Showing posts with label transportation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label transportation. Show all posts

Sunday, August 22, 2010

All Aboard BC Ferries

As I write this, somewhere there is a drama playing out. Either here, on the 5:00pm sailing from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay (or Vancouver to Victoria for the non-locals), or at the Tsawwassen terminal. Or perhaps a little in both.

As I was boarding the ferry as one of the last foot passengers, a man was heading in the opposite direction, obviously in a hurry. A BC Ferries staff person had accompanied him, and stood explaining the situation to the guy taking the boarding passes, “He may or may not be back by the time we sail,” she said, nodding towards the man. Then looking directly at him said, “You have exactly 10 minutes to be back on board. No more.” She said it with a whole lot of emphasis, trying to make sure he really understood. He took off in a mad dash. As I handed in my boarding pass, I heard the two staff people talking. “He must have been the first car on and ran up the stairs, to get up here that fast” remarked the ticket taker. All kind of interesting, as I was sure it was only about 5 minutes to sailing time, but I guess she knew her stuff.

As I walked down the gangway, I noticed the same staffer talking to another female employee at the foot of the gangway, “Yeah, his wife and child went to the washroom, and he drove on….” They were shaking their heads, seemingly more amused than really concerned. Well, I hope the cat really has nine lives, because curiosity really did kill the cat on this one… “What, he drove his car on without his family?” I asked. “Yes. His wife and child went into the terminal to use the washroom and weren’t back by the time the ferry started loading, and he just drove on.” “Seriously?” I asked, at somewhat of a loss for words. With a nod the first lady staffer went back up the gangway, presumably to watch for him. But I could sense the other lady staffer was willing to talk, and I waited.

“Happens all the time,” she said. I laughed and said, “You’re kidding.” “Nope,” she said, “if it’s time for their car to board, they just drive on and assume the rest of their party will walk on. In this case, I think it might have been a baby, so that’s not good. But you’d be amazed at what people will do sometimes.” “But his car is on the ferry, and he isn’t, “say I. “Yup, you got it,” she says, and grins.

Apologizing for being so snoopy, I thanked her for telling me about it, and wandered away wondering what would happen.

So, I offer up the following possible endings. You know, kind of like those tween mystery novels where you read the beginning, and pick the ending you most want. Let’s see:

  • A. Man runs down stairs to the car level, bolts towards the concession building, finds wife and baby standing outside the washroom looking baffled, man grabs baby, yells for his wife to run, and they fly like no one’s business back across the tarmac to the stairs, then up the stairs, then up the gangway, and get on in exactly 10 minutes, with the staffer saying, “Jeez, you really cut that close.” Likelihood: not a chance.
  • B. Same as A, but they head to the loading ramp for cars, explain desperately to the car loading team what happened, and walk on at the lower vehicle deck, just in the nick of time. Likelihood: extremely low.
  • C. Same as A/B, but they don’t get back to the ship in time, they are running, but time runs out, they barely get ½ the way back when the gangway or loading ramp (take your pick) is lifted before their eyes. Likelihood: more likely than any scenario so far.
  • D. Same as A/B/C, except as man finds his wife, the ship’s whistle sounds over her cries of disbelief. Likelihood: pretty high
  • E. Same as D, but man cannot hear the ship’s whistle over the sound of his wife’s anger and shouts of “You idiot, you idiot!!” Likelihood: extremely high.
  • F. Man runs like a madman around the concession area, looking for his wife and baby, but they are nowhere in sight. Meanwhile, wife and baby sit in the back seat of a stranger’s car, still blathering her story, hoping like hell that her husband wasn’t stupid enough to run off the ferry after the car was loaded. On board, the kind strangers utter empty assurances, “I’m sure you’ll find him.” Man is still somewhere near the concession and can be overheard muttering, “Shit. Shit, shit shit shit shit!” Likelihood: equally high
  • G. Same as F, but wife and baby have walked onto the ferry via the lower car deck, after explaining to staff what happened. No change to the part of the story where the husband is swearing his head off by the concession. Likelihood: pretty high
  • H. Same as F, but wife has climbed the stairs up to the passenger loading gangway, struggling baby weighing her down. Wife emerges from stairway 1 just after husband descends down stairway 2, missing him by a fraction of a second. Likelihood: not likely, but you never know.

This is the kind of thing where the various possibilities keep splitting off into endless variations, kind of like that quantum physics thing….

What do you think happened?

This reminds me of another ferry boarding incident about 20 years ago that would make a good story… I should write that up sometime….

PS - a ship's officer just came on the PA and said< "Your attention please, we are nearing Tsawwassen terminal..." then dead silence. A few giggles around the ship. Then he comes back on, "Just kidding folks, we are nearing Swartz Bay terminal..." LOL.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Random Pics and Reflections from New York City

I have time to kill while I sit at JFK waiting to board my flight home, so avoiding boredom by reviewing pics and uploading some random stuff. This pic is from my first visit to the Strand book store, which I wrote about here. These are the awesome $1 racks outside. There must have been 20 of them.
Inside the store... it's HUGE!
Maybe half of their Picasso selection (oh, heaven!):
Owl on the roof of the Strand... I sat down in one of 4 chairs in front of a window on the 2nd floor (ah, slight breeze on a hot day!) and noticed this guy. I thought he said, "Whoooo's that?" but it might have been my imagination.
Outside the Strand, a lady backed into this bike while the crowd of $1 book rack browsers watched on. She finished parking then got out of her car and walked away. No one said a thing. Arghhhh!!! I wasn't going to get involved while travelling, but jeez, people!
If you get really broke on vacation... and you set a daily budget then continually blow it... when you are low on cash... or just want to save your money for something else, you can get a lot of food for $20 if you find a real grocery store. OK, I liked, this was $22.90, but still, not bad. I am one of those lucky people who can enjoy cereal with water, so if my hotel room doesn't have a fridge, it's still no worries for me. I just pick up a plastic spoon, and for my first dose of cereal I buy one of those little single-serving cereals in a cup, and change the cup.
Birds on a wire. I love old peeling paint like this.
Section of the Berlin Wall in Manhattan. I wrote about finding it here.

They say there is a first time for everything! I was so surprised, these guys will usually do anything for a buck. I think, perhaps, he's an employee, not an entrepreneur. Or, if he's the latter, he won't last long...
Gee, that mannequin seems almost lifelike! The one on the left, the one with the head, of course. Oh, yeah, it's a DJ performing in the shop window. I think it was an Armani store or something.
Is it me, or does something look off kilter here? My meal wasn't amazing enough here to warrant a write up, but it was fun trying to keep everything on the table, just a week slant there...
Cute kid with blue-haired doll on the bus. I am a big fan of Manhattan busses, even though many (including The Pod's survival guide, boo!) say no one takes them. Well, that's ok, because it means that there are virtually no tourists on them, just locals, and rarely crowded. In 5 trips to NYC I think I've only stood on a bus twice. And they are air conditioned. And you get to see where you are going!!! It's easy for Manhattan to feel like little islands when you poke your head up like a mole from only using the subway. I use both. Busses are especially handy cross-town, as most subway lines run north/south only (due to the fact that they were all separate independent lines at one time), and can save time. But not always, if they go through a really conjested area. Study up and give them a try. Get a transit map that includes busses and subways, and you are all set.
While waiting for said bus, I noticed the metal disk attached to the hood of this taxi. It is a permit or something. I guess that prevents someone from painting their car yellow and sticking a toy store taxi sign on the roof....
OK, there was one really, really rainy day when I was in town. I had a good laugh when I came up behind these two ladies (locals, I believe) who had improvised some rain gear....
Cafe I was "stuck" in when the rainstorm hit. I just stayed and talked to the molecular biologist who was at the table next to me. I kid you not. That's the second one I've met this year. These boys are SMART!
The cafe was great, so I'll have to look up the name and mention it properly, but it also made me laugh. You'd think it was a movie scene where Apple had gone a little heavy on the product placement. When I arrived, I think there were 6 or 7 Apple laptops in use on about 12 tables. In fact, the starting point of my conversation with my smart scientist was when he opened a pc laptop... lol....
What eventually happens to a bike left locked to a post too long, I guess...
Inside of a bathroom door. Don't ask me why. I have no idea.
OK, weird thing to find in an art store, at least for me. You can buy the sneakers in your own size, or the size of your loved one, then paint. Heh.
I have no idea what this lady had going on, but it was definitely worth of an odd stuff picture snag....
This guy was pulling his concession down a lane of traffic, next to the parked cars, outside Grand Central Station.
Excuse me ma'am... there appears to be a tree growing out of your backpack.... ??? !!!
The Bag Man is my friend. This store is the craziest store to go into (I dare you!). I go in when I need cheap luggage to take extra shopping home (I often bring just a carry-on to NYC, then get a cheap bag to get me home, which I then give to charity). This time my bag - on wheels - cost me $10.99. 34th Street and 8th Avenue, right by the subway.Had an interesting chat with a local when I took a pic of this building. She was confounded as to why so many tourists took pics of it... I didn't really have an answer, other than "it's different".... to which she said, "It is definitely that"... I asked if she meant that in a bad way, and she said not necessarily. Anyways, it was cool.
Ever wonder how the really nice shops get the pretty leaves in their windows?
Closing up shop for the day...
I wonder what the puppy ordered for dinner....
Almost time to board my plane, so that's it for this round. More to come, I'm sure...

Friday, March 26, 2010

There is never anything ordinary about an ordinary day

Beauty spotted this morning....
These remarkable blooms are on these trees framing the final walkway into where I'm doing contract work at the moment. Unlike the fabulous cherry blossom trees on a different spot on this property, these are a startling bright white. I don't know what they are, but I do enjoy them as I duck to get past them.
An uneventful morning commute can even be interesting to the observer. Take today, for instance.

"Two things, one I forget..." - introduction to a cell phone call made by a guy on Skytrain, fancy suit, worn bulky lawyer's briefcase, probably sleep deprived or something.

"I hate it when these things fall out!!!" - loud exclamation by girl sitting at the front of the Skytrain looking out the window, many people turned to see what had happened, it turns out she was talking on the phone and her earpiece fell out. And she yelled at it.

"Hurry up, you're wasting my time!" - same girl, to her friend she was talking to on the phone; I couldn't help but smile, but it did seem a little cruel - but the friend obviously protested, because this was followed by "No! Not you! My cell phone, you idiot!"

"We're working on a building that got torched" - a guy updating his buddy on his cell phone as he walked down the Skytrain stairs.

Two girls crossing 7 lanes of traffic at Lougheed and Willingdon, arm in arm, red duotang folder held between them, they are both reading the document and discussing it, not glancing up once. They're crossing with the light, but the trucks that fly through there, jeeze....

Guy driving by on a scooter, both hands on the controls, a cup of Tim Horton's coffee held between his teeth. When he finishes his illegal U-turn (in the middle of the same intersection as above), he reaches up and carefully brings the cup down into one hand, as he drives along. Um, those little plastic lids pop off sometimes, don't they? (sure wish I'd had my camera out!)

Girl at busstop: matchy matchy brown leather boots, gloves, purse - with complimentary beige coat and brown accessories..... isn't matchy matchy out? I don't think Stacey would have liked it.

Girl at busstop: reading her book and barely notices when her bus comes, notices at the last minute, and needs to sprint to get the driver's attention as she's the only one catching that bus (that girl would be me! ;-)

As I am crossing the street after I get off the bus, I am crossing a street that runs perpendicular to Canada Way. Panel travelling along Canada Way van turns right, going past the first two lanes, past the meridian, then turning right into the two lanes of traffic that go the other way, in order to scoot around a right turn lane that takes him back along Canada Way in the same direction he was driving. No, he wasn't bypassing a light, as he had a green light at the time. I. do. not. understand.

Then, imagine my delight, as I neared my destination, walking amongst office buildings, the guy coming directly towards me is smiling. Right at me. Like a long last friend. He has flowers in his hand. "Oh!! For me?" I exclaim.... Flower courier guy laughs, and carries on with his day. Some things are just irresistible, you know?

Just an ordinary day.

Yesterday was pretty ordinary too, just:

Getting up to tell the bus driver that it was raining in the back of his bus. It was pouring out, and the emergency skylite thing was wide open. He laughed, said "I guess it wasn't raining earlier", thanked me - then got up at the next bus stop and closed it. It was 10am and it had been raining for hours, how many people had said nothing to this point?

As I got off said bus, I looked down, and the little purple hat from the day before was gone. Washed away by the rain running down the street by the curb, I suppose. I actually look for it as I walk along. Then, it pops into my head: an entire kid's story written from the perspective of the hat, or the little creature living in a wee boat under the hat. Only I could come up with that. No, actually my sweet sissy could come up with that too. I can actually imagine her embellishing the story when she reads this....

There is never anything ordinary about an ordinary day.

Friday, August 07, 2009

I woke up this morning in Paris!

Just came back to this previous entry to add some pics....

This was my first meal in Paris, a block or so from my flat, heaven!!!

Gare de Lyon train station in Paris... I am really here!
Oh my, my train is pulling into Paris... yipee! Do I look just a little excited?
Watching the time go by on my Dali watch, purchased in Barcelona (though I didn't make it to the Dali museums, will do when I go back there)...
In the train's magazine there was an article on Michael Palin in France, in French, of course. I took pics of the article to go back and translate to read it later... (I adore Michael Palin's travel writing and shows!)
Just an ad that caught my eye in the train's magazine...
Outside the Marsielle train station...
This was the train I took from Aix to Marsielle, very modern.
This seat is claimed!!! My seat departing Aix.... the train was actually almost deserted. It was open seating, and I had this car almost to myself, just 3 or 4 other people.
How exciting.... I truly am in Paris!!! Since being here in 2001 I planned to return, just had no idea it would take me this long.... no matter, I am here now! Sweet.

The journey here was fine, in fact the smoothest transition I have had so far.... and a nice change to have everything go as planned.

From Aix I took the 'slow' train (it was plenty fast and was only 45 minutes) to Marseille, then connected to the TGV which went directly to Paris in 3 hours flat. When I first went to Aix from Marsielle, instead of the train I took the Aix Direct bus that was repeatedly recommended, but ended up doing a lot of walking with my heavy pack (both to find the bus in the first place, then a bit of an extra trek on the Aix end) ... there is a similar bus that goes to the Aix TGV station (which is a ways out of town), but I'd had enough of slogging the pack - so for my exit I decided to take the train back to Marseille (and the old train station was a closer walk than the bus) and it put me practically on the next platform for my onward leg to Paris.

Getting my month-long Metro pass here was fun... despite not speaking much English, the guy figured out what I was asking for.... and showed me where to put my photo and signature. Hmmm... I thought he was going to take the photo. No. "Machine" he said with a vague wave to the right.... After looking for some official photo booth, I realized it was the little booths we used to go into Woolworth's as a kid and take goofy pics with our friends for a nickel. Well, most people have used them since then, but not me. I was a funny sight, I'm sure, trying to tuck myself into the little booth with my pack, and figuring out the French instructions, trying to get it to accept my 4E in coins.... all eventually completed with success.... but where's is the pic? After much looking, I opened the curtain, and there were my pics outside. Doh. With my fancy scissors (not) I managed to get one of the pics stuck onto the pass (it looks like a dog ate the edges, but it's me!) and off I went....

I am still going to ditch the pack though. And, guess what, 2 big luggage clearance stores 2 blocks from my place...

Haven't been able to get past the password on the wifi here in the flat, but it has a PC! Yeah! Only thing is, I can't post pics.... so this entry is pic-less, for now... I'm sure I'll get it all figured out later, but, for now, I have more important things to do.... like be outside with this silly "I'm in Paris" grin on my face ;-)

The flat... it is great! A little smaller than I imagined, but it is cute and clean and very handy. And only 1 flight of stairs up (Barcelona had 4 flights, Aix had 2 flights, so this is nothing!). Only it's a bit hot at night. I did the wet towel trick again last night, and stuck one of the 2 frozen picnic ice packs from the freezer in a waterproof pouch and took it to bed with me. Is this what they mean by hot, steamy nights in Paris? LOL.... I intend to buy a fan today. This morning I took a closer look at the 2 white thingies in front of the windows that seemed to have no buttons yesterday... today they had buttons (imagine that!), so after much pressing and flipping of dials, I finally got.... heat! Ack!! How do I turn this thing off?!?!? So, a splurge on a fan is in order. As I'm here a month, it's worth it. How does one ask, "Where are the fans?" in French, I wonder.... I did check in Monoprix last night, standing at a counter, pointing to the fan the cashier had blowing on her face, and pointing to myself... such a confused look on her face... but a thorough check of the store found none.

That's it for now... I am sure much more to come...

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Transition: from Barcelona to Aix-en-Provence


On Thursday, July 30th I set off from Barcelona, Spain to Aix-en-Provence, France. Not the easiest spot to get to: it involved 2 trains and a bus. Well, actually, 3 trains and a bus - and walking.... It was a bit of an adventure that I wrote about in detail in my journal (when one is on the train, there is a lot of time to write....) - but here are some highlights:

  • survived the "pigeon poop scam" on my way to get me to the commuter train that would get me to the station where my train would depart Barcelona from... it goes like this: guys pelt you with something (muddy water? tea and oatmeal?) then come to rescue you from the pigeon poop which at this point is all over you (or, in my case, my pack)... they seem genuine enough until they try to help you off with your pack.... uh, no thanks
  • with that, and then a track platform change on the commuter train, my time cushion was eaten up and I got my train from Barcelona to Montpellier with 7 minutes to spare... that's actually not bad with a train, but a bit too close to comfort for me
  • passport control into France was interesting, as we pulled out of the border station, saw a guy cursing loudly and shaking his head... probably no passport?
  • Saw a girl so addicted to her iPod that she stood in the toilet of the 2nd class compartment for at least 30 minutes charging her device using the razor plug (it was a hold-your-breath facility, so I really think she was nuts!)
  • upon arrival in Montepellier I met my first pay toilet of this trip... but it was .50E! But it was clean and almost pleasant after the train loo.
  • there was 1st class available on the leg from Montpellier to Marseille, which I took and aside of the larger seats, I wondered if it was worth the few extra Euros.... but the loo was mucho better, so, yeah, it's worth it...

Most guide books and web info tell you to take the train from Barcelona to Marseille via Narbonne, but I found that going via Montpellier was about 2 hours faster: a shorter wait between trains, and I think my 2nd train was a high speed one...

On a train platform in Marseille.... so immediately French!

Passed several wind farms in southern France, for some reason I find them very elegant and beautiful....

The Spanish coastline...

Finally, off the trains, just one bus and a walk to go....

  • at Marseille, got confused and conflicting directions on where to find the bus to Aix, so wandered around for ages with my heavy pack in the heat..... (why exactly did I want a pack instead of a rolling suitcase? someone remind me....)the bus itself was awesome, cool and took only about 30 minutes
  • All I had to do then was phone the guy who was going to let me into the apartment and walk about 5-10 minutes.... but my stupid Spanish phone did not work, the pay phones would not accept my credit cards, and I could not convince anyone (shop owners, people on the streets) to let me make 1 single short local phone call.... sheesh!
  • Finally arrived at the building, but no one was going to let me in until I telephoned the guy to come.... regrouped.... and to make a long story short (believe me, it is longer) found a kind woman in a children's clothing shop who let me call and I left a voice mail (being almost an hour later than was anticipated)... the shop lady came out a few minutes later to say Monseiur had called and he would be there in 10 minutes - triumph!!!
Now, some pics from Aix..... This is where I am staying, and below is the sunlight pouring in my kitchen window this morning... (after the morning thunderstorm had cleared....)

My street, and my windows... adjacent to an old chapel...
My windows:
The nearest square in the old town, where I had dinner my first night (crepe place straight ahead) and a drink last night by the fountain (guy in black shirt with the laptop is at "my" table)..

Happy feets in Aix listening to a cello concerto....

Cellists playing in a truly beautiful square, notice the old stcne cobblestones.... and, yeah, the motorcycle at the window too ;-)

I have yet to have pizza from this guy, but when he saw me taking a picture he wanted to be in it! So sweet....

Me and my beer and my doodles and the fountain for last night's beer.... (same square as 4 pics above).... that pint cost me 6.50E! gasp! I am having to be crafty here to eat cheaply....

I bought two small photographs from this gentleman yesteday, his name is Jurek Nems and he is very exciting to talk to, he was going on about the light in France and his joy in what he is able to capture. I will treasure the 2 pics and look forward to framing them wherever and whenver I have a 'home' again....