women. Most of the ladies are taking the gondolas down below, while some of the men are doing the five point seven kilometer walk downhill through the woods. The group consists of Rini, Peter, Cees, Ton, Jacob (who travels alone), the two Belgian travelers Sven and Robert from Hoboken (near Antwerp) and yours truly. The walk takes us down in almost two hours. We do a short photo stop to make some pictures from the group and another one, when a little waterfall crosses our path. The water is stone cold, but it tastes just great! On our way down, which is quite some climb, we also see people walking the same path but going uphill. They must be crazy!! At the end of our walk, it is nice to see that the ladies did have a good time as well. We drink some coffee and eat a bit at the visitor center and then it’s time to take the bus back to the village. At the bus stop, I get in touch with a man, who has immigrated to Canada nearly sixty years ago. He lives in Nova Scotia right now and didn’t even remember, where exactly he was born in Holland, but his family lived in the area of Den Bosch. His wife originated from Scotland and his son currently works at a hotel in Banff. He was on holidays here, too just like us. How nice and another example how simple it is to get in touch with the local people and have a nice chat with them. We stop at the beginning of the main street of Banff. Here, the group will separate and each couple will take the time to shop around a little. The temperature is quite high and after visiting some shops, we buy a nice cold Mc Flurry at McDonalds. At the local supermarket we buy our breakfast for the next morning and slowly we are heading towards the hotel again. In the evening we hear that many people of the group will go back to the village. However, we have decided to stay here and have dinner at the Japanese restaurant of the hotel. We already made reservations earlier to be sure to have a table in the small yet cozy restaurant. The ‘eat as much as you like’ principle is also well-known in Holland. You’ll get five rounds, where you can order as much sushi, sashimi, tempura or teriyaki as you like. You have to eat that in two and a half hours. Obviously, we were pretty stuffed at the end of the evening. You should see the faces of these people, when we thanked them in our best Japanese. They even drew a smiling face on our bill, when we left the restaurant. A great evening in my opinion and the food was really delicious. After checking our e-mail box very quickly in the lobby, we went straight to our room, because tomorrow would be another very busy day visiting the glacier.

Day 5; Saturday, September 10th, 2011. Finally, it’s weekend!! I think, that I will fancy some ice cream, as the thermometer will most likely reach another 28 degrees today. What a great idea, when you are visiting the Athabasca Glacier today. Our first stop is at Castle Mountain. Maybe you have guessed it already. This mountain has got the shape of a castle and is one of the many beautiful spells of nature, that we will get to see during this trip. Afterwards, we’ll go to the jaw dropping Peyto Lake, named after an archeologist, who gave his name to this awesome piece of nature. The lake is full of minerals. These minerals reflect a different light than plain clear water and gives it a beautiful green-like color, which will make your mouth drop open. At the lake, where you’ll have the best overview, is a coming and going of people. Everybody wants to shoot a nice picture and pose in front of this wonderful scenery. Bob Ross would spontaneous ejaculate, when seeing something beautiful like that. He would take his Van Dijck brown and start to paint what he saw right away. For this sight alone, the whole trip is worth every single penny and I’m not telling you any lies. Tomorrow they have been promising us even better sights, but this is already unbelievable! We continue our trip to the Athabasca Glacier over the Icefield Parkway, which is also known as Highway 93. We decide to bring along a warm sweater, because inside the weather may look really great, but on the glacier the temperature will drop to nearby zero. By now, we have entered Jasper National Park, by the way. We stop with our bus at the parking space. With another bus, we will go to the next station and from there on, we will change to the giant six wheel drive Ice Explorer, consisting of 250 horse power. First, we will have a full hour to explore the visitor center though. And it’s also time for a little snack, so we’ll have enough energy to explore the mighty ice fields. We will gather at the meeting point from where the bus will take us to the exchange point. The driver tells us a few details about the glacier. There is only just a small piece left of what once was a giant ice field. The global warming of the earth made it so much smaller, but still there’s an immense field of ice, on which you can walk around. We have now changed to the Ice Explorer, a giant bus with wheels that are as high as a regular, full grown human being. The road is very bumpy and we even have to go through a small water to be able to continue our way to the glacier. Right before the glacier starts to climb up a little bit, the explorer stops and two other explorers will stop there soon as well. We have about half an hour to take pictures and walk around on the icy ground, which is sometimes really soft, because of the sunshine. The melting water is ice cold and very clear and it tastes really fine. And you can double check this, if you don’t have any cavities in your mouth. The cold water would touch your nerves immediately, but I didn’t have any problems at all drinking it. My mind goes out to Frank Zappa for a little while, who wrote a song called “Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow”……… got it?! The melting water goes to the Big Ocean by the Columbian River, the Northern Ice Sea by the Athabasca River and to the Hudson Bay by the North Saskatchewan River, and the ice layer is about three hundred meters thick. Isn’t that cool?! It’s an amazing experience and some guys are willing to show off by walking around in their naked body. Many people want to take a picture of these macho guys. I don’t think, that they’ll get as many visitors, when they are lying in bed with a huge cold the very next day. At least, I wouldn’t feel sorry for them at all, if this would be the case. There are also a lot of huge ice cubes on the ground, that people can carry around and pose with, like they are Atlas who carries the world on his shoulders. After about thirty minutes, it’s time to jump in the Explorer again and start our way back to the visitor center. On the way back, the bus driver tells us, that in the winter they don’t heat the visitor center and the temperature of the whole building goes down below a few degrees below zero. Another interesting story was, that about two weeks ago the whole road was blocked because there was a giant snow storm, which blew up for miles and came over the road. Nobody was able to visit the glacier during that time. During summer time the whole field trip is led by experienced guides, who have their homes in a complex at the opposite of the visitor center. They live there with each other and in the summer they are working there to earn their money. A wonderful experience, that we wouldn’t have missed for the world.
Final stop today is at The Crossing, a very small camping ground, where we would spend the night in some kind of wooden lodge in the middle of nowhere. In the evening we would have dinner at the only café / restaurant this camping ground owns. There’s a giant barbecue inside and you only have to choose what kind of meat you want to eat and then you will be able to cook it yourself on the barbecue. If you can’t BBQ and your meat or your buns turn black, you’re really unlucky. You only get one piece of meat and if you mess things up, you only have a salad. That really wasn’t what some of us had in mind. The worst part is yet to come. When the bill arrived for each table/couple, the tip was already included by the waiter himself. He put an almost fifteen percent tip on top of the bill for actually doing nothing at all. We had to cook our own meal and he asked a very high fee for fetching the meat from the freezer. This resulted into huge internal discussions , which was for a few couples the reason to eat their diner very slowly. After receiving their bill, they decided to pay anyway, but the biggest part of the tip came in coins and cents. So a whole lot of coins were spread out on the table. The exact amount was reached, but our travel guide Bob didn’t like it at all. Again he explained why these tips were being used and that this was actually the amount of money this man earned. It took quite a while to let them decide to pay the bill with bigger cash. The waiter just collected the money and didn’t say a word at all. If this wouldn’t have happened, I know for sure that a lot of people would have ordered another drink. Now we kept talking and talking and ordered nothing at all anymore. When we left, the owner of the place didn’t say nothing at all to any of us. What a dump! On the local television station we regularly saw Gene Simmons’ real life soap (KISS bassist), which was actually quite nice to watch. Not every TV showed this channel, but we watched several episodes of Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels. We took a bath and prepared ourselves for a beautiful trip, that would take us to Golden. The beautiful nature really took away all the stress, that I’d kept inside myself, before leaving to Canada. What a relaxing holiday this has been so far and things would even get better….

Day 6; Sunday, September 11th, 2011 is the day that many of us will remember as 9-11. Where were you during these attacks, when the World Trade Center collapsed in New York City? We were on our way back home from our holidays in Luxembourg. We had just visited our good friend Gerard Fonteyn at his home town near Eindhoven. When we drove home and were near Eindhoven we heard the news on the radio and when we came home we immediately watched these terrible acts of terror on our television. Early in the morning, we watched some of the ceremonies on television: Paul Simon was doing a live appearance in New York and there were a lot of speakers at Ground Zero. Zapping back and forth, we found a program called ‘Full Throttle’, a rock program on Action TV with James DuPree of JACKYL being one of the main characters. It tells the story of a big ranch, where they organize races, BBQ’s and rock festivals. They now organized a huge festival with MOLLY HATCHET headlining on the first day and KORN headlining on the final day. Bad weather turned it into a big disaster and they dealt with a financial disaster. Very interesting television, why don’t they have this channel over here in Holland? What else don’t they have in Holland? That becomes quite obvious, when we open the door of our lodge. The sight of a giant mountain covered with snow on top of it is really priceless. This is exactly why we actually came to this part of Canada. After hearing, that the temperatures would rise up to 27 degrees again today, we knew that this would definitely be one of the highlights. We would visit many of those beautiful spells of nature during our trip. One lake even bigger and more beautiful than the other. The Bow Lake was only just the beginning. We stopped at the parking lot and took a short walk towards the giant lake. There’s a lot of wind, but this is really another breathtaking sight. We took many pictures, but I also had a short but nice conversation with Marianne, Peter’s wife. She was slowly recovering from a fall in Calgary. We talked about the stressful situation back home and what nature can do to give you such a relaxed feeling. It felt like we were on the same wavelength with a lot of things, which was a pleasant surprise. Some people have conversations that stay on the surface of the topic, but this was like talking to someone, who was at the same level where you are at that very moment. Well, on we go to Moraine Lake, one of the most well-known lakes of Canada. We parked the bus at the parking lot and we were advised to take the road, that went climbing up the mountain, where we were standing. When we reached the top, we would have the most beautiful view towards the lake. The climbing wasn’t that difficult at all and the guide was right. From the top of this hill we did have an excellent view towards the lake, which was really breathtaking! Seeing the lake in the valley of the Wenkchemna Mountains has been one of the main reasons why we wanted to do this trip. It’s one of the pictures, that you’ll see so often in the brochures to West Canada. There are simply no words to describe the beauty of this lake! Our next stop will be at Lake Louise, where we would have a picknick. The weather was fine to do something like that. When we arrived at the parking lot, we walked towards the giant Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel, opposite the lake, that we would be visiting in a few minutes. At the buffet you could order your bread and something to drink and with this packed lunch, we walked towards some benches at the back of the hotel. The stunning view of the lake really makes you lost for words. We enjoyed the beautiful sight for a moment and took as many pictures as possible in front of the lake. Before eating our lunch, we realized that this would be the perfect spot for a group photo with the lake in the background and everybody agreed. After our lunch and the photo shoot, there was still some time to have a walk along the right side of the lake. On each and every corner of the path you want to make another picture to have the lake on each side as a memory. The time was a bit too short to walk all the way to the other side of the lake, but the walk was worth every single minute. This would be one of the most beautiful lakes, that we would be seeing during our Canadian trip and nothing will ever beat this, that’s for sure! However, we still have Emerald Lake on our ‘to-do’ list. First up we’ll make a stop in the area of Emerald Lake. Through the giant mountains is a trail, where trains follow their track. These trains can go up to one kilometer long. Sometimes a train goes into the mountain at the bottom or the base of this mountain and climbs itself a way up and may end on the top of another mountain from where it disappears into the wide world outside the mountains. You may also see a trail, that makes a curve, so when you are at the back of the train, the front of the train passes you by at the opposite trail, because it makes a curve underway. This is called the ‘Spiral Train Trails’. Above at the bridge nearby, there’s an exposition, where you can see all the positions and tracks of these train trails. A pity, that no train is passing by at the moment, so you can witness this strange phenomenon yourself. But it gives you a good overview how these trails find their way through the massive mountain complex. A few moments later we arrive at Emerald Lake, which is situated in Yoho National Park. At the beginning of this lake is an opportunity to hire a kayak to go up on the lake. As we only have about twenty minutes for a nice walk across the lake, we’ll skip this ‘adventure’. The path next to the lake leads to a bungalow park, where people are able to spend their vacation. I could spend some time there, if I wanted to. No problem! And maybe this isn’t the most beautiful lake, that you will get to see in Canada, but the area looks absolutely amazing and you know that we came to see a piece of the mighty nature in Canada. Mission accomplished, so to speak. A little bit further away there are some wild waterfalls and a natural bridge. Some people are taking high risks to make a great picture, but you can also walk the safe trail to get some nice pictures for your holiday photo album. At the site of Emerald Lake there’s a group of Japanese tourists hanging around and the same people have been following us, when visiting the waterfalls. When walking back to the bus, something very funny is going on. Peter, who’s almost as tall as I am (1.95 meter) walked next to these Japanese people, who looked at him as if he was a giant and they were just a bunch of very tiny ants. So before they got into their bus, Peter posed on his knees next to some of the Japanese ladies. Just imagine that even on his knees, he was so much bigger than these women. Very hilarious, but these ladies had the time of their life! It’s always nice to have a bit of fun while being on the road. Our next hotel is situated in a little industrial city, called Golden. We’re a bit outside the city center and to go to there to have a decent meal is a bit too far away. We decided to look for a nice place to eat somewhere in this area and also Rini & Ria and Marianne & Peter were all for it. On the other side of the road there are a bunch of restaurants and one of them, The Fire Pit, also got some very good reviews in the city guide, a magazine that we found at our hotel. This restaurant was opposite the hotel. They did have the usual burgers and steaks on the menu, but tonight the company is very special and besides we have to eat something. So we decided to eat at The Fire Pit with the other two couples. Rita picked a steak (beef) with French fries and I chose a mix of beef and pork with French fries. A little taste of ice cream marked the closure of a very nice day. The Fire Pit was indeed a great choice. A very pleasant service, a good dinner, nice music in the background and a very fair price. Obviously, Keith and Bob got the same idea and they also had dinner there. When walking back to the hotel, this truck driver came up to us. He had his truck loaded with some giant stacks of hay. He had bought them at a sale, but on the highway he lost a few. It was another nice example of how easy you get in touch with the local people. He told us, that he had to bring these stacks to Sicamous the next day and wished us a good night. He pronounced the name of this city as ‘ sick moose ‘, which is why I remember the name of this small town so well. Tomorrow we would go to Salmon Arms and we would pass through Sicamous. Will we be able to meet our good friend with the hay carrier again? Please read on to see the answer to this question.

Day 7; On Monday, September 12th, 2011 we take a trip to Salmon Arms. We’re advised to do some shopping in the local supermarket, because there won’t be many opportunities to buy something eatable underway. So in Golden we make a stop at the super market to buy our breakfast. When I get in, the door closes behind my back. The next one of the group wants to open the door, but fails. It’s stuck. Two people are trying to do something about it, but they only get lucky after about five minutes. Anyway, with a basket full of stuff to eat we continue our way from Yoho National Park to Glacier National Park through the well-known Rogers Pass. This is a well-known road, that also has a visitor center, that shows what you can do in this neighborhood. We decide to have a stop there and have a walk through the little museum, situated in this visitor center. The museum displays some old implements that people used to work with in the past, some old maps and some stuffed animals like bears, wolves, etcetera. A nice stop, where you could even get your picture taken in a copper trouser, if you wanted to. You should only see this picture….. Outside the museum, the temperature is rising fast already and it would reach a very nice 27 degrees today. I also noticed a little bird outside the museum on the parking lot. I am sure, that it was a blue woodpecker. Not that special for this area maybe, but in Holland you will rarely see it anymore these days, I guess. A few kilometers after this stop, we would have our next stop at the Giant Cedars Nature Trail. You could do a very nice walk through the woods there, which we did for about half an hour. I always get very happy, when doing a walk like that. The peace, that seems to come from the woods… The quietness, the fresh air, all the beautiful colors from the trees and plants. This is simply amazing! About an hour later, we’ll have our next stop and lunch at a museum annex Ghost Town. Only a few people (including yours truly!) took the opportunity to spend a few dollars to get into the museum. But man, did we have a great time! You could watch old houses like a church, a school, a jail, working place and these houses were all set up with wooden dolls in old fashioned clothes and old furniture, that was used in places like a jail or a school in the last century. It was like a giant outdoor museum, where you could have a wonderful trip through memory lane. Inside you could watch old cars, trains and a whole lot of other old stuff reminding you of the good old days. No stress, no computers, except a good old time feeling. We walked along all these old houses with Rini and Ria. At the end of this trip, we took one final visit to the graveyard of this ghost town. Cool! We also advised Bob to add this museum to his excursions in the near future. You could easily spend two hours there without a dull moment. Our lunch time was very well spend here. For the next stop we would visit another historical place. As you can see, this trip is such an amazing mix of nature, places of interest, places with an historical background and also several cities. Our next stop would especially be interesting for train fans. For ages, the Eastern part of Canada has got a long railway line going from the Canadian Rockies towards places like Montreal, Toronto and Quebec. However, the Western part wasn’t included in this at all. Then the day came, that Vancouver got connected to this railway line as well. We would be visiting the spot, where those two railway lines (or trails) were connected to each other. It’s marked with a memorial point and an old station house, where the trains are being moved into the right direction. Next to this place, you can watch the still existing railway. While inside the station house you can buy all kind of things, that have any connection with trains at all. A very nice spot to visit or if you don’t like trains, you can enjoy the sunshine. The little town, where the ‘the last spike’ was nailed in the railway is called Craigellachie, if anyone wants to get all the details right here. Back to the parking lot there was a guy, who has been travelling all around Canada on his bicycle. He originally came from England and has been travelling all over Europe through countries like Holland, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. If he could raise enough money, he would travel through the USA after this. Great respect for someone like that, who lives from gifts and the kindness of people that he gets to meet along the way. After a short chat, we wished him good luck and off we were to Sicamous for a special ice cream. The special thing about this ice cream is, that it’s made by an old Dutch family, who had built their company in Sicamous, where people would come and eat their delicious self-made ice cream. The DeWitt Diary is very well-known in this part of the country. The shop was founded by Chris and Nellie DeWitt. My uncle is called Ad de Wit, who recalls that they once were far relatives from each other. Names can slowly change over the years, you know. Outside the ice cream shop, some animals are walking around like a camel, a white peacock, a donkey and some goats and sheep. But in the shop you can buy the ice cream in about thirty different flavors, ranging from strawberry, chocolate and vanilla to praline and mango. These last two flavors were on our list, whereas I liked the mango flavor most. They also sold the well-known Dutch syrup waffles or like we call them ‘stroopwafels’ and ‘drop’, which is also a special treat in Holland. Oh, and for those people, who wondered if we have seen the man with the hay stacks again... Nope, we didn’t, but I know for sure that his car was parked outside the farm there. Opposite the ice cream shop there’s a stable, where they sold all kinds of vegetables and fruit. It was at least nice to have a look around and see what kind of exotic fruit and veggies, they offered for sale. It’s still a short drive before we would arrive at Salmon Arms, but we already had our treat of original Dutch ice cream. Who would think to find something like that in this part of the world? Our hotel in Salmon Arms is situated near the lake in a very beautiful environment. Unfortunately, there aren’t many alternatives other than to have dinner with the group, so that’s what it’s going to be. But before that happens, there’s still plenty of time to do some walking near the lakeside of Sushwap Lake. Just outside the hotel, a fish eagle has built its nest and attracts a lot of people. We’d already noticed, that the village looks quite nice too, so our next destination is to cross the railway opposite our hotel and pay a small visit to the little village as well. I have seen a cinema and a book store, called The Book Nook, so we would search for that. The cinema is quite easy to find and the book store, that I’ve seen is just around the corner. They have a lot of second hand books and the lady, who was helping in the store welcomed us very warmly. After looking around for a while, she came up to us and we had a very friendly talk. She wondered where we came from and what we’d seen so far and of course she was also interested in our upcoming destination. We already noticed, that her shop would close in a couple of minutes, but you could see that she really fancied a chat with us. She told us a little story about the salmon. We’ve seen the name of the salmon being implemented in the town’s name and we have also seen the fish on the menu of the hotel, where we would have dinner tonight. She told us, that the salmon over here was very good. The salmon is able to swim upstream the river. But the more you go inside the country, the more bumps the salmon will have to struggle with. So in the beginning of the river, the salmon is at its best and further up the river it gets more and more bruised. Which isn’t a good thing for the taste of the salmon. A very interesting story. There is no way out now and the menu of this evening would exist of salmon and French fries, as far as we’re concerned. We kindly said goodbye and for this lady it was time to close the door of her shop. The walk back to the hotel would be good for our appetite and the salmon. A big U-shaped table was already set up for us in the restaurant. The service wasn’t always perfect, because Marianne had to wait a very long time before her meal arrived. The salmon tasted very well though and so did the fries….

Day 8; Tuesday, September 13th, 2011 is the day that we would make the longest trip of this journey, namely to Whistler. Whistler is a winter sports destination. It has been an Olympic village during the Vancouver games. But there’s still a long way to cover... We will enjoy another day with a nice 24 degrees Celsius. We are in an area, in which the Indians ruled for years and you can find this back in the names of these villages. Our first stop is at Kalmloops, where we make some pictures of the Tunkwa Lake. Another giant, breathtaking lake, which makes you realize why you wanted to do this trip in the first place. At the various signs on the road, you can find a lot of information about the area, the plants and wild life over there. There’s also a sign, that warns you for rattlesnakes. Rita likes Whitesnake more, but I am a true rattlesnake rock and roller! The beautiful road, that we will follow today is very well-known as the ‘kicking horse trail’ and it’s absolutely amazing. You drive along the side of the river and you can look down at it from the mountainside, that you’re following. The photographers on the bus have been very busy trying to capture these beautiful sights on picture. Around every corner there’s another breathtaking sight and to be honest: you really don’t mind the long travel with views like that. For lunch we stop at the little cozy town, called Lillooet. We make a stop at the visitor center annex information shop. From there you can have a walk through the streets of this little village. The small town is well-known for jade (a stone), that’s found here. On the other side of the road there’s a rock store, where you can have a look at some of those big jade rocks. Do you want to know the chemical name of jade? Well, it’s Magnesiumalluminumcarboniumsilicate……. Oh, you already know?! The group however has got only one thing on their mind and that‘s to have a short lunch outside in the sunshine. Some people bought a snack at the bakery or stopped by at the burger tent, while we just bought some sandwiches at the local supermarket. From there on, we walked a bit through the village, which has got a really nice saloon. Yes, a saloon like the kind you sometimes see in the movies – old fashioned, but very original. The visitor center/museum is the place, where the bus would pick us up again. A few moments later we arrive at a ranch in Lillooet, where we would enjoy our afternoon coffee break. The ladies, who work at the ranch, are native Americans, as we should call them. I know, that it is so much cooler to talk about Indians, but it’s a nicer way to call them native Americans. The ranch has got a little rodeo drive outside with a small tribune. Inside we have a nice cup of coffee. On the first floor of this coffee room, they sell some stuff like toys, cards, and some native American stuff. Rita finds some nice earrings in the form of ‘dreamcatchers’ with a small blue turquoise stone in it. Just before we have to leave to the bus, we decide to buy them. They are by far the nicest pair they’ve got and were my personal first choice as well. That’s a nice thing about being together for such a long time and to be at the same wavelength. So earrings it is for the lady… Then the trip continues and we make one more stop at another giant lake. This time it’s only a nice break to stretch our legs, before the final stop would occur in Whistler today. The lakeside is covered with dead trees. I think, that a giant beaver made some overtime these past few months. Once again the view is very nice, but I think we’re a bit spoiled after visiting the first big lakes in the beginning of this trip. Whistler is our destination for this evening and we will stay in this hotel for two nights. There are a lot of folders distributed in our hotel room about where you can eat in this cozy yet very commercial city. Everything is prepared for large groups of sporty people, who come here to ski or practise any other (winter) sport, you can think of. We rest for a while and in between we take a look at the many opportunities, that we have for going out to dinner in Whistler. We decide to have a nice walk throughout the center of Whistler, while checking out some choices of restaurants along the way. It reminds me a little of Valkenburg in the very early eighties, meaning that it is very touristic. Or another city, that comes to mind, is Zakopane in Poland. Whereas a lot of Polish cities, that we have visited in 2002, are very grey and not really touristic at all, Zakopane looked so different. Whistler has got a very nice center and there are so many options to get a good meal. Our choice for tonight is the Indian Tandoori Grill. When finding this restaurant, which is situated above the Seven Eleven supermarket, our choice becomes quite obvious. Fair prices and a good appetite for Indian food made this the place to be tonight. When taking our order (Rita would go for the chicken tikka massala and my choice would be the chili chicken, both with keema nan (Indian bread), we heard some well-known voices. Cees and Nellie did have the same thoughts and joined us at the Indian restaurant. Afterwards, we wanted to find an ATM machine or a bank. Apparently, we went into the wrong direction and didn’t find one. No worries, we will try again tomorrow…..

Day 9; Wednesday, September 14th, 2011 is a day off and we have already decided to discover Whistler and take a (long) walk through one of the parks. The rest of the group will be going on a trip in another gondola, but we wanted to spend this day on our own. After a good night sleep, we walked to the city center of Whistler. The first thing we have on our ‘to-do’ list is to get some extra cash, because we will need some money for the last few days. The town is very well prepared for large groups of winter sport people. Many different kind of restaurants, a large stretched center and good facilities to make everyone feel very comfortable for young and old. Besides that, there are a lot of facilities in the neighborhood for people, who want to do some activities like skateboarding, rafting, biking and walking. The large woods are certainly inviting you to have a long walk or do a long bike tour. We’re having the same thoughts. But first up we’ll do a nice walk through the city center. It’s time to make some nice pictures and to have a good look around which restaurant we would pay a visit this evening. IAt the local super market we buy some food for lunch and at the information center we ask for a map and some suggestions for a nice walk in the afternoon. The clouds are already in the sky and the weather forecast tells us, that it will be raining tomorrow. Today the temperatures will be rising to 24 degrees Celsius, but only at the end of this afternoon. In the morning and early afternoon, it remains cloudy and chilly. We still decide to make a nice long walk through the woods to Lost Lake. This sounds very mysterious indeed! The beginning of the walking trail towards Lost Lake starts at the parking lot near the city center. The first part of the walk you follow the river for a while and after that, you go into the woods towards Lost Lake. The lake is a nice round lake, where you can swim and have a picnic. After having our lunch, we decide to continue our walk around the whole lake. On each and every corner the sun gives the lake another color and that’s the reason why Rita wants to shoot pictures from different angles of the lake. Some paths in the wood are not accessible to visitors, because it’s the time of year that the toads are going from the landside back to the water. After our walk, we go back to the village. This has been quite a walk and the temperatures are rising fast. Another beautiful day in Whistler, I’d say. When we return to the hotel, we reckon that the people of the group are slowly coming back from their trip with the gondola as well. We go to our room and decide to go back to the center after a short rest. In the evening we want to go and have dinner at a Japanese restaurant, which turns out to be an excellent choice in the end. The restaurant, that we have selected, has been recommended as one of the better sushi restaurants in Whistler. The sushi and sashimi tastes really delicious and they constantly refill our water and tea cup, which we see as a special kind of welcome. Another nice thing happened during our dinner. Rita was wearing an IRON MAIDEN sweater, because in the evening the temperature would drop down immensely. All of a sudden we heard “Can I Play With Madness” through the restaurant and the volume went up a bit during this song. When we paid our bill and wanted to leave the restaurant, one of the waiters came up to us. He told us, that he was a long time IRON MAIDEN fan and he had spotted Rita’s sweater. That’s why he turned up the sound a little. He was also a member of the fan club and told us, that he had lived in Holland for a while (in the neighborhood of ‘s Hertogenbosch and Waalwijk). Well, did you ever? He thought it was a nice idea to welcome his guests a little bit by turning up the sound. We had a nice chat with this guy and before we went home, we took the opportunity to buy something from the supermarket for our lunch tomorrow. We would leave Whistler again and go to Vancouver Island, to Victoria, the capitol of British Columbia.

Day 10; Thursday, September 15th, 2011 starts off a bit rainy and the temperature today will only reach 21 degrees. On this cold and rainy day we will visit Vancouver Island. We’ll go to the island by ferry, which takes us there in one hour and a half. The island is forty kilometers long and ten kilometers wide, which isn’t that big at all. The boat is very luxurious and we decide to just sit down and relax during this ninety minutes travel. When we arrive in Nanaimo, it has stopped raining, which is very convenient. Our first stop is at a place, called Duncan. The whole area of Vancouver and Victoria contains many places, where you can find totem poles. In Duncan they have a whole trail, which you can follow and you can see a whole lot of them there. It is something of this area and Duncan isn’t a real big city, so we have plenty of time to enjoy them poles without having to hurry up. We park the bus and what we noticed already is, that there’s a lot of youth hanging around in this neighborhood. This will be the normal street life for the last couple of days. Homeless people, sleeping outside in the cold and begging for money or food. Not only in Victoria and Vancouver, but also in a smaller city like Duncan. Cees looks very happy, because these totem poles are situated near the old station building, where an old steam locomotive is standing outside the building as well. The poles are very varied in shape and color. Big, small, animal shaped or with the shape of a tall human being. It‘s a very nice sight. When we came back, some of the homeless people have been gathering around our buss already. I guess, that they were hoping to get a lift, some money or something to eat. Children aged twelve or thirteen years old begging for food makes your heart cry, but once you start giving money, they will all come and ask you for more. This is a very serious matter, that the Canadian government should handle a much better way than they do now. When you listen to the news on the television, you hear that Canada is facing a terrible money crisis and a recession, so they aren’t doing very well financially. They will need all the money to invest in important projects. But this could very well be one of these good causes. It’s so complicated though, that they will possibly leave it this way for as long as they can, I guess. We will travel directly to Victoria, where we’ll have a look around in the harbor. Bob will collect the tickets for our whale spotting adventure the next day. We will also depart from that same harbor. We are able to see some of the planes departing there, that can land on water. They make a lot of noise, but it looks really cool to see them rise up from the water, when they start their flight. From the harbor we go straight to the Sandman Hotel, which is actually at the very beginning of the city center of Victoria. At the Sandman Hotel there’s the Shark Club, where we would have dinner tonight. The service is quite alright here, but I reckon that all the ladies of the group will think differently about that. High heeled and zero brains bimbos with big boobs will serve you in a way, that every man would like to have his dinner every night. The Shark Club is actually a big bar with many TV sets everywhere around you, so you can watch a football match or even a boxing game, while you’re eating. And of course, most men couldn’t make up their mind what to choose and asked lots of questions about the menu… Anyway, Rita went for the regular burger with French fries, while I wanted to taste their hot Jambalaya. Jambalaya is a rice dish with chicken, mushrooms and peppers covered with a whole lot of spicy herbs. A very good choice and the meal only made me hotter than hell……oops!! We also got in touch with some guys hanging out in the bar. They asked us, why we were in Canada, for how long and what our plans were in Victoria. When we said, that we would be doing some whale spotting tomorrow, they guaranteed us, that we would have a great time. Victoria started off in a great way already. Tomorrow we would see a bit more of this lovely city.

Day 11; Friday, September 16th, 2011. Today, the temperature will only reach 17 degrees, so it’s excellent weather for a long walk. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do this morning. We will walk towards the centre of Victoria and hopefully see the killer whales today. We decide to walk down Douglas Street, which is the main street, that will bring us to the centre. The long road is easy to walk and in the meantime, you can also have a good look around in the neighborhood. For instance we pass a military basis, that looks like a giant prison at first. When walking down the road, we just can’t resist to check out how big this building really is. We also pass Chinatown, but we have already decided that we would have dinner there somewhere, so we didn’t really stop there now and went straight on. When we passed the McDonalds, we thought it was a good idea to have a cup of coffee there before going any further. Slowly, the first shops rise up and we’re in the center. It looks very cozy and you can spend hours and hours in all the great shops there. We have until noon, because afterwards we’ll have to gather at the harbor for our whale spotting adventure trip. We see the Houses of Parliament and decide to walk around it a bit. The harbor is opposite the Houses of Parliament and there are some huge hotels as well in this area. It all looks very nice and we enjoyed it a lot. After taking many pictures, we are about to be getting something to eat for on the boat and we check out some shops. Then we notice this big book store, called Munro Books. They have a nice collection of books and we manage to find the CHERIE CURRIE book with the American cover from the last updated edition. So we decide to put it aside and collect it afterwards. We would also do some record store hunting after the whale spotting, because the clock is slowly ticking towards twelve o’clock now. Time to move our ass towards the harbor, where our boat is waiting. During this trip, a Chinese camera team will be joining us, that are filming the trip for a television broadcast. Soon we will become super heroes, because about five million people will get to see us on national television. My new career could start there. In the meantime, our departure time has been rescheduled and delayed for about half an hour. Time to visit the souvenir shops once again to pass the time. Finally, we can go on board and leave the harbor. We would sail for about an hour and get into American territorial waters to spot those killer whales. First, there’s nothing to worry about. Later on, it’s getting quite chilly, but there’s still land in sight. After a while it’s getting very, very cold and you need a good warm coat, vest or sweater. After forty-five minutes or something, we see two speed boats coming closer. They are equipped with sonar and they actually spot the group of killer whales and direct us to them. Somewhere near a big group of killer whales, the boat stops and all of a sudden we see some tails coming from the water and another one and another one. There’s a huge group here, but they are so fast and our hands are really freezing. It’s almost impossible to take some decent pictures, because of these two details. We only have a few pix of some tails coming from the water. But the sight of these immense animals is really worth this whole stone cold trip and we wouldn’t have missed it for the world. It’s a shame, that we couldn’t take better pictures, but I think we will never forget these precious moments on American territorial waters. When we reach the coast again, the sun has started to shine and the temperature rises slowly. When we leave the boat, we reckon that we still have enough time to do some shopping in this nice town. We know that there are some good record shops here, so it’s time for some action. We decide to collect the CHERIE CURRIE book first and at the book store we ask, if there are any good record stores in town. The guy, that served us, is a little bit older than we are and he started to talk seriously about music and asked us where we came from. After some talking about Dutch rock bands and music in general, he told us that we have to search for Ditch, which is a fairly good and interesting record store. Walking there didn’t take much time, but you see so many nice shops along the way, that you want to pop in for a second, so in the end it has taken us quite some time to get there. We spotted a very huge book store for example, which actually consisted of two different book stores of three floors each. It has many used or second hand books, but they have a more than awesome collection indeed. A little bit further down the road is Ditch, which has a large collection of LP’s and Cd’s and even a corner, where they still sell cassettes. Okay, when you have such a giant music collection like we have, you won’t find anything really interesting that easy. Except maybe a KING DIAMOND double live bootleg… The price scared us away real fast, but they sure did have a very good collection. When we asked there about any other good record stores, they told us about Turntable in Chinatown. Now, isn’t that a coincidence? We were just about to be heading there for dinner this evening. On our way to Chinatown, we passed a little independent record store with many punk and alternative rock music. Nothing for us, but the shop keeper noticed our interest and again we had a nice conversation about music. When we mentioned, that we wrote about music on our websites, he got interested even more and we gave him our business card, so he could check it out. He also recommended us to stop by at Turntable, which was situated in a very narrow alley in Chinatown. A place, you would have never searched for it at all, but it was really worth it. Two older guys managed the store and another couple just entered the store, when we came in. Obviously, they knew the two managers and chatted a bit, while we checked out their nice collection. Many old stuff, but definitely worth checking out. Then one of the managers introduced the other couple to LIVIN BLUES. This is a blues band from Holland. When we told him, that we were from Holland, the conversation quickly moved on to bands like SHOCKING BLUE, FOCUS, CUBY AND THE BLIZZARDS and BRAINBOX. The other manager showed us some interesting items in their collection and also told us, that vinyl was definitely heading for a giant comeback. Good news to hear. Time was running out fast and during our search for this cozy record store, we already checked out a few possible places to eat. Now you really can’t go wrong in Chinatown, but this Chinatown wasn’t that big, so we decided to continue our search after Turntable. At the very beginning of Chinatown we noticed a restaurant, that served a good meal for very little money. When we arrived at the restaurant, we spotted Cees and Nellie at a table eating there. It´s a small world…. We made another turn around the block, but returned to this restaurant, when Cees and Nellie were just about to leave. They said, that the food was fine and so we decided to check it out. Tea and water was for free and we ordered our meals. You really get a whole lot of food for very little money. I ordered a Szechuan beef and Rita took a Tepan Yaki dish with shrimps and green peppers. A good choice for both and we left the restaurant with a stuffed belly. From Chinatown, it was still a few blocks away from the Sandman Hotel. I guess, that some of our male travelers of the group choose to eat at the Sharks Club again. If only for the nice service and exciting look by the ladies. Victoria turned out to be a great city and we could have easily stayed a couple of more days here without any trouble, but unfortunately we would leave the island tomorrow and return to Vancouver for the last two days of our trip.

Day 12; Saturday, September 17th, 2011. The temperature will rise back to 19 degrees today. We will be leaving Victoria soon and go into a different direction than the one, we entered through Nanaimo and Duncan. We would leave the island through Taswassen. First up, we will make a nice trip along the coast line through Beacon Hill Park, where you can find the statue of Terry Fox. Terry got cancer and because of that, his leg had to be amputated. Despite losing his leg, he started a foundation for cancer. He decided to run throughout Canada, each day another marathon. The money, that he raised with that, was given to various research centers in Canada. Terry did this for 143 days and then he had to change plans, because the cancer was winning the uneven battle from Terry. Nine months later, Terry died at the age of 22. And we are worried, when the sun doesn’t shine or when we can’t find the right CD, that we want to buy. There are so much more important things in life. Your health is so much more important than all the material stuff in the world. And by hearing this story, you get back to the real world and you realize how lucky you are to be able to do things like this. Well, back to our trip along the coast line now. There are a lot of beautiful, expensive bungalows and villas along the way and when we do a photo stop, we’re able to see the coast of several other islands, that are around this area. We could also follow this coast line during our boat trip. Now we see it from the other side. When we arrive in Taswassen, we are getting ready for an early return to Vancouver. Vancouver, by the way, is also one of the many examples, that Canada has got a lot of Dutch roots. It’s originally derived from van Coevorden, which became vancouvorden and finally Vancouver over the years. So why can’t Ad de Wit be a relative of Chris and Nelie DeWitt?? But this useless jabber is just to kill the time, while travelling from Taswassen to van Coevorden. When we arrive in this amazing city, we are ready for the big city tour by bus. First we take a stop at the totem poles in Stanley Park. This park is situated near the coast. You can see the harbor on one side of the park, while on the other side you look right at the skyline of Vancouver. This is such an amazing sight! You can do some cycling in the park, go jogging, do some walking or do some working out in general. Well, we have to save that for tomorrow, because today we will be hanging around with the group, while we are free to discover the city separately tomorrow. The bus takes us to the harbor side of the park and there are some amazing sights over the Frazier River. One of them is called Prospection Point View, where we park the bus and take some pictures. We even have time enough to drink some hot chocolate. The view towards the harbor and the bridge is really stunning and again we take a lot of pictures. Then a very sad moment appears, because after an awesome trip, we would say goodbye to our bus driver Keith. He will drop us off at the Sandman Hotel in Davy Street and from there on, he will return to Banff. Keith has been an amazingly nice guy and a very good chauffeur and saying goodbye to him is quite difficult indeed. Goodbye, Keith, it was so nice to meet you – thank you and all the very best to you and your family! The view from this hotel is really stunning! We have a wonderful view above the city, a big balcony and a separate bedroom, two TV sets and a marvellous kitchen, which is even more luxurious than our own kitchen back home. From here we are going to make plans for our last day off in Vancouver tomorrow. Of course the day hasn’t come to an end just yet. We still have a few hours left, in which we can discover the city a little bit. Walking down Davy Street is a good start. From there, we can see what we want to do and how many time we have doing this. The first shop of interest that we noticed is the vintage rock and roll t-shirt shop. Dump your old tour shirts here and they’ll sell it for amazing prices. Old STYX t-shirt selling for 350 Canadian dollars. Very old PAT TRAVERS tour t-shirts (small size only unfortunately) are being sold for over a hundred dollars and I don’t even want to talk about the original ROLLING STONES tour shirts from the seventies. It all looked amazing to me and a lot of shirts I’d never seen before. Thinking about back home and my own t-shirt collection, I already think of myself as a very rich man. Over a hundred t-shirts are in my room, some of them old, some of them very old. Problem is, that I don’t want to sell them and I don’t want to get rid of them. Otherwise I know where to go now. In the evening we will be having diner here. And we already looked around for some suitable restaurants to do that. We still have a few hours to go though. In one of the big sidestreets we find an amazing shop, called the Rock Shop. A store with hundreds of t-shirts, patches, stickers, ear rings, wallets, sweaters, flags, jackets, posters, playing cards and anything else you can think of with rock stars printed on them. We could watch there for hours and we even bought two sets of guitar ear rings and a WHITESNAKE necklace. The service was amazing and I would highly recommend a visit to this shop, if you are a rock fan or even when you’re not. The amazing sight of their collection alone will make you happy. We are walking down the road a bit more and we pass a concert hall, where the band DEVO is on the bill for tomorrow. They were quite huge in the late seventies, early eighties and still touring. Not our taste though, but always nice to know that these guys are still around. In the meantime we are getting hungry and we have decided that we will visit the Thai restaurant on the corner of Davie Street. We talked to a guy, who just came out of the restaurant and noticed that we were checking out the menu and price list. He told us, that this was the best Thai restaurant in the whole area of Vancouver. Since we didn’t try out any Thai food yet, the choice was obvious to us. The Thai red curry was simply amazing and the ice cream in the shape of a pear was quite delicious too, but you could tell that it came from the freezer. The strawberry filling and chocolate on top of the ice cream was very good. The prices were a bit higher than average maybe, but comparing to the prices you pay for good Thai food in Holland, they were quite reasonable. The service was good and the two waitresses were dressed in traditional Thai clothing, which made it very special. This would be the last day we would be able to have dinner together, because tomorrow we would have dinner with the group, on our last evening in Vancouver, Canada. The last miles along Davie Street were difficult, because we had to climb a little bit after doing a lot of walking today. Tomorrow would be a day off for us to do some more discovering of this nice city. When arriving at the hotel though, we heard that within one block from the hotel, there was a record store. We still had some time to check this one out, before we would go back to our room. Outside the shop was some vinyl and some alternative looking youngsters were hanging around. It didn’t look too positive, but we gave it a try. When we walked inside and asked if they had a heavy metal section, they told us that we had to look through the pop section near the right wall of the store. Metal and pop doesn’t really mix very well and the collection wasn’t what we’d hoped for. In a small room next to the actual store we heard some people talking. We saw some young girls walking around, talking slowly and the smell of weed spread around the store. I think they were dealing or using drugs back there, while operating the store. Exit record store, up to our room and heading for our final day in pretty Vancouver.

Day 13; Sunday, September 18th, 2011 is another day off. Room for a long, good night sleep, a good decent breakfast and after this, we will prepare ourselves for a very long walk. I already have made some plans for a few long walks. We could easily skip things, but we also didn’t want to miss out on certain things. With this in mind, we started our walk. Davie Street downhill, we have already seen yesterday, so we went uphill to see ‘Amazing Laughter’, a group of statues from the Chinese artist Yue Minjun. Very well-known and something you simply must see when you visit Vancouver. Denman Street is next and from there we go to Robson street, which is THE shopping street of Vancouver. To us, it actually wasn’t something special, but it would bring us to the HMV store. Three stores of rock and roll fun. We didn’t find anything at all though, but it is always nice checking out the collection of such a big store. When we were in the basement, I had to go to the bathroom. Since there are no bathroom in HMV, we decided to go to a big warehouse. On the second floor there were toilets. When we found them, one man was waiting outside. After two minutes, the door was still closed, and the need was getting bigger and bigger, so we went up to the third floor. The toilets there were out of order. SHIT!! Almost literary, now what to do next? Up to the fourth floor then. After a long search, we finally found something and guess what?????? Pfew, what a relieve! The Thai food from yesterday could finally find its final destination. Just in time! Back to Robson Street and up to Granville Street, where we will take a right to Granville Island. There should be a nice outside market, so we have read. When we arrive at the bridge that leads you to Granville Island, we see that it’s still a long walk from the end of the bridge to the actual market. There is no way, that you can make a shortcut, so we decided to leave Granville market for what it is and stay in the centre part of Vancouver. First a quick lunch and then back to the shops again. In Granville Street we find a McDonalds for some chicken McNuggets and a coke. We’re watching people for a while, before we return to the shopping area. We go to Gastown first with the well-known gas clock standing on the corner of the street. We waited for the steam coming out of the clock whistling a short tune, made by the force where the steam leaves the clock, through flute shaped pipes. An amazing sight, that happens every fifteen minutes. Gastown has a lot of trendy shops and boutiques. We also went to Vinyl Records in Hastings Street, one of the longer shopping streets in this district. The record collection they had was big, but unorganized and they didn’t really have something interesting in there. The other shop was untraceable, so we went down to Chinatown. We knew, that we wanted to go to Chinatown, but we didn’t go too much eastwards. They’d told us, that this neighborhood is a bad one and it wasn’t safe to go there, even not on a clear light day. Entering Chinatown, we already noticed the change of the environment. More and more homeless people and beggars were here and in some of the side streets you could actually see whole camps, where these people sleep at night. So we stayed in the first two blocks. That’s also where the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Gardens are situated. A Chinese garden in the middle of Vancouver. You could visit half of the garden by yourself and for the other half you have to pay a high entrance fee. The free part of this garden was very interesting and asked for a couple of more photo moments. When we looked on our watch, it was really time to go and we slowly walked our way back to the hotel. In between we had already thought about some ideas for souvenirs for our family and we bought those on our way back to the hotel. At seven o’clock we would meet in the lobby for a final diner with the whole group. Tomorrow we would go to the airport all together and from there on, we would fly back directly to Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. Bob had arranged some tables in the Italian restaurant opposite the hotel. For the last time we shared a table with Ria and Rini and with Peter and Marianne. We heard their stories of what they have been doing this day. Rini and Ria went biking through Stanley Park and they even saw a few raccoons. That would have been cool. The Italian food was good. I ordered a Tortellini Con Funghi and Rita ordered the Italian pasta with salmon. The tiramisu was served as desert and then our holidays in Canada were over. What a great vacation! If you like a good combination of nature and visiting some nice cities, this is a must for each and every globe trotter. The next day we would leave in the early afternoon, so we had plenty of time before we would fly back to Holland.

Day 14; Monday, September 19th, 2011 is a day to relax, because we would have a long and heavy flight on the agenda. To be sure that we would be on time at the airport, we left the hotel very early. We were collected by a bus with a female driver. She drove the whole group to the airport. Most of the people went directly through customs, because they could get rid of all their suitcases this way. Everything went smoothly. We would officially not sit next to each other, but we could always try to arrange something in the plane ourselves. Which we did and so we could start our long flight back home again. Not only we would fly for about eight hours and a half, but we would also lose time because of the various time zones that we would fly through. Nobody could harm us now, our flight was good, we had some nice meals and before we realized it, we already set foot on Dutch soil again. This was on the next and final day of our holidays in 2011.

Day 15; Thuesday, September 20th, 2011. We have arrived safely in Holland. After collecting our suitcases, it was time to say goodbye to our fellow travelers. We’ve already exchanged email addresses for the group picture, made at Lake Louise. The rest of our trip consisted of a train trip to Utrecht, from there on, we would travel to Geldermalsen and then two more stops to go to Leerdam. We arrived at our house in the late afternoon, which wasn’t too bad. We still have a couple of days to let all those precious moments go by in our memories. This has been such an amazing trip and if I have to rate it myself, I would give it a third place of all the trips, that we have done so far after America and Japan, and just before our trip to Russia.

Text by: Toine van Poorten.
Photos by: Toine & Rita van Poorten