France Gallery Updated

The France Gallery has been updated with pictures of my most recent trip. Check it out in full here.

Notre-Dame Cathedral fire, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Notre-Dame Cathedral fire, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The 7th Arrondissement, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The 7th Arrondissement, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The Louvre at dusk, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The Louvre at dusk, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Yellow Vest Movement vandalism on the Champs Elysées, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Yellow Vest Movement vandalism on the Champs Elysées, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Back to Nature, Part V

As a holiday winds down, the sadness of its impending end can temper the joy of the remaining days. Not having anything to look forward to can rob one of living in the moment of the experience. For this road trip, I wanted something to anticipate. I wanted to end on a "bang".

And I found it. 

The Black Swan Inn in Pocatello, Idaho is one of the most amazing hotels I've ever stayed at. It is themed and the attention to detail in each unique suite is truly impressive. For our penultimate stay, we booked the Mayan Rainforest Room which included a walk-in shower in the base of a "tree trunk", the branches of which hid the second floor jacuzzi tub. Next to the leopard-print bed was a 15-ft waterfall with a live koi pond. Even the bathroom was painted in murals that made it seem like one was deep in the jungle. I cannot recommend this place enough and am definitely going to plan future roadtrips to navigate through the area so I can return. Whether one's stay is for a romantic evening or honeymoon, it is a gem. 


Fun fact: Pocatello, Idaho, is also home to the Museum of Clean


Our final night was spent getting back to nature again - comfortably - in a deluxe cabin at another KOA campground in Great Falls, Montana, where we used our fleeting holiday time to wine and dine on a barbecue feast while watching the golden tones of sunset pour over the vista of prairie and mountain laid before us. I felt contentment in the moment. I felt renewed from the journey, despite its brevity. I was born to explore. To learn. To live. I am so thankful my father instilled this curiosity and love of travel within me. I thought of him often on this trip; in solitude I've shared the details with him, hoping my whisper carries on the air to wherever his spirit resides. 

As the evening came to a close, I tried to enjoy the ambient noise of the whirring overhead fan while fighting the urge to turn on the television to catch up on world events. While my partner showered, I figured sneaking in ten minutes of numbing my brain wouldn't do too much damage and searched for the remote. The only channel with reception was showing a wrestling match but it wasn't WWE; in fact, I didn't recognize any of the characters on screen ... until I did. 

"Holy shit", I said to myself. 

Years (and years) ago, when I was a teenager, a colleague had taken me to watch her boyfriend wrestle in a local Winnipeg league called Top Rope Championship Wrestling (TRCW). Growing up with Hulk Hogan and the like on Saturday afternoons, I immediately got into it. The skill, the theatrics, the swagger all appealed to this shy girl who was looking to break free from her high school rep of being a wallflower. So when I was asked to valet their tag team, I took up the offer. It might not be a Toastmaster event, but the experience definitely instilled a confidence in me to command a crowd and not be so self-conscious. Anyway, there was one person who always stood out at TRCW. A curly-haired teenager armed with a steely resolve (and an apparent closet full of Hawaiian shirts) who could maneuver around the ring with technique that was lightyears beyond his older, more seasoned opponents. I recall even mentioning to others that if anyone could make it in the big leagues, it would be him. 

So to my surprise and delight, there he was—on the tiny television in my cabin in Montana— Kenny Omega, Heavyweight Champion for New Japan Pro Wrestling and Sports Illustrated's tap for next big thing in sports entertainment. 

One never knows where the journey in life will lead. 

The awesome Mayan Rainforest suite at the Black Swan Inn, Pocatello, Idaho (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

The awesome Mayan Rainforest suite at the Black Swan Inn, Pocatello, Idaho (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Mayan Rainforest Suite at the Black Swan Inn, Pocatello, Idaho (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Mayan Rainforest Suite at the Black Swan Inn, Pocatello, Idaho (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

15ft waterfall with koi pond at the Black Swan Inn, Pocatello, Idaho (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

15ft waterfall with koi pond at the Black Swan Inn, Pocatello, Idaho (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Treehouse jacuzzi at the Black Swan Inn, Pocatello, Idaho (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Treehouse jacuzzi at the Black Swan Inn, Pocatello, Idaho (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Shower in a tree trunk, Black Swan Inn, Pocatello, Idaho (©2018, Deborah Clague).

Shower in a tree trunk, Black Swan Inn, Pocatello, Idaho (©2018, Deborah Clague).

Tesla-charging stations in the middle of nowhere, Montana (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Tesla-charging stations in the middle of nowhere, Montana (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

"Roughing" it in Great Falls, Montana (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

"Roughing" it in Great Falls, Montana (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Firing up the grill, Great Falls, Montana (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Firing up the grill, Great Falls, Montana (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

BBQ, Great Falls, Montana (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

BBQ, Great Falls, Montana (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

View from cabin in Great Falls, Montana (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

View from cabin in Great Falls, Montana (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Top Rope Championship Wrestling, circa 2000 (©Deborah Clague).

Top Rope Championship Wrestling, circa 2000 (©Deborah Clague).

Top Rope Championship Wrestling, circa 2000 (©Deborah Clague)

Top Rope Championship Wrestling, circa 2000 (©Deborah Clague)

Northern Idiocy, Part III

I woke up in the middle of the night absolutely frozen and in a tug-of-war over blankets. I'm from Canada. I believe I am an expert in cold. I don't need to make up stories for my grandkids, I actually do walk to work when it's below -40 degrees celcius. So it's simply naivety that I, of course, knew it got cold in the desert at night but I didn't realize exactly HOW cold it got. It is downright bone-chilling! Having said that, I'm from Winnipeg so naturally I won the battle for the comforter. 


If you've never been to the Grand Canyon, let me describe the experience: if visiting the South Rim—the most popular location to view this natural wonder—you will start your day, preferably early, driving in from either Flagstaff or Williams. The journey will take just over an hour on a single lane highway in which not a single vehicle will pay heed to the posted speed limit. There are few places to stop. You will, however, pass a Flintstones campground that looks like it was constructed in 2018 B.C. (it might be enjoyable to visit for nostalgic purposes if it weren't so damn depressing). As you near the national park entrance, the landscape will change from desert to thick forest. Afterwards, you will be met with several supersized parking lots. Even if you arrive early, like we did, they will all be near capacity. 

I managed to park in the last row of the last lot which was near some trees that I hoped would provide a bit of respite from the blazing sun. HA! Northern idiocy redux. Both my car and myself would feel like they were set on fire at the end of the day, the non-covered parts of my skin turning a hue comparable to Pantone 186. What you might not realize is how few amenities there are next to these giant parking lots at the Grand Canyon, just a visitor centre and a scenic overlook. To get to the township and other points of interest, one must get on one of several bus lines that takes visitors around the park proper. Of course, during the summer these have longer line-ups than Disneyland. It makes for a long, sweltering day of mostly just standing around. I did about an hour's worth of hiking, took a few selfies to prove I was there and then left with a souvenir bottle of Canyon Cutter white wine

The Grand Canyon is, undoubtably, spectacular. But I did not feel relaxed there or in touch with nature. I felt hurried. I felt stressed. At the end of it, I didn't feel any deep connection. For me, it paled in comparison to the isolated, howl-at-the-moon wild of highway 89A from the previous day. That was very much the highlight of my trip. 

The evening was spent back in Williams, Arizona, only this time at a hotel rather than a teepee.  Williams is a small town located on historic U.S. Route 66., also known as the "Main Street of America". It is, perhaps, the most iconic highway in all of the United States, previously acting as the main thoroughfare for people who migrated from the midwest to southern California during the Great Depression. The town of just over 3,000 citizens definitely caters to tourists with a nod to Americana; there are more classic fifties-style diners within its boundaries than any major city I've visited before. As well, the imagery of James Dean and Marilyn Monroe appear to still resonate, symbolizing a feeling (or idea) we collectively aim to capture. 

We walked the streets as sunlight transitioned to dusk, conversing about what America was and what it's become. We later returned to our hotel room to drink. 

Me at the entrance to the Grand Canyon (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Me at the entrance to the Grand Canyon (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

South Rim, Grand Canyon (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

South Rim, Grand Canyon (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

South Rim, Grand Canyon (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

South Rim, Grand Canyon (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

South Rim, Grand Canyon (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

South Rim, Grand Canyon (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

South Rim, Grand Canyon (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

South Rim, Grand Canyon (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Hong Kong X

Every morning after waking up, I would open the curtain from the window and flood my room with light from the rising sun. I wanted the view of the city—my impeccable view of Victoria Harbour—to be the first thing I saw. It was a sight that would fill me with motivation and gratitude. And as my trip was nearing its end, I wanted to soak up every minute of it in hopes that the feeling would carry forward long after I left Hong Kong. 

Beyond the view, there was something else at the window that elicited wonder from me daily. A bird would often circle around my window, perhaps able to see movement behind the glass and as curious about me as I was about him and his urban adventures.


A bird wouldn't be the only creature that I held silent conversation with. 

Visiting Buddhist temples and pausing in the presence of their serenity was a most welcome respite from the constant traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian. Outside, people just stared at the screen of their phone (like most everywhere else, just amplified here amongst 7+ million citizens). While inside, one couldn't help but take stock of their surroundings as the feeling of peace carried over the air with the wisps of incense. Man Mo Temple was a highlight but I also wanted to return to Wong Tai Sin, the "good luck" temple. I wanted my trip to start, and end, there in the hopes that its myth might rub off on me. 

On my second visit, I had a strange encounter. One that I should preface with a brief story because I know it's going to sound strange and unbelievable but is not, perhaps, entirely unprecedented. A few years ago, my best friend was on her own spiritual journey and found herself delving into the world of crystals, even attending a conference to learn about their supposed healing power and other mystical properties. One strange experience she shared with me was participating in a breathing exercise circle. As she paced her exhalation, eyes closed and deep in thought, she felt the sensation of someone poking her stomach. Immediately exiting her zen-like state, she darted her eyes to see who it was. And there was no one present. Admittedly, I thought she may have, ahem, also been researching other "natural" ways to seek enlightenment during this period but it turned out to not be the case and she swore by the story.

And now, back to mine. 

On my second visit to Wong Tai Sin, I again paid respects at the alters, each representing one of the five geomantic elements—metal, wood, water, fire and earth—and ended by pausing in the Good Wish Garden. It was here that I took a few moments to reflect on my newfound love for the city of Hong Kong, the hardships I've experienced over the past few years and my hope that the future would continue on a path of light ... when I felt a poke. It DISTINCTLY felt like someone's finger poking me near my ribcage. I, like my friend, immediately exited my trance and looked around to see who it was. 

But there was no one there. 

I looked down at the pond, at the koi swimming around, and for the first time I saw a turtle perched on a rock staring at me.  


At Wong Tai Sin, I returned to the same fortune teller I visited ten days prior. On this occasion, he had a line of two women awaiting his seer services. I joined them by sitting patiently on a stool outside his tiny storefront and recollecting back on the futurities he previously shared with me. After involving myself with some dubious characters over the years, that initial inquiry specifically related to my love life. People these days act like love is an archaic concept and feelings don't exist but I am not wired that way. I value honesty, integrity and respect and lament how rare they increasingly seem to be as people treat the emotions of others like commodity to be traded for ego. This toxicity can, unfairly, also taint future relationships as well and while I have met someone who possesses the strong character traits I desire in a partner, I don't want my past to hold any influence on my view of who they actually are. 

"They will travel to meet you. You will meet at an event relating to dance."

And so it was written.

My partner is originally from Kerala, India, but has lived in Australia, South Africa and South Korea performing scientific research. I met him three years ago at a salsa dancing class neither he, nor I, was planning to be at. The chemistry was immediate. All night, I noticed him staring at me (and I'm sure he did likewise). When my friend wanted to leave, I implored her to stay just a little bit longer as I felt I wasn't leaving without his number. Too shy to approach him though, I felt I could will it into fruition. Sure enough, a few minutes later he asked me to dance and the rest was history. While we've had our ups-and-downs, our ons-and-offs, we always return to each other as we are best friends. 

I waited in line for around thirty minutes and then made the decision to leave. The original fortune I received could have been somewhat vague to anyone, but there was an eerie specificity to my life that gave me hope I already found the answer I was looking for. 


The last image of my trip that will forever stay with me is flying over the red lights of a ferris wheel illuminated against the stark countryside of Taiwan down below. Sometimes the perspective you need can only be found at 20,000 feet. 

Hong Kong sunrise (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Hong Kong sunrise (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Central district, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Central district, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Hong Kong's famous trams, Central district (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Hong Kong's famous trams, Central district (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Central district, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Central district, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Rainy afternoon in the Central district (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Rainy afternoon in the Central district (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Back alleys of Central district (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Back alleys of Central district (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Walking along the promenade at night, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Walking along the promenade at night, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Various amulets available for purchase at Wong Tai Sin Temple (you best believe I now own a "get rid of scumbag" amulet) (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Various amulets available for purchase at Wong Tai Sin Temple (you best believe I now own a "get rid of scumbag" amulet) (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

One last selfie from the top of Hotel Icon (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

One last selfie from the top of Hotel Icon (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Hong Kong VII

I am a creature of habit. My hotel in Hong Kong was situated across a public square that I walked through daily. So ingrained in my mind is this prosaic ceremony that I can recall every detail from the advertised price of traditional remedies in the medicine shops, to the faces of the gweilo lined up at McDonalds ordering strawberry ice cream cones, to the hare krishnas causing spectacle with song and dance while soliciting their creed (and monetary donations). While it may seem boring to have such a predictable routine—especially while on holiday—I now relish the ability to close my eyes and return to such sweet vivid memory in my life. 

This public square became the starting point for my journey to several markets within the city, including the bird market, flower market, ladies market and Temple Street night market. There was also a pet market, which I would normally be excited to visit, but I read that it wouldn't be a happy place filled with boops and zooms so avoided it. Watching a fish try to escape a food stall one day was all my sensitivity could handle. 

The bird market, known as the Yuen Po Bird Garden, and flower market are adjacent to each other. Neither one is very big—the bird market just constitutes a small lane—but they are interesting to visit. Birds are a popular pet in China and this area acts as a place for locals to take theirs out for show, somewhat similar to a dog park in North America. In mid-afternoon, this was THE area for senior citizens to congregate and socialize with a bamboo cage in one hand and deck of cards in the other. There were also several shops selling all manner of fowl and the insects they consume. 

The ladies market and Temple Street night market are very similar. They both have a maze of stalls selling mass produced, cheaply made merchandise that is of dubious quality and origin. I walked through them and became bored after awhile. There's only so much knock-off Supreme clothing that one can take. The only thing that caught my eye was a pair of Gudetama (!!!) pajamas that I bartered down from 300HKD to 80HKD (roughly $13.00 CDN). They are an XL and I can barely fit into the pants. Perhaps the only difference between these two markets were the prostitutes chatting up the foreigners in the Temple Street area. As I travel alone, I'm always leery of being mistaken for one but then remember that I look like a journalist and there are few men into that kink. 

On that topic, Hong Kong has the most sex shops of any city I've visited. 

Birds for sale at Yuen Po Bird Garden, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Birds for sale at Yuen Po Bird Garden, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Yuen Po Bird Garden, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Yuen Po Bird Garden, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Birds for sale at Yuen Po Bird Garden, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Birds for sale at Yuen Po Bird Garden, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Seniors socializing at Yuen Po Bird Garden, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Seniors socializing at Yuen Po Bird Garden, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

The flower market, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

The flower market, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

The flower market, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

The flower market, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Temple Street night market, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018)

Temple Street night market, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018)

Area near Temple Street night market, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018)

Area near Temple Street night market, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018)

Area near Temple Street night market, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018)

Area near Temple Street night market, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018)

Area near Temple Street night market, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018)

Area near Temple Street night market, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018)

Area near Temple Street night market, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018)

Area near Temple Street night market, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018)

One of Hong Kong's many sex shops (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

One of Hong Kong's many sex shops (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Meat market in the Central district of Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Meat market in the Central district of Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Meat market in the Central district of Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Meat market in the Central district of Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Meat market in the Central district of Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Meat market in the Central district of Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

The despondent face of the fish that tried to escape (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

The despondent face of the fish that tried to escape (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Hong Kong street fashion on the Star Ferry (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Hong Kong street fashion on the Star Ferry (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Hong Kong VI

I need to write about food in Hong Kong. 

IMG_6621.jpg

It's FUCKIN' expensive! 

Prior to my trip, I watched a number of Youtube videos that spoke of this but I chose not to believe them foolishly equating Hong Kong with the mainland that I visited oh, so long ago. Cities like Shanghai and Beijing had a cornucopia of delicious street food options that one could purchase with the spare change in their pocket. Hong Kong ... not so much. In fact, I can't even recall seeing a single street food vendor and prices matched - if not outright exceeded - the costly eats I've had in places like London and Paris. Prices seemed to be 3 - 4 times what I'd spend on equivalents in Canada. Thank God my hotel had a free mini bar; those Halloween-sized bags of BBQ potato chips and M&Ms sustained me.  

The difficulty of doing a quick monetary conversion in my head also played into my ignorance regarding food prices. As did absence of shared language. On my third day in the city, I passed a small traditional Chinese restaurant where a plate of beef stir-fry caught my eye. I am trying to cut back on meat but the whole presentation - with a mountain of seasoned vegetables atop a bed of noodles - really appealed to me. With all the hiking I was doing, my body would welcome the nutrition. While I do enjoy sitting in restaurants and savouring the entire experience of dining in a foreign land, the restaurant was packed and thus I ordered the dish as takeaway. Staff initially appeared to not know the price as I pointed to it, quizzically looking at each other, but finally quoted me a reasonable 60HKD (roughly $9.50 CDN). I paid and stood to the side, eventually flipping through a table menu as I waited where I observed the exact same meal listed at 35HKD. I was annoyed but chose to not say anything, considering it part of the cost of travel. But when I got back to my room and opened the container to see that it was 98% noodles, 1.5% poorly cooked beef and .5% scallions (and that's generous), I vowed to be more diligent. I feel I was given a cup of Nissin. I eventually found an Indian restaurant that had delicious biriyani and garlic naan. I visited so often that the owner knew me by the end of my trip. 

The most sticker shock I received though was at a supermarket in the IFC Mall. Now that I'm learning how to cook, the main souvenirs I wanted to purchase for myself included a number of ingredients that aren't readily available back home. Like pickled sakura cherry blossoms. Didn't know I wanted them, and have no idea what I'm going to do with them, but I now have some in my pantry. I could have walked around this store for hours studying the packaging and thinking up recipes that may or may not be edible when I finished. After filling my basket with a few obscure baking items and small snacks, I made my way to the register where the total caused me to gulp: 752HKD (roughly $120.00 CDN). If purchased in Canada, at our most expensive grocery, I don't feel it would have topped $30. 

As for the item pictured above? That is "suckling pig" and will set you back roughly $30 CDN.  

My pickled sakura blossoms.

My pickled sakura blossoms.

Hong Kong Part II

I  was all set. My suitcase packed and I even took a sleeping pill to ensure that I would get a good eight (or so) hours of sleep prior to the long day of international travel ahead. Exiting the shower, I could already feel the drowsiness set in. Success. But a cursory glance at my phone changed that—several notifications from Air Canada filled my screen notifying me that my flight the following morning was cancelled. 

My city ended up getting around 24cm of snow in just over twenty-four hours. With my first flight kaput, I missed out on my connection to Hong Kong and had to postpone my holiday by one day. Admittedly, I was disappointed (and who wouldn't be). Thoughts of lost moments (and lost money) gave me brief anxiety ... but all that dissipated when I checked into my hotel and set sight on the view in my upgraded room. Nothing else seemed to matter. This was priceless.