“Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses. Its inhabitant are, as the man once said, “whores, pimps, gambler and sons of bitches,” by which he meant Everybody. Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, “Saints and angels and martyrs and holymen” and he would have meant the same thing.”
These are the opening lines of Jon Steinbecks’ novel “Cannery Row”, a book I have read more times than I care to remember. I have recreated them here, not because these are my impressions of Canada but because, the more I saw of Canada the more these words played in my head.
There is in Canada, certainly in the parts that I visited, a different quality of light and there is a nostalgia that is there but hard to pin down. There is a gathering of peoples, there is rust and there are junk heaps, mostly outside peoples houses. It does appear that “Everybody” has come to Canada and it isn’t difficult to see why, from the mountain biking, rock climbing, kayaking “dirt bags” to the owner of The Wigan Pier fish and chip shop in Squamish; this country seems to have opened itself up to the world and the world, for most of its part, has paid it back with a relaxed and friendly outlook that is a very rare thing to find. I didn’t meet any real “sons of bitches”, although I did see some very strange sights (Urban Canada is very “liberal”), I did meet people (not always in the flesh) who, in their own way, could be looked on not as saints but as “protectors” of a different way of life.
Canada is big, everything about it, from the size of its lakes and mountains to the length of its roads is big, we only visited two of its ten provinces, Alberta and British Columbia. It is easy to get carried away, even at my age, by new sights and sounds but I am not exaggerating when I tell you that for most of the trip, as tired as I got and as much as I had to concentrate whilst driving a 25 foot long RV on some of the most challenging roads I’ve ever driven, that I was never less than exhilarated by the whole experience. In this series of postcards I hope to be able to share some of the flavour of Canada that I experienced. I didn’t stay on the beaten track, although I did some touristy things and I did keep my diary/notebook as an aide memoir to allow me to recollect these stories.
I could I think, with a bit of research, spend some time writing about the Canadian “Indians”, called in Canada “First Nations People”, their history is rich, especially in British Columbia and their culture was (and still is to some extent) subtly different to that of the Plains Indians of America that we are so familiar with. First Nations people have a folklore and a spirituality, based on their love and understanding of nature, that it would be hard to argue with as a way of living ones life, if modernity weren’t a thing. Suffice to say I was moved by what little I saw of their way of life and of their struggle, against many odds, to maintain and even possible enhance it in some ways.
We had some excellent meals, although Canada doesn’t boast of having a national cuisine and its most famous dish is called Poutine, chips in gravy with cheese curds (childhood memories came flooding back). We saw lots of wildlife, including 3 bears (one a close encounter), elk, a coyote, a blue jay, eagles, turkey vultures, gophers, some very amusing small rodents and some very large dark grey squirrels. We visited 4 museums, 1 great art gallery, 1 First Nations Cultural Centre, 5 wineries, 6 Breweries (Beer is big in Canada, much of it is not the type of beer I am used to drinking, although I did give it my best shot). I went white water rafting and took a flight in a small aircraft for the first time in my life. We rode on two mountain cable cars, crossed two suspension bridges, wandered along several canyons and visited waterfalls that were truly awe inspiring. We hiked up steep paths to lakes set in huge swathes of temperate rain forest, we walked around a park in a city that in places took my breath away. We played Bingo and quiz in my daughters local and won $50, we over-nighted in some of the most wonderful of campsites, Canada is properly geared up for communing with nature. We drove nearly 3,000 kilometres (they don’t do miles), travelled on water taxis and in yellow cabs and we walked, then walked some more. We watched a halo form around the sun in Whistler and we watched the sunset over the Pacific ocean from a beach in Vancouver.
It would be impossible to convey everything that I want to say about our trip in one postcard, it will be difficult enough to try to do it in four, accordingly I have a plan . I know some of you have visited Canada, we did once have a regular contributor who lived there, so I hope that you’ll bear with me over the next couple of weeks;
Still to come (with the indulgence of Bob).
Week One and Week one “highlight”
Week Two with “highlight”
Week Three with “highlight”
Vancouver and Reflections
I hope that you enjoy them and that, if you get the chance, you visit Canada and enjoy your visit as much as we have enjoyed ours.
© Coloniescross 2018