Posts Tagged ‘travelling’

The one o’ clock cannon, as taken by a tourist at Edinburgh Castle

I’m in Princes Street Gardens right now, trying to relax. Trying. A family on the bench across from me is definitely not in happy land, cursing the daylights out of each other. The mother has a perma-scowl and curses her children for anything they do. “Don’t sit like that!” “Don’t walk around!” “Don’t make a noise!” “Why aren’t you talking to me?!” and on and on. The only time I saw her crack a smile was when the one o’clock gun blasted from the Castle, making the kids jump and hide. Such a sadist.

I must admit the blast scared me as well. In the two months I’ve been here, this was the first time I’d been near the Edinburgh Castle around one o’ clock. I’d forgotten about this tradition, thought it was a fatal car bomb, and nearly soiled my trousers.

Speaking of which, my coworker Luci and her friend Barry worked at the Edinburgh Tourist Office and said their favourite tourist question was: “Where does the cannonball land when the 1 o’ clock cannon strikes?” Right on your head, madam. Right on your head.

I watched the “Songwriter’s Circle Program” on BBC2 last night, a wonderful program showcasing four different artists and their best acoustic tunes. I swooned when I heard Nick Cave. The CBC back home should take some tips from the BBC – I swear, their music industry is only where it is because the national broadcasters take time to promote it.


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I’ve been a failure with the written blog. Please check flickr for the most up-to-date images from SXSW.

SXSW Music | The Pipettes @ Flamingo Cantina

I can’t explain how amazing this week has been, intellectually, creatively, and socially. Even the entertainment is more than I expected, and believe me, it takes a lot to please this little girl.

SXSW, I’m definitely coming back for more love. xoxo.

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For someone who suffers from Internet A.D.D., scheduling for SXSW should only be done with the aide of an administrative assistant and a cup of soothing chamomile tea. Otherwise, you’ll end up like me, overwhelmed and quivering in a corner of the apartment.

The good thing about this whole event is that 1. I’ve scored myself a wristband, which, though overpriced and does not guarantee me a single thing, at least offers the opportunity to weave in and out of clubs at leisure and the luxury to move from one group of annoyingly inebriated spring breakers to another. And 2. I actually have accommodation set with an awesome host from couchsurfing.com, which is more than can be said for a lot of last-minute planners who will probably end up sleeping in public libraries, movie houses, or a puddle of their upchucked Pabst Blue Ribbon between gigs.

For other SXSW virgins like me, here’s a list of some useful sites to plan your week full of great music, sore feet, and ringing ears. Maybe you’ll become just as overwhelmed and sick as me. That’s right; I’m bringing you down with me!

SXSW Official Schedule of Bands

Get it.

An incredible site listing great free day shows. If you’re low on cash, you’ll probably be able to see all of your favourite bands if you plan accordingly and are willing to wake up before noon hour. Indie favourites Architecture in Helsinki are playing around 3-4 free day shows, if that’s any indication.

Need to compare checklists with friends? Need to know where you’re going and if you’ll be able to leave the datarock show and make it in time to see Matt & Kim in time before you have to leave 15 minutes early to see Daniel Johnston and get back to the first club to see Peter Bjorn & John? (Gasp.) This is the place to do it, with Google Map and all.

This isn’t specific to the music festival or of SXSW in general, but it does have a lot of great interviews and show announcements for anyone wanting to have fun in the city.

You’re getting sick, aren’t you?

Have fun.

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Amtrak Emeryville | Delayed 6 hours

I was due to arrive in Vancouver at 12:30 this morning.

Thanks to signal delays in California, a rail problem in Oregon, and a blustery winter storm in Northern Washington and Vancouver, I stumbled back into town a good 12 hours later, hair caked with grease and skin coated with the detritus of railway washrooms.

40 hours on the train. My longest train trip for one of the shortest distances travelled.

My fellow riders and I barely got any sleep, but don’t worry, Amtrak. You gave us some of the best scenery we could ever ask for. You’ve still got a fan in me.

Amtrak Oregon | Winter beautyland

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San Francisco | City Lights BooksSign at City Lights Books, San Francisco

It was made clear to me that I did, indeed, happen upon the notorious crack ‘hood of Tenderloin in San Francisco, by the same person who was telling me where not to go in the city. Apparently in her long list of Places Not To Go, she forgot about this district. Go figure.

To calm myself from last night’s experience, I spent a couple of hours browsing in City Lights Books at Columbus and Broadway today. I’d just seen a documentary on Charles Bukowski and had to give the place a looksie. It’s a darling find, just down the street from Chinatown, and it actually encourages patrons to sit down and read a while.

Dodging more unsavoury characters and hyperactive tourists around Powell Street station constituted another part of my day. And good god. I’ve taken the cable car once now, and far be it from me to get in the way of a family who wants seats together on the benches facing the street. This is chaos at its finest, my friends, and I’m not sure if I want to put up with the steep inclines, jerky stops, and annoying tourists unless it’s before noon hour when the city is asleep. The transit vehicles, in general, seem to be well-trodden, so hopping on any sort of vehicle in the afternoon is going to be cause for some grief. A brief trip to Haight-Ashbury at 4:30 had me squeezing between SF bellies and smelling SF armpits.

San Francisco | The San Francisco Treat

Tonight, a friend from Sacramento is coming into town. We shall bop around at a concert like we’re 13. Maybe I’ll be in a more optimistic mood then. But again, I can’t leave you with a bad impression of the city, so here’s a picture of the Bay Bridge. Beautiful.

San Francisco | Sculptures & Bay Bridge

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San Francisco | Another hilly street

I’m not sure what I think of this place just yet. It could have a lot to do with the lack of sleep, but I think I’m still in Portland mode and find it difficult to deal with a place where I actually have to pay attention to bus routes and crazy people.

San Fran is a real city, no doubt. The tourists are here in masses, even in off-season, and so are the crack-heads. In fact, I don’t know if I’m just being a prude, but I’ve encountered way more unsavoury areas in my short day here than in all my trips to New York. I decided to check out another hostel in the city this evening without doing research on the area, and I ended up scurrying around Cracks-ville, almost soiling my trousers trying to find a way out.

Don’t get me wrong: San Fran’s a good place. It’s got some beautiful views and I can see its appeal, but coming from Vancouver, it’s hard to make an unbiased comparison with the home that I love. In fact, everyone keeps comparing their city to Vancouver — San Fran’s like a bigger, more urban, Vancouver. Portland is like Little Vancouver. But whereas Portland kinda grabs the Vancouver in its ’80s hey-day, San Fran grabs the whole tourist factor of the new Vancouver, ups it a notch, and then grabs the crazy factor and ups that a notch as well.

I shouldn’t speak so soon. I’ve pretty much only hit Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, the cable cars, and Crack-town, and my areas of choice still need to be explored… and I can’t wait. I have an open mind for the most part and need to see more.

Besides, the Chinese food I’ve had so far has been great. Go check out Chef Jia’s on Kearny and Columbus, just down the street from Larry Flynt’s. Thumbs up (to Chef Jia, not Larry Flynt, but to each his own).

Dare me to find the positive in a good day, and I will. Cheers to sesame chicken!

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Portland | From Mount TaborView from Mount Tabor in Portland, Oregon

There’s a lot more to be said about this friendly town of the northwest. Maybe it’s the sheer size of the place that makes it less intimidating than most centres I’ve sped through lately, but ask any traveller here, and the response is usually something along the lines of “it’s really cozy here”. That’s exactly it. Being in Portland is kinda like sitting in front of the fireplace on a cold and blustery day: once you find your little spot of happiness within the city, you just want to nuzzle up to it and get to know it a little better.

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