Episode 10: That Time I Pretended to be Canadian

365 Dates of Travel Podcast

Transcript for Episode 10: That Time I Pretended To Be Canadian

Welcome to my podcast. This week I’m going to be reading three stories from the January chapter of 365 Dates of Travel: The first six months book. The first date I’m going to be reading is the 3rd January, 1996 when I’m in Vancouver, Canada.

This date’s trip is inspired by all the Canadians I met on my 1995 trips to Prague, Budapest, in Greece and Turkey. These trips might come out in a book in their own right later this year.

3rd January (1996) Vancouver, Canada

I was glad to leave the grotty hostel and transfer to a new one. I largely preferred the privately run hostels, but the official Youth Hostels Association (YHA) properties are guaranteed to be clean, with a certain level of quality. Of course, you pay for that. The YHA hostel cost double the price of the previous night, at $20 Canadian, but was worth it.

I roamed across Vancouver today. Canada Place is a shopping and entertainment precinct. It’s built to resemble an ocean liner in dazzling white and juts out into the harbour. Robson Street is the main dining strip, not that I ate here. I explored Chinatown and Gastown. I loved the Gastown area with its historical architecture. They filmed a television show I watched here, so it had an air of familiarity. At the opposite end of town, I enjoyed the green environs of Stanley Park.

I felt like Vancouver was somewhere I could see myself living in the future. I bought myself a Canadian flag patch to sew on my backpack to show I believed this could be my home one day. I planned to live and work in Canada many times but it never materialised.

I had an unusual food day. I found a supermarket receipt purchasing apples; tins of peas, corn and pineapple; applesauce; and potato chips. What did I do with that inventory? The only other reference to food was McDonald’s. I mentioned liking how the packaging incorporated a maple leaf into the logo. I kept a wrapper. My diet is peculiar when I travel on my own.

The next story has me in the Sahara Desert of Libya on the 9th January in 2010. I talk about how we rearranged our group into smaller groups in four wheel drives that we would be traveling through the desert in, and who my seat companions ended up being. I am terrible at playing the game of choosing a good seat.

9th January (2010) Sahara Desert, Libya

Our transport over the next few days was in three four-wheel drive (4WD) vehicles. We had to split up spreading ourselves over the different vehicles. I am terrible at the game of choosing or getting a “good” seat. We needed four to a car. We stood by a car with a lovely group happy to be together, and then the guide said he was riding in that vehicle, leaving room for only three people. Somehow I ended up being the one losing my spot and everyone else had already settled into their groups, so I had no choice where I went. We were told we would rotate seats and cars every day, so it didn’t matter which vehicle we were currently in.

I believe they had already tied my bag onto the roof of the original car, but that meant nothing, as all cars were going to the same place. We nicknamed my bag “the unicorn” because of its antics and disappearing acts. It was scary watching it being tied onto the roof. If anyone’s bag was going to fall off, it would be mine. Being in the back car, at least I’d see if my bag fell off and we could pick it up before it became lost in the sand.

My vehicle companion was the delightful Lucy, the youngest of two daughters travelling with their parents. The two of us made the best of our situation. Our car contained the obligatory Tourist Police Officer named Salah. Law required all groups greater than four to have an official police officer remain with them throughout their entire stay in Libya. Our police officer was not interested in anything besides looking at himself in whatever mirror or reflective surface was nearby. He would sit with his legs spread wide, taking up more of the backseat than he should, given there were three of us sharing the backseat. He also carried a gun. I’m not sure we should trust this preening obsessed young man with a gun. I did not like travelling so close to a gun.

Lucy, Salah, and I were in the backseat. None of us wanted to sit next to our fourth passenger, so were happy for him to have the front seat to himself. Samuel. Samuel. Samuel. Where do I start? Put it this way. He was spending a few months on a round-the-world trip and had offered to pay all expenses for someone in his life to join him. A free round the world trip. And no one took the offer. He was a troublesome person to be around. There is usually one strange person in each tour group and on this trip it was Samuel.

We had been on this trip for a few days by now and we had not seen Samuel in a variety of clothes. He was not smelling fresh when we were staying in hotels and now we were out camping in the desert. He also had a way of spitting while he was talking. You did not want to be too close when he was talking or you could feel the spray on your face or arms. Not pleasant. He was a devoutly religious man, taking every opportunity to talk about the Lord and convert you into his religious ways of being. All good reasons to avoid him. They stranded Lucy and me in a car with him and Salah. Oh, and how could I forget Samuel’s constant humming type of singing?

I was telling a fellow traveller about Samuel a couple of years ago who thinks they met him later during his world trip. He is not someone you would ever forget if you met him.

Off we drove into the desert in our small groups. There was an extra car, transporting supplies and our kitchen staff, who treated us to all our meals while in the desert. Sometimes they travelled with us, and other times they drove ahead to set things up for our arrival. Four cars venturing into the beautiful middle of nowhere that is the Sahara Desert.

The last story for this episode is my first day in London on my own in 2015 after not being in London since 2002, and how I navigate my way around the city where some things are familiar, and some things are not.

30th January (2015) London, UK

I woke around 7:30 am but got up at 9:00 am. I definitely caught up on sleep. Once ready, I found my way to the tube, heading to Westminster. My diary reads:

Tube (getting around) is so easy. I’m used to Oyster card. Everywhere is labelled, map easy to read. I got around by myself with no problems. Off at Westminster. Saw the Abbey and a really fat pigeon. Houses of Parliament. London Eye. View from bridge amazing. Found the Imperial War Museum (IWM). There by 11:30 am.

The first day of navigating around a city might not be as positive for visitors to Melbourne. I loved every second of being back in London. I also love how the pigeon got a mention. I remember him. He was the fattest pigeon I have ever seen.

I spent the rest of the day at the Imperial War Museum, leaving at 5:30 pm. I had lunch in the museum cafe so could stay. In six hours, I didn’t see everything I wanted, so could have stayed longer. I’m not interested in battles, more the everyday experience of the people living through it. So the exhibition titled “A Family In Wartime”, set during WWII, was perfect for me. I also love spies and spy craft, so enjoyed the “Horrible Histories: Spies”, special exhibition. And an interest in the Holocaust. The Holocaust exhibition here has won awards. So plenty to hold my interest for hour after hour.

I met up with my friends for dinner. One was working the night shift, so she headed to work from dinner. The other had ridden their bike to meet us, so he rode home while I happily made my way on public transport. I was in an area where my local bus from 1997 ran, so very excited. I caught it to Victoria Station and then took the tube from there.

Bus 73. My favourite London route. It was a double-decker bus, and I sat in the front row upstairs with a splendid view as the bus drove down Oxford Street with the shops lit up, past the Ritz Hotel and Green Park. I was grinning from ear to ear.

I knew Victoria Station well. It was gratifying feeling its familiarity and note its upgrades. I browsed through the dress shop Monsoon, my ritual from the past. I visited WH Smith’s and bought a magazine called The Lady. All London Nannies knew The Lady magazine with its multiple pages of Nanny positions advertised. Times have changed with only six Nanny jobs in this edition.

A wondrous day out in London. I made it to bed by 10:00 pm.

Well, that’s it for this week. Next week I will be talking about the February chapter and all the stories I have in there. 

Don’t forget, if anything today has piqued your interest and you haven’t yet bought the book, the book 365 Dates of Travel: The first six months is available now. In paperback and ebook at multiple venues. So search your favorite place to buy a book. Otherwise you can go to my website:  franheapwriter.com/books/ and you’ll find all sorts of links to buy directly through the varying venues there. 

Don’t forget you can listen to all my podcast episodes also on the website on the podcast page, and read the transcripts from the episodes on the blog page of the website. 

So hopefully I’ve made you smile or laugh at something today. And if not, at least I wish you an interesting day.

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