This is an extract from my newest book called

9 Canadian Cities: Victoria to Montreal via Whitehorse and Yellowknife

I found an interesting modern sculpture in the same block as the Victoria Police HQ. To me, the sculpture looks like people either stopping a column falling over or supporting the column. I wondered whether it was a metaphor for the role the police believe they have within society. Along Caledonia Avenue is the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre where the Victoria Royals play Ice Hockey.

Close by is the Gate of Harmonious Interest that marks the entrance to Victoria’s Chinatown, the second oldest in North America after San Francisco. Once a ghetto for newcomers, Chinatown is now a heritage area centred on Fisgard Street with restaurants and lanterns on lamp posts. On one side of this street is Dragon Alley, and on the other the more famous Fan Tan Alley, the narrowest street in Canada–only ninety centimetres wide at its narrowest. Both are worth investigating for their shops. I went along Fan Tan Alley away from Fisgard Street and arrived on Pandora Avenue. I turned right to look at the Johnson Street bridge, Canada’s largest single-leaf bascule bridge. There have been four bridges spanning the narrows between the Inner Harbour and the Upper Harbour with the latest bridge built between 2013 and 2018. The bridge has a three-lane roadway, a pedestrian walkway on the south side, and a multi-use pathway on the north side.

On the opposite side of Pandora Avenue is the Market Square, a restored 19th-century courtyard surrounded by three floors of heritage shops, restaurants, and offices. Heading towards the Inner Harbour, I came across the galleries and sidewalk restaurants in Bastion Square, and Munro’s books where I found items of interest to buy including a wonderful selection of cards. Soon I was back at the Empress Hotel.

In September 2020, opposite the hotel was a statue of Captain James Cook. Cook was here because he sailed through this area during his round the world voyages. I noted with interest that both Captain Bligh – he of Mutiny on the Bounty fame – and George Vancouver served under Cook during his third and final voyage. Bligh was on HMS Resolution and Vancouver was on HMS Discovery.

In September 2021, Captain Cook was gone.


This is an extract from my newest book called

9 Canadian Cities: Victoria to Montreal via Whitehorse and Yellowknife

If you’re staying in the centre, then it’s best to take the metro out to the Olympic Park and Botanical Garden. The nearest stop to the park is Viau and Pie-IX is the nearest to the gardens. At the park, the Biodome houses five different natural environments under its gigantic dome: Antarctica, Rainforest, woodlands, aquatic life in the Gulf of St Lawrence, and the Atlantic coastline. There’s not just vegetation and birds but larger animals too, such as capybaras, monkeys, and sloths, although anyone who spots a sloth should get a gold medal. They blend in perfectly with the vegetation and aren’t noted for moving quickly.

Next door to The Biodome is the Planetarium with its exciting exhibits on the cosmos. It’s impossible to miss the Montreal Tower hovering over the Olympic Stadium, where the 1976 Olympics took place. At a 165-metres high and at a 45-degree angle, this tower is the world’s tallest inclined structure, although the bilevel cable car going to the top wasn’t carrying passengers when I was there. The Aquatic Centre is also part of the stadium complex and has six swimming pools plus diving towers. Place Nadia Comaneci commemorates the Romanian gymnast who scored the first perfect ten in Olympic gymnastics history on the uneven bars and went on to amass seven such scores during the Games. In the Place, the names of all the athletes competing at the Games are listed along with the Gold Medal winners in each discipline.

The Saputo Stadium, home of the Major Soccer League club CF Montreal, is also close by. Follow the signs across Rue Sherbrooke Est to see the third-largest Botanical Garden in the world. To the left of the ticket office is the greenhouse housing the cacti and succulents. This is in the same area as the gift shop. Entrance to the 75-hectare outdoor garden is to the right of the ticket office. A map is an absolute necessity, so the highlights are easier to find, including the large Chinese garden complete with temple and large plastic animals in the ponds. The arboretum is extensive and you could make a day of it in the gardens as there are plenty of places for a picnic.


This is an extract from my newest book called

9 Canadian Cities: Victoria to Montreal via Whitehorse and Yellowknife

The National Gallery of Canada has a giant spider outside, so you can’t miss it. On the other side of Sussex Drive from the gallery is the Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica. Inside the gallery, Forty-Part Motet is a brilliant sound sculpture by Canadian artist Janet Cardiff  in the Indigenous and Canadian Galleries. This sculpture is a reworking of Spem in Alium, a piece by 16th-century English composer Thomas Tallis. Forty recorded choir voices play back through forty speakers positioned around the Rideau Street Convent Chapel, full name the Chapel of the Covent of our Lady of the Sacred Heart. The effect of the work on visitors is moving and accentuated by the beautiful interior of the chapel, built in 1887-1888 by priest-architect Georges Bouillon. By walking around the room, the listener hears the song through the different perspectives of the individual singers. This chapel is the only example of its kind in North America from this period to include a Tudor-style, fan-vaulted ceiling. Museum authorities saved this beautiful building from demolition and reconstructed all the 1,123 pieces of its interior architecture inside the museum in 1998. This must have been quite the task. The Indigenous and Canadian Galleries display almost eight hundred paintings, sculptures, prints, photographs, silver, and decorative art objects from across Canada, dating from 5,000 years ago to 1967. Recent acquisitions include works by artists such as A.Y. Jackson, Lawren S. Harris, Ruben Komangapik, and Emily Carr.

The sculptures Brillo Soap Pad Boxes by Andy Warhol and Bedroom Ensemble by Claes Oldenburg blur the lines between real life and art. A story told about the boxes is that in 1965 thirty Brillo Soap Pads Boxes intended for a Toronto exhibition were held at Canadian customs, as officials questioned their status as art. The officials contacted Charles Comfort, then director of the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) who, by examining a photograph, determined the boxes were not art, but merchandise.


This is an extract from my newest book called

9 Canadian Cities: Victoria to Montreal via Whitehorse and Yellowknife

Close to the Winnipeg Art Gallery is the Manitoba Legislative Building dating from 1920. The surrounding grass and gardens hold some notable sculptures including a memorial to the Ukrainian poet Taras Hryhorovych Shevchenko (1814-1861) by the New York sculptor Andrew Daragan and aided by Winnipeg sculptor Roman Kowal. Prime Minister John G. Diefenbaker unveiled this sculpture on the west grounds of the Manitoba Legislative Building on 9 July 1961. About fifty yards away is another monument, this time to the famous five women I mentioned in Calgary, who, this time, are standing by or seated at a table discussing their plans.

Near to the Union Station is the large railway hotel called the Fort Garry Hotel dating from 1913. Over the road from the hotel is an historic site, Fort Garry, also known as Upper Fort Garry, which was a Hudson’s Bay Company trading post at the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine rivers. This post was set up in 1822 close to the former site of the North West Company’s Fort Gibraltar which was destroyed in 1816.

Fort Garry was named after Nicholas Garry, deputy governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company. This post served as the centre of the fur trade within the Red River Colony. In 1826, a severe flood destroyed the fort. HBC rebuilt the fort in 1835 and named it Upper Fort Garry to differentiate it from Lower Fort Garry, 32 km downriver, which was established in 1831. Throughout the mid-to-late 19th century, Upper Fort Garry was central to the administration of the HBC and the surrounding settlement.


This is an extract from my newest book called

9 Canadian Cities: Victoria to Montreal via Whitehorse and Yellowknife

Saskatoon is on the South Saskatchewan River in the Canadian Prairies. There are leafy parks on both sides of the river which make lovely places for a stroll during the day. I walked from the Riversdale area of the city through River Landing, where the Remai Modern Art Gallery is, under the bridges and along the Meewasin Valley trail to Kiwanis Memorial Park and then on to Kinsmen Park.

Riversdale is a lovely area with street art, modern renditions of old travel posters, reinvigorated buildings, a superb second-hand bookshop, and plenty of places to eat and drink for all meals of the day. The art includes musk oxen on 20th Street West, a Spirit of Alliance sculpture on a roundabout at Avenue A South, and the Egg Money sculpture on Sonnenschein Way at Avenue B. This piece is a tribute to Saskatchewan pioneer women. Commissioned by the Saskatoon German Days Committee and created by artists Don and Shirley Begg, it depicts a woman feeding chickens while two children play nearby. On the granite blocks surrounding the bronze sculpture are the names of twenty-four Saskatchewan pioneer women from varying ethnic backgrounds who came to Canada in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The posters from the classical days of luxury travel on the French Riviera are on 20th Street West near the Magic Lantern Roxy Theatre just before Peryton Books, a wonderful used bookstore with plenty of space to walk around and where the staff have labelled the various sections of books clearly. On the opposite side of the street, one block further west, is the unassuming Park Café where you can get a filling breakfast that will last you the entire day. It’s the sort of place where the servers reserve favourite corner tables for people who eat there every Sunday of the year. From here it’s a pleasant stroll down a street full of good-looking houses towards the river and Victoria Park, which has two wonderful sights. You hear the wind chimes on the sculpture, The Coming Spring, before you see its slender curves amongst the trees. Close by is the beautifully decorated Chinese pagoda, with distinctive amber roof tiles and glorious paintings of dragons on the underside of the roof.


This is an extract from my newest book called

9 Canadian Cities: Victoria to Montreal via Whitehorse and Yellowknife

For me, Northwest Territories (NWT) is where the scale and grandeur of Canada hits home. Northwest Territories is 1 million square kilometres bigger than Germany, whose population is over eighty million. The Acasta Gneiss, the world’s oldest rocks–at least those measured by the radiometric dating of zircon crystals–are in NWT to the east of the Great Bear Lake. The gneiss was metamorphosed 3.58 to 4.031 billion years ago (approximately). The Great Bear Lake is the largest lake entirely in Canada (Superior and Huron straddle the Canada–US border) and the eighth largest lake in the world (if you accept the Caspian Sea is the largest). The shoreline of the Great Bear Lake measures 2700 kilometres. This is a harsh part of the world as the Great Bear Lake can freeze from November to July, all 31,153 km² of it – that’s an area bigger than Belgium.

I visited Yellowknife, the capital of the NWT, which is about three hundred kilometres south of the Great Bear Lake. Flying to Yellowknife from Whitehorse convinced me that Canada has as many lakes as the rest of the world combined. Yellowknife is on the Great Slave Lake, the tenth largest lake in the world. It’s also worth mentioning that if you draw a line due north of Yellowknife to the Arctic Ocean in neighbouring Nunavut, the line doesn’t cross a single road. That’s a distance of six hundred kilometres.

As with Whitehorse, from the airport it was a ten-minute ride into the centre of the city, where I saw four six- and seven-storey high-rise buildings. There is one major crossroads in the centre of the city from where you can get to all the places you want to go. There are no mountains or even hills to speak of, although the road down to the older part of the city by the Great Slave Lake is steep and misshapen.


This is an extract from my newest book called

9 Canadian Cities: Victoria to Montreal via Whitehorse and Yellowknife

The Old Log Church Museum (OLCM) collects material connected with or related to the history of the Anglican church in the Yukon. That history goes back to 1861 — fully 35 years before they discovered gold in the Klondike. The Old Log Church Museum’s mission is to stimulate interest in that history and in the significant role the church played in the Yukon for over 150 years. The permanent collection of the OLCM has over 4500 objects, which range from archival materials to ecclesiastical vestments and artifacts. Just as fascinating are the stories they tell of the pioneers, like that of Isaac O. Stringer, a bishop of the Yukon for 26 years.

Even today people refer to him as “the Bishop who ate his boots.” Bishop Stringer and a missionary worker, Charles Johnson, got stranded in 1909 when an early winter storm froze the river they were following by canoe. They were travelling from Fort McPherson to Dawson City, between two of the bishop’s dioceses. They spent 51 days trudging through the wilderness before getting back to civilization. Nearing starvation during the ordeal, the two men boiled their sealskin and walrus skin boots to suck the nutrients from their shoes.

Dawson City – Excerpt

This is an extract from my newest book called

9 Canadian Cities: Victoria to Montreal via Whitehorse and Yellowknife

The turboprop-powered plane coasted through the grey skies and landed on the runway of Dawson City airport. The people who were visiting Dawson walked across the tarmac, leaving behind the passengers who were heading to Old Crow in northern Yukon (the territory’s only fly in community) and Inuvik in the Northwest Territories. Dawson isn’t an international airport, so the terminal building comprises two washrooms, a service desk with a weighing scale, two offices, and a larger accessible area that serves as a waiting room and baggage collection area. The baggage handler pushed our bags through a hole in the wall onto the carpet-tiled floor, where we picked up our belongings, and headed outside. I hoped there would be a bus to take people into town or perhaps a taxi, but the only vehicle that remained, after all the cars and SUVs of the friends and family of the incoming passengers had left, was a small bus with the names of hotels printed on the side. Luckily, one of those names was my hotel.

The landscape heading into town was similar all the way. This was the area where gigantic dredging machines turned over the ground looking for gold. They inverted the strata and buried the soil and vegetation beneath many feet of rock. These tailings scar the landscape, although occasional saplings, low mounds, and small ponds break the grey monotony. Colourful signs alongside the road welcomed me to Dawson City.

Joseph Ladue founded Dawson City in 1887 and ten years later named it after noted Canadian geologist George M. Dawson. A First Nations fishing camp called Tr’ochëk, at the confluence of the Klondike and Yukon Rivers, was found just across the Klondike from modern Dawson City. This entire area on both sides of the Klondike was the centre of the Gold Rush. The population of Dawson climbed from a few hundred to 16,000–17,000 by 1898. By 1899, the gold rush had ended and the town’s population plummeted as about 10,000 people left. When the authorities incorporated Dawson as a city in 1902, the population was under 5,000.

They built Dawson City on the floodplain of The Yukon and Klondike rivers. Ice jams rather than high water have caused most of the floods. In 1979, three rivers in the local waterway system jammed all at once. The Yukon backed up and water rushed into the town as far as Sixth Avenue. This once-in-a-hundred-year event prompted a two-metre dyke to be constructed, which has proved effective so far.

The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoevsky

This is a compelling novel about The Gambler, Alexey Ivanovitch, who is working in the household of a Russian General – he was only promoted to this rank on his retirement – who is staying in a hotel in the fictional town of Roulettenburg in Germany. The others in the General’s party include the Frenchman Dr Grieux, The Englishman Mr Astley, The General’s niece Polina, and a French lady called Mademoiselle Blanche who is hoping to marry The General but only when he becomes richer than he currently is. Along with The Gambler they frequent the town and its casino where Alexey wins some money only to lose it all and more.

The General is hoping to hear from Moscow that his Auntie, Antonida Vassilyevna Tarasyevitchev called Granny by most people, has passed away leaving him her considerable inheritance. That is what everyone is waiting for until one day she arrives unannounced with a considerable entourage and installs herself at a hotel. She has lost the use of her legs and is carried everywhere by chair. They make their considerable presence felt in the casino where Granny becomes addicted to betting on the zero on the roulette table. She wins and wins and goes back again to play after a rest but then loses more than she won. The General and his party can see his future draining away in front of their eyes.

All this time Alexey Ivanovitch has failed to understand Polina has fallen for him. Instead, he’s bet on Mademoiselle Blanche falling for him. In order to help Polina and The General pay a debt to Dr Grieux, Alexey goes to the casino and has an extraordinary run of luck allowing him to win four times the debt. Polina in a fit of pride declines the money so Alexey heads to Paris to allow Mlle Blanche to set herself up so she can marry The General.

There are a number of plot points that aren’t expanded upon – Alexey insults the Baron and Baroness Burmerhelm at the behest of Polina and although The General sacks Alexey from his entourage, there’s never any comeback from The Baron. Alexey also threatens to fight Dr Grieux but never does.

Another item for traditionalists of ‘how to write a novel’ is that the appearance of The General is not described until Page 163 and the rules of roulette are only briefly explained on Page 140.

Neutrino by Frank Close

I added this to the ‘travel’ blog as neutrinos are always moving somewhere.

Frank Close is Professor Emeritus of Theoretical Physics, and Fellow Emeritus at Exeter College at Oxford University. He was formerly Head of Theoretical Physics Division at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, vice President of the British Science Association and Head of Communications and Public Understanding at CERN.

He is the only professional physicist to have won a British Science Writers Prize on three occasions. He is one of the best writers in the English language regardless of the subject matter. I’ve read a number of science books and I know how easy it is to make scientific subjects complicated. Frank Close explains things really clearly and he’s the ideal writer to provide lay people such as myself with an explanation of the strangest particle in existence, the neutrino (and yes there are anti-neutrinos too).

The neutrino was first postulated by the physicist Wolfgang Pauli in 1930 and it was to be many decades before its existence was proven but along the way it was found there are three varieties of neutrino which can all oscillate that is change form, so although a certain flavour of neutrino may leave the sun or a supernova on its journey into the universe, this neutrino can change along the way depending on what it bumps into.

Neutrinos are without charge, almost without mass, and can pass through matter for billions of years before they interact with anything at all. Billions of neutrinos will have passed through you, your computer screen, and the keyboard while you’ve been reading this review. But now neutrino astronomy is giving humankind views deep into the hearts of distant galaxies and allowing us to see back into the past of the universe.

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