Thursday, October 28, 2010

Day 60: Edmonton

After 2 enjoyable months I have finally returned to Edmonton.  Apparently it had just started to snow the weekend I arrived.  I guess I just missed the Edmonton fall only to be greeted by winter.  But that is ok.

I have moved into a condo with a church friend of mine and one of his friends and I am liking it here more and more each day.  I have a nice bedroom with a good layout and lots of storage space.  There is a cool spiral staircase running down the center of our unit with three floors in total.  The people I live with are great and I think I will have fun living here.  I was a bit concerned about the transit because it is further from downtown, but I found that I live near a major bus terminal so it is not a big deal.  I would show you pictures of the place but my camera is currently being fixed/replaced.

On Wednesday I attended my first Calvary Baptist bible study in 2 months and it was good to be back.  It was great to see my friends after such a long time away. 

I start working at Karma this weekend but i do not know how long that will last.  I really want to start making some money and saving up once again.  I am 95% sure that Karma will not be able to pay me enough so I will probably start looking for more/other work.

And now for that thing I mentioned about November that I was saving for this post…

I am growing a moustache.

I am growing a moustache as part of the Movember campaign to raise awareness about prostate cancer and to raise funds for Prostate Cancer Canada.  Movember was started in Australia in 2004 and has since been carried out in other parts of the world.  In 2009 there were 255,755 participants and over 1 million donors.  Last year Canada raised $7.8 million For Prostate Cancer Canada.  I am growing a moustache because I like supporting others and think this is a fun thing to do; also I know I can grow a respectable moustache in 30 days. 

If you would like to know more about Movember check out thier website here.  If you would like to make a donation to Prostate Cancer Canada and support my moustache growing you may do so here (Just search for ‘Ken Timmermans’ under Individual).  Tell you friends about it too!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Day 55: Vancouver and Abbotsford

For my last week of travel I stayed in the lower mainland visiting Vancouver and Abbotsford.  I started the week by staying overnight in Vancouver for 2 nights at the Hostelling International Hostel on Davie Street.  There are 3 HI hostels in Vancouver and I think I chose the best one.  Jericho Beach is too far away from downtown and Granville street is too close to the late night business of Granville and Robson. 

In Vancouver I had an opportunity to visit many of the places I am fond of as well as some new places that have sprung up since I was last there.  I have memories of Granville street; especially the comic book store, and venues such as the Commodore Ballroom and Granville Theatre.  Also walking down Robson Street among the bustle of people and taking the Skytrain all over the place.  It was great to go to all of these places while there was such great fall foliage about. 





One of my favourite places to go to in Vancouver is of course Granville Island.  It was a nice day and I took the water taxi from Downtown to Granville Island in the morning to see the market and all the shops.  I enjoy viewing all the art studios that can be found there;  especially all the pottery, sculptures and wood working.  The market provides a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, seafood, baked goods, and souvenirs. 



While in Vancouver I visited some of the Olympic sites such as the Athletes Village, the Inuksuk on English Bay, and the Olympic Caldron.  The Athletes Village was very quite and seemed very empty; like a ghost town.  It did not look like many people were living there despite the plan to offer affordable housing at the Athletes Village.  Apparently the False Creek area is still too expensive for many people.  I can imagine that this place must have been packed during the Olympics. 



Next I visited the Olympic Caldron near the new Vancouver Convention Center.  I found it to be an impressive Caldron and must be a sight to see lit up (when it is working of course).  Near the Caldron there is a pixelized Orca statue that is reminiscent of the various Orca statues that used to be found in and around the Vancouver area.



After my brief stay in Vancouver I travelled down the valley to my hometown of Abbotsford.  It was great to relax for a week with my family and friends.  Some things at home have changed but Abbotsford is mostly the same small city.  I used to boast about how big Abbotsford is in terms of size and population about how it is always growing. But it is a small, rural, place in comparison to many of the other places I have seen.  Even a city like Edmonton is small in comparison to Toronto, which is in turn small when compared to a place like New York or Chicago.  My favourite cities on this trip were Winnipeg, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Portland.

Now I am returning to Edmonton.  Back to work, back to church, back to my friends and a new place to live…   I have something special planned for the month of November, but I will save that for the next post!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Day 45: Portland

Portland is a pretty cool place.  I only spent a couple days here but I likes what I saw. Hills, trees, flowers, rivers, shops, lots of coffee, local breweries, cheap fun, Portland has much to offer. 

My Hostel was located in a trendy area on the east side of the Columbia River called Hawthorne.  Hawthorne street has many clothing shops, coffee shops, used books stores and trendy places to eat and drink. My first night in Portland I spent on Hawthorne Street watching Toy Story 3 in the gorgeous Bagdad Theatre.  With one massive theatre, beer and food from a kitchen The Bagdad Theatre is an awesome place to see a movie; especially at $2 a show!  Then I had a late dinner at Oasis Cafe where they make pizza by the slice, whatever you want on it.  They are quite adventurous at Oasis Cafe with toppings like butternut and walnut. 


The next day I took a bus to Washington Park on the west side of Portland.  Washington Park is a large area that houses many of the city’s outdoor attractions.  I visited the Portland Japanese Garden and walked around the Hoyt Arboretum, which is a large collection of different trees that provide something new in every season.




I didn’t explore downtown Portland very much but was told a trip to Portland was not complete without visiting Powell’s Bookstore there.  Powell’s bookstore is a massive new and used bookstore that is three floors and takes up an entire city block!  The also have a couple satellite stores in the Portland area.  I ended up buying a couple Kurt Vonnegut Jr. novels and a book about making macarons.  Macarons seem very complex.  I don’t think I am quite ready to try them; one day.

On my last full day in Portland I made a point of visiting ‘Alberta St., if only for its name.  Alberta Street is similar to Hawthorne Street but has more art galleries.  It was good to walk around and see all the local art. I ate dinner at a food cart that specialized in grilled cheese sandwiches  called ‘Grilled Cheese Grille’.  Their dining area is an old school bus with some of the seats turned around to make booths.  The tables are covered with old yearbook photos.  It was a good meal.



Now I am going to visit Vancouver briefly before visiting the folks in Abbotsford.  It will be good to be back in Canada!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Day 42: San Francisco

So I have been in San Francisco for a few days now and it has been pretty fun.  Just like arriving in Toronto when the TIFF was on, by coincidence I arrived in San Francisco during Fleet Week: the annual air show/ship show.  I got to enjoy the sight and sound of jets and other planes soaring above as I walked along the beach by Fisherman’s Wharf and the Golden Gate Bridge.  Another HUGE coincidence was the presence of other Canadians staying at the Hostel during my trip;  about 9 of us in all and 6 of those ARE FROM EDMONTON.  So we all enjoyed spending time with each other at the hostel each day.



At this point I must warn you that my camera somehow became damaged and had trouble focusing when zoomed out.  I think it may have accidently turned on while on the bus from New Orleans and became crushed by the other stuff in my bag.  So, sometimes I didn’t get the shots I intended to get. 

On Friday I explored Chinatown and found the fortune cookie factory, where they make the fortune cookies but not the fortunes.  Everyone knows that there is a room full of a thousand monkeys that pumps that stuff out (just kidding).  The batter is pressed into a round mould that make a flat disc. it comes out warm and flexible enough to fold into the fortune cookie shape.  The folding and placing of the fortune is done by an old short Chinese lady.



Another popular tourist area of San Francisco is known as Fisherman’s Wharf, a series of piers that house museums, docking ships, shops and restaurants and sea lions.  On pier 45 there is a museum dedicated to old mechanical games, fortune telling machines, dioramas, and early animation machines.  It was more fun than a barrel of monkeys and everyone had a huge smile on their face! 



Pier 39 is the most popular of the piers and house many restaurants, shops and attractions including the sea lions.  The sea lions didn’t do much except lay in big piles and occasionally bark; nevertheless it was cool to see them.  I learned that one of San Francisco’s signature dishes is clam chowder served in a sourdough bread bowl.  it was a good idea that should be done more often, less dishes.  On my final day I returned to Fisherman’s Wharf to tour the Boudin Bakery; famous for their place in SF history and their sourdough bread.  It started as a family bakery at the time of the gold rush and continues today.   Apparently San Francisco has a unique climate and atmosphere that makes a special yeast that is better for sourdough breads.



I took a tour of downtown which was actually a lesson in land economics lead by a economic professor.  He mostly pointed out buildings and places that related to the idea that land is owned by a person and what a stupid idea this was or what a good idea that was. But it made me reflect on who really owns a piece of land and, based on this, what land should be used for.  I believe the land is given to humans to use and to be cared for.  If land belongs to anyone it should belong to the community, which is what the guide was arguing minus the spiritual aspect. 





I attended a church near the hostel called Glide United Methodist Church which is famous for it’s revival by the radical pastor Cecil Williams and its jazzy gospel choir.  It is very very open and very liberal towards anyone who walks through the door; it is a tourist church who has on any given Sunday 30% visitors from all over the world.  I was disgusted at how little homage and glory and praise was given directly to God during the service.  They seem to praise more the human spirit and positive thinking and the power of community without acknowledging the power of God behind that.  Then in the sermon they talked about Lazarus being dead and how Jesus freed him and brought him to life.  This story was used to encourage people to ‘come out’ of a dead life and become alive.  A good message until they also mention ‘come out of the closet’ .  A very gay friendly church and very controversial.  

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Day 36: New Orleans

During my entire stay in New Orleans I was greeted with excellent weather.  It was not too hot,a bit breezy and not a cloud in the sky; thankfully no hurricanes! Except for the ones they serve on Bourbon Street.  I arrived on a Saturday morning and Bourbon Street was busy from the afternoon till before dawn.  It felt like one big drunken party because people are allowed to walk around on the street holding alcoholic beverages; it was crazy. It is a street littered with Bars, souvenir stores, live music, cabarets, and voodoo shops.  All of these housed in unique southern houses/mansions characteristic of the French Quarter.





After spending a few days in NOLA (New Orleans, LouisianA) I found it to be a very spiritual place with good and bad spirits.  It is a city that has been plagued with many tragedies such as fires, floods, diseases, slavery, etc..; this has brought many many deaths and many ghost stories.  I think the reality of this spiritual realm has caused the people of New Orleans to be a people of faith; whether it is in God, voodoo, or The Saints (the NFL team).  I went to church across the street from my Hostel and was the only white person in it.  It was a different church experience that I was not used to. We read from the King James Version and it was an enthusiastic service.  Good people there, I was glad to join them and be welcomed by them.


My main reason for visiting NOLA was of course, the food.  Having worked at Dadeo in Edmonton, a Cajun restaurant I just had to try out some authentic Cajun food.  I was most interested in comparing Po’ Boys.  For those that don’t know what a Po Boy is, it is a sandwich that uses a section of French bread filled with a variety of different things.  Some examples would be shrimp, sausage, chicken, pulled pork, roast beef, catfish, oyster, or hamburger to name a few.  Po Boy is abbreviated from ‘Poor Boy’.  In response to a Electric Street Car Union strike in 1929 some local bussiness would offer free meals to Union members who they felt were not getting paid enough and would say ‘Here comes another poor boy!’ when a Union member came for food.  The name stuck and they became marketed as a Po Boy instead of a loaf as it had originally been called.  If you can enlarge the photo below read all about it in detail.


While in NOLA I had the opportunity to try Po Boys at 2 different restaurants so my comparison is not complete at all.  In the French Quarter I could stand almost anywhere, throw a rock, and have it hit a place that served Po Boys.  The first one I had was on the advice of a tourism information center.  They gave me a coupon for a place just off Bourbon Street.  I had an Alligator Sausage Po Boy at a restaurant called Oceana and found it quite plain and not very satisfying; serves me right for trusting someone who gives me coupon, a good meal is worth paying for.  For my next Po Boy I searched the internet for the best Po Boy in New Orleans and was led away from the French Quarter completely to a restaurant called Parkway Bakery & Tavern.  I must agree with the internet on this one.  I had a fried shrimp Po Boy and it was delicious.  I knew that it would be good because they had sweet potato fries there as well and I made the mistake of using ketchup on them and another customer looked at me funny! (I promptly found the mayonnaise after this).  Dadeo still has the best sweet potato fries in my opinion.



NOLA is also home to other fine Cajun and Creole dishes such as gumbos, jambalayas, banana fosters, calas, chicory coffee, pralines, and a host of other dishes I don’t know about.

As of this writing I am on the bus to San Francisco on the final leg after LA.  It has been a very long and exciting bus trip and I am glad that it is nearly over.  Too many screaming babies,rowdy people at the back of the bus, rowdy people at the front of the bus and border patrols (with drug sniffing dogs)!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Day 32: Chattanooga, TN

On my way from Washington to New Orleans I decided to stop for a day in Chattanooga Tennessee.  Chattanooga is located on the southern border between Tennessee and Georgia where there is a large hill called ‘Lookout Mountain’.  It is called lookout mountain because, on a clear day, a person can see 7 different states from the top.  Lookout mountain is the southern most mountain of the Appalachian Mountain chain and was highly contested during the US Civil War because of its amazing vantage point.  The US Civil War campaign for this area was called ‘The Battle Above The Clouds’ because it was fought high up on the mountainside on in foggy/cloudy weather. 



Today Lookout Mountain is home to a few tourist attractions including the famous Rock City and Ruby Falls.  Rock City is famous for its advertising campaign which features close to 1000 barn roofs with the words ‘See Rock City’ painted on them scattered across 19 states.  Rock City is an impressively landscaped walking trail that uses large rocks and boulders to form interesting paths, bridges and caverns to be explored. it also included a section called ‘Fairyland’ which is a large cavern with scenes from fairy tales lit with backlights in the dark caverns. 




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I enjoyed Rock City but it was very frustrating and costly for me to get there.  At the Greyhound terminal no one knew how to get there using public transit so I took a cab; Rock City, being a roadside attraction, had a costly entrance fee and I ended up walking about 3 miles to get there.  Had the Greyhound staff known about public transportation I could have saved myself a $30 cab fare!  I really wanted to see Rock City after reading the book American Gods by one of my favourite authors, Neil Gaiman.  In American Gods Lookout Mountain is where the climatic battle between many mythological gods takes place.  Neil Gaiman, an award winning author who can afford to travel the world seeing anything he chooses,  has a different, more expensive America than I do.

Anyway, enjoy the photos and I report back shortly after New Orleans!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Day 31: Washington D.C.

After visiting Washington for a couple of days I can tell you that it feels more like a big amusement park for historians and fine art buffs rather than a city.  Washington has many large museums and it takes days to see them all.  Lucky that are all laid out neatly around the National Mall.  This is nice because a fast person can probably do all the museums in a couple days.  Some one who likes to take their time in museums can probably finish in 3 or 4 days.  It’s really like one massive museum split up in to different buildings with a big grassy area in between.  But the best thing about these Museums is that they are mostly free; paid for by someone else’s government! I visited the Natural History Museum, The Smithsonian Castle, and the Air and Space Museum.  There are another 6 or 7 museums in the area that I did not visit.  pictured below is the rare Hope Diamond found in the Natural History Museum and a pair of space toilets from the Air and Space Museum.



Surrounding the National Mall area there are a great deal of monuments and memorials honouring important people in American History and soldiers who have died in the wars America has fought.  Can you guess who all the monuments below are for?






Many of the buildings in Washington look very classical with elaborate stonework and many columns.  One thing I liked about Washington was a law that limits the height of the buildings.  Again, this makes it feel less like a city and more like an amusement park.  Washington is also the home of the FBI building.  There isn’t much special about it architecturally, but it reminded me very much of ‘The X-Files’.  As I walked by I kept thinking that I would see Mulder, Scully or other characters walk by; I resisted the urge to ask on of the guards where Mulder’s basement office was and if I could see it. 

Also, if anyone has played Fallout 3, which takes place in the Washington D.C. area you will notice some resemblance between the game and real life.  But there are also some things they cheated on.  It was cool to see all the buildings featured in the game and creepy to get flashed of a post apocalyptic version in my mind.  But like NYC and all the films and shows that were filmed there I got some deja vu from walking around D.C. as well.



As I write this it it pouring buckets in D.C. and I am waiting for the bus to Chattanooga, Tennessee home of Lookout Mountain.  But I will talk about that more later.