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Through My Lens: Père Lachaise Métro Station

Metropolitain

No sense fighting it. I’ve got Paris on my brain this week. So here’s another photo from the City of Light.

This was taken by the entrance to the Paris Métro at Père Lachaise.

Freighters in English Bay

English Bay (aka the waiting room to Canada’s largest and busiest port) always has a dozen or more freighters anchored in it. The ships wait there, sometimes for days, until it’s their turn to load or unload their cargo.

Because they are always there, I think of the freighters in English Bay as part of my landscape. I don’t pay much attention to them other than sometimes using them to add interest to a photo.

Until this week. On Wednesday night the M/V Marthassa, a Greek-owned bulk carrier on its maiden voyage from Korea, was anchored in the bay waiting to take on a load of grain when it began leaking bunker fuel. More than two tonnes of the stuff would go into the water before the leak was stopped. Within hours, some of that oil had reached the beaches.

I took a long walk along those beaches today to get a closer look at what was going on and to reassure myself that everything was all right.

It’s not.

But it will be.

This week was a wake-up call for me. I will never again take my beach and my bay ― or the freighters in the bay ― for granted.

English Bay Freighters Sunset

Through My Lens: Departure Bay

Here’s one last photo before we leave Vancouver Island. This is what you see from the ferry as it leaves Departure Bay on the Island for Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver.

I never get tired of this view.

Departure Bay

Through My Lens: Jets on the Taxiway

Heathrow Jets

Eventually, and usually inevitably, the European vacation comes to an end ― and we come home.

The long journey goes much quicker if you can find something to amuse yourself with en route. Like I was here. I took this photo of jets lined up on the taxiway at London’s Heathrow Airport in March 2011.

Through My Lens: De Fiets

Fiets is Dutch for “bike.” In the Netherlands, there are almost as many bikes as there are people.

Here’s one of them.

Dutch Bike

Through My Lens: Burrard Inlet

Burrard Inlet Freighter

There’s always lots going on in Burrard Inlet. Not surprising, since it’s the location of Canada’s largest and busiest sea port.

In this photo, you can see one of those freighters that keep the port hopping. Behind the freighter, to the left, you can just make out three cruise ships docked at Canada Place. And playing chicken with the freighter is the SeaBus ― a passenger-only ferry that plies back and forth across the inlet carrying commuters from the North Shore to downtown Vancouver.

Like I said, lots going on.

Road Trip: Tamiami Trail & Overseas Highway No. 1

Highway No. 1Like most kids who grow up on this continent, my first travel adventures were road trips with my family during the summer holidays. Now, as an adult, road trips have become few and far between.

So, for that reason, I was excited to include a coast-to-coast road trip on my recent visit to Florida. Coast to coast? Yup. That would be from the Gulf Coast to the Atlantic Ocean.

Now, there are two ways to get from Tampa (on the Gulf Coast) to Miami (on the Atlantic Ocean). The quick and fast way is over the interstate (I-75). There’s also the more scenic route: the Tamiami Trail (that’s Tampa → Miami). Guess which route I took?

The Tamiami Trail cuts right through the middle of the Everglades. My intent was to stop here and there and do a bit of looking around, maybe take a walk or short hike through the swamp.

It didn’t happen. Because it rained. A lot. All the way from Fort Myers to Homestead, in fact.

So instead I saw a lot of this.

Tamiami Trail

And my motivation to stop and get out of my rental car and do some exploring dwindled the farther I got from Tampa and the closer I got to the Florida Keys.

What I did do was make a mental note to one day come back with my tent and sleeping bag and leave myself enough time to stop over for a couple of nights. Camping in a swamp ― how cool would that be? I was impressed enough with what I did manage to see between swipes of my windshield wipers to know I would enjoy a closer look at the United States’ largest subtropical wilderness.

Enough about what I didn’t see in the Everglades.

I am happy to report that the weather cooperated once I got into the Florida Keys. The sun shone for the entire drive and the temperature hovered around 80°F for my entire visit. As evidenced by the next photo.

Radio

The Florida Keys is an archipelago of more than 1700 islands (called “keys”) strung like a broken string of pearls below the Florida peninsula. Forty three of the keys are connected by the Overseas Highway No. 1 ― a 200-km length of roads and causeways stitched together by bridges. A lot of bridges. A lot of long bridges. This one here is called the Seven-Mile Bridge. I learned that it’s exactly seven miles long by carefully watching my odometer.

Seven-Mile Bridge

Every key has a name. Some are well known (Key Largo, Key West), some are pretty original (Teatable Key, Bahia Honda Key, Sugarloaf Key), and some, well, it seems like they ran out of inspiration (No Name Key).

The keys vary in size and development. The bigger ones are lined with roadside diners, restaurants, and motels, and the odd strip mall; the lack of big box stores and fast food chains made it feel like I had stepped back in time about 40 years. Other keys are so small they have only a few houses, and no commercial development at all. The smallest keys are completely undeveloped.

As you drive along the Overseas Highway, you are never far from the water. In addition to the street address, directions are given as “Mile Marker [fill in a number],” Bayside or Oceanside (with Key West being Mile 0). So, MM 59 Bayside faces Florida Bay, and MM 73 Oceanside faces the Atlantic Ocean. Nifty, huh?

The Florida Keys is known as a destination for fishing, snorkeling, and diving ― none of which I do ― but if you are looking for an idea for your next road trip, I can highly recommend a drive along the Overseas Highway. As road trips go, it’s pretty spectacular.

Bridge

Clouds

Houses

Queen of Nanaimo

Queen of Nanaimo

I can’t leave off my tour of the Gulf Islands without posting a photo taken on a BC ferry. That’s because, for me, half the fun of a Gulf Island getaway is getting there.

The Queen of Nanaimo is the workhorse of the Gulf Islands. The ship is almost 50 years old, but it’s the one that does the daily milk run from Tsawwassen to Galiano to Mayne to Pender to Salt Spring and back again.

Almost a month ago, during this season’s first wind storm, the Queen of Nanaimo was blown off course and ran aground near Mayne Island. It sustained enough damage to be put in dry dock for two weeks, which meant that Gulf Island residents wanting to travel to Vancouver had a six-hour detour over Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island.

BC Ferries are the Gulf Islands’ highway and it’s easy to take them for granted ― until sailings are cancelled and you want to get from here to there.

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

The first time I saw the Golden Gate Bridge, I was in a plane. Only its two towers were visible; the rest of the bridge was hidden in the fog. I found out later that fog is a common weather phenomenon in San Francisco and the two towers of the Golden Gate Bridge are often as much as you ever see of it from an airplane.

I didn’t get any closer to the bridge that time ― or see anything of the city ― as I was merely on a stop-over on my way to somewhere else.

The second time I saw the Golden Gate Bridge, I was in a car driving over it. I’d been visiting a friend in the Sonoma Valley and, after a couple days of touring wineries and wine-tasting, we decided we should spend a day in San Francisco. When you drive from the Sonoma Valley to San Francisco, you enter the city by crossing over the Golden Gate Bridge.

I couldn’t stop marvelling at the bridge; I may even have giggled. My first thought was probably, “Wow!” I know for sure my second thought was, “The Lions Gate Bridge is just a toy compared to this one!”

The Golden Gate Bridge opened in 1936, and I like to think of it as the Lions Gate’s older, more grown-up sister. At six lanes, it’s twice as wide as the Lions Gate and it’s a kilometre longer. Those three additional lanes are what impressed me ― it feels more like an expressway in the sky than a bridge.

It I don’t know if the Golden Gate Bridge would have impressed me as much had I not been so familiar with driving over the Lion’s Gate Bridge. But I do remember I asked my friend to drive over it again, just for the thrill of it.

Happy Birthday, Lions Gate Bridge!

Lions Gate Bridge 1

The Lions Gate Bridge is having a birthday, and it’s a big one. It was on November 14, 1938 ― 75 years ago today ― that the bridge was first opened to vehicle traffic. The Guinness family (yes, that Guinness family ― the one that brews the beer) wanted a bridge across the First Narrows of Burrard Inlet to provide access to the land on the North Shore they were hoping to develop. (The area was both then and now known as the British Properties.) To help move things along, the Guinness family offered to pay for the bridge to be built, and the City of Vancouver found itself with an offer it could not refuse.

Lions Gate Bridge 2

It took 18 months to build the Lions Gate Bridge, its construction came in under budget, and, at the time of its opening, its 1.8 km length made it the longest suspension bridge in the British Empire. It is named after the Lions, the twin mountain peaks on the North Shore that face the city. Two Art Deco–style lions guard the approach to the bridge’s south end.

In 1955, the Guinness family sold the bridge to the province for exactly the same amount that they spent on building it ― a mere $6 million. The Guinness family also paid for the lights that have adorned the bridge’s cables since 1986, as a gift to commemorate Expo 86.

Lions Gate Bridge 3

More than 60,000 cars cross the Lions Gate Bridge each day, a number it was never designed to accommodate and which has often led to it being called “Canada’s most scenic traffic jam.” By the 1990s, the bridge was showing its age and serious consideration was given to replacing it. Instead, it was restored and given a seismic retrofit, and its deck was replaced, all at a cost of more than $100 million. All work was done in 12 months between 2000 and 2001 without any disruption of daytime traffic ― no small feat in a city where traffic is easily snarled when any one of its bridges is closed. In 2004, the Lions Gate Bridge was designated a National Historic Site of Canada.

Lions Gate Bridge 4