And Then the Sun Came Out

20 March 2017 – “You’ll have to climb a big hill,” warns the little girl, her eyes very wide. “Then that’s what I shall do,” I promise her. And I do.

Puffpuff-pantpant.

The sun is out, and so am I.

I decide to visit Bloedel Conservatory for a hit of instant summer, and seek further directions from passers-by when I alight from the bus. Turn right at that corner, they tell me, and then right again. And up the big hill, chirps their daughter.

Puffpuff-pantpant indeed. Made all the puffpuff-ier by my decision to portage more or less straight up, cutting across the roadway’s gentle (but lengthy) topographical S-bends.

All worth it. Like every other visitor, I pause for a photo before I enter — rounded honeycomb dome of the Conservatory up close, jagged mountain peaks ‘way out there, and a bright flag in-between, snapping in the breeze.

In I go. Instant steam all over my glasses. It clears. I peel off my jacket & relax into the warmth.

Tropical vegetation & waterfalls …

and tropical birds, flying free — though some of the more spectacular ones are sufficiently habituated to their own perches that the Conservatory can post signs telling you who each one is.

Which is why I can so confidently introduce you to Mali — their Greater Sulphur Crested Cockatoo.

Doesn’t he look pleased with himself? He has just watched a Conservatory employee tidy up beneath him, and he is as cavalier about it as any aristocrat being pampered by the help.

By the time I leave, I’m eager for cool bracing air. I find myself breathing it in deeply & gratefully as I wander downwards through one of the quarry gardens.

White-tipped snowdrops along the path play visual call-&-response with white-tipped mountains to the north …

local birch play against all the tropical plants inside …

and our own sturdy mallards & Canada geese swim peacefully about. A crow plays Tease-the-Tourist with me for a while, always flying off before I can take his picture.

I’m down at the bus stop now, but with all this sunshine on offer, why would I hop back on a bus? Especially when the route home is downhill all the way?

So I hoof down & down, and down some more, piling up block after block on Main Street.

And I am rewarded by one of those sidewalk signs I so dearly love, the ones that toss a hit of Philosophy With Attitude in your direction, all in a few lines.

The only thing wrong with it is … I can’t go in and order a latte.

 

 

But Wait! There’s More!

18 March 2017 – At the risk of sounding entirely like an infomercial, there really is more.

More reigning to the rain than I’d noticed in my previous post.

So … stop!

And walk around the corner with me to see the rest of the parade.

There’s someone with a big purse hung straight down …

and someone with a potted plant (I think) balanced forward …

and someone with assorted gear slung backward.

Each also with a coffee cup, you’ll notice.

And an umbrella!

 

The Rain Reigns

16 March 2017 – You will have noticed my preoccupation — visitor that I am — with Vancouver rain. I’m in good company. Vancouverites obsess about it themselves. Even on hoardings.

Even on hoardings that you’d expect to be all perky green-&-white — in keeping with that coffee chain’s perky green-&-white siren/mermaid/??? logo. (Fierce online debate about what she really is.)

But no. The hoardings around this soon-to-open location are not at all perky, or green-&-white.

Perhaps because said chain got its start in rain-drenched Seattle, just south of the border, these hoardings celebrate ….

rain.

It may not be raining at this very moment, as you can see — but it did! And it will!

At first I’m just amused, but then I decide I like the artwork a lot. It conveys a great sense of curtains of rain, blurring each figure, dancing it in & out of focus.

I also like the fact that these pedestrians are not the least bit trendy. They are just head-down anonymous folk, dealin’ with the rain as best they can.

With the exception of the third figure!

Yes, there is a trio. And Number Three, she is not the least bit head-down.

Distinctly head-up, in fact. And so very pleased with herself.

As am I with myself, an hour or so later.

I have lingered by the fire in JJ Bean with my latte & my paperback, toasting happily in the warmth, and then returned to my temporary nest where I step out onto the balcony …

and go all “Wow-wow” at the dramatic post-rain sky.

 

 

 

 

Moss & 13th (East & West)

14 March 2017 – The sky is exceedingly grey, & the air oozes moisture. The trees are grey-brown-black, sombre camouflage for a sombre day.

Only the moss stands out.

How happy it is! I stop thinking about the air, the mist, & focus on the moss.

I am besotted. I lurch along 13th Avenue, East 13th morphing to West as I go, following the moss, tree to tree. Admiring the branches’ furry sleeves, stretching out from the trunk …

Admiring swirls of colour, texture, pattern …

moving in close …

then refreshing my eye with the restraint of this narrow trunk, just one tree farther down the line.

Then a big guy, big fat trunk.

I step in to enjoy the sheen of the day’s moisture upon the bark …

which brings me close enough to see how the buds are just starting to swell.

Another block, and I start to laugh. No need to get close.

Nature’s very own Wretched Excess, flaunting herself out there in front of God & everybody, totally shameless.

I’m attracting attention; people turn, try to see what fascinates me so. They can’t find anything. Small dismissive shakes of the head, & they walk on.

Oh, but look …

is this not totally loopy-delightful?

I move even closer to the trunk, crane my neck backwards …

study the black & white of fern silhouette against bare branches & sky.

On westward, another tree, and I’m laughing again.

 

Visions of a mad orchestra conductor, resplendent in green velvet, raising his arms for the downbeat. “Our tempo,” he intones, “is 30.”

Out to Cambie Street & north to 12th. Time for some visual contrast.

No furry-fuzzy textures here.

Just the strong, clean lines of Vancouver City Hall — built & opened in 1936, a make-work & civic-pride project that tempered the architectural exuberance of 1920s Art Deco with the sobriety of 1930s Moderne. The only colour all those flags, and the neon-circled clock.

I giggle again, thinking of the old joke: “What’s black & white & read [red] all over?” A joke that only works when spoken. Because then you can triumphantly reference the other spelling, and contradict either correct answer.

(I debate not giving you the answers. I relent. Answer # 1: “A newspaper.” Answer #2: “A blushing zebra.”)

I Flirt with a Lion

9 March 2017 – And with a lighthouse. And a whole lot of mossy trees. And clouds who are too busy flirting with mountain-tops to notice me.

And with a dragon.

Who also doesn’t notice me, perhaps because he is too busy chin-chinning with the lion.

Aren’t I the coy one? All will be revealed. Soon.

I’m in Stanley Park — the 405-hectare downtown park that Vancouverites rightly adore & tourists rightly visit in droves.

Though the droves have not yet arrived, this damp & still-early morning. My only fellow passenger, when the bus reaches its Stanley Park terminus, is a young woman bearing a carefully-swaddled kayak paddle. She strides off, clearly knowing where to go.

Which is one up on me, since I have no idea where I am or where, precisely, to go. But I don’t care, since … how can I lose? A random walk anywhere will be just fine.

For example, down to this suitably massive chunk of tree, honouring the BC lumber industry.

Lumbermen’s Arch, it is called, and it is the latest (1952) focal point in a clearing that has been a meeting place since the West Coast Salish people first began using it thousands of years ago.

I continue downhill on pathways that remind me, absolutely unreasonably, of bits of High Park in Toronto. Perhaps it’s the downward slope, the shrubbery, and the water ahead. Except Grenadier Pond (High Park) does not also offer a suspension bridge!

Even peek-a-boo, I’m in love with the bridge.

Built in 1938, officially named First Narrows Bridge, but pretty well always called Lions Gate Bridge. No, I don’t know why, but it’s more appealing to flirt with a lion than with a first-narrow …

I am diverted by the sound of yet another small plane droning its way overhead. Some have been helicopters, some seaplanes; I tilt my head to this seaplane  as it climbs above Burrard Inlet, silhouetted against the clouds draped around (maybe) Grouse Mountain.

Don’t hold me to that Grouse Mountain ID, I don’t really know, Grouse may be a bit farther to the east. Well, anyway, part of a line of very handsome cloud-draped mountains.

There’s a slipway down onto the beach and I take it. Instant flash-back: I’m visualizing an entry-point I used to take onto the beach at St. Peter Port in Guernsey, during a visit several years ago. The resemblance is probably slight, but …

but Guernsey is on my mind. (Spoiler alert.) I’ll be there again in May! As you will see.

I head east, but look back west, now able to see pretty well the full length of Lions Gate Bridge. Stretched gracefully across the Narrows, as sinuous as any cat inviting your admiration. (Oh, I’m getting silly.)

Passing ducks are nowhere near as impressed as I am.

Then I look east, and walk on east — and turn my attention to a dragon.

Effigy of. The 1960 replica of the figurehead of the SS Empress of Japan, which — says the plaque — from 1891 to 1922 carried Vancouver’s commerce to the orient.

Now you know what I was blithering about at the start of this post. Here is the dragon, and there, tucked neatly under his chin, is the lion.

But I am diverted once more! Good-bye lion, good-bye dragon; I have a lighthouse to track. Down there on a point, with (I think) North Vancouver & Mount Seymour in the background.

It looks like the beach will soon-ish collide with the seawall; I spy some steep steps, and climb to the adjacent path. I would here love to insert some informed comment about the state of the tide … but that wouldn’t fool you for a minute, would it? I have no idea.

On the path now, still heading east, and I dodge up-slope a bit, to indulge yet another of my BC obsessions: moss on huge tree trunks. But look, this time it’s like a quadruple-hit in Scrabble: big old fir trees AND moss AND the ocean AND a lighthouse.

By now the visitor droves are beginning to arrive.

We dodge each other politely on a narrowed section of path just west of the lighthouse. I wait, camera at the ready, for one group to pass, meanwhile admiring the ability of a young mother to calm her little boy, who is  hiccuping with distress. “Darling,” she says, “I promise, we will come back tomorrow. And mummy will have a surprise for you. Yes, really!”

A seagull is also listening in. He doesn’t care.

Seagull & I, we are at the Brockton Point Lighthouse, which guided ships in and out of Coal Harbour 1890-2005, when newer technologies made it superfluous. But still handsome. Still deserving our respect. One of our icons.

Speaking of icons!

I salute a couple of Canada Geese before I turn back west.

Then I’m onto the bus, back across town to the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood where I’m staying, and off the bus in time to fall into the Main St. outlet of Cartem Donuterie. This mini-chain is a legend, says local friend Louise, and who am I to argue with insider info?

Especially when it includes a hazelnut mocha doughnut.

 

 

Symbol City

3 March 2017 — Just a selection of symbols from my own list-to-date, you understand. Images that snag my Toronto eyes; make me exclaim, with delight, “Ohhh, that is so Vancouver!”

Vancouver is trees.

Moss on tree trunks, in the rain …

typical tree trunk, on a residential Mount Pleasant street

palm trees, out there alive-alive-0 in mid-winter …

W. Broadway near Granville

fir trees on industrial wall murals …

detail, an Industrial Flats mural

and tree stump art.

one of two, in front of Telus World of Science, Main St.

Vancouver is people.

First Nations …

Main St., just north of Terminal Av.

Asian …

a shop nr E 15th & Fraser

and everyone.

"Human Structure," by Jonathan Borofsky, Southeast False Creek

Vancouver is pop-up community gardens, in boxes that can move on to the next site …

close to the Cambie Bridge

and clouds on mountains …

North Van, from the Industrial Flats nr Main St.

and clouds all over the sky.

top, with solar panels, of the Solar Bike Tree outside Telus World of Science

Vancouver is Cloud City …

a mural in Industrial Flats

and Rain City …

W. Broadway between Granville & Cambie

and Every Weather City.

truck in Main St. parking lot

With a scoop of ice cream!

 

Snow City

1 March 2017 – I feel like I’m turning into a Weather Girl. Next thing you know, I’ll be looking for the camera, waving my hand at a non-existent screen & gurgling on about “wind chill” & “humidex” & “active weather.”

Well, maybe not.

But I do nonetheless find myself compelled to report on current weather. Weather here in temperate Vancouver, whose early spring is the envy of all Canada. Except this year: double-digits in Toronto, and snow-&-predictions-of-snow out here.

My new-found favourite café, The Last Crumb (3080 Main Street), is on top of the situation.

The Last Crumb, 3080 Main St Vancouver BC

 

I have not comforted myself with pie. Yet.

 

 

Sun City

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.

looking north from Main St.=Science World Skytrain station

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.

"The Station" - Waterfront Station, Skytrain

I stream out, first to play tourist on Granville Square facing the Inlet and the iconic sails of Canada Place. And the mountains …

Canada Place on Burrard Inlet, facing north

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.

window ornamentation, Sinclair Centre

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?

off Granville, between W. Pender & W. Hastings

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.

looking north to the VAG from Robson Square

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.

landscaping on upper level, The Law Courts

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?

tower detail

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.

bay windows of The Homer, at Homer& Smithe

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.

view eastward into False Creek, along the north side

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 …

view north past Ontario& E. 8th

dancing with the sky & clouds … the mountains.

Post-Script

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.

Wet City: The Sequel

20 February 2017 – The “merde il pleut” attitude (see previous post) …

Main St. at East 11th Av

… is not shared by all.

 

 

Wet City

18 February 2017 – “Wet City.” That’s a clue. Make a guess.

Oh, never mind. The answer is: Vancouver, B.C.

I’m back in Vancouver, and, currently at least, this art gallery in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood has exactly the right name.

art gallery, Main St. nr East 6th

Moments later, in a near-by alley, I see some hot art.

alley s. of East Broadway at Quebec

Though perhaps not exactly what the gallery owners had in mind.

It’s a damp, drizzly sort of Saturday, the moisture so soft & diffuse I mostly don’t notice it & never put up the hood on my jacket. A landscape, & seascape, of gauzey grey.

But… so mild.

Cambie & West Broadway

See? Bare legs. And my jacket is half-open. (I mention all this diffidently. A pet peeve among eastern Canadians is the flood of photos this time of year from BC-coast friends, flaunting their crocuses & snowdrops & lattes out on a café patio.)

On the other hand, pooches must be pampered, even in mild weather.

down near False Creek

I this this warning unnecessary — at least, today. Surely the attraction today would be unguarded expensive umbrellas!

nr Columbia & Broadway

So far, I’ve been looping around East & West Broadway Ave. Now I head on north to the water, to False Creek. Lots of people out & about — with dogs, with kiddies, with their FitBits & serious running gear, with snazzy bicycles — drawn to the parks & the Greenwall (seawall) that define south-east False Creek.

People out on the water as well. Dragon boats skimming in all directions. From ‘way out there somewhere, I can hear a cox barking at his crew, “Just think about what you’re doing!” But that’s the cox’s job, is it not? To bark?

And here’s another dragon boat, just about to set out from Spyglass Place Dock, by the Cambie Bridge. Though that’s not why I’ve stopped. I’ve stopped to enjoy the art.

Spyglass Place Dock, False Creek

Emily Gray is the artist, and if you click, you’ll get an aerial view of this mural.

I like the details all along the edge, including this fat little bumble bee.

detail, mural at Spyglass Place Dock

I walk on east a bit along False Creek, into Hinge Park, admire yet more art. This time on wooden posts out in the water.

just off Hinge Park, looking east along False Creek

But, this time, I can’t tell you the artist. Or anything else about it. I just like it, I like it in combination with the tall towers & the spherical World of Science to the east. I’d like it with the mountains as well — if they were on offer. Which they aren’t.

Because, even though we’re having a moment of watery sunshine, the atmospheric theme du jour is, pervasively, droplets of rain.

pedestrian walkway in Hinge Park

When I reach Olympic Village, I make another stop. This one you can guess…

Of course. For a latte. (Some rituals travel so easily!) Then I walk on east & a bit south, angling to Main Street and my temporary home just beyond.

With a passing glance, on Main near East Broadway, at an editorial comment on life in Wet City.

shop window, Main nr East Broadway

Should I go back & buy it?

 

 

  • WALKING… & SEEING

    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

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