Wednesday 26 June 2013

Sister cities, almost

Out this morning, on the old constitutional again now I'm back home, I was struck by, first, how lovely the day was, the boats on the inner harbour all perfectly mirrored in the still water, the air fresh and clean, so much green around me and blue above - and then by how much like Vancouver Auckland is. The same gift of a naturally beautiful setting, its suburbs (or this one at least) tucked neatly into the bush by the water, the people out appreciating it on foot, by bike or with their dogs. They both have a bit of an edge in parts of the central city, but generally they're orderly, safe places to live with, despite their traffic problems and ridiculous house prices, an abundance of pluses.

I get why people accuse Canada of being boring, but personally I like that everything works, that people on public buses are alert to the needs of others for the priority seating, that places are generally neat and tidy and that most of its citizens have a sense of responsibility. Because they also have a great appreciation for what they have, and they enjoy it, every chance they get. That first evening of the visit, when I took the photo of Coal Harbour above, was the end of the first sunny day they'd had after weeks of rain, and it seemed that every one of the 600,000-odd downtown residents was outside making the most of it, walking, running, biking, skating, dancing, reading or just sitting. The atmosphere was so relaxed and friendly, people smiling and saying hello to me, that I really couldn't have had a better welcome to the country - or a more appropriate introduction to what turned out to be two full weeks of just the same sort of thing.

Plus furry mammals. That's the main thing that Canada has, and we don't. I really enjoyed them all, even the squirrels that many seem to despise, fluid and graceful and quick, and the chipmunks and ground squirrels and sea-otters and seals, and elk and moose and deer, all of which we saw. And, of course, the bears: thrilling and fascinating and adorable and scary. It was brilliant to see them going about their normal business, the ones in Whistler so close to where people work and live. It's a whole added dimension that I'm going to miss. What do I see on my walks, besides birds? Cats. No contest with a black bear, whichever way you look at it.

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