Friday, 27 May 2016

The Big Adventure – part 13

Blog 22

I am sitting at the cottage, enjoying a wonderful sunny day while I am writing this blog. I enjoy looking back at the great trip my husband and I did right after we moved to Canada. I am glad we went. Once Ingo had a job, we bought a house and soon after adopted a puppy. With the new responsibilities, a trip like this would have been difficult to organize.

In today’s blog, I am writing about the drive from Vernon to Calgary. At first, the landscape around us was still dominated by meadows and farmland. We passed Mara Lake, another of the magnificent lakes we saw on our trip. It was huge, with a beautiful sand beach and water as smooth as a mirror.

Soon, however, we ended up in a big cloud of dust that made it difficult to see anything around us. Highway 1 was covered with a mix of gravel and sand. For someone who was raised in Germany and was used to the well established autobahn system, seeing what roads Canadians considered a highway was unbelievable. Now, after having lived for more than 20 years in Canada, I can see the damage that is the result of the harsh winter conditions roads. In addition, the dimensions of Canada are just not comparable with the ones of “little” Germany, where the population density is much higher.

A rude awakening awaited us when we were faced with a battlefield caused by human interests. Hundreds of cut down trees created a very somber mood, especially after the picturesque lake scenery.

In 3 Valley Gap, we found a ghost town with historic buildings which were moved to the location from various towns in British Columbia. Some of the buildings were already renovated, others were in their original state. Some were still used for big gatherings. I was fascinated by a luxury train with living room, dining room and a couple of sleeping cabins. That is traveling in style!

As the owner of the museum also owned the adjacent hotel, we were taking on a tour through the hotel. The pool area was decorated with a true to scale mural of the Titanic. Ingo was fascinated by the honeymoon suite which was in a cave and had a bathtub carved out of stone and a small waterfall.

We stopped in the Mount Revelstoke National Park for a picnic and some time to sketch. Our trip led us from one park to the next. We had traveled through the Glacier National Park and the Yoko National Park that turns into the Banff National Park at the border of Alberta.

Even though we were in the mountains, it was very warm. I guess it was a different story further up at the peaks of the mountains that were still covered in snow. Banff was a picturesque city with beautiful houses and shops. However, the prices reflected that it was a place for people with money. Nevertheless, there were lots of people strolling around.

I took over the wheel for the next part of our journey as we had a piece of well maintained highway in front of us where the speed limit was 110 km/h. Finally, we could drive at a decent speed. However, I had to admit that most roads were not suitable for the high speed I was used to driving on the German autobahn. The road conditions made it unsafe. As we were on a pleasure trip and wanted to enjoy the drive, we did not have any problems to stay within the speed limits. Another advantage was the lower fuel consumption.

We spent the night in Calgary in an inn. The next morning, we found out that we had missed our luxurious continental breakfast consisting of a doughnut and orange juice or coffee which was only “served” until 9 am. The breakfast we finally had in one of the fast food chains was a far cry from a nice German breakfast with rolls, bread, cheese, cold cuts, and jam.

We checked out the Saddledome and the main shopping street. To our surprise, we saw two food vendors selling Bavarian sausages with at least 40 people queuing up to get served.
Perhaps Ingo and I should have opened a German restaurant serving fresh “Äppelwoi” (apple wine) and “Handkäs mit Musik” (see last week's blog). We never went into the restaurant business. It would just not be the right profession for me as I do not like cooking, plus I would not have any time for painting anymore. Nevertheless, whenever my parents come for a visit, they are talking about all of us opening a German restaurant together. It will stay a dream. Even though it would be nice to have all the great German dishes available, I prefer someone else to cook and serve them. Nowadays, my husband Ingo mostly cooks in our house. He serves a variety of different cuisines. German food is only served when my mother comes for a visit and cooks for us. And I certainly make sure every time I visit Germany to eat my favourite dishes.

I hope you liked my travelogue. Please feel free to share my blog with family and friends. To find out what we experienced the next day, please return to my blog next week.

Friday, 20 May 2016

The Big Adventure – part 12

My version of Emily Carr's Formalized Trees, Spring. Emily Carr is my favourite BC artist.

Blog 21

Now that I have painted outside for about 10 years, I look differently at nature. It has sharpened my view of my surroundings. At the time of our trip however, even though I was fascinated with nature, I only created the occasional sketch. It was new territory for me. Until then I had only painted inside, mostly from photographs or the occasional still life.

I wish we could go back to all these places, and I could see them with a fresh eye and sketch what I see. Maybe one day. At the moment, I am seriously thinking of painting some of the sights referring to our photos. Having just found out that one of my favourite teachers is moving to British Columbia, maybe there will be a possibility to join him and another of our Plein Air Ensemble members who has lived out west for many years for a painting trip.

Now back to my travelogue. After we disembarked the ferry in Vancouver, we drove through a landscape of meadows and fields. I felt like being in the Netherlands. In Fort Langley, a picturesque Western town, we missed the highway we wanted to take and stayed instead on Highway 1 until Hope. We continued to Kaleden where we were surrounded by lakes. We say lots of motor boats, skidoos, and people swimming. The Okanagan Lake was one of the biggest lakes I had ever seen.

The region of the Okanagan Valley is very fertile. There are many orchards and lots and lots of roadside vendors. Unfortunately, most of them were closed when we came by late in the afternoon.

vineyards of the German wine route

sketch of the the vineyards from the train from Mainz to Bonn, March 2016

The vineyards reminded us of Germany's Weinstraße (wine route) and caused us to think about all the foods we were longing for:

    Foto by Benreis (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons,  
     Handkäs mit Musik' (Hessian: Handkäse with music); a marinated sour milk cheese with a pungent aroma, often served with apple wine, that is traditionally topped with chopped onions, and caraway
  • my mother's roasted duck with rutabaga
  • salmon with horseradish
  • fresh rolls with blue cheese
  • Sauerkraut casserole
  • spinach
  • my mother's warm potato salad with bratwurst

I guess having had hamburgers as our main meal for weeks really increased our longing for some flavourful food.

At least I was able to satisfy my sweet tooth. In Kelowna, we found the fantastic bakery and restaurant “The Cheesecake Cafe”, where we bought a very yummy piece with berries and apricots. The piece was as expensive as in Vancouver but had double the size. Their cream tarts were so huge, at least 15 cm high. I had never seen anything like it. Three people could have easily shared a piece.

In Vernon, we spent the night. The affordable motel offered not only a nice room but also a pool, a whirlpool and a sauna. As it was still very warm, we enjoyed the facilities to refresh ourselves after a day of travel.

I finally managed to call my parents and my sister. In British Columbia, it was hard to find any credit card phones. Most of the time we had to call through the switchboard of the lodging facilities, which increased the fees by 30%. At the end, we ended up charging the telephone fees to the account of Ingo's parents.

The banking system was also different. While most bills in Germany are still paid by bank transfer, here in Canada people generally used cheques. I do not even remember anymore why we needed cheques but Ingo had forgotten his, and could only order new ones at the account-holding branch of his bank which was in Mississauga. We had to ask his father to send cheques to the payees. How much easier banking has become with the help of PayPal and e-transfers.

I hope you enjoy my 1995 impressions of Canada, and learn a little bit about Germany at the same time. I will continue my blog next week with our drive to Calgary. Please return to my blog next Friday. I would like to know if you have some favourite foods that remind you of home. If so, please leave me a comment.

Friday, 13 May 2016

The Big Adventure – part 11

Blog 20

For today's blog, I had to do quite a bit of translation searches because I have always written my journals, which are also the source of this blog, in German. Describing the natural wonders we saw during our stay in Port Renfrew in English made it necessary to get some online help.

Even though we did not take a lot of pictures during our trip, and some of them are of poor quality, these days you can find fantastic photos online. They have not only refreshed my memories, but also made me realize how much easier it has become to take photographs. With digital photographs, you can see right away how your photo turned out, and can pick the best ones for printing, or you can just save and share them electronically.

On our day in Port Renfrew, we got up before 7 am to go to the Botanical Beach, where we looked at the many tidal pools which contain habitats for fish, starfish, mussels, purple sea urchins, algae, green anemones, barnacles, and snails. At least, those are only the ones we recognized. I could have watched the pools for a long time but we had to hurry as the flood was coming back in.

I was very nervous on our way back to the car as we had seen many signs warning of bears and cougars. If it had been up to me, I would have passed on this hike and the chance to see the fantastic wonders of nature. Ingo was not able to convince me that we would be fine if we talked loudly. He explained that the animals just do not like to be surprised by humans. While I love to watch them from the safety of a car, behind a fence or an animal documentary, I was not keen on meeting one up close and personal. I was more than relieved when we were finally back at the parking lot.

We continued our trip in the direction of Victoria. We drove around the Saanich Peninsula but were not intrigued to investigate the area. Instead we returned to downtown Victoria where it was very busy.

We went strolling through the main shopping streets and visited “The Spirit of Christmas”, a multilevel store that offered Christmas articles throughout the year. I could not believe the range of products and the fact that people would want to purchase Christmas gifts year around.

Many of the big tourist attractions and hotels are located close to the harbour, including the Parliament Buildings, the Pacific Undersea Gardens, the Royal British Museum, and the Royal London Wax Museum with Josephine Tussaud's wax figures.

We decided to have dinner in the harbour area. It was not easy to find something for our budget. At the end we decided on a restaurant that was slightly pricier than what we had hoped for but the food was worth it. There, I learned what the term “bottomless glass” means. When Ingo told me I could refill my glass as often as I wanted without having to pay, I would not believe him. Soft drinks were already so much cheaper in Canada than in Germany. I thought he was pulling my leg. I was only convinced when I saw the bill.

Trying to find a supermarket to buy food for the next day, we reached an area with one huge mansion after the other. I had seen some of the big houses in the Mississauga area but they paled in comparison. I still do not know how people can afford such luxury, and why they would want to live in such a big palace. I would prefer to travel and paint instead of putting so much money in a property.

We finally ended up in a huge grocery store where a lot of products were sold in bulk according to one's needs. What a great concept! Until now, I still have not seen something similar in Germany.

While we were in Vancouver, we even found a store where the bottles would be washed by a machine and then refilled with the desired drinks. I have to admit that I never saw this system anywhere else. Sadly, I suppose it was not profitable enough.

After dinner, we took some night photos of the lighted Parliament Buildings. The lights from the ships and the busyness in the streets with pedestrians, musicians, horse-drawn carriages and rickshaws created a wonderful mood.

The next morning, we started our return trip when we boarded the ferry to Vancouver. To join me on my look back to our adventures please return to this blog next week.

Friday, 6 May 2016

The Big Adventure Part 10 - Vancouver Island, Day 2

Blog 19

From Port Alberni we continued along the Cameron Lake to Coombs, which looks like a small town from a Western movie. Then we drove further on to Parkville. We decided to take a detour to the Englishman River Falls. We had just started our walk when I remembered that I had left my purse on the backseat. I went back to hide it in the trunk. That is when I saw the two mastiffs running free in the parking lot. If you have followed my blogs, you know that I had a severe dog phobia (as well as other pets) for many years. Therefore, you will not be surprised to learn that I jumped into the driver’s seat of the car and was trapped in the car. Even when another lady asked the owner to put her dogs on a leash, she just called them back. I hoped Ingo would return, and he finally did after what seemed an eternity. While the dogs sniffed at Ingo, he talked to the lady who was totally indifferent. Her two puppies would not harm anyone. I did not really care. I did not even want them to come close to me.

Under Ingo's protection, I finally emerged from the car and we hiked to the two waterfalls. The water in the natural pool beneath the waterfalls was beautifully green. It would have been amazing to swim in it but at this time of the year it was definitely too cold.

Following along the Strait of Georgia, we passed Nanaimo and reached Chemainus, a picturesque little town with lots of small art and craft shops, cafes, and restaurants. The town is famous for its huge outdoor murals which attract many tourists. I loved this little town. The atmosphere was just enticing. There was so much to see and the smell of delicious food hung in the air. It was too bad that we had already stopped at McDonald's.

Ingo bought two first nation drawings, while I was fascinated by some handmade teddy bears. As a bear collector and maker, this was like being in a candy store. One had eyes with lids that closed when he was lying on his back. Lying down he was humming with satisfaction, his belly moved up and down, and his head moved slightly to the back. When you pressed the little guy into your arms, he chuckled. Adorable! I would have loved to take him with me but I had already bought a bear dressed in Inuit clothes in Edmonton. Unfortunately, I never saw a bear like this again.

On our way to Port Renfrew, we got a first glimpse of Victoria because we took the wrong highway by mistake. The road to Port Renfrew was close to the water. However, the view was mostly blocked by the many trees, mostly deciduous trees.

We had a picnic in River Jordan. The view toward the sea was fantastic, but the fallen temperatures and the strong wind forced us to retreat to the car to finish our meal.

Once we reached China Beach, it got spooky. The fog got thicker and thicker. I almost felt like sitting in a plane flying through a thick sea of clouds. The landscape was somber with lots of huge areas of deforestation. It was disenchanting.

In Port Renfrew, a tiny town with a population of maybe one hundred, we immediately found a bed and breakfast which looked alright at first sight. However, while I was settling down to write my journal, I saw some blood on both the blanket as well as the pillows. Disgusting! We had already been told that the hotel was very run-down. As the fog had just engulfed everything, we did have no other choice but to stay. However, we packed our stuff and moved quietly to another room. In this room, there was only blood on one side of the bed. Ingo assumed the blood did not get removed during the wash or that it was from the cat which was jumping all over the place but I was not convinced. Needless to say, I spent the night in a thick sweater and pants instead of pyjamas.