Greenland: Climate Change

IF THE colour of Greenland is the deep blue-white of ice and snow, then its sound is of dogs howling. The Greenland dog is a hardy animal, living outdoors in compounds sullied with its own waste or just chained up beside a house, and fed irregularly. At the end of each day, they howl at the moon, and each other, and their lament carries in the absolute stillness of the Arctic night. Continue reading “Greenland: Climate Change”

Alberta: Calgary Stampede

THE TRIO of steer and two horses explode out of the box at a hard gallop, throwing dust as they chase across the dirt arena. In an instant, the first cowboy has lassoed the steer’s head, then keeps tension on the rope so it is presented in proper position for his partner to lasso the back legs. Continue reading “Alberta: Calgary Stampede”

Washington DC: Monumental City

PERHAPS the best place to appreciate Washington, D.C., is from the heights of Arlington Cemetery. Here, looking out over the city spread before me, I can see the National Mall, stretching from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument and beyond. The rows of marble gravestones, laid out with military precision around me, echo the mathematical layout of a city designed by French-born architect Pierre Charles L’Enfant to have the grandeur of Paris. Diagonal avenues bisect the grid of streets that run north-south and east-west, wide boulevards that stretch out to symbolically reach the rest of America. Of course, the reality is that they just run into the Beltway, the congested ring road that has become a symbol of Washington’s isolation. Continue reading “Washington DC: Monumental City”

Arlington, Virginia: Past glories

THERE is nothing like Arlington in Britain, a national cemetery for all who have died in the service of their country. London has St Paul’s and Westminster Abbey, with their grand memorials, and the great graveyards of endless war dead in Flanders, Changi and Normandy. But Arlington is all those, and more.

Continue reading “Arlington, Virginia: Past glories”

Wyoming: Pony Express

IN MAY 1860, ‘Pony Bob’ Haslam was riding the Pony Express east from Friday’s Station on the California-Nevada state line (where the resort of Lake Tahoe is today) to Buckland’s Station, 75 miles away in Nevada. At Buckland’s his relief refused to ride because of Indian trouble, so Haslam carried on to Smith’s Creek – a total distance of 190 miles without rest, returning after a nine hour break with the westbound mail. The 20-year-old born in London, England, had covered 380 miles on his own during an Indian war, the longest ride ever by a Pony Express rider. Continue reading “Wyoming: Pony Express”

Missouri: The real Jesse James

THEY ARE very nice people in Middle America and tend not to say bad things about anybody. However, try as they might to put a fair spin on it, there’s no getting around the fact that the story of Jesse James, for all the mythology, is a nasty one. Continue reading “Missouri: The real Jesse James”

Calgary: The Stampede

THE four teams of horses – four thoroughbreds in each team – charge past, the light wagons they are pulling wheel to wheel as they come around the final bend and gallop, nostrils foaming, for the finish line. The drivers lash the reins, straining every muscle to bring their passion to their teams. Behind, another 16 riders urge their horses in a pack towards the line, as 18,000 screaming spectators get caught up in the spectacle.

No, it’s not the chariot race from Ben Hur, but Chuck Wagon racing at Calgary Stampede – with a cool $1million dollars on offer to the winner. Continue reading “Calgary: The Stampede”

Greenland: Real life… and certain death

‘ONCE your plane takes off again, you’re stuck here until Monday,’ says Susanna, the guide who meets me on Friday morning. ‘There are no more flights in or out.’

Welcome to one of the most remote spots on Earth, where the January temperature averages a bracing -27ºC (-16ºF). Kangerlussuaq in Greenland is the former US Air Force base of Sondrestrom and the attractions for those who served here may be guessed at from a sign in the former HQ, now a museum: ‘Sondrestrom is a great place to be. By order of the base commander.’ Continue reading “Greenland: Real life… and certain death”

Canada: The Rockies theme

‘ALL A-B-O-A-R-D.’

Who of us has not wanted to climb aboard a big North American train as the guard calls out that iconic warning?

OK, there’s no tearful blonde waving on the platform, only the Rocky Mountaineer office staff lined up to send us off from Vancouver (a nice touch, though). But we’re going on a 500-mile journey into the heart of Canada and trips don’t get much bigger or more romantic than that. Continue reading “Canada: The Rockies theme”

Vancouver: Birthplace of Green

LIKE all of us, I’ve indulged in those ‘What’s your favourite city/holiday destination?’ conversations. I used to know the answers.

Now, having been to Vancouver, I’m less sure. Before I went, this Canadian West Coast city didn’t figure on my radar; having been there, it’s shot straight to the top of my favourite cities. So now I’m keeping my options open in case another city I’ve never thought of wins me over. Continue reading “Vancouver: Birthplace of Green”