Steve and Rachel are returning from Montreal to the UK via Japan and China.
You can follow their progress here... 

Sunday, July 31, 2005

6:44 PM - Goodbye Vancouver, hello Japan - Rachel

It's our last evening in Vancouver, and what a gorgeous one. Despite a wet forecast, it has been a hot beautiful day. This made the gay pride parade particularly hot and sweaty. But even better, we went up in a sea plane!! It was brilliant. Small and noisy, with spectacular views. The pilot took us all over the Vancouver area so we could see not just the city, and Stanley Park, but the rich suburbs, Simon Frasier University (a sort of academic commune at the top of a hill), the nearby hills and valleys, and all round the harbour. Fantastic!!

So two guidebooks down, two to go! Tomorrow we set off for Tokyo. Haven't really got our heads round flying across the dateline yet, but very excited.

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6:30 PM - Slow bus to Canada - Rachel

We went to a baseball game Friday night - wow, the Seattle Mariners are really bad!

Walked for ages yesterday around Seattle. After visiting the colourful Pike Street Market, we signed up for an architectural tour of the Public Library by Rem Koolhaas in the afternoon, and thought we'd kill time at COCA (center on contemporary arts). We hiked up First Hill and down the other side, got lost, re-read the guidbook and realised we still had an hour until the center opened. So we found a little cafe in the right street, passed a pleasant hour, then wandered along .... to find the center had moved to the other side of town. Doh! So we headed back towards the library. Still an hour to kill, so thought we'd go up the Bank of America tower... Nope, that's closed on the weekend. Fine! So we sat in the library reading until the tour. And it was worth the wait, but Steve'll tell you more about that. All I'll say is that the foam red chairs were really cool and I want some.

We came back to Canada by bus, but had to wait 90 very hot minutes just for it to turn up. The border was not too busy when we got there, but it took forever to arrange the baggage into appropriate groups for dropping off. The driver was the grumpiest ever, who told one lady he didn't stop at the Rail station, had never stopped at the rail station, and was running late so would she please just get on the bus. Old world charm, as the scots guy next to me said. Unfortunately, we were two hours late returning to Vancouver, so missed the chance to meet up with Bastien and Manue for the fireworks and a beer. We spoke to them this morning, and wish them a very happy trip round the Rockies. We did catch the fireworks, which were by Sweden and were fantastic (we're such jaded Montrealers though. Hmm, not as big/colourful/varied..)

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6:25 PM - I read in a Koolhaas - Steve

I may have neglected to mention this to Rachel, but the main reason for coming to Seattle
was to see the Public Library designed by Rem Koolhaas which opened about a year ago. I'm glad to report that it was well worth the visit (and dealing with the US border guards). Even Rach, my personal contemporary architecture cynic, was mightily impressed.

The complexity of the building, especially its engineering, is mind-boggling. It rather makes the outward complexity of Frank Gehry's bulbous effort over the other side of town seem a bit frivolous in comparison. Both buildings cost about the same but the library is three times the size. The spaces created by the angled walls are quite magical in places with the sun streaming through the lattice work from way above. And apparently the librarians love it too, as the 'book spiral' is based on the dewy decimal system and the collection can expand and contract without moving all the books.

It's the kind of building that can only result from a rare set of circumstances - dedicated and committed client, progressive local government, overworked architects and above all, rather brainy engineers.

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Friday, July 29, 2005

5:07 PM - Seattle-Rachel

We are on our mad dash south of the border for an overnight stop in Seattle, mostly to see some more architecture. Earlier we were at the Seattle Center to see the Frank Gehry 'building' (doesn't seem quite the right term for a large piece of crumpled metal with a monorail going through it - sorry Steve, I mean the comtemporary form exploring novel curve formats...). We didn't go up the Space Needle, but wandered round it. I really liked the International Fountain there, and the Gehry really is very impressive. And makes for great photos against the flawless blue sky. Beginning to think they don't have clouds on the west coast. I'm on my second sunburn.
Today's tip: never forget to put suncream on the backs of your knees.
Speaking of photos, we're on our first photos download. That's how many photos Steve?
Tee hee. But that's the last teasing of Steve's photography, I promise. This is the poshest internet cafe I've ever seen - classical music, a free half hour with drinks, large dark wood desks to sit at. Luxury!
Only 3 days to Japan...

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

2:37 PM - Stop 1: Vancouver - Rachel

We've made it to the west coast. Spectacular views of the Rockies on our way in (from what I could see between Steve taking photos) though a little nervous when they started making the final descent and all we could see was mountains. And it's beautiful here. The sun arrived with us, according to the locals, and is leaving with us according to the forecast. Hope that lasts...
We're currently posing as UBC students and mis-directing tourists. What a campus! Nudist beach down the steps, trees and greenery everywhere, and views of the city, mountains and Vancouver Island. Just beautiful. Got a great room in the youth hostel with TV and ensuite, a luxury I'm sure won't last. Using the Japanese language tourist brochures to practice reading Kanji. Ooh we're going to be in trouble...
Ah well Back to the beach...

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Monday, July 25, 2005

5:30 PM - London Calling - Steve

Hello and welcome to our blog, which we hope to keep updated with details and pictures of our meandering journey back to London. The plan, if we ever finish packing, goes something like this:

Tomorrow, early, we fly to Vancouver where we'll spend a week exploring and gazing across the pacific to Japan where will arrive a week today. We are hoping to squeeze in a quick visit down to Seattle before leaving the continent.

Once in Tokyo we'll walk around in confused circles for a while and look at buildings. We've also booked a night near Mt Fuji as well as a room in Nagoya where we hope to visit Expo 2005. We have a rail pass for three weeks in Japan which is good for bullet trains and much else, and we'll be visiting a series of random places depending on our misinterpretation or otherwise of the timetables.

There is also a vague plan to catch a slow boat to China at some point. We've just picked up some nice red Chinese Yuan which show Chairman Mao wearing a knowing grin. It would be nice to go and see what he is smiling about.

We're due back in Montreal on Thursday 15th September before finally leaving for London on the night of the 19th. Which is my birthday as it happens so I will be a year older and wiser and in a better position to deal with the chaos that inevitably awaits us there. Rachel starts work on October the 3rd.

So it will be a hasty goodbye this evening to Montreal, a city for which our nostalgia has already begun to grow and will doubtless only intensify as the years pass by. We have countless fond memories of this wonderful place and we thank all of you who we've been lucky enough to share them with. We will be back, so stay in touch.

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