August 20, 2017

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

by Steve and Rosemary

After leaving Tacoma, we headed north to Vancouver. We drove through Peace Arch Park, a place where travelers can straddle the border and enjoy a moment away from the long lines of cars going north and south.

Crossing an imaginary line drawn at an arbitrary point, nothing seems very different, yet there are subtle changes. Colors become colours, distances are measured in kilometers instead of miles, everything that should be in Spanish is in French, and eighty cents have the buying power of a dollar.

Here we sometimes came across fun connections between one place and the other. On the left is a print photographed in the Tacoma Art Museum: "Memory" by Susan Point and Kelly Cannell. On the right is one of the designs derived from their work, on a sewer cover photographed in Vancouver.

Vancouver is one of the great cities of North America, and it includes everything we expect from a major metropolis, both good and bad. It has heavy traffic, crowded sidewalks, noise, dirt, homelessness, and high prices. It also has plenty of history, a wealth of cultural resources, distinct neighborhoods, professional and educational opportunities, great restaurants, and a stunning skyline.

On our first day, we walked along the shore of Burrard Inlet, the waterway that separates Vancouver from North Vancouver. The views are beautiful from every angle, as seen in these photos.

This is where the cruise ships arrive and depart, so the area is always full of passengers and other tourists (like us). While we were there, a Disney cruise ship was getting touched up, with a little help from a couple of ducks.

Are Donald and his nephew really any help to these guys?
We were staying in a high rise condo that was virtually all glass. Here is a photo of sunrise from our window.

We were surrounded by tall glass towers, including a controversial Trump Tower next door.

Overcompensating for some other shortcomings?
On our first full day, we went to Stanley Park, a large park with bike paths, tremendous views and an exhibit of Native Canadian totem poles.

It also has a beautiful shoreline, with views to North Vancouver and the city skyline.

The area is home to many seabirds, who enjoy the feast at low tide.

Who wants lunch? Too bad, suckers, this crab is ALL MINE!

Stanley Park also has a great aquarium, where we spent several hours enjoying the various exhibits.


Small men in tuxedos.

We went back into town for lunch in the West End district, a densely-populated area with diverse demographics, including a large LGBTQ community, celebrating its pride with rainbow banners and crosswalks.

The next day we went to Granville Island, a small island separated from the mainland by a man-made canal. On the drive over, we noticed a lot of cement trucks causing traffic delays, only to find that production of cement is a major part of the island's industry. At the manufacturing yard, they have large storage tanks which have been painted as an art exhibit.

One of the highlights of the island is the Granville Public Market, an indoor marketplace for fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, fish and baked goods, along with a variety of arts and crafts. Always crowded, it is an experience not to be missed.

The views from Granville are also amazing. In the canal we saw boats, paddle boarders, and water bike pedal boats, which look exactly like they sound.

On our last day, we drove to historic Chinatown which, like so many other Chinatowns, has a unique set of restaurants and stores. On the other hand, it also has a Starbucks.

Note the dragons on the traffic signal.
It also has some signs which defy description.

We don't know what a virtuous pie is, but we think we want some.

It may be a good idea to have your English speaking friends vet your signs before posting.
We decided to splurge for dinner at Five Sails, an excellent restaurant right on the water. Great service, amazing food, and a good way to end our trip.

We had been to Vancouver once before for a short trip, but this time we stayed longer and got a better feeling for the city. It is like New York in its hustle and bustle, but the Canadian people are unfailingly polite, which sets them apart from many Americans. A visit well worth the time.

August 15, 2017


by Rosemary West

Perhaps Tacoma would not have been on our list of places to see, but we needed a city near a major airport, where I could enjoy plenty of activities while Steve went back to Los Angeles for a few days on business.

Our favorite part of the city was Point Defiance Park. It has a lovely rose garden, beaches, a marina, a zoo and aquarium, hundreds of acres of natural forest with hiking trails, and Five Mile Drive, a scenic road around the periphery.

One of the many beautiful hiking trails.

We saw plenty of raccoons in the park.
They are so much cuter when they aren't digging up your garden!

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge, as viewed from Point Defiance.

Downtown Tacoma was on the quiet side. Traffic wasn't too bad, and parking wasn't a problem.

We saw quite a few old industrial buildings being converted to loft apartments and offices.
The old Union Station is now a U.S. courthouse.

Glass sculptor Dale Chihuly was born in Tacoma, and he is celebrated here. His "Bridge of Glass" is a pedestrian bridge that crosses Interstate 705, linking the downtown area to the Museum of Glass. The bridge includes two 40-foot crystal towers, a covered pavilion whose ceiling seems to be filled with sealife, and an 80-foot wall of display cases containing over 100 individual artworks. There is no fee to enter the bridge, which is open to the public 24 hours a day.

More of Chihuly's work is on display inside Union Station, where several very large installations can be viewed inside the rotunda.

Not far from Union Station is the Tacoma Art Museum, which emphasizes art of the Northwest. It isn't a large museum, but the collection is interesting, with both historical and modern works, and, of course, more Chihuly.
In a small hallway-like gallery was an exhibit of jewelry from the collection of the late Mia McEldowney. Jewelry in museums often makes me feel a bit sad. These objects were created for a very specific purpose, to give pleasure in the wearing. Looking at them in drawers and cases isn't nearly as much fun as it would have been to see them being worn.

The museum has signs warning visitors that "touching harms the art". Of course, they are right. Yet I couldn't help but feel that this multimedia piece (U is for Utopian by Dennis Evans) was meant to be interactive.

It's hard to find any art that can rival nature in the Pacific Northwest. I took a day trip to visit my friends Sue and Arnor in Port Angeles. Sue and I visited Olympic National Park and hiked up to Sol Duc Falls. The views around every corner were amazing.

Driving around Tacoma, I would suddenly catch sight of Mount Rainier, 40-some miles away, but seemingly right on top of the city. It was always breathtaking.

Next: We cross the border.

August 6, 2017

San Juan Island and Friday Harbor

by Steve Winogradsky

After leaving Seattle, we took a ferry to San Juan Island (one of the group of San Juan Islands) to visit our friends, Alex Shapiro and Dan Shelley. After a trip of about an hour across the Straits between the mainland and the island, we landed at Friday Harbor, a small town on the island without a stop light or a single chain store. We have been here before and always find it charming to walk around town and see the local businesses.

We arrived, checked into our hotel, the Earthbox Inn, and had drinks with another friend, Charles Richardson, before going out to dinner. We met Alex and Dan for breakfast at one of our favorite spots in town, Cynthia's, run by a friend of Alex and Dan's. After breakfast, Alex took us to see the house that she and Dan had just bought, a 3,800 square foot house right on the water, north of Friday Harbor. The house requires a lot of renovation, but Dan is a master carpenter and is doing a lot of the work himself, so we know it will be beautiful  And, they have a 1,000 square foot, 2 bedroom guest house, so we called "dibs" for our next visit.

We drove around the island to Roche Harbor and stopped to walk around a bit before going to one of the alpaca farms on the island. While viewing the alpacas, we saw one of the alpacas humping another one. I was beginning to feel quite inadequate by the amount of time this went on. Once inside the store, I asked what the gestation period was for alpacas and was told 11 to 12 months. I advised the clerk that they should be expecting a baby in that amount of time and he advised that the males and females were kept separately, and that the females engaged in this type of behavior all the time. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

Alex then took us to the home of noted composer Morten Lauridsen. "Skip", as his friends call him, is one of the premiere composers of choral works, and started the composer program at USC. He was the perfect host, offering some wine and cheese, while we discussed mutual friends, the plight of the music industry, and other topics. He was kind enough to give us a CD of recordings of his most famous works, which we enjoyed listening to.

After that, we went to Alex and Dan's current house at Eagle Point. While the house could use some repairs, it is gorgeous inside and has amazing views of the channel, where Alex can work at her desk and see whales and various seabirds go by.
Poor Alex, she has to look at this every day.

But the not-so-secret reason we went to Alex's house was to visit our former cats, Bob and Jake. Alex and Dan had agreed to adopt them when we decided to travel, and this was our first chance to see them since last October. Bob was (and still is) the friendliest cat in the world and Jake is still apprehensive about anyone coming into the house (including us) but we got to see them and pet them and assure ourselves that they had a good life with Alex and Dan.

After going to dinner at the Backdoor Kitchen, we went back to the hotel and got a good night's sleep. The next day, Alex took us on a long hike through the American Camp. Historically, The San Juan Islands were claimed by both the US and the UK, and both had encampments on San Juan Island (there is also an English Camp). The dispute resulted in the Pig War, (so called because it was triggered by the shooting of a pig), with the dispute finally settled by arbitration by Emperor Wilhelm I of Germany in 1872.

There are fantastic views of the ocean, hills and fields that are home to various species of wildlife, such as foxes (Alex and Dan feed an egg a day to a local male and female fox at their doorstep), deer, rabbits and sea birds.
Hello, Foxy!

Next up, A Flock of Seagulls

In many places, piles of driftwood collect due to the winter storms. You can see Vancouver Island over the Canadian border (our phones welcomed us to Canada due to the island being so close) and some of the other islands that make up the San Juans.

After seeing Bob and Jake one more time, we drove back into town for a delicious sushi dinner. The next morning, we boarded the ferry back to Anacortes and headed for Tacoma, where Rosemary could stay while I went back to LA for a few days to testify as an expert witness.
Reunited, and it feels so good....