Tuesday, 30 June 2015

The Mountaineer

We boarded the Rocky Mountaineer this morning and set off at 7.45pm for Kamloops.

The Rocky Mountaineer at Vancouver
Our train is comprised of 22 'pieces of equipment' as they call the assembly of carriages and other cars. It carried 665 passengers on this service with staff of 72. We were in a 'Gold Leaf' double deck carriage as seen in this photograph. Other carriages were of single level.

We sat in the upstairs observation deck which contained a small server for all day refreshments and snacks. Our dining room was on the lower level and we were served breakfast and lunch in two sittings for each.

Breakfast menu
Lunch menu
The service does not run to a specific timetable. Once on the move, the train follows others travelling on the one track and takes turns at siding to be passed by, or pass, trains travelling in the opposite direction. These are trains are freight trains and they are immensely long. I counted 153 'pieces of equipment' as the rail staff referred to them on one of these trains and 172 on a subsequent train. This sharing of directions on one track seems to work smoothly no doubt controlled from some remote point and electronically.

But it does mean that each train runs slowly at times, stops for periods, and gathers speed according to where they are on the this 'share and shuffle' track.

We could have arrived at Kamloops at around 5.30pm under most advantageous conditions but our arrival was around 7.30pm. The Mountaineer has arrived sometimes as late as 11.30pm.

The transition to (and the next morning from) our hotels in Kamloops for the overnight stay was staged with exquisite and praiseworthy precision.

A massive thunderstorm struck as Hn and I ate a Mexican meal in a local restaurant.

Will post photos from the train separately.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Vancouver (still)

Our fourth day in Vancouver but the first full day of the escorted tour. The only organised event being a tour of the city which as originally planned covered most of what we had visited for ourselves in previous days.

Unexpectedly the bus tour had to be diverted because of road closures for a community marathon, and a partial bridge closure for unknown reasons. As a consequence we saw different aspects of Vancouver from those experienced in our private touring.

Some glimpses;

Lions Gate Bridge built by the Guiness family viewed from Stanley Park
Coal Harbour, Vancouver
Entrance to Granville Island Public Market
Market temptations
More temptation
Tomorrow morning we board the Rocky Mountaineer train headed for Banff but first stop will be Kamloops where the temperature today reached 38Âșc. Is this really Canada?

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Horseshoe Bay

Yesterday Hn and I spent doing two circuits of the local tour bus stopping off at various points to explore Vancouver further, although some of these are included in our official escorted tour which began this evening with a meet and greet briefing dinner. There are 28 in the group, all but 4 are from Australia.

Today, ahead of tonight's first formal tour involvement, we spent most of the day with a local resident (sister in law of a friend from home) who generously devoted time to show us her neighbourhood and  who then took us to Horseshoe Bay from where passenger and vehicle ferries shuttle across to neighbouring islands. It is a lovely spot and we really enjoyed lunch our day there.

Horseshoe Bay
Despite unseasonable heat, snow still visible on nearby mountains

Friday, 26 June 2015


Fourteen hours plus of flying and we have arrived in Vancouver. The flight was punctual, the service OK, the turbulence occasional but the Boeing 777 aircraft rather noisy.

First impressions of the city are favourable. We've been awake more than 24 hours and need to remain awake for a further 7 hours or so to adjust ourselves to the new time zone.

We have occupied ourselves so far exploring near our hotel (Fairmont Waterfront) by wandering around Gastown, taking in the views from Vancouver Lookout, walking along the waterfront and eating a rather nice Pizza.

Gastown, Vancouver

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Excited? Packed? Ready?


(I'm not excited. I'm not the excitable type.)


(I'm not packed yet. We don't fly out for 40 hours.)


(I'm not ready yet. I still have travel money to organise and keys to hand over and a camera case to buy and a host of other things to do that I haven't yet remembered that I need to do.)

People keep on asking me these questions. Just because we depart for overseas the day after tomorrow they think I am organised and in control.

Don't they know me by now?

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Friday, 19 June 2015

Cha Cha Char

A new (to me) Brazilian Chargrill outlet in the monster shopping mall up the road.

Chargrill Beef Burger

The chips had a flavoursome herb crust. The burger was a little too charred for my taste and not quite cooked enough. Both the toasted bun and the meat patty had lost their heat by the time they were delivered to me.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

North to Alaska

Next week, like Andrew and R, I am headed for North America. It seems to be the season for an invasion of the Northern hemisphere by Antipodean Bloggers given that AdRad is currently overseas and James will be following within a month.

Like John Wayne I'm headed north to Alaska in what I expect will be a calmer adventure than alluded to in the following video travelling in style on a cruise ship through the delightfully named Inside Passage. The warm up will be two weeks spent overland in Canada.

Hn and I fly out in just over a week. First off, a fourteen hours flight from Sydney to Vancouver.

Watch this space.

Sunday, 14 June 2015


A consultant returns to Hawaii to negotiate a new Defence installation with indigenous locals. But beware of corrupt big business.

'Aloha' has been savaged by some commentators as the worst film they have ever seen. Of course this is a matter of personal opinion but I think it is a gross exaggeration of the film's qualities. I can understand the reservations nonetheless. For the first third of the film I wondered what on earth was happening. It seemed to me the characters were enjoying a joke shared by themselves but not revealed to the audience. Furthermore some gimmicky elements like the use of period movie 'fanfares' (20th Century Fox and Columbia) seemed to have been thrown in for no evident reason.

However, when at last the aforementioned secrets began to be revealed to the audience the obscure plot (almost) fell into place.

Saturday, 13 June 2015


A teenager steps into and out of an elusive future in Disney's 'Tomorrowland'.

I'm not certain what age group this film targets but the local PG rating suggests an age for whom this film is a tad too long and occasional scenes a bit too disturbing. Disney's picture of the future is typically bright, sunlit and packed with attractive people but the underlying message is a warning to protect our environment or suffer the consequences.

A laudable message but this film somehow fails to deliver.

Bad news for Australian Prime Minister Abbott is the film contains images of attractive wind farms.

Friday, 12 June 2015


'Entourage' is the film version of a popular cable television series of the same name. It portrays a fictional popular 20s something film star and the three friends he brings into his work and life circle and this group's relationship with his foul mouthed, self interested agent.

I followed the television series in its early episodes but soon lost interest as each episode followed a similar template and as I quickly tired of the boorish behaviour displayed.

This film transfers all of those elements to the big screen. The template remains, the soundtrack is noisier and the behaviour magnified and even uglier. The treatment of women is mostly awful from men who are not only ugly in behaviour but in language and attitude.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

San Andreas

I've said it before. I love a 'good' disaster film. By 'good' I mean the disaster, not the film. Perversely most disaster films are far from good, mostly they are silly to the core. On this point, 'San Andreas' proves to be no exception.

In 'San Andreas' the States of Nevada and California are hit by an ongoing series of earthquakes and the latter State is also hit by a Tsunami. The natural disasters are of unprecedented magnitude. Despite impacts that would have casualties in the tens of thousands this film modestly concentrates on one rescue worker, the redoubtable Dwayne Johnson, aka 'The Rock' a pseudonym which well describes his acting range.

Mr Rock, ahem Johnson, magnanimously spends most of the film attempting to rescue his family. Bugger everybody else. And he does so all on his own. That's what rescue heroes do in tough times. They work entirely alone.

The film sets up a seemingly unending series of challenges for our hero and his family. A sort of croquembouche tower of increasing dangers from which - hardly a spoiler alert - they consistently escape at the very last second. And don't they escape well! Even with '9/11' force dust in the air from disintegrating skyscrapers hairdos remain obstinately in place and totally clean.

I know I shouldn't make fun of the premise of the film given that it is only a matter of time to the next real major earthquake in a region prone to such forces of nature. However, as disaster films go, this one is deliciously, thrillingly, improbable and ludicrous. I had a ball.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

When it came to it....

...I just couldn't be bothered.

Yesterday, a holiday Monday I lazed around the apartment all day.

I knew I had to get ready eventually. Shower and dress properly. I had a ticket for the theatre in the evening. Around 4pm I headed for the shower and then I procrastinated. I wasn't all that enthusiastic about the scheduled play. Its not as if it was a play I had been eager to see. Actually I knew nothing about it. Would I miss the play if I didn't see it?

And then there was the Vivid Light Festival. Last night of the Festival. The crowds would be out in force. Getting to and from the theatre with the masses about would not be fun.

As soon as the procrastination started there was an inevitable outcome. Stuff it. I wouldn't go. A ticket and $70 something down the drain. I do this once every two or three years.

It was back to the lounge room couch.

Turned the television on.

Finita la musica.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Venus in Fur

(Canadian Stage)
An actress' audition before a play's director/author turns into a gender power play.

The Darlinghurst Theatre Company's current production of the David Ives' play 'Venus in Fur' is a two hander with good performances from Gareth Reeves and Anna Houston. The play itself is entertaining and always interesting even if there is a disconnect between the actress' initial lack of sophistication and her subsequent displays of cunning.

Then again, that is a part of the play's self proclaimed ambiguity.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Testing new camera

I have a fairly expensive SLR camera which takes good photographs despite my general ineptitude but it is bulky and heavy to carry around over long periods. Yesterday I purchased a new compact camera for my forthcoming overseas trip which I will use for most point and click situations. Here are several of the first photographs I took with that camera as a test last evening.

Scenes from my balcony (familiar to regular visitors to this site). Click photos to enlarge.

Sydney Harbour east to Manly
Sydney CBD skyline
Sydney Tower and CBD skyline (zoom)
I think this camera will do for me.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Tree knitwear

On South Dowling Street
We had a leisurely lunch today seated outside South Dowling Kitchen (in the background of the photograph).

Friday, 5 June 2015

Would you like a heart attack with that?

First off, some admissions. I periodically succumb to fast food options. I am overweight; albeit not morbidly so. I am active but could (should) do more in the way of exercise.

Notwithstanding the above, I am the pot that is going to call four young kettles black.

Yesterday I was at a certain fast food establishment. I won't name it but you will recognise it as;

There was one queue and it was blocked by the extensive meal orders of four school students. I don't know what they were ordering nor the quantities but their order was taking so long that a second queue was opened for everyone else.

These student are Pacific Islanders. They would be no older than about 15 or 16 at the most and they are huge. I mean really huge. The 'boy' is taller than me. I am about 182cm. He would weigh 140 kilos plus. The three 'girls' are shorter than me but not by very much. Each of them would weigh 110 kilos plus.

I assume they have not yet grown to their full adult builds. How big will they be when they achieve their full adult builds?

With my own bad habits I'm not in a strong position to criticise but at almost 66 I am in pretty reasonable health.

Do the four students I saw yesterday have a reasonable prospect of reaching 66? I fear not. At their age I was a tall, skinny lad weighing about 60 kilos. At 18 I actually failed the medical for a Government job for being underweight! Maybe these four have medical conditions that account for their size but otherwise I am sad for their future.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Vivid Sydney

It is that time of year again with the Vivid Light, Music and Ideas Festival being staged in Sydney. For those who can attend it concludes this Queen's Birthday holiday Monday evening.

I had a bit of a look last weekend following dinner with Fs who visited from Canberra for the Festival. The crowds are as heavy as ever, especially in sections around Circular Quay. Of the light displays in that sector I thought the lighting of the Customs House building is best. The lighting of the Museum of Contemporary Art is similar to past years. The Opera House effects whilst still clever are not as brilliant to the eye as last year's.

Although I lugged my Canon SLR around with me I ended up only using my iPhone for photos unfortunately with rather limited success.

Here are a few - click on photos to enhance size;

The Opera House viewed from the Overseas Passenger Terminal
Opera House
Customs House
Customs House
Customs House
Customs House
AMP Building (left) Customs House (lower right)
Opera House from the concourse
Opera Bar (below left) and Circular Quay

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Woman in Gold

A holocaust survivor sues the Government of Austria for the return of a renowned family portrait which the Nazi wartime occupiers had appropriated.

Knowing that 'Woman in Gold' is based on actual events gives this well trodden tale of a David and Goliath battle for justice some fresh interest. The film is not expectational but the performances are reliable; especially from the ever watchable Helen Mirren.

An indirect Australian reference in the film gave a hoary old joke a moment of gleeful new life.