Star's Heather Mallick in London; desperate for milk!...Oregon, Niagara news
Here's a London post from the Star's Heather Mallick, who's covering the Royal Wedding on Friday but is having trouble adjusting to holiday hours and the lack of North American-style milk.
Here’s a tip. Never travel to London without checking first for approaching Bank Holidays.
This would be obvious, normally, but you wouldn’t think a city devoted to entertainment and commerce would be so, well, shut down for Good Friday and Easter Monday. Worse, London closes in a Parisian sense, which means that it’s seriously closed and expects you to know that. It doesn’t update websites about approaching closures and it sneers at capitalism in the sense that even chain stores decide not to be at all approachable.
Thank god it doesn’t shut down in French style by telling you to f--- off for even wanting to see your huge giant important museum exhibit. On Friday, a London guard apologized to me for the British Library not having announced its Good Friday closure on the website. Amazing. What a nice man.
The Wellcome Collection show didn’t explain that it wouldn’t open until noon on Good Friday. It’s weird waiting in Bloomsbury, an area much bombed during the war and coffee-shop-free, to see an art show called DIRT: The Filthy Reality of Everyday Life, about how dirt can be used as a material for art, and how revolting cities have always been, and continue to be. It was wonderful and creative, but very odd to hang around waiting to be deliciously repelled. Kind London passers-by explained the Wellcome always opens late on Bank Holidays.
The courtesy of Londoners is extraordinary. I apologize 10 times a day and each time a good-humoured Londoner brushes it off. In Toronto, people ignore my apologies, leaving me grimly reluctant to offer them ever again. Until the next hopeful apology.
I suppose they don’t think the Wellcome’s bricks made of hair, skin flakes and toenail clippings collected from around London call out much to the tourist trade. (Really, the show was brilliant, fodder for unusual thoughts.)
Even at St. Pancras, the huge train station that sees everyone off on Eurostar to Paris and the great capitals of Europe, a third of the shops shut down because they bloody well feel like it. I know this because my hotel sits on top of the station. I can watch from my room as tourists melt down when they can’t buy a cake or an egg or a notepad or a red purse.
That was me only hours before. Le Pain Quotidien is always open, and at all times, I can order a soft-boiled egg. Never before have I found a restaurant that will boil an egg for me. Now I seek a European restaurant—or any restaurant anywhere—that will give me a huge glass of skim milk. You can't get milk in restaurants, it's too naff.
I love milk, I drink a gallon a day. The trick of travel is to replicate the conditions of home. If anyone knows where I can get a glass of skim milk in London, please email me at email@example.com.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog from Jim Byers.
Managed a drink with some nice folks from Oregon Tourism at the always fun Park Hyatt rooftop lounge Monday night. I haven't spent a ton of time in Oregon, but I've been a couple times, mostly to Portland (see photo), and quite enjoyed it.
I think Canadians feel a certain affinity for folks with a West Coast liberal attitude. Well, some of us do, anyway. Oregon is big on environmental sustainability and celebrates the outdoors like true Canadians; windsurfing on the Columbia River, playing golf at world-renowned courses like Bandon Dunes on the lovely coast, mountain biking, climbing Mt. Hood (apparently doable quite easily in a day) and, even better, quaffing lovely, Oregon-grown Pinot Noir or heartier reds from the eastern part of the state.
Folks in Ontario may not realize it, but Oregon's geography is quite varied. Just like B.C., it's rainy and green on the coast (although not in summer or fall so much), then there are some lovely valleys and mountains. The eastern edge, kind of like the Okanagan Valley, is much more dry and desert-like, with sagebrush and rolling hills and wide-open spaces.
Bend, Oregon, is a favourite spot of my dad's in central Oregon, although I haven't had the pleasure. Canadian cross-country skier Beckie Scott was living in Bend at one point, and I remember interviews in which she raved about the place.
Portland, of course, is a dynamic city with great cafes and shopping and terrific local food. They also love their Portland WinterHawks hockey team, I was told by an Oregon tourism official whose husband adores Tie Domi and has a quote from Domi on the family refrigerator, and how many people other than Don Cherry can say that?
There's also a great Shakespeare festival in Ashland and a hugely popular Pinot Noir festival and a big western rodeo (as opposed to the eastern kind) in Pendleton, home of Pendleton shirts. This year's Pendleton Round-up goes Sept. 14-17.
Good stuff. But if there's anything that's gonna lure your Toronto Star Golf magazine editor out to Oregon, it's likely Bandon Dunes. They have four courses and consistenly get rated as the top or very close to it golf experience in North America. One of the folks involved in Bandon Dunes is helping build the new Cabot Links course in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, which we wrote about in this year's golf magazine.
MAID OF THE MIST ABOUT TO RETURN IN NIAGARA
"After a particularly long winter the historic Maid of the Mist returns to the water, three and a half weeks later than last year. Maid of the Mist will welcome visitors on both the Canadian and American landings on May 4, 2011. As Niagara Falls’ top tourist attraction, the popular boats have graced the Niagara waters for more than a century.
"To kick off the upcoming season, readers of the Niagara Falls Review have voted the Maid of the Mist the number one tourist attraction for the 17th consecutive year. Trip Advisor, a trusted travel review site, has also consistently placed Maid of the Mist as the number one activity in Niagara Falls. With high reviews and a rising economy, the Maid of the Mist organization expects promising results this year."
I always thought it would be cheesy but I took a ride on the Maid of the Mist last year and thought it was awesome. Just spectacular, to be honest. Definitely a must-see in Niagara.