Jalan-Jalan

27 June 2018 – It’s one of my favourite remembered scraps of Indonesian: literally “street-street,” meaning “out & about” or “wandering around” or — channelling 1980s British dog trainer Barbara Woodhouse — “Walkies!”

The day is breezy-sunny, perfect for a nice long street-street. Feet-feet, come to that, because I really am just following my feet, seeing where they’d like to go and tagging along after them.

My feet & I, we head under the south-side ramps for the Cambie Street bridge …

plonk ourselves into one of the Muskoka chairs at Spyglass Dock for a bit, to listen to the current passing pianist …

and then trot off eastward along False Creek.

We walk the stone labyrinth at water’s edge opposite Hinge Park. While my feet are busy tracing the path …

my mind is busy chanting a graffito I once saw on a Toronto wall, the words neatly spiralled inward, with the final word at the centre.

Trace your sources to their roots

and they will find you laughing.

My old copy-editor self has always fretted about the ambiguous “they” reference. Your sources? Or your roots? And then I always shrug, because it doesn’t matter, does it? Whatever it is, I love that, at its heart, it will reward you with laughter.

Off the eastern end of False Creek, over to the Pacific Central Station for a (premature, it turns out) query about train service, and then I find myself not heading for the north side of False Creek, as I thought I had intended. Nope! I’m all street-street / feet-feet into Chinatown. Well, there’s a surprise, but I’m happy to follow my feet.

First a half-block along Station Street, to get a bit closer to those murals opposite the park, high over the back side of Campagnolo Restaurant. (Rustic Italian, its website later tells me, and once a Condé Nast Traveller choice as a hot new restaurant worth noting.)

Then my feet double me around to Main Street again. I start north, past the resto’s invitation to come on in for lunch.

I don’t. I keep walking, curious to see what I’ll see. Even a scruffy wall glitters in the sunlight, a kind of exercise in found colour blocking.

Bold advertising as I turn east on Keefer from Main …

and for an establishment NOT to be confused with the much classier Keefer Suites, same street but several polite blocks farther west.

My feet & I, we just keep ambling around. On Gore now, approaching East Pender, I blink at these bright emerald doors.

Marked “E” for Emerald Supper Club, I discover. Later, I see the website promises “a mix of old school vegas glamour with a little bit of anything goes attitude,” not that I can vouch for it personally.

Turn my head left, and there’s something I can vouch for — yet another of Chinatown’s sidewalk cornucopias of foodstuffs. Texture, colour, aroma, variety! Splendid.

I pivot around the lamp standard at the street corner, admiring the embedded brass lettering as I turn west onto East Pender …

and then, before I get to Main Street again, I stop in some confusion.

Does that sign really say Klaus Koffee Haus? Here in the heart of Chinatown?

I peer through its long front window, thrown open to the street. A young waiter smiles back out at me — as cosmopolitan as the restaurant, I later discover, with his Cajun/Cherokee/African American/Caucasian ancestry — and confirms that yes, this is an Austrian restaurant. With Italian and other comfort-food standards thrown in.

Who could resist? I go in, take a stool at the window ledge, and have myself a bowl of goulash while I consider the street’s array of other offerings, one after another, all the way down the block.

Continental Herbal, Kam Tong Enterprises, Kiu Yick Books, the Dollar Meat Store, Tinland Cooking, Care Home Mart. And just beyond all that, Vegan Supplies and frozen Dim Sum.

Truth is, I don’t visit any of them. But I am very happy they exist.

Back on Main, still heading north, almost at Powell, it’s street-art time. Can’t admire the barrel’s contents, namely a dead tree, but I am quite taken by the artwork.

The animals, I decide, have a semi-feral edge that I respect.

Westward on Powell now, getting closer to Gastown and entertainment/tourist territory. A wowzer of a mural, large enough to admire from afar and a good thing too, since I’d have to leap barricades and construction workers to get any closer.

A bit farther west, and this time it’s a good thing I can admire close up, because I need to read the words.

Very odd. I like it a lot.

Then I’m into Gastown and the shops and services are upmarket, and I go all reverse-snob and put away my camera.

My feet & I decide to hop a bus and ride back home.

 

 

16,901 Steps

2 April 2018 – 16,901 footsteps or 11.3 km, says my pedometer app, and I won’t argue. Though I could, instead, just call it a fairly long walk on a bright blustery day …

Either way, the outing gives me happy hours tracing a rough rectangle through a downtown-ish subsection of Vancouver.

I have a destination in mind, which sets my general direction. It is the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, the first such scholars garden to be built outside China, meticulously accurate and created with the help of 53 master craftsmen from China, 950 crates of traditional materials and strictly 14th-c. building methods.

And so down the hill I go to False Creek, and follow its southern shore east to its stubby end by Main Street. Mostly I’m striding along, enjoying sun, fresh air, choppy water, bird song, spring blossoms — and all the other people enjoying all the same things.

But I do pause, right there where the creek proves itself a false creek, to watch a chalk artist create a great big labyrinth on the pavement.

And then I’m around the curve, doubling back to the west, now on the north side of the water. I’m watching for the exit to Carrall Street, which is unfamiliar territory for me. My preoccupation makes this cluster of inukshuk on the rocky shoreline particularly appropriate, given their traditional way-finding role.

The inukshuk (plus a large sign with a large arrow) do their job. I right-turn away from the Seawall and walk north up Carrall Street, heading into Chinatown.

Bold stripes splashed by sunshine onto an apartment building opposite the Classical Chinese Garden.

Equally powerful design inside the Garden, here created not by nature, but by careful human attention to every detail.

I linger.

And then I leave, walking north still, heading toward Burrard Inlet, out of Chinatown and into Gastown. It’s an entertainment district, a tourist district, and a magnet, this holiday weekend, for Vancouverites as well.

Laugher and music and clinking glasses on outdoor patios. But if you look sideways to the edges, to the margins, not everything is pretty-pretty.

Another alley-edge a few blocks over, and the most fully-executed street art RIP that I have ever seen.

I keep moving, now west to Cambie, where I turn south and start homeward. The streetscape evolves again. Here in the pavement at the intersection with Robson, it issues a call to bibliophiles.

The open book is a visual cross-reference to the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library, just a block away.

But you don’t have to go even that far! Crouch down, and read the terra-cotta inserts …

On south, now approaching the Cambie Bridge over False Creek.

I go right by the new Parq Vancouver entertainment complex — all very whizzy it is, with its hotels, spa, casino, and bunches of restaurants. Yawn, don’t care. I’m more taken with the rich colour and lines of its outer skin; the flags right-angle from their staffs in the brisk breeze; and the construction cranes reflected on the façade, just below that oval inset balcony.

Bridge ramps converge overhead.

I climb.

And I cross the bridge, looking east toward Main Street, remembering the chalk artist and his labyrinth, hours and hours ago.

The final climb, hoof-hoof-hoof, and I’m home.

I check my pedometer app, and learn how to translate this particular day’s adventure into a set of numbers.

But really, the point is the adventure, not the numbers.

(Even if they did give me a post title.)

The Poetry Walk. Almost.

7 August 2016 – Here I am in High Park on a hot Saturday afternoon, eager to join the the Poetry Walk that will tour us around this 161-hectare urban park, hearing site-inspired poetry as we go.

Alas for the plan. I have misread the info sheet: the walk started at 1 pm, and here I am all bright & bouncy at 2 pm.

So I console myself with other discoveries. Of which there are many.

The picnic for the Former Thu Duc Reserves Officer Cadet Association of Ontario, for example …

the ietnamese & Canadian flags at the picnic

complete with flags & speeches & long food tables filling plates as fast as picnic-goers can present them.

Right across West Road, an equally busy baby shower. The signage in English, but the MC definitely latino, pleading again & again, “Por favor … por favor” as he struggles to bend the chattering crowd to his agenda.

Bright, busy splash pad over here …

the splash pad off West Road

and nearby an ice rink, stripped of its ice but the hockey nets still in place. The little boys do what any true-Canadian group of little boys would do: they grab some basketballs …

basketball hockey in a summertime ice rink

and play “hockeyball.” (The adjoining outdoor swimming pool has equally enthusiastic, but more orthodox, use.)

High Park is billed as a mixed recreational/natural park, and it does seem the most amazing combination of facilities — off-leash dog areas, garden allotments, a zoo, food stands, trails, public art, you-name-it — plus natural areas and other areas undergoing naturalization.

And Shakespeare.

roped off venue for the summertime Shakespeare presentations

A summer institution.

And formal ponds & hedges …

in High Park

and the signature great maple leaf in a broad expanse of lawn approaching Grenadier Pond. In winter, the outline is black and dramatic; in summer, it is a-blaze.

in High Park

Typical: the mum lining up her little boys for a photo. A-typical, but unfortunately true this year: the parched grasses of our very dry summer.

I see sketchers …

one of two sketchers by a hillside pond

and sleepers …

in High Park

and fishers in the designated area in Grenadier Pond.

fishing is permitted in a defined area

I walk a pond-side trail, its shoreline plants almost obscuring the helpful signs.

signage typical of High Park

On the left, the role of cattails & sweetflag in stabilizing shorelines; on the right, the habits of the pond’s diving ducks. Lots of High Park nature information, here in signage and online too.

I climb back up from Grenadier Pond, begin working my way back north playing tag with Colbourne Lodge Drive. One foray off-road takes me , most unexpectedly, to the High Park Labyrinth.

High Park Labyrinth

Who knew? Well, I suppose I should have known: I showed you the labyrinth next to the Church of the Holy Trinity (Into the Labyrinth, 7 July), and noted the website giving all the other locations as well.

Back up near Bloor Street, I stop to admire a few of the sculptures in that north-east corner of the park. I am particularly taken by this one …

a sculpture in High Park

perhaps because it reminds me of the strong, minimalist work of Inuk carver John Pangnark (1920-1980). Art historian George Swinton rightly called him “the Brancusi of the North.” Since High Park doesn’t credit its sculptors (or not anywhere I could find), all I can say about this piece of art is that it is by “the Pangnark of High Park.”

More art as I pile aboard a streetcar at the Dundas West subway station. Right outside my window.

alley next to Dundas West subway station

And look! Some art inside the streetcar, right before my eyes.

passenger in my streetcar

So there we are. I blew my chance to walk with a group, and hear poetry inspired by the Park’s black oak savannah, the wanderings of its buried creeks, and the assorted plants, birds, snakes & insects that call the Park home.

But it all worked just just fine.

 

 

 

  • 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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