It’s early and I’m in Kamloops, enroute home from a wonderful few days with my new granddaughter Kelly. We drove for 10 hours yesterday, along the Yellowhead trail, through Jasper where a single bull elk was posing like Fabio for tourists, turning his muscular shoulders this way and that, his magnificent antlers framing the mountains.
Kamloops is one of my favourite small cities. One thing I love about it is that you can see beyond it. This morning I was lying in my bed watching the sun rise over the eastern hills just beyond the city and even now I can smell the Thompson River through my open window. We’re staying at the Plaza Hotel, built in 1928. We like its slow old elevator and the pretty rooms.
The Plaza is right downtown and it’s good to walk along Victoria Street where it’s easy to imagine the earlier city. In my first novel, Sisters of Grass (Goose Lane, 2000), the protagonist Margaret Stuart comes to Kamloops with her family in the spring of 1906. I spent a lot of time looking at archival photographs to get a sense of what she would have seen, how the streets were, the route she would have taken to attend a concert by the famed soprano Emma Albani (which did take place here in May of 1906).
Last night we walked down to the Brownstone Restaurant where we’ve eaten several times in the past and never been disappointed. It’s housed in a gracious building which was the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, built in 1904.
We ate rabbit marbella and drank a luscious Argentine malbec in a room with high ceilings and deep red walls. Sometimes when we’ve been there, we’ve watched trains pass and heard the long whistle but not last night.
This morning we’ll drive home over the Coquihalla highway and through the Fraser Valley, all haunted by memories of earlier trips with our children. It’s all part of us — the tang of sage in the air as we drive up out of the city, the soft sky fringed with pines, the sultry air near Hope. At least twenty five years ago we pointed out the shale on the Coquihalla Summit to Kelly’s father, a little boy of four or five, and he exclaimed, “Shale! I wish I was the land!”