27 February 2017 – Vancouver knows how to get even. I twice label it “Wet City” and what does it do? Next time I go out the door, it pummels me with sunshine.
But my initial thought is not for the sun, as I stand on the Main St.-Science World Station platform; I am thinking about the mountains. About how they pop up, at the turn of your head, at the flick of an eye, where you don’t expect them at all.
Through the Skytrain station’s north-facing window, for example.
Right there, apparently at the north end of Main St., but more precisely across False Creek and across downtown Vancouver and across Burrard Inlet and behind North Van. Right there. I allow myself a small, tourist-y wriggle of delight. In my Calgary days, the mountains were always leaping into view — but even then, I loved every flash. Never got tired of it.
What fun to be playing peek-a-boo with mountains again!
I decide to ride the train right to its Burrard Inlet terminus, Waterfront Station, and then walk back south through the city.
A choo-choo train station when it opened in 1914, now — to use the jargon — an “intermodal transit link” and beautifully restored to boot. People stream in, for various Skytrain lines; or out, into the city; or onward, connecting with SeaBus for the ride across Burrard Inlet to North Vancouver.
Whichever, they stream through a glorious lobby, in all its Neo-Classic splendour.
I stream out, first to play tourist on Granville Square facing the Inlet and the iconic sails of Canada Place. And the mountains …
I don’t have a very firm plan of action, but I do have the Official Walking Map of Downtown Vancouver. And I have my own two eyes, showing me inviting pathways southward through green space.
Which lead me to the dolphins. Well, I think dolphins. Something heraldic & fanciful & marine, in any event. Very elegant.
They adorn the lower ledge of elegant windows in an elegant, restored building. The Sinclair Centre, I read: now a shopping mall, but very upscale, and brought into being by connecting four heritage buildings via an atrium. I don’t go in; I just smile at the dolphins. I’m pretty sure they are smirking, not smiling, but the sun is shining and I don’t mind.
Onto Grenville Street proper for a while, I pass an alley and — of course! — turn into it. I’m up for some alley art, that’s my Toronto training.
No alley art.
But who could resist a pink-&-gold playground? With a hopscotch painted in at this end, and dotted arcs for basketball (or perhaps ball hockey) farther down?
Something leads me sideways, don’t remember, but here I am on Howe St.and — boom! look! I recognize that! (I’m still at the stage where I can’t anticipate what will come next, geographically; I can only enjoy whatever appears, awarding myself modest extra points if I recognize it.)
Yes, the Vancouver Art Gallery, which I visited just days ago with my friend Sally to see the Susan Point exhibit. Now I walk on down into Robson Square, and half-climb steps back up, to just right here, to position Abraham Etungat’s “Bird of Spring” just so against the VAG façade.
And on down through Robson Square, very uncompromising concrete at its lowest level, then climbing up, literally up, into more greenery, and up again on narrow pathways, and I’m not sure where I’m headed, or if it is public property. But no gates, and it is appealing, so I keep climbing.
Terraced shrubbery & plants around me, but I become fascinated by that tower, and the reflections mirrored onto it. The influence of where I am, surely, but … don’t they remind you of totems? Twenty-first century urban totems?
No exit up here, it turns out, all doors locked. I rewind my steps, down onto the sidewalk, see I’ve been up in The Law Courts landscaping.
I turn onto Smithe St., no particular reason except that eventually it will feed me onto the Cambie Bridge.
And then, at Homer, I have another of those “boom! I recognize that!” moments.
This time thanks to a walk last fall with my friend Louise, who pointed out The Homer. An apartment building with ground-level retail when first built in 1909, and that same combination today. Except that tenants undoubtedly now pay a lot more rent, and the ground-floor sequence of a dye works, a steam cleaner, an ice delivery service & a corner store has yielded to a very elegant café & bar.
Fair enough, The Homer has been restored to elegance as well.
Happy with my discoveries, my rediscoveries, I let Smithe St. guide me onto Cambie Bridge. Where I hang over the edge to gaze lovingly at False Creek (inconveniencing the cyclist who, rightly, thought that side of the shared track belonged to him). And flick my eyes upwards at those mountains again.
I think I’m done with them, as I hit ground on the other side and walk east into Mount Pleasant.
But of course I’m not.
I stop to admire the painted building at Ontario & East 8th, and there, above it all …
dancing with the sky & clouds … the mountains.
Yes, the sun shone all day like crazy & at one point I was carrying my jacket, not wearing it.
This morning I stepped out into a snow flurry.