The Vancouver Mural Festival had taken place on August 20. I didn’t have time to go out and take in all the murals that day. However, the Friday after I went in search of the murals on a hot and sunny morning.
I got off the SkyTrain at Main Street Station and went north thinking there might be some murals between the SkyTrain and the viaducts. At least that’s what the Vancouver Mural Festival map suggested to me.
July 2, 2015 (Thursday) – I had no idea what or where the Place de la Republique was before I visited Paris. My only exposure to the name was through a beautiful and melancholic French song that is named after this iconic square. Beatrice Martin, or Coeur de Pirate, is the one who got me interested in this square at the crossroads of the 3rd, 10th, and 11th Arrondissements.
The dome of Les Invalides
We made our way across the wide Parisian boulevard and found our way to foot of the dome. This dome was originally the Royal Chapel. In 1840, it was designated to become Napoleon’s tomb. However, the required modifications to include a crypt took over 20 years to complete. The Dome in its current form was completed in 1861.
The next day, my back was still in pain, but the brace helped to limit the pain a bit. This Sunday morning, we’d be heading to church. More accurately, we were heading out to the first of our several cliché sightseeing destinations – Notre-Dame de Paris.
After being awed by the lavender fields of Farm Tomita, we were on our way again. However, I had no idea what our next stop was. I don’t remember ever receiving a travel itinerary. We were in the hands and at the whims of our two accompanying teachers from Hokkaido Japanese Language School. It turns out that our next stop on our highway coach field trip was to the Blue Pond, or Aoiike (青い池).
the Blue Pond
Hokkaido is famous for a few things. Hokkaido is the bread basket of Japan with farms covering much of this northernmost island in the archipelago. So Hokkaido beef and dairy are all famous products. Hokkaido is also well known for its cold and snowy winters. However, Hokkaido is also famous for its beautiful fields in the summer. In Furano, the area is famous for its colourful lavender fields that cover several farms’ fields. These lavender fields are also partly the reason we chose to spend a month in Sapporo. We were only a one-day trip away from the beautiful fields of purple.
Apart from the buses and subway system in Sapporo. There is also the Sapporo Streetcar. The Sapporo Streetcar runs in what almost looks like an L-shaped loop, but the loop is incomplete at one end. So the two termini of the line are literally two blocks apart from each other.
Looking east from the Susukino Streetcar stop
These two end stops both start in the busy Susukino district of Sapporo. Susukino is Sapporo’s entertainment district. It’s home to a whole whack of restaurants, host/hostess clubs, and other businesses of the night. Susukino is where you will also find the largest collection of neon billboards and adverts in town. This area really shines through at night.
Fish your own cuttlefish out and have it cooked for you
The next morning, we hit up the Morning Market near Hakodate Station. This is basically a seafood market that lies directly south of the Hakodate Station. During most of the day, this market is quiet. However, in the morning, the stalls are open for business for you to try out the freshest in seafood that Hakodate has to offer.
The freshest seafood also comes at a bit of price. The fresh cuttlefish that you can fish out on your own can cost about ¥1300 depending on what the market price is that day. It’s not the cheapest, but I guess it’s a fun experience. However, it is a fun experience we ended up passing on.
Just to the north and east of Sapporo Station is the large campus of Hokkaido University. The university is known locally by it’s abbreviated name of Hokudai. Hokudai was founded in 1876 as Sapporo Agricultural College by an American, Dr. William S. Clark. Agriculture is still a big part of Hokkaido University.
The university is full of trees, shrubs, and all sorts of greenery. There are a few ponds and a tiny creek that also flow through the campus. It reminds me a lot of how North American universities are set up with large open spaces. Many of the buildings dated back to the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. I keep finding North American influences in Sapporo and Hokudai has plenty of those influences. A couple of the campus buildings look like they came out of the Old West.
One of our shared house-mates had been talking about visiting the “pyramid” park. It sure sounded interesting to visit a park with pyramids. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a “pyramid” park. I envisioned some kitschy kids park with a large colourful pastel playground consisting of pyramids. Sure. Why not? So we had planned to go out there one afternoon after our language classes were done.
bicycles outside our share house
We had secured a couple bicycles from another shared house for our afternoon trip to the park. The park was apparently pretty far. With the bicycles ready to go, we set out for the “pyramid” park. However, we forgot to check what the name of the park was in Japanese. Oops.
So we rode out to the northeast of the city. Our house mate knew the general direction of the park, but he couldn’t quite remember exactly how far out the park was. We kept riding north past the freeway and we started to even pass farmland. We were out pretty far from the city limits.
Finally, though, we started to see a tall, pyramidal hill show up on the horizon. That was our destination. Now just where was the entrance exactly? I think we could have entered the park from the south side, but we ended up going to the north side. We locked up our bikes at the northwest entrance to the park.