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4th of July in Canada

We traveled to British Columbia over last year's 4th of July holiday (for the Womens World Cup) and quickly decided that we wanted to make a trip to Canada over this holiday weekend a new tradition. Neither of us are big fans of the 4th of July--excited about neither fireworks nor hamburgers, we'd rather enjoy the long weekend elsewhere.

So, we traveled up to B.C. again this year--staying in the same neighborhood we always stay in, enjoying our favorite coffeeshop numerous times, as well as checking out a few new-to-us things, like the Museum of Anthropology, more of Pacific Spirit Park (we drove part of the course that our marathon had run through a few years ago). On our second day in the city, we left to drive through British Columbia's spectacular scenic beauty, making a few stops along the way to marvel at lakes and waterfalls, but ultimately ending up at our destination: Joffre Lakes, a hike that features 3 blue-green glacier lakes.

The following morning, we took a ferry over to Victoria. In Portland-lingo, Vancouver is more of our jam, but Victoria had a few highlights, namely the excellent bookstore, Munro's Books and the delicious Italian restaurant Olo. We hope to get back up to Vancouver before another year goes by, but if we don't, there's always next July!

Another Visit (Fast Forward to Spring)

Portland's winters do exist, but in truth, the season is much shorter and less intense than many other climates that have four distinct seasons. A typical winter starts with the gloomy darkness of November, transitions into a brief and intense cold snap, moves through slight wintery precipitation, and then all but disappears by early February. By February, cold temperatures are almost decidedly in the past and farmers and gardeners (and of course everyone else!) find themselves at the beginning of an eternal spring. From the ground, daffodils and crocus burst through, melding into tulips and irises; on the trees, camellias, apple blossoms, cherry blossoms, and magnolias are either presently brimming with color, or are a few weeks away. The color is there, but the rain remains...and could potentially remain for many more months to come.

That's why, despite not escaping a blizzard or extremely cold temperatures, last weekend's trip to San Francisco felt nearly like a tropical vacation. After running a half marathon through Golden Gate Park and along the coast (the coastal portion I found to be nearly too hot, given my Pacific NW temperature tolerance), we spent part of the afternoon back in the park, wandering the San Francisco Botanical Garden. The light pushed through trees to perfectly illuminate certain blooms, casting other parts of the same plant into a mysterious shadows. It seemed that everyone was out, sprawled on the grass, picnicking or taking photos of magnolia blossoms. This was our second visit to the garden and because it was a similar time of year, we knew precisely where the magnolias were and which ones would be in color. Ideally, my next visit will be during a different season--I'd love to see California wildflowers scattered across meadows and notice the seasonal changes throughout the garden.

Los Angeles

I would have appreciated the 90 degree weather a bit more had I known that a few days after we returned from a weekend in Los Angeles, Portland would find itself in the middle of a "true Portland winter". I'm talking about clouds so thick and dark that my once thriving paperwhites--buds formed and flowers about to burst out--are now starting to yellow around their leaf tips, seeking a non-existent sun.

Each day follows a similar course: a completely pitchblack morning sky gives way to a grey, rainy, and often windy mid-day, only to fade to black well before dinner time. Winter is obviously a necessary season--not only does it give plants, trees and maybe even humans a chance to slow down, decompress, and hibernate, it makes those spring tulip and daffodil bulbs that are currently nestled in the soggy soil all the more important and mesmerizing when they do bloom.

I'm not interested in trading Portland's four seasons, and all of the fantastic plants and foods that thrive here, for Southern California's sun, cacti and succulents. But of course it felt good to be wandering around Los Angeles (in between long bouts of sitting in our rental car) in steamy heat, dressed in light weight clothes and having to remember to apply sunscreen. I'd never visited Los Angeles before, but after a lifetime of media saturation about and from this city, I was curious to see if my apprehension of too many cars and too much "fake" could be moderated with a closer look at the city's culture and reality.

We were in the city to visit a few Portland friends who moved there in early July. In between visits with them, we did our best to give ourselves a broad view--driving up to Griffith Observatory, going to Santa Monica and quickly putting our feet in the ocean, and driving downtown to marvel at the Walt Disney Concert Hall and Grand Central Market. As usual, we had a few bakeries and restaurants we wanted to visit, most notably Sqirl, a place that more than exceeded my already high expectations. We also had a chance to check out a newly opened bakery called Lodge Bread in Culver City and grab coffee at the truly friendly and delicious G & B Coffee in Grand Central as well as Silver Lake's Dinosaur Coffee. Our friends live in West Hollywood, so one night we also drove down Sunset Boulevard, almost immediately passing the Chauteau Marmont.

I left LA with mixed feelings: on one hand, we had truly incredible experiences at the places I already detailed. And the sun! And ocean! But, we must have sat in the rental car for hours. And despite getting around to much of the city, we never walked much. The weekend felt like a collection of sporadic experiences that I've now merged in my head as a cohesive LA. I do believe that much of LA culture is unsustainable and image-focused--but I also believe there are many regular people living, working, and pursuing their passions, which makes LA an enigma that bears a repeat visit.