Living in hotels, on the road in strange cities, I try to get out of the business traveler mode of work, happy hour and too big and rich dinners (with the occasional visit to the hotel gym thrown in).  I’ve been in Richmond, Virginia, since Sunday, so tonight it was time I made like a local and have a sort of normal night.  I’ve got a way cool Fiat for my rental car (!!), so being mobile it was only up to me to figure out what to do.

What would I be doing at home after work?  Well, just regular things;  run a few errands, pick something up for dinner, walk my pooch or go for a run, maybe catch up on one of my favourite shows.  Usually I try to find a Whole Foods market whereever I am, but I had already googled that and discovered there were none in downtown Richmond.  Then I remembered a market I had seen on my last trip here and set out to find it.  Ellwood Thompson’s is a funky market in Carytown that’s been working the Whole Foods model for 23 years.   Picked up a fabulous Chesapeake Blue ash washed goat cheese, roasted brussel sprouts and cold fried chicken.  Mmmm.  And then I spotted . . .wait . . what’s that . . .a craft beer tasting . . .in a grocery store!! Oh my, never in Canada.  Had the chance to try the Hardywood Belgium blonde, among others.  Delish.  How civilized,  a couple of those came home with me too.

After toiling in a wood manufacturing mill all day (how I earn the bread and butter), I needed some fresh air, so decided to try out the Canal Walk along the James River I had been hearing about.  Fantastic!  One block from my hotel is not only a fabulous urban oasis along the river, but also the site, and memorial, for one of the pivotal battles of the Civil War.  When I headed out in the the 90 degree heat and face washing humidity I was only hoping to get in a run.  Instead I got to spend an hour or so walking through four centuries of history.

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The fall of Richmond was a turning point in the Civil War.  When the city fell it represented many different things to the citizens.  But only one thing to the newly freed slaves and their champion, Abraham Lincoln.

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It was a wonderful evening walking through history, taking some great pictures.  I can’t wait to explore some of the other Civil War memorials and battlefield sites.

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After that bit of history geekiness, I came back to enjoy my feast at the hotel and ended up watching an NPR documentary about the Lewis and Clark expedition (which set out from Virginia) – history nerd reputation fully revived.  I’ll have to work extra hard at my party girl rep this weekend!!

Had Drew Holcomb in heavy rotation – getting ready for the weekend in Kentucky – “I Like To Be Me When I’m With You”.

http://youtu.be/gZ2mFxc-Fl4

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Our True North Strong and Free

Happy Canada Day!

(Duncan P Walker/iStockphoto)

There’s going to be lots of “travelling in the south and lovin’ it” posts coming up in July (vacation and festival time!) so today it’s all about a big huge shout out for my home team – Team Canada!  What do I love about my home country?

  1. Vancouver – it’s impossibly beautiful.  Mountains, glass towers, beaches.
  2. Great music:  Blue Rodeo, The Guess Who, Bare Naked Ladies, City and Colour, Spirit of the West and Great Big Sea  
  3. Our Great Outdoors, and our great love for it.   Despite the bone-chilling cold half the year (in some parts at least!) we always find ways to be outdoors.  This is Banff National Park, in the Rocky Mountains.  If you haven’t visited it, put it on the bucket list, it’s incredible. 
  4. More than half the rest of the world would love to move here.  No kidding.  Check out this article from the Globe and Mail, which is, granted, from 2010 but I don’t think a lot has changed.  “Given the choice, 53 per cent of adults in the world’s 24 leading economies said they would immigrate to Canada…The reasons for Canada’s relative attractiveness are clear: 86 per cent of respondents around the globe said Canada is a country where rights and freedoms are respected; 72 per cent said Canada is welcoming to immigrants; 79 per cent said Canadians are tolerant of people from different racial and cultural backgrounds; and 79 per cent said Canadians have one of the best qualities of life”.
  5. Whistler.  Ok, so I’m a bit west coast-centric, but I love it here.
  6. Ryan and Ryan – as in Kessler (hockey player) and Reynolds (movie dude).  Ain’t nothing wrong with any of this!
  7. It’s really clean here.  Yup, that’s just a fact.  Our whole country has a population of 34.5 million people spread over 9.9 million square kms.  That’s not much density so it makes keeping everything clean and tidy a whole lot easier.     By comparison my other favourite place, the US, has 314 million people spread over almost the identical land area – 9.83 million sq kms.  The exception to the density equation would be my home-town, Vancouver, with a population density of just under 150,000 people/sq mile, coming in third in North America behind New York and San Francisco and well ahead of places like Chicago and Boston.    That falls under one of the things I don’t like – it’s always so damn busy in Vancouver – I never go anywhere without reservations and traffic is a continual headache.  But come to think of it, how do we manage to maintain such a clean and beautiful city with that sort of density?  Maybe it’s because we are, as a society, well mannered.  It’s simply unacceptable here to drop trash on the street and one of the things that our incredibly high taxes pays for is civic cleanliness, along with bike lanes and lots of green space.  Call us west coast hippies if you like, I’m just fine with that!
  8. Good airports and roads – just good infrastructure in general.  But really lousy drivers and again, maybe a Vancouver thing, but we truly have some brutal drivers out there on the road.  On the other hand, this is inside the terminal at YVR.  Compare that to LAX . . .or pretty much anywhere else.  The only thing I wonder is will the construction on Highway 1, the main commuter highway coming in and out of town, EVER be done. I’ve lived here 20 years and it’s been under construction the entire time.  Thank goodness I don’t live out in the ‘burbs. 
  9. Public Health Care.  I’ve benefited from it personally and it might not be perfect but it’s sort of like democracy, there isn’t a better alternative.  And having availed myself of the US health care system recently, I would also add that there is a lot of media hype around it.  The care I received was second to none and the cost the same as in Canada.  My insurer picked up that tab, the same insurer that would have picked up the same tab at home.  I know that having your life and health be a “for profit” business is not a good thing, but those of us on the outside should also take all the sensationalistic media reports with the same grain of salt we apply to the Kardashian stories – the principles of journalism are the same – just saying.
  10. John Fleuvog Shoes.  Unique shoes for unique soles.  I know he’s international now, but he started here and he’s ours.  Best shoes ever.  
  11. Beavers!!  Yes we also have bears, whales, eagles and narwhals- lots of majestic animals in our mountains, forests and oceans but we chose the beaver as our national symbol.  Furry beavers;  shiny, smooth beavers;  we have them all it’s just a matter of personal choice.  And seriously, what’s not to love about that! 

To close out my Canadiana lovefest, nothing would do but some Blue Rodeo.  Since I’ve been head over heels about them since my university days, here’s “Head Over Heels”.  Can’t wait to see them at the Burnaby Roots and Blues Fest in August.    Love this lyric, been counting those days!

Well, I know one night together 
Won’t make up for ten apart
But I’m steady as rain
Nothing ever changes in my heart 

Throw off the covers
Open the windows
I don’t care what we do
I’ve been standing for days
Now I get to fall down with you