Legs & A Twofer

27 January 2018 – It’s the grin that stops me. As if this Borealis knows it is one hot-damn velomobile.

It’s posed outside this bike shop because it is for sale, but I am impervious. I have leg power.

And those legs are about to carry me through a big rectangular loop that will deliver — or so the plan goes — a botanical twofer.

First up — and I do mean up, as I climb my way south on Cambie Street — is the delightful Bloedel Conservatory. It sits atop Queen Elizabeth Park, which is also the highest point in the City of Vancouver. But despite today’s brilliantly clear sky, I’m not ogling the mountains, I’m looking across the gardens to the Conservatory’s iconic dome.

Inside that dome, says the literature, more than 120 free-flying exotic birds, in a universe of some 500 exotic plants and flowers.

No mention of the koi, but they’re there too, darting about in the ecosystem’s clear-running streams.

Outside — and why have I never noticed this before? — a Henry Moore sculpture. It’s called Knife Edge, but for me, its lines are more flowing than edged, and beautifully reflect the lines of the dome and the mountain range that serve as its backdrop.

Giddy with sunshine, I walk west, heading for number two on my list, the VanDusen Botanical Garden.

Two bonus attractions along the way.

I indulge my fascination with the textures & tones of  tree bark, rich with moss and lichen.

 

A passing couple pause, try to figure out what I’m staring at, exchange a couple of tentative comments about the way some branches have been pruned … maybe? … and move on.

I move on too, and don’t stop again for a couple of blocks.

Then I discover Vancouver’s Nectar Trail. Well, first I discover the Insect Hotel — which, if you look closely, you will recognize as a repurposed telephone booth.

The idea is to provide additional habitat for pollinators, with naturalized, pollinator-friendly plantings and “hotels” for their long winter sleep. First stage of the trail: the stretch between the sister institutions, VanDusen and Bloedel.  First stop on the trail: right here in Oak Meadows Park.

No flowers visible, in mid-winter, but this cheerful wooden curtain, the work of local grade-8 students, brightens the day year-round.

(Honesty demands I add that the project links are years old, and some are non-operative. It is possible that the project never got beyond this first installation. I hope I’m wrong.)

On to the VanDusen. I love this place, any season, and it feels alive and growing, any season. Fountains jet their water high in the air; the spray turns into a pointillist painting as it falls back to the lake.

And mossy trees gleam emerald-edged in the afternoon sunshine.

Eventually I head for home. As happy as that grinning velomobile.

 

 

Swell, Scruffy, Swell

25 June 2017 – And all in one day, too, neatly sandwiched. No surprise about the “swell” that began & ended the day: I’m talking about yesterday, which was Doors Open Vancouver, a day designed to showcase notable city buildings for residents & visitors alike. The surprise was the “scruffy” in between — and an even more surprising (to me) correlation with the later “swell.”

I leave home with a limited Doors Open agenda, limited by the fact that I’m not free to trot around town all day; I am an afternoon DOV volunteer, and decide I can only fit in one morning visit — the very swell Orpheum Theatre. A 1927 movie theatre with the exotically luxurious details of the day, it followed the usual arc of such theatres & by 1973 was on the verge of being gutted & turned into a hive of mini-theatres. Various public & private sector heroes rode to the rescue; it is today completely refurbished, a National Historic Site, and a much-cherished, well-used theatre.

My afternoon shift is in an equally swell structure, the Scotiabank Dance Centre, which opened in 2001. This, by contrast, is an example of a 1920s building (a branch of the bank) that was gutted, save for the façade, with the footprint brilliantly reinvented by Arthur Erickson and Architectura as an 8-storey complex of dance rehearsal and performance studios.

So as I head south on Seymour St., late morning, I am still dazzled by the Orpheum and eager for the Dance Centre. My mind is in Swell Mode.

And then I see this.

Oh, my dears.

Even though I strongly suspect the whole thing is a joke, a carefully spelled-out joke, it’s a terrific joke & I laugh. The black-gloved broad is pretty terrific too…

So my humour is even better as I loop around a bit, and find myself on Granville nearing Davie — and therefore the Dance Centre as well. My mind is back in Swell Mode, I an anticipating the architectural pleasure to come.

Then I glance to the right, where there is a staircase down into a sunken sliver of parking lot. And I see this, and of course I nip right down those stairs.

We are back to scruffy! Not recently-commissioned, high-class parking lot street art by a name-brand artist. No. Definitely old, & peeling. Scruffy.

But it still has charater.

With a space ship, for example, or perhaps bumble bee, take your pick …

and some kind of critter, beckoning me on.

And he really does lead me on, because he is at the corner where this parking lot feeds into an alley.

I peer around the edge, looking toward Davie.

Perfect!

There are parrots soaring over skyscrapers …

and an inscrutable face over a dumpster …

and a bit of Alley Philosophy, to Make You Think.

I’m laughing like anything when I emerge on Davie — all the more so, given I am almost dead opposite the entrance to the Dance Centre, and I like the juxtaposition a lot. I even consider jay-walking (will I never renounce my bad Toronto habits?), but opt for a demure legal crossing at the street corner instead.

And look, virtue is rewarded.

I discover why those two parrots are fluttering around the alley.

At the time, I’m just pleased to get the reference. And admire another bit of neon art.

Later, online, I learn that the ground floor of this 1890s building was the Bank of Nova Scotia local branch from 1912 to 1929.

When it moved to the Bank’s fabulous new building, right across the street.

Which, in the 1990s, was donated by the Bank to the project that was to retain the façade, incorporate the name, and transform the footprint into the new Scotiabank Dance Centre.

Where I spend a very swell afternoon.

 

 

 

  • 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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