Wednesday Wander – California Dreaming

It’s a short Wednesday Wander this week. The sickness bug has returned and taken over the entire household, all of us wandering around miserably, wishing it would go away. We live inland now, quite far from the ocean, and I do notice the difference in that things seem to linger, no fresh breezes or salt air sweeping through to clear away the sickness miasma.

And so my mind has wandered. To a place where the air is balmy, fresh with salt and Pacific breezes sweeping off a blue ocean. Where palm trees dance and seafood is served crisp and hot, fresh from the boats.

These shots were all taken the day we arrived in San Francisco just over two years ago, after a week spent in Vancouver and Seattle. We were about to start the next leg of our journey, heading down the California coast for my brother’s wedding.

We’d arrived, weary after a whirwind week, but excited to meet up with the rest of the family, who were flying in later that day. We checked into our hotel, then went to find food, a local restaurant offering excellent coconut prawns and a water view the perfect antidote to the bustle of airports and luggage and taxis, setting the scene for a wonderful week to come.

And it was my favourite time of day, as well. Sunset, the sky and sea reflections of each other, colours blending above and below. As we strolled back along the water to our hotel, I remember the feeling of warmth, within and without, and of happiness to be somewhere so wonderful with my favourite people in the world.

So, as I feel so rotten this week, I’ve decided to wander back there again. Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Wednesday Wander – Capilano Suspension Bridge, Vancouver, Canada

This is the Capilano Suspension Bridge, Vancouver, Canada. Suspended over the Capilano River, it’s a well known tourist attraction, drawing over 800,000 visitors per year.The word ‘Capilano’ derives from a First Nations term, Kia’polano, which means beautiful river. Looking down into the gorge at the tumbling waters, it’s easy to see how the place got its name. The first bridge on the site was built in 1888 by George Grant MacKay, who purchased 6,000 acres in the area and built himself a log cabin on the side of the gorge. His bridge was made of hemp rope and cedar, and lasted until his death in 1903, when it was replaced by a wire cable version.

The bridge passed through the hands of several families until the 1930s, when owner ‘Mac’ MacEachren encouraged local First Nations tribes to place their totem poles on the land. Subsequent owners expanded on this idea, and the modern cable bridge was built in the 1950’s.

Now, I’m not that great with heights. I’m especially not great with heights when the thing I’m standing on bounces and moves around, like the bridge does. I don’t care how many elephants or Mounties or whatever the bridge is supposed to be able to hold up – it just doesn’t feel right to me. However, I made it from one side to the other without (too much) incident – I won’t talk about the bit when my now-husband tried to ‘bounce’ us in the centre of the bridge – and here’s the photo taken from the other side to prove it.

When I visited, several years ago, the totem poles were there, as well as the log cabin gift shop with a few touristy photo opportunities ;-D Apparently, there is now also a system of suspended tree-top walkways, and a focus on the First Nations heritage of the area – I’ll have to go back for another visit next time I’m in Vancouver!

However, the forest remains deep and dark – I remember being amazed at the height and girth of some of the trees as we walked the trails, the river rushing white below us, just glimpsed between the branches. It was hard to believe we were only a few minutes from a busy residential area – rather, it was as though we had strayed into a piece of the old time, before Vancouver was Vancouver, when the land was wilder.

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Wednesday Wander – Pacific Northwest Totem Poles

totem-1These tall, beautifully carved objects are totem poles, part of the culture and artistry of the First Nations people, specifically those of the Pacific Northwest. The great forests that once covered the misty Pacific shores were home to vast red cedar trees, traditionally used to make the poles. Now only pockets of that forest remain, glimpses of the long-ago.

totem-2The top photo was taken in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, a piece of the old forest preserved on the very tip of the gleaming city. I used to live across the road from where the park began, and often walked there with my dog, taking trails past hidden lakes and tangled undergrowth. Once you’re among the trees, it’s easy to forget you’re in a city. It’s a marvellous place.

totem-3The second photo was taken in Vancouver as well, at Capilano Valley, and the above image was taken at Victoria, on Vancouver Island. The figures on the poles are stylistic representations of known ancestors, natural objects and animals, and supernatural beings, and they were used by different families or clans as storytelling devices, funerary containers, and even as shaming devices, only removed once the wrong was righted or the debt paid.

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Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

This final totem pole, randomly enough, is in Berkhamsted, an historic town quite close to where I live. And how did a totem pole find its way into the heart of England? Apparently, during the 1960’s, Berkhamsted resident Roger Alsford worked at the Tahsis Lumber Mill on Vancouver Island. During strike action he was saved from starvation by the local Kwakiutl community, who looked after him. In gratitude his family, who owned a lumber mill in Berkhamsted, commissioned the totem pole to be carved by First Nations artist, Henry Hunt. In 1968 the completed pole was shipped to England and erected at the lumber yard. It’s now private apartments, so you can’t get close to the totem any more, but it is still visible from the canal.

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!

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You can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ, and check our my Facebook Page, Instagram and Pinterest Page for book info, photos, blogs and more.

Plus check out my latest release, A Thousand Rooms, now available on Amazon.

#Thursday Doors – Marine Building, Vancouver

Marine Building 1This week’s door is a revolving door from the Marine Building, located at 355 Burrard St, Vancouver. Built in 1930 in the Art Deco style, the Marine Building was the tallest building in Vancouver until 1939, and for a brief time was the tallest building in the British Empire. It is currently used as private offices, though the exterior has appeared in several movies and TV shows, including Timecop, Blade: Trinity, The Fantastic Four (2005 version) and Smallville.

Marine Building 2Here’s more of the beautiful detailing around the doors and the stained glass window above, which from inside has several bands of coloured glass, just visible in this image. (Bear with me – these photos are about twenty years old and I’ve done what I can with them.)

If you’re in Vancouver, wander down and have a look at the building – it’s well worth doing so. While there are no public galleries in the building, you can go into the lobby, plus there’s a restaurant on the ground floor. And here’s a bonus door – the magnificent Art Deco elevator doors, still in place. You can also see some of the floor detail, which is marble inlaid with the signs of the zodiac.

Marine Building 3Thanks for checking out my Thursday Door, part of Norm 2.0’s Thursday Door Challenge. Hop on over to his site and see some more, or add a door of your own!

Wednesday Wander – Watery Ways

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This week’s Wednesday Wander was inspired by an image I used in Monday’s post, of the Sydney ferries at Circular Quay. I lived in Sydney for a couple of years and would often take the commuter ferries across the Harbour, paying a few dollars to bob past some of the most famous landmarks in the world. There are several other ferries which venture further, such as the Manly one which goes out through the Heads. It can be quite an adventure on a rough day, when the calmer waters of the harbour meet the open ocean, the boat rocking as it turns to such a degree the sliding doors flick back and forth and you feel the need to brace yourself.

I’ve visited and lived in other waterside cities as well, where public transport is anything but everyday.

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View of the West End looking back from the Seabus.

When I lived in Vancouver my home was in the West End but I worked on the North Shore, so I would take the Seabus every day from Lonsdale Quay, then walk the rest of the way home. When we went back to visit last year we took it again – making the short trip across the water surrounded by mountains, Stanley Park, the Lions Gate Bridge and the Vancouver skyline. It still only costs a few dollars, and is a beautiful way to see the city.

Coming up to St Mark's Square and the Doge's Palace

Coming up to St Mark’s Square and the Doge’s Palace

I visited Venice for only a few days many years ago, yet still remember the colours and light, the way the city felt frozen in time, almost like a film set. I loved that you could spend a few lire (at the time) to catch a water taxi and be ferried around the city past so much beauty and history, and that people got to do so every day as part of their work commute.

Now I live near London, and have taken the riverboats several times, including one memorable occasion where we were on a school trip and supposed to alight at a certain dock, but the boat only stopped for about five seconds, pulling away again as we tried to get thirty Year Two children out of their seats and lined up. A stern word with the operators ensured we had enough time to disembark at the next stop, though it meant a longer walk through the city than we had planned. Still, it’s a wonderful  and very affordable way to travel the ancient waterway, past palaces and fortresses and famous bridges.

I’m sure there are many other cities where everyday public transport is a trip – let me know some of your favourites. Thanks for coming on a watery Wednesday Wander with me…

Wednesday Wander – Lost Lagoon, Vancouver

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Looking at this photo, would you believe it was taken in the heart of a large North American city? Sure, there are a few giveaways if you look closely – streetlights just visible through the distant trees, and a manmade fountain in the centre of the lake.

This is Lost Lagoon, in Vancouver, Canada. Once a tidal mudflat connected to Burrard Inlet, it was home for centuries to the area’s First Nations tribes, who used it as a rich food source. Before it was landlocked in 1916 by the construction of the Stanley Park Causeway, the lagoon was open to the sea, the movement of the tides causing it to ‘disappear’ from time to time.

A local writer who loved to canoe on the lake gave it the name ‘Lost Lagoon.’ She wrote:

‘As that perfect summer month drifted on, the ever-restless tides left the harbour devoid of water at my favorite canoeing hour, and my pet idling place was lost for many days – hence my fancy to call it the Lost Lagoon.’ Pauline Johnson

I used to live very close to Lost Lagoon, and spent a lot of time walking there. Raccoons played in the undergrowth, squirrels and waterbirds made their homes in the ancient trees, yet just a block away were the towers and noise of Vancouver. Such contrast is part of why Vancouver is so often named one of the world’s most liveable cities, that such an oasis of calm can be found at its very heart.

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Thanks for joining me on another Wednesday Wander – where will we go next week?

Thursday Doors – The Fabulous Commodore, Vancouver

This week’s Thursday Door is a little blast from my past. It’s the entrance to the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver, a 1920’s dance hall still with the original sprung dancefloor.

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I moved to Vancouver in my early twenties after finishing university and soon settled into the city, exploring the neigbourhoods and nightlife. The Commodore hosted a lot of the bands I listened to, plus they had an excellent Disco Night every Tuesday, for the bargain basement admission price of $2.00.

When my friends and I first used to go along it was half empty, the dancefloor home to various alternative musicians, a girl who used to do jazz ballet in the corner, and a few Japanese tourists. The big screen hanging over the stage played a continuous loop from Saturday Night Fever, of John Travolta preening in his underwear. Flick, flick, his hips would turn in his black briefs as we spun around under disco lights and a DJ booth that looked like a spaceship, protruding over the dance floor. I absolutely loved it.

Then disco had a resurgence and Tuesday nights became very busy – you had to get there early if you wanted to get in. The Disco King held court every week, young and lean in his flares and feathered hat, leading a dance competition for all the flannel-clad groovers, boots stomping and bouncing on the sprung timbers. It was still awesome.

I left Vancouver not long after, but still remember The Commodore as one of my favourite places to hang out. When I went back to visit recently I had to take a photo, just for nostalgia’s sake. I don’t know if they do Disco Night anymore – it’s probably Grunge Night now, the music of my youth rewound for a new generation.

But if they did still have it, I’d be there 🙂

If you’d like to see more Thursday Doors, do the hustle on over to Norm 2.0, where you can view the list or add your own…