Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Shopping expedition

Yesterday we decided to do some walking, so that I could familiarise myself with the locality a little better. We walked over to the Fairmont shopping mall (such as it is) before lunch to get some bread and milk at the small supermarket, and look at a souvenir shop. After lunch, we walked down to the valley floor, past the fire station, across the highway and into the riverside golf course domain to use their footbridge to cross the river. This modest looking  creek, thirty feet at its widest here is the infant of the mighty Columbia River, flowing out of the ten mile long Columbia Lake, just a mile south of Fairmont Hot Springs. An information panel near the campsite declared the environmental importance of wetland areas along hundreds of miles of the Columbia watershed. It may not be pristine wilderness. but it is well used and well managed to the benefit of birds animals and humans.

We walked on past the southern perimeter of the small airport, as far as the railroad track, and saw a train of freight wagons heading north before turning back for home to pick up some extra clothing, as Clare was feeling chilly. We then went out along the Fairway, as the sun was setting, Clare on snow shoes and me on skis for a final bout of exercise. John cooked two huge steaks for him and I for supper, and by nine I was only fit for sleep.

Today, the day time air temperature rose above zero for the first time since our arrival in Canada, and the sun shone. We drove south past Columbia Lake for a big domestic shopping expedition to Cranbrook, calling at Kimberly for lunch. This is a ski resort popular with Europeans willing to make the effort to fly so far for excellent conditions, as well as Americans. The town has attracted lots of German migrants over the past century, and is reflected in local architecture and cuisine. There was a lot more snow there than at Fairmont. It was piled up in the streets and the sidewalks had not been cleared. We ate in a fast food place which did all day breafasts, soup and stuff with chips.

While the others visited a second hand store in search of some ski poles for Clare, I took off with my camera to take photos of town churches. Two of them were made particularly visible by their brightly coloured metal roofing. Situated on residential streets, the United Church of Canada building roof was a fine Cambridge blue, the Presbyterian Church roof was brick red, the Catholic church was in traditional grey slate, standing at a bend on a promontory just at the entrance to the town. In one of the newer streets containing shops, one of the retail properties was adapted into an evangelical mission centre, and across the street there was a newish modern style Lutheran Church. I'd guess that the Catholic Church was the oldest of the five I saw, but interestingly, none of the five was in any closer proximity to the town hall than any other. Accident of history? Or civic neutrality in town planning? I wonder.

We went on from there to Cranbrook's 'strip mall' as John called it - a square mile of large retail warehouse scale stores with ample parking.The afternoon was entirely taken up with visits to the 'Real Canadian Superstore' and Walmart Supercentre. Even with a shopping list in hand these places take a long time to navigate around with aisles sixty yards long and full store width of three hundred yards. This style and scale of retailing is being emulated in more and more places across Europe, but the North American scale seems always to be just that bit bigger. But then, space is something there's plenty of over here.

Before driving homes, we dined at Frank's schnitzelhaus, a popular busy restaurant also serving excellent bratwurst with sauerkraut at reasonable prices. John was so impressed with the bratwurst, he bought a bag of their deep frozen stock to take home. Twenty five dollars for twenty substantial sausages to keep in the freezer. Un unusual souvenir of a great meal out.

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