Vancouver – Portland – San Francisco Bay Area

5 June – 1 July 2003

It took many visits before Vancouver and me became friends. We still think each other are a bit weird, but we get along now. One of the easiest ways to be seduced by Vancouver is to take the bus to the beach…

Portland, Oregon is a little miracle: a U.S. city of a million people that is lively, walkable, safe, cheerful, and fully bicycle-compatible. It also has great public transit including streetcars!

I never tire of visiting San Francisco, and am always a little surprised to see in pictures just how much I enjoy seeing the ocean waves crash on to the shore.


San Francisco Bay Area

31 December 1999 – 10 January 2000

The bay is the hollow of a giant's hand, in which a few rocky islands lie and all around, the giant's fingers rise in steep wooded hills and cliffs. From the houseboats on the waterfront at Sausalito, the city of San Francisco twinkles across the bay: the giant's glittering jewelled ring. While at home winter rages, here it is comforting to feel the sun's warmth in January and to participate in the exuberance of a city that, despite high rent and too many cars, is confident and full of projects.


Atlantic Canada

4–22 August 1999

Downstream, back to the ocean, the source of our dreams... The song by the Newfoundland group Figgy Duff beckons us eastward. To see the sky meet the sea uninterrupted by the land. To listen to the waves crashing on the rocky shore. To bask on warm sandy beaches. But also, to remember the struggles of the French, the British, and the Natives to control the destiny of this country. To reflect on the end of the fishery and shipbuilding and coal mining, and see how new activities are taking up the slack.



12–14 March 1999

Northeast of Abitibi, northwest of Lac Saint-Jean, a huge lake stretches out its hundreds of long, narrow bays and inlets: Lac Mistassini. On one of the bays is the village of the Cree Nation of Mistissini, where the stop signs are trilingual (Cree, English, and French)! The people of Mistissini preserve their traditional language and culture but also participate in mainstream North American society. They are also fighting to preserve what remains of the fragile boreal forest, which is disappearing rapidly through unsustainable forestry. On a sunny and not-too-cold weekend in March, the lake and the hills around it are an ideal setting for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.


Bread and Puppet Circus & Pageant

8–9 August 1998

In northeastern Vermont, the Bread and Puppet Theater creates giant puppets of great beauty and power. For many years, there was a gathering at the height of summer where the puppets performed for two full days and put on the Domestic Resurrection Circus and Pageant while rich, dark rye bread was baked and served with garlic butter. This was the last time the circus and pageant were held.


[Amtrak/VIA North America Rail Pass]

North America rail tour

18 April – 17 May 1998

The trains still run in a great and coherent network all over the United States and Canada. In most cities they arrive right downtown in glorious old stations. In between the cities, they stop in the towns along the way instead of skirting behind them among the strip malls. There’s no driving to distract from the scenery. There are real meals in the dining car – no need to stop for greasy fast food at the thruway service center. At night the train transforms into a moving hotel, where the gentle rock and rattle bring easy sound sleep...



Montréal is home. No matter what beautiful sights, comfortable weather, fascinating people, enlivening experiences may be found during travels elsewhere, it is always a pleasure to come back here. Not that this city has any shortage of attractions itself. The mountain, the river, lively urban neighborhoods, lots of good, varied, cheap food, kind strangers, many friends... and every summer, a paroxysm of street festivals!


[home] 2003 08 22 Justin Bur