Sunday, July 31, 2011

Memories of Redsand Lake

Photo: Hart Farm Beach at Redsand Lake, BC Ministry of Forests

Redsand Lake was a special place of my young days. It seemed to take an eternity to drive up West Kalum Lake Road through an uninhabited mix of logged-off hillsides, burnt slash and gorgeous untouched forests. Along the road, creeks and lakes sparkled beneath the sky, a peerless northern summer blue.

The summer I was eighteen, I took care of kids at a camp at Redsand Lake. We swam in the clear and fragrant water and sang folksongs by nocturnal campsites on the beach. One afternoon a bear was seen on the trail and Marianne, my fellow camp leader and I sang at the top of our lungs to keep bears away.

A skunk sprayed under the cabin one night while our charges were sleeping. Kids kept waking up saying, "Pew! What's that smell?"

Then I got an abscessed tooth and had to hitch a ride to town for an emergency visit to the dentist. The only one who could see me had alcohol on his breath and equipment that looked as if it dated back to WWII. He pulled the tooth, and relieved, I returned to the lake.

Later, back in Vancouver, my dentist asked me why on earth I'd let the fellow pull a molar. Hadn't this dentist heard of root canals? Grumbling, he fitted me up for a bridge.

At the time, the mishaps at the lake didn't seem very amusing. Yet by the time the camp was packed up, we were reluctant to leave. In retrospect, our adventures became hilarious stories.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Canadian Authors Association prizes

Image from McMaster

Beloved Canadian humourist Stephen Leacock was a founding member of the CAA, which was formed in 1921 with the motto "Writers helping Writers." For the past ninety years, the Association has been active in supporting Canadian letters. Recent national conferences were held in Victoria (2010) and Grand Bend, Ontario (2011).

In Orillia, Ontario, the Canadian Authors' Association gave out its annual prizes as part of the ongoing Leacock Summer Festival. The ceremony, a dinner followed by author readings, took place at the Leacock Museum National Historic Site.

The winner of the fiction award, Tom Rachman (The Imperfectionists, Dial Press, London/Random House Canada), adds his name to a very distinguished list including Hugh MacLennan, Joy Kogawa, Timothy Findley, Alberto Manguel, Margaret Atwood, Anne-Marie MacDonald, Alistair MacLeod and Joseph Boyden.

The poetry winner, Julia McCarthy, (Return to Erebus, Brick Books) finds herself on a long list of accomplished poets. A few of the best-known are Leonard Cohen, P.K. Page, Al Purdy, Patrick Lane, and George Bowering.

Shelagh D. Grant of Peterborough was recognized for excellence in writing Canadian history for Polar Imperative: a History of Arctic Sovereignty in North America (Douglas & McIntyre). Grant joins such illustrious predecessors as Will Ferguson, Ken McGoogan, Ishmael Alunik, Charlotte Gray, Jack L. Granatstein and Robert Wright.

Spoken word poet Titilope Sonuga of Edmonton won the Emerging Writer award with her poetry collection, Down to Earth. This is a new award, and was won last year by Rachel Delaney, also of Edmonton, for a children's book.

The Allan Sangster Award recognizes meritorious service to the Association, and was given this year to Anthony Dalton. Tony, a member and Past President of National and of the Vancouver Branch of the CAA, is a writer, photographer and lecturer. Much of his work is based on his adventure travels to locations all over the world.

The CAA is a great national organization, with a very active branch in Vancouver. For more information on local events, contact Branch President Bob Mackay, who last year launched his novel about Canadian Cavalry in WWI, Soldier of the Horse.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Trapper Nelson Number 3

Photo: Patent Pending Blog

When I was seventeen, my father had a buddy who lived next door. Dad had been in the navy and Dennis in the army. Even though Dad seemed to feel the navy had a bit more cachet, it made no difference.

They drank rum together in our kitchen. Dennis was mild- mannered and unfailingly polite. Dad could be loud, but Dennis never raised his voice, at least not in my hearing. He had about him a puzzled air. As I listened to his slow speech, I imagined him wondering why nations had wars instead of being good neighbours.

I was in a camping phase. One day as I packed my gear, I complained that my pack was too small for the three day hiking trip we were planning to Sleeping Beauty Mountain.

"Say," said Dennis. "I've got a pack you can have." He went home and brought over the Trapper Nelson. I thanked him for the loan, but he said "You keep it. I don't need it any more." I was overwhelmed by his casual gift of a capacious canvas bag on a wooden frame with one outside pocket. Just what I needed.

I'd seen the smaller Number 2, but never the Number 3. Though I had to lean forward like Ape-man to carry it, I loved that thing. The new well-designed lightweight aluminum-framed nylon packs were very expensive, and I was a student. I stuck with my Trapper Nelson.

I didn't know it at the time, but when Lloyd Nelson developed this pack in 1920, It was the last word in comfort and design. Now it seems laughably primitive.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Royal Hudson Steam Train

Photo: John MacDonald

Like many Canadian artifacts, the Royal Hudson has a balance of British and American influences. Hudson locomotives were named for the Hudson River in the US (which, in its turn, was named for the British explorer.)

The Royal appellation was granted to the entire fleet of Hudson locomotives following the cross-Canada tour of King George VI and his Queen Elizabeth in 1939. At that time, the Royal couple admired the engine that could carry them across the entire nation without being spelled off by other engines.

According to Don Evans of the West Coast Railway Association, as a follow-up of this royal appreciation of their equipment, the CPR applied for permission to designate the Hudson engines "Royal." Permission was granted not only for the name, but for the Royal Hudson locomotives to wear crowns on their running boards, and become the only "Royal" engines outside of the U.K.

The journey from North Vancouver to Squamish on the Royal Hudson steam train was magnificently memorable, both times I made it. The first time, I was a young teacher accompanying a bunch of high school kids on this jaunt. My male colleague scandalized the kids by peeing beside the track on the far side; he crossed away from the rest of us just before the train came, and could be glimpsed but not seen, because the passing train effectively blocked the view.

The next time I travelled on the train was with my husband and young daughter. We had a wonderful day, after screaming into the parking lot just before train time. Unfortunately, in my rush, I failed to purchase enough parking time to last the day. Upon returning from our jaunt, we found a ticket on the car.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

SkyTrain views early mid and late spring

Above left: Cherry tree blooms in the rain, seen through a wet window at Commercial-Broadway.
Right: Train crosses high, muddy Fraser River. Big windshield wiper in foreground.

On the Surrey side, the SkyTrain is about to enter Gateway Station. The background view is of the North Shore mountains, beyond the Fraser River, the city and Burrard Inlet.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

West Coast Express

Photo: West Coast Express at Waterfront

The first morning commuter train leaves Mission City (the old CPR station) at 5:25 am, picks up passengers at 7 other suburban stops, then zooms in from Port Moody, arriving at Waterfront Station at 6:40. There are five morning trains: the last one leaves at 7:25 and arrives at 8:40.

Then those alluring purple and white trains sit at Waterfront until it's time for the evening runs. Sharing the tracks with other trains limits them to morning westbound and evening eastbound service for commuters only, Monday to Friday.

It's a trip I've always wanted to make. When I ride, I will go with a fellow train buff. We'll sip at our cappucinos and chat while enjoying the sea view. Then we'll spend a leisurely day in Vancouver, doing the museums and galleries, and having a late lunch before train time. Now that's a day worth planning for. We'll feel like ladies of leisure, from some Agatha Christie past.

Monday, July 25, 2011

SeaBus across Burrard Inlet

Photo: Carol Tulpar, 2011

When the weather is good, the views around Burrard Inlet are fantastic. This photo shows a north facing view from beside Waterfront Station, the neo-classical beauty where the SkyTrain, West Coast Express and SeaBus meet.

The SeaBus takes only about 12 minutes to make the crossing. On the North Shore side is Lonsdale Quay, a market area that has just about everything a shopper could wish for.

The explorer who strolls or takes a bus up Lonsdale Avenue will be treated to visual, auditory and olfactory delights. As well as any in the lower mainland, this street showcases Canada's multi-ethnic shops and restaurants.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Waterfront Station was built for the CPR

Waterfront Station was built in 1914 to serve as the railway terminus for the Canadian Pacific Railway. From here passenger trains ran to Montreal and Toronto.

The last transcontinental departed Waterfront in 1979. At that time Via Rail amalgamated CNR and CPR operations. Passenger trains still run from the Via Station on Terminal Avenue.

The style of Waterfront Station is neoclassical, red brick with Ionic columns. Around the inside walls, just below the lofty and ornate ceiling are painted scenes of Canada. The feeling of course, is of a past Canada, one that might long ago have been glimpsed from the windows of the early trains.

The SeaBus began operating from Waterfront in 1977, and in 1985, SkyTrain's original Expo Line began to use the station to carry passengers for Expo 86. The Millennium Line opened in 2002 and in 2009 the Canada Line opened, connecting Waterfront to the airport.

This out-of-focus view reflects my dreamy feeling about the railways of the past. I love trains.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Skytrain cars by Bombardier

Vancouver's SkyTrain cars are built by Bombardier, a Quebec company started by a man with a mission. Today Bombardier builds trains and planes all over the world.

J. Armand Bombardier lived in a small village back when rural roads remained unploughed in winter. His two-year-old son died when winter snow was too deep to transport him to hospital.

After this, M. Bombardier was determined to build a vehicle that could travel over snow, and he developed and perfected the Ski-doo. The original name was to be the Ski Dog; it was a clerical error that led to the name we know so well today.

The original prototypes of the Ski-Doo can be seen at the Musee J. Armand Bombardier in Valcourt, Quebec. A current exhibition shows the garage where this remarkable man began his illustrious mechanical and engineering career at the age of 19, in 1926.

The J. Armand Bombardier Foundation provides scholarships to students pursuing vocational careers.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The things men carry

Book cover image from npr

At a recent Writers' Studio Salon, we examined "The Things they Carried," a short story first published in 1986.

In this brilliantly structured work, Tim O'Brien develops his characters, American soldiers in Vietnam, through a detailed list of what each man carried, and what it weighed. This first enumeration reveals the individual characters of the soldiers.

The story moves relentlessly forward with the weight borne by the "grunts." In addition to their own belongings -- letters, pictures, dope -- they carry food, equipment, and the supplies required by the SOPs -- standard operating procedures -- of the platoon.

Mid-list the author begins to slip in some of the men's emotional baggage: racism, fantasy and fear. A bizarre trophy carried by one soldier conjures up grisly war scenes the story does not portray.

Sounding the heavy rhythm of walking, O'Brien then lists what the men must heft in common: machine guns with ammo, other equipment, and sometimes, one another, living or dead.

The goods and supplies dropped nightly by the U.S. choppers are more weight for the soldiers who walk through the jungles and "burn the villages or not." They get more supplies and ammo than they need or can carry -- to reduce their burdens, the men throw away food and explode grenades.

Artifacts from the culture of stuff are also delivered: easter eggs, watermelons, woolen sweaters and sparklers for the Fourth of July. "Indictment though listing," poet Jen Currin called it, a critical portrayal of American excess.

Without a hint of moralizing, the story reveals the burdens borne by men who go to war. Along with the physical weight, these men bear the burdens of their national and social definitions of manhood. They will never, the narrator chillingly tells us, run out of things to carry.

O'Brien's ordinary soldiers must equally bear burdens of responsibility, grief and fear. The men attempt to overcome the shame that war exacts with a brotherhood, humanity and drugs. One dead soldier's buddies smoke his dope while they wait for the chopper to come for his body.

Ironically, war has generated much great literature. The author's words "shoulder the sky" allude to a line in a war poem by A. E. Housman: "Shoulder the sky, my lads, and drink your ale." These words were also used as the title of a mystery novel by Anne Perry, set during World War I.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Longstanding mystery finally solved

It's been more than fifty years (I'm not saying how much more) since a neighbour kid called Kenny slung my sister's doll over his shoulder, holding her by one leg, puffed his chest out and said, "I'm Santy Claus." Both Sis and I were devastated, but too intimidated to intervene.

Shy farm kids, we were used to playing only with each other and our brother, who was younger, and not available the time to defend the poor doll, whose name was Bunchy.

Recently, I read a wise and humorous book by Barbara and Allan Pease, called Why Men Don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps (New York, Welcome Rain, 2000).

During that enjoyable read, I experienced a moment of memory about Kenny and the doll, and an instant insight about why Kenny behaved the way he did toward Bunchy.

It was because he was a boy.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Captains Quarters Hotel St. John's

Photo of Imperial house, the Captains Quarters

Newfoundland was a self-governing British colony when the Canadian National and Canadian Pacific railways were laid down; the last province joined Confederation in 1949.

However, the historic Captain's Quarters Hotel in St. John's does have some railroad ties. In 1916, Sir Edward Bowring sold the property with two large houses to Harry Duff Reid, son of Robert G Reid of the Newfoundland Railway Company. H.D. Reid became president of the company two years later, and kept the property till 1927.

The hotels website notes that in 1885, when the CPR was completed, Sir Ambrose Shea, a Father of the original Confederation, which Newfoundland did not join, was renting the house.

The present owner, Marcel Etheridge, has restored the neo-classical style building to look as it would have in the mid-1800s. Of course, it now includes all the amenities of a modern hotel.

The Newfoundland Railway was narrow gauge. With Confederation came the agreement to tear up the rails in exchange for the promise of bringing the Trans-Canada Highway to St. John's.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Great George Hotel in Charlottetown

Photo: Small Barrels

The Great George Hotel is a restored building that dates back to 1846 when it was built as the Regent Hotel. After some changes, in 1857 it became the fashionable Pavilion Hotel.

In 1864, the hotel housed some delegates to the Charlottetown Conference, which along with the Quebec Conference of the same year, led up to the original Confederation of four provinces in 1867 that developed into the into Canada we know today.

Because the founding principles of Canadian Confederation were established in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island became known as the Birthplace of Confederation.

The Great George has been carefully renovated to maintain its heritage look while being made into a modern hotel.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Lord Nelson Hotel in Halifax


The Lord Nelson Hotel was built in 1927, across from the Halifax Public Garden. Funding for the project came from a consortium of investors led by the CPR.

The supervising architect was O.C. Gross and the construction company was H.L. Stevens Co. of New York and Toronto.

The hotel was named in honour of Lord Horatio Nelson. Although he never visited Halifax, his name conjured up the city's naval traditions. The lobby contains a mural of Nelson's flagship before the Battle of Trafalgar.

The Lord Nelson was the first modern hotel in Halifax. The same year, construction on the Nova Scotian, now owned and operated by Westin, got under way.

The timing of the construction was good. If these hotels had been built ten years earlier, as some of the railway hotels were, they would have undoubtedly have blown up in the 1917 Halifax explosion.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Algonquin Hotel in St. Andrews, New Brunswick

Photo: Courtesy of R. Todd King

The Algonquin is located in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, a wee coastal town close to the Maine border. It's named after an aboriginal group from the Ottawa Valley.

Founded by United Empire Loyalists in 1783, the town was named in honour of St. Andrews in Scotland.

This beautiful coastal village has been home to many famous people, among them Father of Confederation Sir Charles Tupper and William C. van Horne of the CPR. The Algonquin was built in 1889, making the town the first seaside resort in Canada. The hotel burned to the ground in 1914 and was rebuilt the following year.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Windsor Hotel Montreal

Windsor ballroom, c 1878, courtesy of wikimedia commons

Like the Royal Alexandra in Winnipeg, the once great Windsor in Montreal was torn down. The first of Canada's grand hotels, The Windsor opened in 1878 and closed in 1981.

Sir John A. Macdonald, Princess Louise and the Marquis of Lorne were among those assembled when the hotel opened. Located across from Windsor Station, the hotel attracted not only tourists but the business and social elite of Montreal. The Windsor ballroom hosted the St. Andrew's Society Ball and the Winter Carnival Ball.

Famous guests of the Windsor's heydey included Sarah Bernhardt, Mark Twain, Lily Langtry and Rudyard Kipling. In one of the restaurants in 1917, the owners of hockey teams from Montreal, Quebec and Ottawa assembled to form the National Hockey League.

In 1987 Le Windsor office building was born. According to scripophily, the stained glass of "Peacock Alley" has been preserved. The marble staircases and the two ballrooms are still in use.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Chateau Frontenac in Quebec

Photo: a portion of grand Chateau Frontenac, CT

Now known as Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, this historic hotel was declared a National Heritage Site in 1980. The most elaborate of the chateau style luxury railway hotels, this building was opened in 1893. It was named after Louis de Buade, Comte de Frontenac, who was Governor of New France in the 17th century.

Besides the Queen -- then Princess Elizabeth -- and her father, King George VI, famous guests have included Chiang Kai-shek, Francois Mitterand, Charles Lindbergh, Alfred Hitchcock and Princess Grace.

In 1943, Churchill, Roosevelt, and Mackenzie King held a war strategy meeting here, while their staff stayed at the nearby Citadel, Headquarters of Quebec's Royal Vingt-Deuxieme Regiment, often known in English Canada as the Vandoos. The Governor-General has a second official residence in its thick stone wall.

Today, the historically significant Chateau Frontenac still dominates the skyline of Old Quebec, one of the oldest cities in North America.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Chateau Laurier in Ottawa

Photo: Carol Tulpar, 2003

The Chateau Laurier stands near the seat of government on the edge of Parliament Hill.

Once the great Canadian portrait photographer Yousef Karsh had his office in the hotel. In 2007, his widow Estrellita donated several original photographs to hang in the suite where the couple used to live. Karsh had his first exhibition in the Chateau Laurier in 1932, and he and his wife occupied a suite in the hotel from 1973 to 1992.

In 1857, ten years before Confederation established the nation of Canada, Queen Victoria chose Ottawa as the capital of the colony, in order to settle the disputing claims of Quebec, Montreal, Kingston, Toronto and Ottawa, and work immediately began on the Parliament Buildings.

However, it was not until 1912 that the Grand Trunk Railway opened Union Station and the Chateau Laurier Hotel.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Royal York Hotel in Toronto

Photo: Carol Tulpar, 2009

Designed by Ross and Macdonald in 1927 and positioned across from Toronto's Union Station, the CPR's Royal York was once the tallest building in the British Commonwealth.

This is not the first hotel to occupy the site, as indicated on the Fairmont website. In 1843, the Ontario Terrace opened here and ten years later was renamed Sword's Hotel. In 186o the name changed to Revere House and again to the Queen's House in 1862, after a major renovation. At the time, Canadian Confederation was still five years in the future.

Queen's House was owned by McGaw and Winnet, hoteliers who also had hostelries in Niagara-on-the-Lake and in London, Ontario. After Henry Winnett died, his estate sold the Queen's to the CPR. They replaced it in 1929 with the Royal York.

A full-floor Royal Suite is available for the use of the Queen's family. The Royal York also has a roof garden and apiary. According to a wikipedia article, the queen bees also have royal suites: The Honey Moon Suite, The Royal Sweet, and the V.I.Bee Suite.

The bees provide several hundred pounds of honey annually. The garden supplies fresh vegetables, fresh herbs and fresh flowers for the nine restaurants in this venerable old hotel.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Royal Alexandra Hotel in Winnipeg

Photo: Sixties-era postcard of the Royal Alex, Manitoba Historical Society.

The Royal Alexandra Hotel was designed by Montreal architects Willliam and Edward Maxwell. When it opened in 1906, at the corner of Higgins and Main, the "Royal Alex" was a fine hotel, the largest in Canada and definitely palatial.

On the Manitoba Historical Society website, Susan Moffat Rozniatowski writes nostalgically of her first view of Frederick Sprotson Challener's murals. Depicting a variety of quintessentially Canadian scenes, including Fort Garry and the buffalo hunt, several of these were once displayed on the walls of the Royal Alex.

Sadly, after many years as the social centre of Winnipeg, it closed its doors forever in 1967 and was demolished in 1971.

The Tyndall stone lion heads that once decorated the portico were donated to the City and are now on display a few blocks from the old hotel site.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Hotel Saskatchewan in Regina


In 1913, construction began on the Chateau Qu'Appelle. After the Grand Trunk Railroad went bankrupt, the partially constructed hotel stood idle until the Royal Saskatchewan Museum took it over.

After the city lobbied the CPR to build one of its hotels to attract tourists, the Hotel Saskatchewan was built in 1927 in a Modernist classical design. Like the Saskatchewan legislature, the Museum and its sister hotel in Saskatoon, this building used Manitoba Tyndall stone.

As well as being a home away from home for members of the Royal Family when they visited Regina, the Hotel Saskatchewan served as the Lieutenant Governor's official residence from 1945 to 1984.

In 1993, it was designated a municipal heritage site. The "Hotel Sask" is now called the Radisson Plaza Hotel Saskatchewan, after its current owners.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Bessborough Hotel in Saskatoon

Photo: courtesy of wikimapia

The Bessborough Hotel was designed by Archibald-Schofield in Montreal and built with fine Canadian materials: Saskatchewan clay brick, Manitoba Tyndall stone, and Ontario granite. The bronzes also come from Ontario.

The hotel was named after Sir Vere Ponsonby, the 9th Earl of Bessborough who was also the 14th Governnor-General of Canada.

Begun before the stock market crashed in 1929, the construction of the Bessborough Hotel was completed in 1932. However, the opening was delayed until 1935, when in the midst of the Great Depression, the first dance was attended by a thousand guests (Delta Hotels).

Some say this hotel is haunted by a quiet man in grey suit and fedora.

Built by the CNR and later sold to the CPR, the Bessborough marked the end of the era of building the great railway hotels of Canada. It is now owned by Delta Hotels.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Palliser Hotel in Calgary


The Palliser Hotel has a slightly different look from the Chateau-style CPR hotels. Built by the CPR and named after explorer John Palliser, this Edwardian building was designed by Montreal architects in the Chicago style.

The Palliser Hotel opened its doors in 1914. It was twelve storeys tall. Another three storeys were added in 1929, just before the stock market crashed, ushering in the "Dirty Thirties." The Palliser remained Calgary's tallest building for almost thirty years. Expansion and improvement of the venerable hotel continues; in 2000, it was renovated to the tune of $28 million.

The Fairmont Palliser is now owned and operated by the eponymous chain. Fairmont now owns many of the historic railway-era luxury hotels, including the Chateau Lake Louise, the Macdonald in Edmonton, the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, the Royal York in Toronto,  and the Empress in Victoria.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Macdonald Hotel in Edmonton

Photo: This old tinted SAIN postcard of the hotel reminds me of a similar view of Stirling Castle on Mom's old biscuit tin.

Architects Ross and Macdonald designed the building, which opened in 1912. This railway hotel was named after the first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald.

This imposing structure is associated not with the CPR, but with the Grand Trunk. This railway eventually became part of the CNR, which built the northern line. When in 1924 Alberta legalized alchohol after a period of prohibition, this hotel was promptly granted a liquor license.

The Macdonald closed in 1983. Later declared a Municipal Heritage Resource, it was restored to its original grandeur. The Royal Suite occupies two floors and has a dining room for eight.

Other luxury suites are named after Prince Edward of Wales, King George VI, and Sir Winston Churchill, as well as three Alberta premiers and former Lieutenant Governor Lois Hole. One suite commemorates Charles Melville Hays of the Grand Trunk, who lost his life when the Titanic sank.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Chateau Lake Louise

Photo by Drake and Cavendish, the Luxury Hotel and Travel Guide

In 1890, William Cornelius van Horne was not yet knighted. As General Manager of the CPR, he was thinking railroad budget and railway hotels.

Lake Louise in the Rockies, a matchless turquoise gem in a diamond glacier setting, seemed a good place for a hostelry, and van Horne envisioned a simple chalet on its shore.

By 1911, four architects and two fires later, the Chateau Lake Louise had evolved into today's internationally known hotel.

Some famous early visitors were royalty and Hollywood stars. In 1912, the Prince of Wales hiked here; Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip have stayed, along with Prince Rainier of Monaco, Jordanian King Hussein and Queen Noor, and Queen Margrethe of Denmark. The Danish Queen, 71, was a guest at the recent Royal Wedding.

In winter, the Chateau Lake Louise is an important destination for skiiers from all over the world.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Banff Springs Hotel

Photo: elegantresorts

This chateau rises above the Bow River in Banff. Another of the luxurious railway hotels that followed the construction of the CPR across the country, it brought in money to help finance the ruinously expensive construction of the railroad. When the hotel opened 250 rooms in 1888, it filled to capacity with patrons wanting to try the spa.

Canadian journalist and conservationist Bart Robinson has published an entire book on the history of the Banff Springs Hotel. The original wooden structure was ordered built by CPR Vice President William van Horne in 1888, who foresaw Banff's potential for tourism. According to Maureen K. Fleury, the Banff Springs, called the Castle of the Rockies, was a popular destination for royalty in the 1930s.

There are varied and contradictory reports of ghostly hauntings. It seems there was a doomed bride who fell downstairs and broke her neck, either after tripping on her gown or when candles set her dress on fire. Taxi Mike describes sightings of Bellman Sam Macauley, who loved working in the hotel. Before he died in 1976, he said he planned to haunt the place. Many believe he did.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Hotel Vancouver

Photo by Arlene Gee

Like the Empress in Victoria, The Hotel Vancouver dates back to the building of the CPR.

The building seen here is not the original; it was preceded by two other incarnations. The second, in an Italianate style building, served as a troop barracks during the second war.

This one, designed by John S. Archibald and John Schofield, first opened its doors in 1939. The green copper roof and heavily ornamented eaves are typical of the railway hotels of the earlier era.

This hotel also serves afternoon tea. The website defines the dress code as "smart casual." Suits for men or white gloves and hats for ladies are not required.

Music and dancing are associated with The Panorama Roof Ballroom, where the city's legendary band leader Dal Richards began his career.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Empress Hotel in Victoria

Photo by Nathan Bauman

This Edwardian chateau style hotel was the work of Francis Rattenbury, who also designed the BC Legislature. Construction began in 1904, and the completed hotel was named in honour of Queen Victoria, then Empress of India. This majestic hostelry was to serve as a terminus hotel for the Canadian Pacific Steamship Line.

By 1965, the Edwardian marvel was looking dowdy and outdated. A vigorous debate ended with the decision to renovate and refurbish the old hotel rather than tear it down. Today the Empress continues as a Victoria landmark and a mecca for tourists. Afternoon Tea, served in the lobby, includes the traditional scones with jam and cream. It also requires reservations.

As well as evoking the glory days of the Edwardian era, the Empress has a long history of royal visits. In 1919 the Prince of Wales is said to have waltzed in the Crystal Ballroom until dawn. In 1939, the parents of Queen Elizabeth, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, attended a luncheon there as guests of the BC government.

Some say this old building also has a resident ghost or two. It is included in Victoria's ghost tours.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Evening, birdsong and tiny raindrops

"It's going to rain soon," we agreed as we looked at the darkening cloud ceiling. I decided to go back out to sit on the porch anyway.

It was a gorgeous time and place to read. The evening was full of birdsong and as the light waned, I saw I had only a few pages left. I would finish my book before it got too dark.

The rain started out very slowly, with the most miniscule drops. Half-felt and half-heard, they touched my shirt and my hair with the utmost gentleness.

My book was spread out safe and dry on the glass table. I was seated only halfway under the umbrella, but I didn't move beneath its shelter. The rain was so slow and fine that there seemed to be no appreciable danger of getting wet.

I felt the richness and silence of certain summer evenings, the same feeling I sometimes get when I pick blackberries at dusk in the Serpentine Fen.

There, as summer darkness slowly closes in, I hear only the secret rustlings of small animals, and the whooshing of wings as birds come in to land on the ponds.

Sometimes profound quiet seems to deepen with the beginning sounds of rain.

The sunshine returned this morning, with a different accompaniment of birdsong, a few clouds and a gentle breeze.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Rocky Mountaineer

Photo: Canadian Rockies

Visible from the Skytrain window, The Rocky Mountaineer stretches out its long string of metallic blue cars along the rail yards between Commercial-Broadway and Main Street. They shimmer with late light.

The tourists are boarding, or ready to board. Soon the train will slide out of the Via Station and begin her journey eastward.

Once the cross Canada CNR and CPR trains and hotels defined and enlivened a nation. Now that era has receded into history. This tourist train is a nostalgia-inducing relic of a vanishing past.

The last time I saw her was in Jasper last August. A British tour guide needed to have his picture taken in front of the train and he posed while I took a couple of shots. Later I asked a German tourist to take my picture in front of the old Jasper Station.

That small building in the mountains evokes various memories. When I was seven, the stone-faced train station seemed large and cavernous. When I was eighteen, the spacious washroom, with its anteroom and benches, served as a hideout: as I waited to change trains, a man kept following me till I went to ground in the Ladies'.

Last August, I had been driving for many hours when I arrived in Jasper. In the early evening, the mountains were already casting shadows. I had time to stretch my legs, but the road was calling. It would be nearly midnight by the time I made Edmonton.

I wished I could ride the train. I'd sip a lime and tonic and watch the Rocky Mountain wildlife through the windows as the sun set.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Dream of inner homecoming

All my life I've dreamed about bridges. Sometimes these dreams appear in a series of three. This was the third of three, and I was waiting for it.

The first of this group of dreams involved Lake Samish. After the most recent one a few months ago, at last this long-awaited dream arrived. In this one, I was driving across the Alex Fraser Bridge in the dark, knowing I was on my way.

Even while I slept, I felt the excitement. This was definitely the one. This unmistakable signal of the inner journey into new-old parts of myself had come at last.

In the dream I didn't know the geographical details of where I was going, but that didn't matter. I had complete faith in the journey. It would take me home to parts of myself I had gradually abandoned in the busy efforts of daily living.

Driving through the night, I glimpsed the shape of a coherent wholeness in my life path. Day by day, my journey has been shaped by the long series of adventures that life has brought me here, focused by the myriad individual decisions I've made.

The dream left me, on waking, with a wide and spacious feeling. I was glad to be returning home to a fuller and wiser self.