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.

 

 

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!

 

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.

  • 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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