Thursday, February 21, 2008

Ukrainian boomerangs and one giant sausage

Bison at Elk Island National Park

After San Francisco, I flew to Edmonton in Canada, home of the McLeod’s – my sister-in-law Andrea’s hometown. It would have been colder than at home in Sydney (where it was getting on for winter) but for someone who is unnaturally attracted to the cold, it was great.
Last time I was here it was summer, with sunlight until 10pm or so. April is a different matter. It’s cold, the snow has only just melted, so everywhere is brown and muddy. But, I loved it all the same. For me it was a novelty that we could go to the national park (Elk Island) and still see snow on the ground and the lake half frozen over. This time too, I got to get that little bit closer to the bison. Probably as close as I’d like to get.

Frozen lake at Elk Island, and as close as I wanted to get to those guys

Alberta is also the province of Canada well known for its ‘big things’. This time, Lash took me to the towns of Mundare and Vegreville to see the Giant Ukrainian Sausage, and the Giant Pysanka (Ukrainian Easter Egg) respectively. The area was favoured by many Ukrainian settlers, hence there is a large Ukrainian community still in the area from which Lash is descended. I found the Pysanka very pretty, however the giant sausage was not. Still I did get to taste some – it wasn’t bad.

The giant Ukrainian Sausage, and the Giant Pysanka
I also got to take a ride along with Shirley, Andrea’s sister, who is an officer with the Edmonton Police, while it was somewhat of a quiet night for them, we did speed along the Edmonton streets, arrest an unruly teenager, comfort a little boy after a stranger offered him candy and visit the hospital, all in all a really interesting night

The real joy of the visit was seeing the MacLeods again, including grandchildren Riley and Haley who latched on to ‘Aunty Claire’ and her funny accent. In addition, Riley, drawing on his heritage introduced me to the idea of one of the older Ukrainian artifacts, the Ukrainian boomerang. “But Riley, I thought boomerangs came from Australia!”. “Well not this one. This one is from North America”. I guess I’ve been educated. And of course the biggest kid of all, the gorgeous black Labrador, Koda. She'd certainly grown since my last visit

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Wearing flowers in my hair (or - designer jeans in San Francisco)

So finally I am getting around to posting my world trip for 2007 (this way I can be all prepared for a new trip in 2008!)

Anyhow, on April 20, 2007 at around 12ish, I flew out of Sydney. An hour later, I arrived in San Francisco. The international date line certainly makes for one quick trip. It did feel somewhat longer on the plane though. I blame it on the plane seats.

Arriving in San Francisco, I went straight from the airport to my hostel at Fisherman's Wharf. By straight, obviously I mean that I took the scenic tour of San Francisco and suburbs, but given I was slightly jet-lagged, it didn't bother me too much. In fact it was great, as it gave me my bearings of the city. We drove straight through the centre of San Francisco (and additionally past some shops that I immediately placed on my visit list). After an hour or so, I got to Fisherman's Wharf and settled into my room.

Sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge

After dropping off my bag and showering, I realised that I was famished. Plus I had a number of things that I needed to pick up from the supermarket, so I headed down to the local Safeway. Amongst other items including Oreos and wintergreen tic-tacs, and browsing all the strange and wonderful things that one may find in an American supermarket, I picked up some deodorant. Not just any deodorant, but Chai Latte scented deodorant. Aah I love America. Following that, however, and very un-Californian of me, it was back to the hostel for a nap. I blame the jet-lag. I did wake up, however, for an early evening wander of Fisherman's Wharf.

The San Francisco Center

Day 1 in San Francisco - it was raining. While this meant that I couldn't do much sightseeing, it did give me the opportunity to get some shopping out of my system. I headed into San Francisco city centre, and it didn't take long for a seasoned shopper such as myself to find the places to go. All my old favourites! Bloomingdales, Victoria's Secret, Gap and lots lots more. I bought myself a pair of designer jeans. Quite fitting - San Francisco is the home of jeans, in particular Levis. When I entered the Levi's shop to buy a pair for my brother in law, I had never seen so many pairs of jeans in the same place before!

Left: The Golden Gate Bridge, Right: San Francisco terraces and the view to the city centre

The next morning, after partaking in my usual American breakfast of cream cheese bagels as it was a gorgeous day, it was a perfect opportunity to walk to and over the Golden Gate. This is one of the absolute must do's in San Francisco. From someone who walks over the Sydney Harbour Bridge frequently... this is a long bridge. And when I got to the other side? I just kept on walking. Marin County was pretty, and it wasn't far to Sausalito, a really cute bayside town. I spent a couple of hours here, wandering around before I caught the ferry back to San Francisco. Then I just spent some time wandering around, Russian Hill, Telegraph Hill, Nobb Hill!

Left: Coit Tower, Right: Marinas along the path to the Golden Gate
Then it came to my last day in San Fran. I didn't have too much time, so I just wandered into town. A little bit of shopping, and a cable car ride home before I had to head to the airport. No doubt about it, San Francisco is one of the places to go.