I’ll Have a Tattoo With That!

Excuse me, but what’s with the tattoos?

That thing on your shoulder, you don’t think you’ll get tired of it one day?

While strolling in pretty downtown Kelowna, British Columbia, we noticed something quite conspicuous: most of the young women were tattooed.

Please excuse the rush to judgement, but: Was I looking at sheep or rebels?

There were little tattoos, medium sized ones and whole shoulders or arms tattooed.

But I’ll be honest: while at times it didn’t “work”, if the goal was to make the young lady sexier or more alluring, well, sometimes it succeeded.

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Some ladies’ shoulder tattoos work, others, err, not so much.

Can we not talk about houses?

Well, no, not if you’re in Vancouver: you cannot have the conversation not turn to the subject of its homes and the housing situation in general when you’re in Canada’s third largest city.

For those not in the know, Vancouver’s real estate market is so hot only the super-wealthy can afford homes there. My sister, who rents an apartment in one of these wealthy neighbourhoods, the Kerrisdale section of Vancouver, tells the story of two lawyers she knows, new to Vancouver, who themselves cannot afford a home.

Then there are the many residences with tower-high, well-maintained hedges around them. A passerby can barely see anything except upper windows if you’re lucky, “protected” as they are by these living parapets. I’ve always hated these hedges ever since I first noticed them on a visit over ten years ago; they’re nothing close to being normal height; they declare, in a rather aggressive manner, “Back off, don’t expect to see a thing if you look this way.” It’s a belligerent statement guarding against prying eyes, and which I translate into a snobbishness on the part of the house’s owner, and which runs counter to anything remotely resembling “community”.

The homes that I would prefer not to see – hedges might be a good idea – are the residences that foreigners have put up once they’ve torn down what are perfectly nice houses. These constructions are ugly with a pagoda-like design in its upper levels.

So the conversation goes and goes on.

In my sister’s neighbourhood, we rarely saw other pedestrians as we walked about. This is another impression of Vancouver: People live in their fortresses, but seem very separate from each other.

streetview
This view-blocking hedge is rather tiny compared to most found in well-off Vancouver neighbourhoods.

Salt Spring Island

Of all the places that I mentioned looking forward to before embarking on our journey, the one that I spoke about the most to Naomi was Salt Spring Island.

This was due to the fact that for decades I had heard or read only glowing reports of the island, situated off the southeast coast of Vancouver Island. It was filled with talented artists. It was charming. It was a beautiful, very natural place. Wealthy people retired there. Etc., etc.

So it was interesting that after a couple of days of visiting it was Naomi who said, “I could see myself living here.”

This was also a surprise because I never know when Naomi’s going to like a place; she has very distinct and distinctive opinions about people and places.

The three most memorable things about Salt Spring Island was our spacious Airbnb, the famous Saturday market and a gorgeous hike we took on the Channel Ridge Trail network, a 15-minute drive from Ganges, the Island’s largest town and where we were staying.

salt-spring-map10001
Salt Spring Island is part of the Gulf Islands off Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

Regarding the market, we were lucky to be on the island over the weekend or we would have missed it. You don’t have to be there very long before you get wind of it; the people are fiercely proud and mention it to every tourist (which seems to be every other person). Everywhere we went people said, “You have to go to the market tomorrow.”

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OK, OK, the Salt Spring Island market is absolutely fantastic!

The owner of a boutique where we were browsing told me enthusiastically, “It’s the best market in Canada!”

Oh, really? The best market in all of Canada?

It was like being in the middle of a Broadway play with people singing, “The market, the market, ya gotta see the market.”

So, rather skeptically, Naomi and I arrived a half hour after opening, in order to miss the crowds we were told would be getting off the ferry from Vancouver Island. Our Airbnb was within walking distance of the village centre and during our walk there I visualized tables with tchotchkes, essential oils, soaps and candles along with the usual fruit and vegetable stall. It’s a bit of a cliché, today’s market.

But, I was impressed. There were, as expected, scented soaps of all kinds and yes, essential oils and other “hippie” stuff, but also a large variety of art presented, I thought, in a very tasteful manner. It reminded me of an “Art in the Park” show Naomi participated in Ottawa 10 years ago.

We stopped at a potter’s stall – someone Naomi was familiar with for his ceramic tours around the world. The two “talked shop” for quite a while and it was all I could do to not butt in and talk about Naomi’s great talent in the field of ceramics.

We enjoyed our stroll through the whole market, but in less time than it took to get through half of it, I was of the opinion that it does rate up there as one of the nicest in Canada. So people were right to brag about it after all.

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The hiking conditions were extremely dry, yet still incredibly magical, one of the best of the trip.
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