A Travellerspoint blog

Train Across Canada: Winnipeg to Montréal

sunny 24 °C

Visiting the Manitoba Museum, I learnt about the Hudson Bay Railway, and it created a great desire in me to take a ride up to Churchill. Construction started in the 1880's but the line was not actually finished until 1929 - there were plenty of engineering, financial and political challenges standing in the way of completion, as well as a diversion of energies to World War 1. Having a northern port was important, as it would provide a short route to Europe for the grains grown in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Originally it was to go to Port Nelson, but that port proved to be too difficult - shallow, riptides and bad storms combined to see the port operate for just four years and the railway diverted to Churchill (just one of a number of cul-de-sacs and false starts). Various photos made it look like quite a trip but, alas, I was committed to heading East.

When I arrived in Winnipeg, my train was a couple of hours late, so I had no real expectation that the train I was to leave on would be on time. I checked in my bags at around 8:00 and was told that my train, timetabled to leave at 22:30, would not even arrive until 1:30, and probably not leave for another 3 hours because there were problems with one of the fuel tanks, so re-fuelling would be a slow process. I hung round the Forks area in a bar having drinks and dinner as long as I could, but it was a long long wait in the Winnipeg Station, although the train did get away before 3:00 in the end.

While in Winnipeg, I'd spent a day out at the University of Manitoba, and finally found a University that had some traditional university-looking buildings. I also really liked the look of the Fort Garry hotel - it was my back-up if I'd arrived too late for Tara.
University of Manitoba

University of Manitoba

University of Manitoba

University of Manitoba

University of Manitoba

University of Manitoba

Fort Garry Hotel, Winnipeg

Fort Garry Hotel, Winnipeg


The train to Toronto was essentially the same as the one from Vancouver although with a different crew, naturally. It probably had even fewer passengers, so there was plenty of room to spread out and no problems with getting space in the dining car or up in the dome. The scenery was much the same as the scenery to the west - mile after mile of trees, although with more lakes and rivers. I just settled into my Alexandria Quartet, my nightly Breaking Bad episode and enjoyed the ride.
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There was a young German couple who got on in Winnipeg with whom I had breakfast the first morning, along with a local fellow - the four of us spent most of the day in the dome car, but the local and the guy from the couple got so engrossed in discussions of hunting that the girl left them to it and I returned to my book. At one point, four guys from various parts of Canada who had flown in to do some fishing surrounded me and I got caught up in their conversation. Apart from that, there wasn't much socialising this trip.

Rumours went up and down the train as to how late we'd be getting to Toronto - at one point, people were saying we'd made up quite a lot of time but the reality was rather different. I was supposed to arrive at 9:30, but didn't actually make it in until after 18:00! Via Rail does give discount vouchers when they are more than 4 hours late, but they were no good to me. I did appreciate the fact that the guy running the snack bar just gave up charging for coffee and on the last day made us all lunch. It did mean that my day of checking out Toronto didn't happen - by the time I arrived, my two friends were already waiting for me, so we wandered over to the Mill Street Brewhouse, ate far too much and had a great time.
CN Tower, Toronto

CN Tower, Toronto


The train to Montreal was a different sort of train, used more by people commuting between Toronto and Montreal - just standard seats, a wee food cart trundling through the carriages, wi-fi and most importantly, on time! I think four different people sat in the seat beside me, but it was not the sort of train that people would talk to strangers.

I spent five nights in Montréal, although I didn't plan things very well. My first two nights, I stayed in a wonderful old hotel, the
Hotel Abri du Voyageur, with creaky, polished wooden floors, corridors that twisted and undulated, friendly staff and a very pleasant vibe.
Hotel l'Abri du Voyageur, Montreal

Hotel l'Abri du Voyageur, Montreal


Because I wanted to see the old city, I moved out into the hostel, which was at the other and, as it turned out, wrong end of town - I was MUCH closer in the hotel, and it was a better experience. The hostel was chocker, stank of weed the whole time I was there (which is really unusual for a Hostelling International property) - I was even offered "hash" at one point, and there were no potatoes involved. The hostel was quite adamant about allocating beds, so when I found someone had taken the one they allocated to me, they moved all his stuff out - didn't stop him trying to climb in with me at about 4:00 in the morning.

I visited the library at McGill one day, which turned into an unusual experience - during the afternoon it was pretty quiet, but come evening, it was pretty much totally deserted. They put a security guard on after hours to ensure only authorised people could come in - which meant once I was in, I had to stay in until I was finished for the day. Going home one evening, I got off the subway and was disgorged into the bowels of Concordia University, which looked like a cross between a hollowed out office block and a mall. Their library is open 24/7 - it occurred to me that it would have been interesting to just stay in the library and not bother with a hostel - I'm sure they have the occasional student nod off. Most of my work was done in the Bibliothèque et Archives Nationales du Québec, another grand and practically brand new library.

I had three really good food experiences when I was there. Montréal is famous for two types of food - poutine (which I have no desire to eat) and smoked meats. Although it is a New York institution, the reuben sandwich is a natural fit with this, and I went to a restaurant called Reubens to have one: it was the most ridiculous sort of sandwich I have ever eaten - two thin slices of bread, as normal, but attempting to contain a mountain of smoked beef. I had to use a knife and fork on this one.
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I also found the perfect cafe, Pikolo Espresso Bar, which was a tiny space, full of interesting people, great coffee and food. I would have happily set myself up to work there (several others had) but I didn't think it would be very fair on the number of people wanting to sit down.
Pikolo Espresso Bar

Pikolo Espresso Bar

Pikolo Espresso Bar

Pikolo Espresso Bar

Pikolo Espresso Bar

Pikolo Espresso Bar

Pikolo Espresso Bar

Pikolo Espresso Bar


Right next door was a very dangerous place for me, the Papeterie Nota Bene: a shop stuffed with beautiful papers, journals, pencils, pens, satchels and associated goodies. I was very good and only spent $22.50 - on pencils alone (to add to the 4 dozen I bought in Hong Kong, although here I only netted 8 pencils).
Papeterie Nota Bene

Papeterie Nota Bene

Papeterie Nota Bene

Papeterie Nota Bene


On the Friday night, I popped into a bar, thinking I'd have a drink and some food. I'm pretty good about travelling on my own, but for some reason, sitting in this bar saw my mood sink beneath the floor - I had to leave. I was still hungry and on the way back to the hostel saw what I thought was a Japanese cafe, which turned out to be mainly Korean. The two wait-staff were incredibly nice, one even warned me that the plate of Korean Fried Chicken I was ordering was "very large". Sitting in this space, chowing down on my fried chicken (I ate the lot), having a beer, watching the young Koreans having a great time restored my mood and I went home with a smile on my face. The staff had been so nice, I thought they deserved a generous tip, so told them they'd increase their business just by putting pictures of their glorious fried chicken outside.

I'm going to do a seperate post about my wander through the old city, so just have a few random photos of a few things that caught my eye as I walked between the cafe and the library
Boulevard de Maisonneuve Est, Montreal

Boulevard de Maisonneuve Est, Montreal

Boulevard de Maisonneuve Est, Montreal

Boulevard de Maisonneuve Est, Montreal

Boulevard de Maisonneuve Est, Montreal

Boulevard de Maisonneuve Est, Montreal

Sculpture, Boulevard de Maisonneuve Est, Montreal

Sculpture, Boulevard de Maisonneuve Est, Montreal

Posted by NZBarry 18:50 Archived in Canada Tagged montreal Comments (2)

Walking Winnipeg Part II

sunny 24 °C

My previous entry had me at the Provincial Legislature, which was very open to the public. This idea of being accessible was also reflected in something else I encountered on my walk: in the shadows of the Legislature (and the Manitoba Supreme Court), there was a war going on, the kind of war I like - a Foodtruck war! It was part of Manyfest - Broadway was closed off for several blocks, there were three or so stages pumping out music, multiple stalls selling crap (way too many selling mini donuts), and the Foodtruck war. This had 20 or so foodtrucks lined up, seeing who could have the most customers. I visited twice, and pigged out on pulled pork (sorry), tacos, sausages, burgers and all sorts of goodies. Off to the side there was a fenced off area where I could take my food and enjoy a quiet ale or two. Off to the other side, there was something completely different - a demonstration of an antique threshing machine.
Supreme Court

Supreme Court

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I had another phase of the walking tour - this saw me start on main street, take in the Exchange District, which is a 20 block area where all the original commercial buildings of Winnipeg are located. The town has moved away a bit, but there are still 150 or so buildings still standing - a couple of hotels in original condition, but mostly the buildings have been done up quite nicely, with several condominium conversions and ground floors being used as restaurants. I was a bit pressed for time so didn't really spend long there - it would have been ideal to actually stay in the area and get a good look.
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Pantages Playhouse Theatre

Pantages Playhouse Theatre

large_WP_20140907_053.jpglarge_WP_20140907_052.jpgPantage Playhouse

Pantage Playhouse

Selkirk Settlers

Selkirk Settlers


Towards the end of the 18th century, things were pretty awful in Scotland - rich landowners were a bit tired of all the people living on their land with their small enclosures and wanted to switch to the more profitable sheep-farming, so had a bit of a pogrom, burnt their houses, sold some into slavery, sent others off in so-called (for obvious reasons) coffin ships. This was "The Highland Clearances": one Lord Selkirk decided to do something about it and arranged for a group of 23 to be settled in what is now Winnipeg - back then, it was probably nothing. These Selkirk settlers brought wheat with them and turned the land into farmland.

The Manitoba Museum is in this area. The plan had originally been to see the Railway Museum which occupies a couple of platforms of the railway station, but they had some sort of power outage which saw them close for the weekend, so I swapped in the Manitoba Museum. I was not planning to see it because Tara, who is on her way to being a museum designer, was a bit down on it, but it turned out to have so much going on that it was a bit much to take in in one visit. It has some pretty good exhibits
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One area is set up as a port town, in which there is a replica of a small ship called the Nonsuch, which made the very first trading journey into the area for the Hudson Bay Company - which now seems to exist as large, glamourous department stores (although not so much in Winnipeg).
Seafaring Village

Seafaring Village

large_WP_20140907_007.jpgNonsuch Replica

Nonsuch Replica

large_WP_20140907_010.jpglarge_WP_20140907_018.jpgMain Cabin, Nonsuch

Main Cabin, Nonsuch

Cabin on the Nonsuch

Cabin on the Nonsuch


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Hudson Bay Store

Hudson Bay Store


The last one amused me, because this is apparently how the Hudson Bay store first looked - a far cry from the department stores. In another area, there is a replica small town, complete with a wee cinema where I spent an enjoyable 20 minutes watching Buster Keaton's The Blacksmith. There is also a miner's cottage and the sort of cabin the early settlers to Red River lived in.
Red River Settler's Cabin

Red River Settler's Cabin

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Outside again, I crossed the Red River to the French Quarter, which was a bit disappointing - there were some nice looking cafes but they were all closed, and a bookshop in which all the books were in French, so no use to me. I quite enjoyed the small Garden of Sculptures (I have since discovered there is a much larger one near the zoo). There is a small Catholic University (St Boniface) and Cathedral. The students showed a bit of pluck - the local citizenry were a bit disturbed by a statue of Louis Riel. He is credited with founding Manitoba, and was a staunch advocate for the rights of the local Métis people - he led a couple of rebellions against the Canadian government, established himself at the head of a provisional government of Manitoba and was ultimately hanged for treason. The artist wanted to reflect this difficult life in the statue, and did have it established in the grounds of the Legislature, but people thought he looked a bit too anguished and wanted it gone. The St Boniface students decided it should feature at the University, and it stands immediately outside.
Red River Railbridge

Red River Railbridge

Entre chien et loup or Between Dog and Wolf by Joe Fafard

Entre chien et loup or Between Dog and Wolf by Joe Fafard

Curiosities by Francis Montillaud

Curiosities by Francis Montillaud

large_270_IMG_9217.jpglarge_IMG_9219.jpgLouis Riel Monument

Louis Riel Monument

Saint Boniface Cathedral

Saint Boniface Cathedral


Crossing back over the Red River, it was hard to miss a weirdly shaped building - some have said it is grotesque - this is the so-new-it-was-not-open Canadian History of Human Rights. My journey finished at the Forks, where the Red and Assiniboine Rivers meet. It is apparently a place of great historic significance for the Métis people, but the main reasons people go there are the play area, the shops and the cafes. It is immediately behind the rail station and Main Street.
Museum of Human Rights

Museum of Human Rights


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Posted by NZBarry 22:12 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Winnipeg: A Walking Tour

sunny 23 °C

My only reason for stopping at Winnipeg was that it is roughly half way between Vancouver and Toronto. I had basically done nothing to find out what it might offer, although of course I know it is the capital of Manitoba, so would not be one of those blink and you miss it sort of places - that would be a terrible way to spend four days between trains. At one place we stopped, the most lively place was the fire-station - someone had obviously left the lights on when they went to bed. The banner proclaiming some event which happened in this town in 2007 was still up.

My first impressions of Winnipeg were not great: the train station is on Main Street, and Portage and Broadway are the two major streets running off Main. I was staying on Maryland, which ran between them a bit over a kilometre away from Main, so it seemed logical to do a circuit - up Broadway and back along Portage. That is a very uninspiring walk: small sad shopping malls, dejected commercial buildings, a near deserted Bay department store, old and run down flats with just a few bright lights. I thought that maybe spending four days here would prove to be a big mistake: that was compounded by chasing up a highly reputed burger and finding it to be one of the worst I have ever eaten; dry, with a very odd flavour and texture. I described it to Tara that it was as if they'd taken a meat patty and tried to make it look and taste vegetarian - she laughed at the idea that I would have even gone to this place.

The thing is that my walk there opened my eyes to the possibility that maybe there were some good things to see in Winnipeg: by the time I left town, I'd had a fabulous time. So what I'm going to do is collate the various things I did and saw into a single circuit. My street, to be fair, was a bit sketchy - I had a homeless person outside my house congratulate me on finding a place to live, there were various people shouting at each other, sometimes at no-one at all. One block over, on Sherbrook Street, everything changed. First stop for me is the Winnipeg institution, Stellas, a bakery and cafe where I had an enormous breakfast of chorizo, egg, hash, peppers and toast - there was no way I could finish. Their bakery products are in cafes all over town: delicious chocolate croissants are my predominant memory. Just a bit down the street, I noticed some gentlemen in Victorian garb with old-fashioned bicycles, including a pennyfarthing - it was the Tweed ride, where the dress code was

newsboy caps, vests, knickers, pantaloons, cardigans and bow ties. Pipes, monocles, mutton-chop sideburns and handlebar moustaches are also a nice touch. Ladies will look sweet upon their bike seats in full-length skirts, high-necked blouses and flapper-style hats, perhaps twirling a parasol.

Tweed Ride assemblage

Tweed Ride assemblage


They were outside Thom Barger's cafe - a very minimalist look but good coffee.
Thom Barger's

Thom Barger's


One evening, they had the Sherbrook Street/Broadway intersection blocked off for the Sherbrook Street Festival - a stage was set up, and I spent a great hour or so listening to the Nathan Music Company, which is actually a band, a good one, they even featured a theremin for a couple of songs. There are five members in the band, but I could never get them all in the frame. They don't use the term in their self-description, but they could be called post-western, as they reference the normal tropes of western music and then say society has moved on, become much more urban (stripmalls rather than smoky saloons). Although there was a pretty big crowd and they were giving free t-shirts to the best dancer, they only had one taker, a tiny wee tot of a two year old girl.
Nathan Music Company

Nathan Music Company

Nathan Music Company

Nathan Music Company

Nathan Music Company

Nathan Music Company

Nathan Music Company

Nathan Music Company

Dancing Tot

Dancing Tot

Mural

Mural


About a kilometre from home Sherbrook Street crosses the Assiniboine River, and things get a bit posh. The river loops, and the south bank had been a single estate owned by a fellow called Munson who built a grand mansion there. The land itself has become a city park, and a very pleasant spot it is, but there have been quite a few grand houses built along this stretch of the river in the meantime.
Munson Park

Munson Park

Munson Park

Munson Park

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Corydon Avenue, the location of my bad burger experience, is actually where most of the city's cool cafes and bars are, including a couple of good burger places. I stopped a couple of times at another minimalist case, the You and Me. I have no idea what the customers are doing in one of these shots.
Corydon Avenue

Corydon Avenue

You and Me Cafe

You and Me Cafe

You and Me Cafe

You and Me Cafe

You and Me Cafe

You and Me Cafe


There are about three blocks of interest, then it is time to go up Osborne, which has its own collection of interesting shops, cafes, good burger outlets and the like. If you're not distracted by them, there's another decent cafe back on Broadway, the Fyxx, which has really nice staff. A short detour from here will get you to the four storey Winnipeg Library Place (i.e. its central library), which has done something rather neat. It has a staircase going from the ground to the top in one run - to the left is the library collection, to the right a series of stepped study spaces. I spent a day working in one of these.
Osborne Street

Osborne Street

Central library

Central library


What simply cannot be missed is the State Legislature and its grounds. It is open to the public to go in and wander around until 8:00 in the evening - I found various Ministerial doors, but never that of the Premier, just that of his Deputy. On my visit, there was quite a lot of singing - a local operatic group was rehearsing Cosi fan Tutti, which it will be performing on the Legislature's staircase.
Manitoba Legislature

Manitoba Legislature

Steps into Manitoba Legislature

Steps into Manitoba Legislature

Manitoba Legislature - Side view

Manitoba Legislature - Side view

Manitoba Legislature

Manitoba Legislature

Interior of Dome, Manitoba Legislature

Interior of Dome, Manitoba Legislature

Interior, Manitoba Legislature

Interior, Manitoba Legislature

Deputy Premier

Deputy Premier

Corridors of Power

Corridors of Power

Opera in the Parliament

Opera in the Parliament


Outside, there are various statues - Queen Victoria, the Famous Five (a group of five women, led by Nellie McClung) who fought for the right of women to be members of the Legislature.
Queen Vic

Queen Vic

Famous/Valiant Five

Famous/Valiant Five

Bison inside Manitoba Legislature

Bison inside Manitoba Legislature

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There is more, but I think I'll do another post.

Posted by NZBarry 07:25 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Train Across Canada - Seattle to Winnipeg

After dropping the car off and meandering around Seattle, where I had some great Thai food in, of all places, a mall and stayed a final night, I caught the Amtrak Cascades up to Vancouver. The weather was dull and turned to rain before we got to Vancouver, but even on a nice day I doubt that the trip up the coast would have been very impressive, whichsurprised me as this trip has a bit of a reputation.
View from train: Pacific Coast

View from train: Pacific Coast


View from train: Pacific Coast

View from train: Pacific Coast


View from train: Pacific Coast

View from train: Pacific Coast


The train was confortble and had decent wifi, so instead of being blown away by the sights, I did some reading and used the wifi. In Vancouver, I took a final walk around, did some work in the library and was on the Via Rail train with what I thought was plenty of time to spare. I was a little surprised when it seemed to be leaving half an hour early - turns out, it was just pulling up the track a bit so it could back on to the long line of sleeper cars. There were just the two cars with seats (even allowing a pair of seats for every passenger, there were still spares) a snack car, followed by two restaurant cars then at least a dozen sleeper cars - most, I understand, occupied by tour groups. I figured that the stretch to Toronto would be too long to do in one hit, so chose to get off in Winnipeg - two nights later.
Pacific Central Station, Vancouver

Pacific Central Station, Vancouver

Pacific Central Station, Vancouver

Pacific Central Station, Vancouver

Pacific Central Station, Vancouver

Pacific Central Station, Vancouver

Via Rail Train

Via Rail Train


Via Rail Train

Via Rail Train


The enforced stillness on the train was great for unwinding - I finally started in on a book again that I had first began reading last November - Lawrence Durell's The Alexandria Quartet. As might be expected, it is a four part novel set in Alexandria, written in the 1950's and 60's but set before and during WWII. The first novel, Justine, documents the narrator's greatlove with one Justine, but it is hardly a straight-forward narrative. There is an underlying text, written by Justine's first husband to document their love, there are bits of other texts read by the narrator and some of his flights of fancy together with the contemporary story. In addition, there are pieces inserted from real author's - an Alexandrian poet Constantin Cavafy for example - and a real evocation of the city itself. It did get a bit confusing keeping these threads straight in my head, but there were so many fabulous passages of writing I had to carry on. In the second novel, the narrator has sent his manuscript to a mate to read: it has come back heavily annotated and with some important revelations, and so this is the second version of the first novel. One of Durrell's notions was the contingent nature of reality.

For light relief, I had all five series of Breaking Bad on my laptop, although I'm rationing myself to no more than one episode a day.

Of course, the train provided its own pleasures - the snack bar for a decent beer at most times of the day and night, the dining car when the demands of the sleeper car passengers allowed those of us in steerage to buy a meal there (I managed three),
Restaurant Car

Restaurant Car


my fellow passengers and, most of all, the world passing by outside. At breakfast on the first morning, I was seated with a couple from Regina, Saskatchewen: she was not the friendliest but he always took the time to chat when we met each other. I spent a lot of time in the dome - the snack car was on two levels, with the upper level being almost entirely walled and roofed in glass - and it was very social up there. I even commandeered one of the tables as a very scenic office, as there was not a whole lot of variation in the scenery and there was a French passenger who was leaping up to take a photo whenever there was something to be seen: as long as I kept my eye on her, which was not exactly painful, I had warning of things to see.
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The train heads north to Jasper, where we actually stopped for a couple of hours (intentionally) - time to walk around the very small town centre a couple of times, stock up on food from the wee supermarket, get a very strong coffee from the cafe/laundromat/internet cafe and buy dinner from the Mexican cafe (which provided an odd, pasta-based Mexican dish which was very tasty. Once back at the train, it didn't exactly leave on time:once on the way, it is a slight bump up to Edmonton and then down through vast Saskatchewen to Winnipeg. It is practically all forest, apart from the lakes and mountains. Edmonton was a particularly aggravating stop - we were told we could get off to stretch our legs for 10 minutes and hustled back on to the train. We did leave. Three times - going across the bridge and then back to the station. Third time was not the trick - we then sat in the station for an hour. There was talk among the train crew that someone was in the car park, trying to jump the train, a blacktop was on its way - I hope that was not what held us up.

One of the more notable landmarks passed by the train is Mt Robson, the most prominent and highest mountain in the Rockies. A guy on the train said that it isn't the tallest mountain in Canada (that is Mt Logan) but it climbs the highest from the surrounding terrain. Later on, after all the effort my brother and I had spent trying to see some bear, it was a bit of an anti-climax to see a couple of them wandering past the train tracks.
Mt Robson

Mt Robson


Mt Robson

Mt Robson


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View from train - a BEAR!

View from train - a BEAR!


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Old grain silo, Saskatchewen

Old grain silo, Saskatchewen

There were other hold ups, periods where we had to wait for trains comiing: one guy who works for CNR I got talking tp said there are a couple of trains each way which are two miles (the railway is not metric) long, so cannot be put on sidings.

But I thoroughly enjoyed the trip, the staff were great (they even offered to make phone calls for me), I ate well, I even slept OK in a normal reclining seat. So although we were four hours late into Winnipeg, it really didn't bother me - apart from the fact I was unsure about my accomodation. I was not staying in a hotel, but someone's house through AirBNB - Tara told me she liked to go to bed at 10:30, and here I was arriving after midnight. She was very obliging - although both she and a security guard I encountered did not like my chances of finding dinner, apart from what I could scrounge at the 7-11. What neither of them knew was that a new Chinese restaurant had opened, the Hong Kong Harbour, which stayed open until 2:00. So I was able to get a very pleasant dish - they called it Szechuan beef, but it was more like spicey sweet orange beef - and a beer.
Szechuan Beef, Hong Kong Harbour Restaurant

Szechuan Beef, Hong Kong Harbour Restaurant

Posted by NZBarry 22:48 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

End of Roadtrip: Moscow - Seattle

sunny 25 °C

So, this was the last day of our travels together - about 370 miles. After a quick swoop through Moscow, which even on a quiet Sunday morning looked to me like a nice town, we went in and had a sneaky look at the University of Idaho, which is headquarted here. I have visited a few Unis in my time, but this is the first one where I have been so conscious of the Greek (i.e. fraternity and sorority) housing - there were whole streets of them. The University itself was founded here in 1889 with 40 students and one professor, so is actually a bit younger than my own Uni. I'm not entirely sure what happened to those 40 students as only 4 graduated. There was a major fire in 1906 which required a new Administration building, desiged by the architect who designed the State Capitol - the idea was to build a grand building in order to make people think it is a grand University.
University of Idaho, Moscow

University of Idaho, Moscow

University of Idaho, Moscow

University of Idaho, Moscow

University of Idaho, Moscow

University of Idaho, Moscow

University of Idaho, Moscow

University of Idaho, Moscow


Of course, there were also some significant sporting facilities, including a sports dome - of very little interest to me. Moving on, it was odd to find another country based University just 9 miles away - the Washington State University in Pullman. It must have been an odd sort of place to put a University, as there were no roads at all - the only way to get to Pullman was by rail, and from there to the Uni, instead of a yellow brick road, there was a red brick road - just a couple of blocks of these 100 year old streets still exist.
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Driving through the campus meant we both missed Pullman and became very lost - the GPS lady was taking us into smaller and smaller country roads, but she was evidently correct because we finally got ourselves on the way to Lower Granite. To help resolve my brother's disappointment with Lewiston, I found that the locks he was interested in seeing were not actually at Lewiston - there is a sequence of about 15 dams and locks between here and where the Columbia river finally hits the sea - and a pretty flash rivercruise boat will take you through for about $3,000. Lower Granite is the first of the them. It is actually run by the Army, and we had to get security clearance to drive across the top of the dam and were under very strict instructions not to stop or take photos, so I have no photo of the lock (it had no traffic while we were there, so there wasn't much to see anyway. The dam had a Visitor Centre, one wall of which was glass, to allow people to see fish swimming upriver - there is a ladder which allows them to get through the dam. A woman was sitting in a wee concrete cubicle, knitting - my brother got talking to her: she actually sits there all day counting and classifying the salmon going through. When she takes a break, a video camera takes over - it ocurred to me that it would be so much more efficient to just video the whole time, rather than have people counting in real time, given that I think about three salmon went through the whole time we were there.
Lower Granite Dam

Lower Granite Dam


Lower Granite Dam

Lower Granite Dam


Lower Granite Dam

Lower Granite Dam


Lower Granite Dam

Lower Granite Dam


Lower Granite Lake

Lower Granite Lake


Salmon Ladder, Lower Granite Dam

Salmon Ladder, Lower Granite Dam

We didn't find much reason to stop for the next 320 miles, except for Yakima ("the Palm Springs of Washington"). This is a name legendary in one particular circle - the craft brewing movement, because about 70% of all hops grown in the US come from the Yakima valley. It also has about 100 wineries and is very big on other fruits and veges. I first came across the name Yakima several years ago in a bar in Westport, where I bought a dark beer called Yakima - I thought it was Japanese but was put right. Then a young fellow I talked to back in Port Angeles had left there to try his luck in Yakima and mentioned the hops - I don't think he liked it very much, because he described the area as a desert! Anyway, I made sure we went through and yes, there were hops (there were also cows in feedlots I was made to stop at). Every year (but not while we were there) Yakima has a Fresh Hop Ale Festival in October - it looks a lot like the one I go to in Nelson, Marchfest, where brewers make brews using the latest crop of hops.
Hops @ Yakima Valley

Hops @ Yakima Valley


Hops @ Yakima Valley

Hops @ Yakima Valley


Yakima town was actually a good place - we were only there for coffee but ended up walking through the whole town before finding any, so I didn't have my camera with me. Interesting fact about Yakima: the residents and the railroad had a huge fight in the 1880's which saw the railroad set up shop four miles out of town. The good people of Yakima had to accept the importance of the railroad, so moved the whole town (about 100 buildings) on rollers made from logs - I think the railrod won that battle. I'm not sure if that was the same rail station that is still there - it is where we finally found some good coffee, and a very interesting looking wood panelled restaurant/bar - but I do know the railroad has moved its station again. There were various old buildings clustered around the station we visitied - probably part of the big move.
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After that, it was a simple matter of retracing our steps through to Seattle on the I-90, with a pause for dinner at Olive Garden - food was OK, but the service was outstanding. When we got there they told us there'd be an hour's wait, and gave us one of those wee discs that sings and vibrates. We wandered over to the mall - I managed to drop the disc thing in some water, and it started making these strangled beeping noises, but it turnd out that we were actually being summoned back to the restaurant - I hadn't realised they had such a range. Another night in the same Motel 6 we started in, and I dropped my brother at the airport at an extreme early hour and our shared trip was over.
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This is the longest time I've travelled (or indeed spent) with anyone since I was a kid: before we left, we had both seen the same article about being careful who you travel with and how travel can test relationships - apart from one tiny squabble when I was barely awake and being asked to pay attention, all seemed to go fine - a lot of the time we wanted to see the same things

Posted by NZBarry 19:20 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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