Monday, 5 September 2011

Old West Vancouver Neighbourhood Infused with New World Culture

   
     Neighbourhoods in and around Vancouver’s lower mainland don’t look the same as they used to 10 years ago, not to mention 50 years ago.
     “Life was good back then, [and] it moved at a slower pace and was much more family orientated.” says Mary Sinclair giving us a different name so as to remain anonymous, and like a lady she did not disclose her age.
     Sinclair has lived in West Vancouver for nearly 50 years. She came with her family from Alberta and recalls the town as half the size of what it is now.
     “The whole family attended special events,” she says. “Children could run around all day and parents didn’t worry unless the kids were late for dinner.”
     She remembers often seeing and speaking with local politicians at the park or walking down the street and discussing the city’s issues. She laments that things just aren’t the same anymore.
     “Parking is ridiculous with all the cars on the road,” says Sinclair. “Condominiums are scattered everywhere and they’re even building them higher on the mountain. Park Royal shopping centre was half the size it is now; we had small, family-owned stores and the only large restaurant in town was White Spot.”
     Sinclair notes that one of the most noticeable differences in the city is the people. She says residents walking down the street showcase nationalities that are quite diverse including languages and clothing. She says there are unique stores and restaurants that sell delicacies from around the world and the arts and entertainment centres highlight concerts of traditional dance and music.
     A 2010 Community Survey reveals that almost 90% of West Vancouverites rated their overall quality of life in the district as very good, with those 35 and older being particularly satisfied.
     Positive sentiments also showed that 77% of the residents thought the district was a very good place to raise a family and 69% thought it would be a great place to retire.
     An increase in ratings from a 2004 survey showed that residents noted an improvement in arts and culture facilities as well as youth services, community land use planning and environmental protection. The results unfortunately, do not identify the years of residency of the West Vancouver residents when they completed the survey.
     Andrew Potter author of The Authenticity Hoax, writes in his book that “a healthy culture is like a healthy person: it is constantly changing, growing, and evolving, yet something persists through these changes, a ballast that keeps it upright and recognizable no matter how much it is buffeted by the transformative winds of trade.”
     He challenges readers to “think of a culture as something akin to a society's immune system – it works best when it is exposed to as many foreign bodies as possible. Like kids raised in too-clean environments, cultures that are isolated from the world are beautiful but extremely fragile.”
     In comparison to other major cities in Canada, Vancouver and West Vancouver plus the rest of the lower mainland is relatively young. It’s no surprise that they are constantly changing their culture to adapt to new citizens. So Sinclair is reflectively receptive of the future.
     “Nothing stays the same,” she says. “It’s progress.”

This post originally appeared in The Source, September 6, 2011  ©  Copyright (c) The Source 

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Rueben, How About a Second Chance?

     I went to a local bicycle shop to obtain a bike box for my plane trip to Europe for a lengthy cycle touring adventure. I told Rueben, the young man behind the counter of my travelling plans and in turn, he started to tell me of his past adventures. He said he was from Australia and that he had cycled through a number of countries of which I cannot remember. In fact, I didn’t really give him time to tell me much of his trips as I was too excited about my first, long cycling trip. I thanked him and off I went with my bike box and my head full of upcoming travel adventures.
     When I returned from my 6 month trip, I was disappointed in the number of people who did not access my website nor were they interested in hearing about my adventures. One incident that really irked me was a question from one of my cycling partner’s relatives who asked, “You two were in Europe weren’t you?” I responded by asking if she had not followed the website and she replied, “No, I didn’t have time.”
     I started to realize that not everyone is interested in travel and they don’t really want to hear about someone else’s adventures in the backwoods of Germany or climbing the Eiffel Tower. This thought is substantiated by an entry on Rolf Pott’s ‘Vagabonding’ blog by Jean Baudrillard on the difficulty of coming home from a journey: 
     “Coming back from a trip overseas means re-entering a world you have known and lived in, but doing so without feeling the charm you might expect at returning to a former life. You had left that world behind in the hope it might be thoroughly transformed in your absence, but nothing of the sort has occurred. It got along quite nicely without you and it adjusts quite smoothly to your return. People and things conspire to make it seem as if you had not been away. … People are a thousand times more preoccupied with their own little lives than with the strangeness of another world. You are best advised, then, to land discreetly, to come back politely into this world keeping anything you may have to say — along with the few sights still gleaming in your memory — strictly to yourself.” – Jean Baudrillard, America (1986)
     Phil Cousineau substantiates the above philosophy in his book, The Art of Pilgrimage (1998):
     Prepare yourself. It will be harder than you think to find an audience for your stories. If you get a chance, express gratitudes rather than platitudes when you get home. The real jewels are the hidden treasure-stories many people at home, everywhere throughout time, have longed to hear – stories of the real Shangri-la, tales of what the soul, not the ego, endured. Tell what you have learned from your journey.
     What I noticed about myself is that I have started to listen more intently to people who have travelled; I now ask questions and I feel ‘travel excitement’ when they share their stories and tales of their adventure in far away lands or even within our own province.
     I have since enquired if Rueben was still working in the same bicycle shop and was told that he is currently in England. I feel bad but I am not really kicking myself as I realize that I naturally fell into that personal, preoccupied mentality before my trip. But now, I apologize to you Rueben for not listening to your cycling adventures and if you give me a second chance, I would be honoured to hear about your trips.



Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Smelling the Roses

     What took me so long? I knew 40 years ago that I would be moving to Vancouver from Alberta but I have lived here for only 20 years. The clock moved faster than I anticipated as I was raising a family, paying off a mortgage and gaining more experience to obtain a higher position with my employer.
     While visiting relatives in Vancouver four decades ago during the winter months, I stood on the shores of Spanish Banks, looked out over the water and noticed that English Bay wasn’t frozen over. Under trees with branches full of leaves, people strolled without wearing heavy parkas, snow boots and knitted nose-protectors. I even saw sailboats on the water and I immediately thought of my canoe, stored up in the rafters within my garage back home.
     Yes, the warm winter months were one feature that drew me to Lotus Land, but it was also the serenity and openness of the City. The ocean and mountains were there to walk in peace, surrounded in nature’s wonders. Strolling in China Town with its markets, food and a potpourri of dialects and clothing – it was a great way to believe you were on vacation in the Far East.
     I moved here a few years after attending Expo ‘86 and I, along with the rest of the city saw the influence of people emigrating from far-away lands and bringing with them their unique cultures.
     Perhaps this new world community is one reason I started to travel. My last trip involved cycling and camping for six months from the bottom of Greece to the top of the United Kingdom. However, the time was too short to intricately discover Europe as I experienced only a small portion of each country’s highlights. Reflecting on my trip by reviewing photos and reading my journal, I realized that I looked but I didn’t see the details.
     In his book, The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton quotes John Ruskin’s thoughts that people seldom notice details and “drawing could teach us to see: to notice rather than to look.” I took Ruskin's advice and participated in a drawing class at a local college. One of my exercises was to draw a photo that I took while on my cycling trip - a bicycle had been retrieved from a canal in the Netherlands; covered in mud, forlorn and left leaning against a fence.
     After studying the photo in preparation for sketching, I realized when I first saw the bicycle that I had neglected to observe the surrounding nuances – the waves and ripples on the canal, the trees, the sky and the amount of mud stuck to this lonely bicycle. I didn’t give it a thought as to what possible reason why or how it made its way into the canal; I just took a quick photo and continued on with my cycling.
     I have committed myself on future trips to stop and “smell the roses” – to see objects before my eyes, be it man-made or natural, to take in the beauty and symmetry of the scene. If time permits, I shall sketch the object; otherwise, I’ll take a photo with my camera, jot a few notes in my notepad and then in the evening, transcribe the details to my daily journal. Upon arriving home, I shall review my photos and notes and relive the special, odd, beautiful and even the unpleasant scenes of my trips.
     I have now started this practice at home. When walking through Vancouver’s neighbourhoods or driving through adjacent cities and communities, I now take notice of items that I have seen many times but paid little attention. I now look at architectural building details, the shape and colour of the skyline against the mountains, the unique shape of wind-blown trees adjacent to the ocean and even that small plaque in a park commemorating an historical figure.
     In doing so, I sense that I have the same feelings that I felt forty years ago when viewing Vancouver’s beauty and serenity from Spanish Banks.



This post originally appeared in The Source, May 17, 2011  ©  Copyright (c) The Source 


Monday, 23 May 2011

Cycling 101

     I admit I was a bit apprehensive when cycling for the first time in rush hour traffic. Adjacent to wild taxi drivers, out-of-town visitors slowly searching for a specific tourist attraction and garbage trucks cutting me off, careening around corners and charging into an alleyway. Or how about that bus that is almost a block long and the driver doesn’t see me in his rear view mirror as he changes into my lane?
     I feel I have graduated with at least a passing mark from the Cycling 101 class on ‘How to Ride a Bicycle and Live for Another Day’ by taking the following foreign-based compulsory courses:

Course Name: ‘I Hear You.'
     I attended this course as I rode ahead of my cycling partner on our first day while cycle-camping on Oregon’s coastal highway. I wore ear plugs as I had a bit of an earache due to the noise of the cars and the strong wind coming off the water. A semi-trailer carrying a full load of logs hurtled inches beside me and I almost got sucked into the side of the truck. I started to lose my balance and nearly ended up in the ditch. I did not hear any warning sounds such as the truck’s horn or my cycling buddy yelling at me to slow down and move over to the right. After my heart stopped jumping and eventually catching my breath, I took out my earplugs and never wore them again. It took another day of riding but I eventually got used to keeping my balance and not losing control while large trucks and noisy motorcyclists screamed past.

Course Name: 'There Are No Rules in Greece!’
     Most of the rural roads in Greece were composed of two lanes with wide shoulders. A slower car would straddle the shoulder line so that a faster driver from behind could overtake the slow vehicle by straddling the centre line. Got that? And where does that leave the lowly cyclist? Why, hugging the edge of the pavement and trying to stay out of the deep ditches!
     Speed limits are posted at the entrance to the towns and are of a reasonable lower speed. The posted sign when exiting the towns is the same speed limit as entering but with a diagonal line through the number. In other words, there are no posted speed limits when leaving the town, i.e. “No Rules”.
     The drivers honk consistently at other cars, pedestrians, cattle crossing the road and of course, cyclists. What really scares you is when you don’t hear them coming up from behind and they honk loud and long when they are right beside you to either say: “Watch out – I’m coming” or, “Hi, Welcome to Greece.”
     I firmly believe the only qualification to get a driver’s license in Greece is to know how to honk one’s car horn. The citizens themselves know this as a Greek gentleman who rents Vespas on Santorini would not rent me a motorbike because as he said, “It’s raining, the drivers on Santorini are very aggressive and you won’t be safe.” Instead, I rented a car which worked out better as it was indeed raining quite hard.

Course Name: 'Road Kill’
     I also took this course in Greece as I had no choice - it was compulsory. Throughout Europe, I had not seen as such a substantial amount of road kill on the shoulders of the highways. A cyclist had no choice but to practice one’s ability to swerve around the poor, dead creatures and not to go too far into the traffic lane or the deep ditches. I got the hang of it and eventually passed this subject after I ran over the first three critters I came upon.
     I am making light of the Greek drivers but I must say that they and the residents of Greece were more than friendly. The people who did ask where we were from were genuinely interested in my cycling equipment and travelling plans – I plan on going back. 

Course Name: 'Dog Gone'
     This course was instructed throughout all of Europe. Dogs barking and trying to bite your feet while you cycle can kind of throw you off kilter. The best method that I used to stop these mangy mutts is to use a Dog Dazer. You point a hand-held ultrasonic device that produces a discomforting but not harmful high powered sound, audible to dogs but not to humans. It helps stop the approach of unwanted dogs at up to 20 feet – it works!

     Of course you don’t have to go out of the country to learn how to ride safely. After cycling in various cities and countries and of course in my own local neck of the woods, I find that instead of fearing the traffic, I use my cycling energy in concentrating on the road. I watch for vehicles, potholes, glass and angry dogs and I also take in the scenery.
     Happy and Safe Cycling!

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Am I Going To Be Thrown in a Mexican Jail?

     We were sitting in a small airport lounge in Guaymas, Mexico, waiting for a plane to fly us to our week-long kayaking trip in the Sea of Cortez. My kayaking companion, Mikayla and I were sweating bullets, not only because it was hot in the lounge area but also that our minds were full of the events that took place prior to our arrival in Guaymas. And now the latest setback - only one of us could board the plane. 
     Flying from Vancouver to Los Angeles was no problem but things started to go downhill from there as we were to catch a direct flight to Loreto in Baja California. The ticket agent told us that we had to stand in another line as our boarding passes were not valid. We dutifully went to the end of a one hundred foot lineup and moved exactly zero feet in one half hour. Our plane was preparing to leave in an hour and so we panicked and decided to circumvent the airport’s mad house. We took a bus to San Diego's smaller airport where we managed to end up flying the following day, resulting in missing the first day of our kayaking trip.
     We couldn’t fly direct to Loreto but rather we flew to Phoenix where we then had to stand in a long line for our connecting plane to Guaymas. The plane was late and it was overbooked. Mikayla and I looked at each other and we didn’t have to speak because both of our facial expressions read, “Were we really destined for this trip?” After an hour’s wait, we were fortunate enough to board the plane. 
     Our confidence on reaching our destination was further diminished when it was announced in the Guaymas airport that our flight was overbooked. Both of our facial expressions read, “Where have we heard this before?” I asked the ticket agent if there was any chance that we both could board and she replied that there was only room for one of us. I looked at the pained look on Mikayla's face and I gallantly said “OK –you go ahead and I’ll catch the next plane.” I heard her words "No, we have to go together!" but her facial expression read, “We're desperate - OK, give it a go!”
     So there we were, sitting in the Guaymas airport, despondent, perspiring like crazy and discussing how this mess was going to cause havoc with our kayaking tour group connections. Only Mikayla could go; we didn’t know when I could catch a flight and the kayak tour was already in progress.
     After mulling numerous scenarios in my head, I told Mikayla of a plan that just may work. In the most positive voice I could muster, I said, “We have nothing to lose. I’m going to bribe the ticket agent to get on the plane.” Mikayla, almost in tears said, “No, we’ll be caught and thrown in a Mexican jail!” I heard her words but her facial expression read, “We're desperate - OK, give it a go!”
     I looked in my wallet and came up with $50. I sat there trying to build up my nerve, sweating even more as I had never done this kind of thing before and thought, “Is it enough money? Am I going to be thrown in jail?” Spotting the agent, I thought “Now or never.” I stood up and started walking on my jelly-like legs to the check-in counter. Just then, the agent started walking over to me and said, “Mr. Moore, there is space for you also on the plane.” I didn't hear any words from Mikayla but her face went beet red and her expression read, "I think I'm going to faint" 
     We did finally land in Loreto and the kayaking trip was worth all the mental anguish.  
     Not long after returning home, I came across an article by John Flinn, former travel editor for the San Francisco Chronicle whose writing made me a bit more comfortable in my attempt to 'bribe' the ticket agent. 
A few things I've learned in a quarter-century-plus of travel:
In many parts of the world, there's little or no difference between what we think of as a "tip" and what we think of as a "bribe." A little baksheesh helps the desk clerk at Royal Air Nepal find your "lost" reservation, and opens the Luxor tomb that's supposed to be open but for some reason isn't. It might offend your sense of justice, but it's simply the way things get done in some neighbourhoods of the world. In most cases it's not a major shakedown, and it doesn't always involve cash. Often a pack of Marlboros or a commemorative pin from your home town is all it takes to open doors and get things moving.
(http://www.sfgate.com/travel/departures/article/Idle-thoughts-on-street-food-postcards-diets-2521440.php)

Friday, 4 March 2011

Write On Cue Or If This Is Friday, I Must Be Confused

     It started as an 80th birthday present for our Mother. One sister in Edmonton paid for Mom's trip for a 2 week stay in New Zealand to visit our other sister. Mom would then fly to Hawaii for a week as a follow-up before heading back home.
     The rest of us siblings were a bit concerned as Mom was often losing her short term memory and we thought an 80 year old woman travelling by herself might be a bit risky. Our sister told us not to worry - Mom will be OK. She then thought it over however, and came up with the idea of giving Mom cue cards. These ‘recipe’ type cards would remind Mom of medication instructions as well as her travel arrangements such as ‘what’ day she will be in ‘which’ city.
     The first card read: ‘You will fly from Edmonton to Vancouver and Ric will meet you before you board the airplane to New Zealand.’
     I waited and wandered the airport looking for Mom. Thirty minutes went by after her plane landed and I was just about to have her paged when I heard a squeaky, little voice, “Ricky.” I turned around and there was Mom, looking like a bag lady. She was pulling her heavy suitcase, an oversized carry-on bag slung over her shoulder, her coat partially off her shoulders and dragging on the floor. A frazzled look showed on her aging face. And she had only been on the plane for an hour and 20 minutes! I thought, "What was she going to look like when she lands in New Zealand after being on the plane for 18 hours?"
     She showed me her cue cards and they were already mixed up. "I will have to put these in order," she mused as I held her arm while we walked to the next departure gate.
     I telephoned my sister in New Zealand a few days after Mom arrived to see how she fared on that leg of her trip. My sister said that after picking Mom up at the airport and while driving home, Mom asked 3 times, “Are we in New Zealand?” My sister said “Yes Mom, but you should check your cue cards to make sure.”
     During her stay in New Zealand, Mom frequently dropped or lost her cue cards throughout the house. My sister related that the new family card game was placing Mom's cue cards back into proper sequence.
     We started to get a bit worried. Although she was staying with friends in Hawaii, we wondered how she was going to survive the next leg of her journey. We didn't hear of any tragedies from her Hawaiin friends and so we thought so far, all is well.
     I met Mom at the Vancouver airport from her return stopover in Hawaii. Talk about frazzled! Pushing her luggage cart, this forlorn, little lady looked at me and said, “Ricky, where am I?” I said “Did you check your cue cards?” “Yes,” she said, “but I think I got them mixed up and I’m not quite sure I’m here.” “Don’t worry Mom” I said, “you’re just about home – hang in there.”
     I shouldn’t have worried about her age or her short term memory as she still had some semblance of keeping her youth. I noticed she was carrying an item wrapped in plastic which looked like an umbrella. She said it was a walking cane that she bought in New Zealand and that she had been telling everyone it was for her father, who by the way, had passed away 15 years prior. Her reply when I asked if she had been using it was “No!” I asked why she had bought it. “Well” she replied with a philosophical tone in her voice, “It might come in handy one day – when I’m old!”
     Asked if she enjoyed the trip overall, she replied “Yes. I have travelled all over the world and I think New Zealand has to be the most beautiful country.” I told her about my plans to go to New Zealand within the next few months and she told me with that proverbial, motherly advice, “Use cue cards Ricky. I wouldn’t have known where I would have been without them.”

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Yes, You Can Buy It In Europe

     Travel light. That’s what we hear and see from experienced travellers who talk and write about the virtues of carrying less. I’ll add my name to the long list of travellers who offer this advice, even after I understood the theory but didn’t follow-through before starting a major trip. 
     I, along with my cycling companion, M, toured Europe for 6 months on bicycles, sleeping in a tent with the odd treat of spending a night or two in a B & B or hotel. We spent months creating numerous equipment spreadsheets when planning the trip and finally came up with the 'one' that would do us well for who knows how long.
     All of our gear was to fit into 8 panniers, 2 handle-bar bags and 2 rear-rack bags. I carried approximately 60 lb. but M was a different story – she is only 4 ‘-9 ⅓” and weighs 100 lbs. soaking wet. She carried approximately 50 lb.
     We suspected that we packed too much when we loaded our gear into the taxi that took us to the airport – a few grunts and groans were heard from both of us plus the cab driver. But hey, we’re going for quite a while and we have to have all this stuff and what if we can’t buy anything in Europe
     We started our trip in Amsterdam and you would think we wouldn’t have any trouble since the country is fairly flat. Well, you should have seen us hop on our bikes when we left the home of our Warmshowers hosts. We both started wobbling like crazy – similar to how a child looks when learning to ride a bike – yes, it was embarrassing! The next incident was cycling into a head wind along side the ocean while we were heading towards Monnickendam. Luckily, we didn't come across anyone on the same cycle path as we looked and rode like two clowns on unicycles.
     Riding in Monnickendam on a cool, rainy day, M's bike skidded out from under her and she toppled on the street’s cobblestones. I stopped to go back and help her but she got up and quickly hopped on her bike as she shouted at me “Go! Just Go!” I was startled and didn’t know what to think and when she caught up with me, she said “I scratched the shit out of that car!” I asked why she didn’t tell me at the time and she stated “I was worried someone might hear.” When we were out of sight of the car, we stopped and had a good laugh but deep down, we knew we had to do something about the weight of our gear.
     Due to Netherlands’ cold, spring weather not helping our balance and weight issues, we hopped on a train to Milan, Italy where it was sunny and warm. Again we suspected we had too much weight as we had to climb up and down stairs in the Milan train station because we couldn’t find an elevator (this happened often throughout Europe). We found a campsite, pitched our tent and immediately looked for a post office to ship some irrelevant gear to family members back home.
     The weight and balance issue still didn’t go away. Cycling into Venice on the 4 km. long Ponte della Liberta bridge, the narrow sidewalk allowed us to just fit and we slowly made our way until I realized I hadn’t heard M's voice for some time. I couldn’t turn my head while riding and so I stopped and looked back. Way back! There she was - stuck; she couldn’t move and signalled to me with her hands held up in desperation. I couldn’t squeeze by my bike to help her and so I gave the proverbial shoulder shrug. With brute strength, she finally freed herself and we continued on. We eventually discarded other items during our trip as we realized that one can 'buy things’ in Europe!
     First time going on a major trip? My advice? Once again – travel light!
     But I know you’ll take what you know you can't do without and you'll say "If I don't take it, where will I ever buy it?" 

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Smurf Cycling

     The British summer, it has been said, consists of two fine days and a thunderstorm.
It was day 151 of our cycling and camping trip throughout Europe and my cycling companion, M and I were headed to our next campground in Chester, England. The morning started out in the usual manner – cool and humid. I longed for some hot, dry weather but we left that quite some time ago in Greece. Rising from our sleeping bags within the tent, we shivered and struggled to put on damp riding clothes before making our ‘must-have’ hot cup of coffee.
          Besides the inclement weather, I was also a bit disappointed in not meeting many other cyclists on the road which, I suppose, the poor weather may have been a factor. We were often the only cyclists in the campgrounds and even though there were motorhomes camped near by, I found the RV folks huddled together - which is understandable as I probably would do the same if I camped beside fellow cyclists. Also, the roads were often narrow with no wide shoulders and so one couldn't safely ride and have a lengthy conversation with their riding partner.  
     On this particular morning, we were riding under a threatening and dark sky. Cars on the roads were scarce and the only sound was the quiet noise of our bike's tires on the pavement. A movement caught my eye as we were rounding a bend in the road. As I came alongside a gate in a farmer’s field, I saw a herd of cows standing approximately 10 meters from the fence. I stopped and then, in unison, the cows walked over and just stood at the gate and stared at me.
     I was ecstatic and I immediately started talking with them. Of course they didn’t say anything back but a few of them nodded as if they understood what this Crazy Canuck was talking about. I glanced behind me to see if M was watching. She was and there was a look on her face that clearly showed that she was trying to guess my I.Q. But I really didn’t care as I enjoyed talking with others, be it cows or anybody else who would listen to me.
     After a few minutes of me rambling on about the weather, the nice people in England and asking how their farmer boss was treating them, we resumed our ride. It started to rain not too long after and so we stopped and dressed into our rain gear including rain pants and booties over our shoes. I also put on my blue coloured rain jacket and a blue helmet cover. I was told by numerous people over the years that I looked like a Smurf in my cycling rain gear.
     Riding a few kilometers onwards, we rounded another bend in the road and would you believe my luck as there was another herd of cows – this time, they were right beside the fence. I rode up to them, stopped and was going to chat with these teenager cows but when they had a good look at me, they immediately turned and bolted in the opposite direction. They ran approximately 20 meters and then in unison, stopped, turned their heads and looked back. They stared at me for about 10 seconds and then took off again and didn’t stop running.
     All I could chalk this event up to was that these adolescent cows had never seen a Smurf before. I slowly got back on my bike, started pedaling and resumed talking to myself.    


Saturday, 8 January 2011

Let's Check Out The Loo


     No matter what country I was cycling in, one category of a ‘man-made’ monument I found that was never duplicated was the washroom. One of the things I wished for on a long, riding day (besides no head wind and a mountain’s incline less than 40 degrees) was a clean washroom at the end of the ride. The photo above shows that the good citizens of Telford in England don't fool around - they like to boast of their exquisite loos. 
     On a 6 month European trip, the adequate washrooms did outnumber the bad ones. There were a number of surprises such as:
     - Nierst, Germany: Washrooms were located in trailers a good 10 minute walk from the tent. I have to admit that there were enough washrooms as they were built within 6 large trailers. Finding a trailer without a locked entrance door was another story. I finally found an open trailer but I had to take a shower with only cold water in the dark as the lights did not work. My cycling companion, M, never did find a woman’s washroom trailer that was unlocked and so while I stood guard outside, she took a cold shower in the dark.
     - Chester England: The floors were atrocious – green slime and mould on the floor and walls; the sewer system backed up on our arrival to the campground.
     - Milan, Italy: The first Italian washroom I used was fairly clean – it was located in the train station. The issue I had with it was the entrance fee. As I ran towards the washroom (I really had to use it!), a woman sitting at a desk stated very sternly, “One Euro!” I was frantic - I ran back to my gear, retrieved a Euro, paid the fee and was initiated to my first ‘pay-first’ squat toilet.
     The most impressive washroom I experienced was in the Flaminio Village Bungalow Park just outside of Rome. One could eat off the floor - a cleaning attendant was constantly polishing, sweeping and cleaning floors, walls and plumbing fixtures. Classical music played overhead while I showered in my individual stall with an adjoining dressing cubicle that was big enough for 3 people. Some stalls even had a bathtub! The excellent lighting system allowed me not having to squint to see myself while shaving.
     The campground was quite big and accommodated large RVs and caravans. To accommodate families and children, a child’s washroom was available - a description is not necessary as the photo below speaks for itself.
     Numerous travel blogs will have photos of a decrepit washroom. A blog that I follow, ‘Rolf Potts Vagabonding’ has an interesting entry:  What does it take to be a frugal traveler?