Tag Archives: Vancouver

Keys to the Streets Vancouver

I arrived in Vancouver approximately ten days ago really flat and a huge part of my turn around has been all of the pianos that I have found from one end of the city to the other. The Keys To The Streets program has been running for the last two summers in Vancouver and has bought much joy to the locals,  myself included.

The first I saw of this was when my friend took me to a park in Coquitlam and there was a piano on the dock for people to play. Small children gathered around and thumped on it gleefully. I sat down and played a couple of songs and then was on my way. This was the first time I had sat down and played at a piano in many years given that they are not very portable for travel. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the piano. While I love my ukulele, there is something within my soul that awakens when I sit at a piano and I play and sing.

Science Centre Piano

So when I got to Vancouver and found my first piano in Chinatown I was super excited. I sat down and started to play a few songs and felt immediately calm and happy. People crowded around from the surrounding businesses and stopped along the street to watch me play and for the first time in a long time I felt the performer within me coming back. And thus began my quest of the ‘pianocrawl’.

Piano along the river walk. It got wet one day in the rain and the keys expanded and got stuck. After a couple of hot days it was back to normal

Along more of my walks, I found a piano at the Science Centre, a piano along the river front and one underneath the Cambie Street Bridge. This piano was my favourite and the best sounding by far. While sitting along the waterfront, I observed some of the most amazing musicians sit down and play this piano. From classically trained pianists, to jazz pianists…. there were some amazing talents. Not only was I fortunate enough to witness some of the magic, but I was also granted the ability to play music with some of them.

My favourite piano under the Cambie Street Bridge. Many an awesome musician was seen playing this piano, even in bands.

The first time this happened for me, I was playing for a while and when I was done a guy asked if I wanted to jam. He was a piano player and we tried to figure out what songs we both knew and harmonized and ad libbed things. It was a whole lot of fun and I remembered how much I loved jamming with other musicians.

The second day this happened, a group rocked down to the waterfront to use the piano with their other instruments. While they were getting things organized, I played a couple of tunes with the drummer and double bass player. People crowded around and were excited about the music in their streets. When they were ready, I relinquished up the piano to one of the best jazz pianists I have ever seen sit down and play music with the band. I sat and listened happily. The music had gotten into my body and my soul and I felt alive.

Sitting under the Cambie Street Bridge playing the piano.

Over the course of the week I was in Vancouver, every time I walked past a piano, I sat and played it. I played five pianos in total and I made videos of many different songs that I have played. You can find them on my Facebook music page at following link. There will be more uploaded over the coming weeks.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Danni-Thomas/319464336076 Danni Thomas Musician Page

This whole activity has inspired me to find a band and start working again as a musician in the coming months when I have settled into my new life. It has also inspired me to start writing more music again. For more updates, join and follow along with the music Facebook page, otherwise I am sure there will be more updates coming about through the blog when it starts. To check out some more of what is happening in Vancouver check out the hashtag, #keys2streets. There have been some incredible musicians recorded around the city!

Canada By Car: Leg 8 – Go West!

My trip East lasted a good three months, but my venture west lasted no longer than 9 days of speedy travelling. I got a relocate a car through a website http://www.hittheroad.ca and had to relocate it from Montreal to Vancouver.

I first picked up the car, drove it back to Toronto to collect my piles of junk that I needed to transport across the country. From Toronto I advertised for a ride share and picked up a guy, Andrew to drive up north to Sault Ste. Marie. It was a long drive, but we got there eventually and Andrew was kind enough to offer me a bed at his house given that I was planning on camping outside and it was raining. We went out for dinner and he showed me around ‘the Soo’ before getting a good nights rest and hitting the road again.

Mont to Van Road Trip 073
The Wawa Goose

The second day on the road was sheer craziness. I stopped through Pancake Bay, hiked through the Lake Superior Provincial Park and viewed the petroglyphs left by the natives. Of course heading through up into the far reaches of Ontario, it wouldn’t be complete without a stop to visit the Wawa Goose and the hometown of Winnie the Pooh in White River.

Mont to Van Road Trip 082
Winnie the Pooh in his hometown of White River

I managed to push on and get to Thunder Bay for the evening staying in a small hostel. Along the way I stopped off and paid my respects to Terry Fox at his highway marker where he ended his massive run across Canada to help raise money for cancer, the same disease that eventually took his life after it took his leg. I also went to the giant Terry Fox statue that overlooks the highway overpass and was quite moved by how inspirational he was as a person.

Mont to Van Road Trip 109
The Terry Fox Memorial. Incredibly moving story.

Day three and we are on to Winnipeg. Getting out of Ontario literally takes forever and I never thought I would get there but eventually we see the sign ‘Welcome to Manitoba’. It rained for majority of the way and was still raining when I got to Winnipeg. I walked around the town center for a little while before calling it a night.

2013-07-26 14.16.22
The stunning views driving across the Canadian Praries

The next leg was from Winnipeg through to Regina where I was fortunate enough to catch up with some friends that I hadn’t seen in five years that I met while travelling New Zealand. I went out with them and a few of their friends for dinner in downtown Regina and it was a heap of fun.

On next to Calgary. But not before stopping along the way at the famous town of Moose Jaw to do a couple of the underground tours through the tunnels where Al Capone used to smuggle his alcohol during the prohibition. The tunnels are also where the Chinese used to live after the construction of the Canadian Railway lines from east to west as the locals did not treat the Chinese very fairly and most of them couldn’t afford their passage home after the head tax that the government imposed and the poor wages. It was a super interesting historical site and one of my favourite across Canada.

Eventually I arrived in Calgary which was to become my home at a later date so I spent some time getting to know her as a city for a day or so before heading on to the amazing town of Banff, nestled in the Banff National Park. After doing the Sulfur Mountain hike, I had dinner at the Spaghetti Factory and then crashed out.

Banff Hiking Day 027
Incredible views from the top of Sulfur Mountain

The drive through the stunning Rocky Mountains was incredible and hands down the most amazing drive I have ever done. As I continued on, I stopped at Lake Louise and Moraine Lake to check out these most stunning picturesque lakes that form the postcards that you see most of Banff.

mas alberta and bc 053
Lake Louise

I continued to drive through the Yoho and Glacier National Park and then on to the Okanagan region to Kelowna where I stopped off for the evening. The region was beautiful and I got to go for a walk and check out the stunning views over the city before getting my last good sleep in before heading to Vancouver.

On the drive the next day to Vancouver, I decided to make a call and try and book into my accommodation. Unfortunately for me I had come to the realization that with a Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z concert all on in one night that accommodation in Vancouver was fairly booked out. After a meltdown and lots of phonecalls, I finally got lucky with a cancellation and found a place to crash for the evening. I dropped off my bags, delivered the car to the woman who I drove it for and set off on my way back to the hostel. I have gone from the eastern most point of Canada to here so far. It was time to make it as far west as I could. It was time to go to Vancouver Island.

For Vancouver Island adventures, check out my next blog!