Brewpub Roadtrip: Vancouver, Canada!

A whole town of microbrews called me north

dew worm bait - canada
Brett advertising for love
trash border
Dirty border post
nice view
Stunning beauty outside
I’m at Lucky Lab in downtown Portland, Oregon, or PDX as its known around here. The conversation is good and the beer, even better. Lucky Lab, like almost every self-respecting bar in PDX, brews its own beer.

With my glass full of hops, my mind on malt, I learn that I’m about to have a three-day weekend. Its President’s Day and I’m in Portland. What to do? Where to go? I know – a Brewpub Roadtrip to Vancouver! And not as in Vancouver, Washington, but Vancouver as in Canada!

At first, I was tempted to make the five-hour road trip to Canadian brewing heaven solo. I wanted to go that bad. I figured this might be my only international trip in 2008, and I didn’t want to miss the chance to cross another border.

Its not that this would be my first trip to Canada – I went to Montréal with my family long ago. But this would be my first trip as an adult and I was excited. Both because I’d heard it was a beautiful city, filled with amazing sights, but also because it is another bastion of good beer.

Luckily, I was saved from a long drive alone by Brett, of Portland Brew Tours. He leapt at the chance for a roadtrip, especially a beer-focused one. So at oh-too-early on Saturday morning, we pointed the Zoom! Zoom! north, dropped in a selection of tunes, and became Twenth-Century motion.

In our movement, “sped” would be a relative term as the road was not East Coast quick. Left-coasters drive a bit slower, and the farther north we went, the more relaxed they were. Not the state police though. From many an overpass or curve they were all in hot pursuit, but not of we.

Brett and I made it to the border easy-quick, only to be greeted by long and slow. It took almost an hour to transverse into Canada, through the greenest no-man’s land I’ve ever crossed. This was not Cambodia by any means. Still, I was dismayed to see a dirty storm grate marking the actual boundary.

Anyway, on we drove, through gray fields and overcast skies till an urban gym opened along the skyway. It was Vancouver, Canada, and she is beautiful. Nestled in a bay with majestic peaks all around, dwarfing a good attempt at Hong Kong vertical living, the city was a shocking display of industrialization this far north.

It was only when I realized that this was Canada’s main Pacific port, did I understand how a Canadian town could be so big. I forget that Canada is comparable in per-capita wealth to the United States, if only 1/10th the population. With the urban buzz, it felt like most of that population lived in Vancouver.

But enough about the city, on to the beers!


Millions of Cairenes in Cairo

Scoot over, I need more elbow room

crowded enough?
Packed in like sardines
cars in cairo
Make that metalic sardines
Flying into Cairo, Egypt, you might get the impression that you’re going to land in a village. From the air, all you see is empty yellow desert, with a streak of green through the middle. But when you land, you are almost instantly thrown into a maw of urban living. People everywhere.

Most sources say around 7.7 million people live in Cairo, squeezed into the Nile Valley which is only few kilometers wide at this point, or on the near desert plateau. Official government statistics estimate the population density of Cairo at 31,000 person per square kilometer.

This is almost unimaginable coming from Washington DC. We have around 500,000 people in the Capitol with a population density of 3,597/km. How can so many people live in such a small space?

Like Hong Kong’s vertical living, Cairo goes up. Large apartment buildings dominate its skyline, but these are not sleek New York City towers piecing the sky. No, Cairo has a skyline similar to Washington’s – large squat buildings dominating most or all of a city block, imperial yet human in their size.

Waiting for a train in Alexandria, I calculated that the row of apartment blocks visible behind the station housed around a thousand people each, for a total of 10 thousand people on one long city block. Expand that block to a city, and you can understand the volume.

But you can never quite comprehend all the cars required to move those inhabitants. In the Giza section of town, there are so many people with so many cars, traffic, parking, any auto-related transportation activity was a exercise in frustration.

Yet the Nile provides for all this humanity and has for several thousand years too. The great river, feeding, washing, nourishing millions of Cairenes. That is the most amazing aspect of Cairo’s population to me, especially since I’ve white-water rafted the Nile’s source. How a ribbon of water 6,700 kilometers long can sustain so many people, and for so many years.