Another Day, Another Alley

18 August 2018 – An alley was not the plan. The Tuesday Walking Society (Vancouver Division) was out in full twosome force, and the plan was to improve our minds with a hit of heritage architecture.

Specifically, a tour of the interior of this theatre, the largest in Canada when it opened in 1927 …

and once again a sparkling major theatrical presence in the city, following its restoration in the mid-1970s.

Scheduled tours all summer long, arrange ahead or just drop in; all fine.

Except when there is a film shoot that same day. As a polite little notice in the window informs us.

Never mind. We can adapt. If the theatre’s heritage interior is not available, we will console ourselves with its heritage alley right next door.

Welcome to Ackery’s Alley, nick-named for Ivan Ackery, who ran the Orpheum 1935-69 and helped visiting celebrities slip out a side door into the alley when they wanted to avoid adoring fans. Like the theatre itself, the alley deteriorated over time, and stayed scruffy a lot longer.

Until this very summer, in fact, when it became the second of the City’s downtown paint-the-alley projects. It may still be a service alley, but it’s now snazzy as all-get-out.

Good information, yes? Though perhaps you didn’t really need to have that last bit spelled out.

Great waves of colour undulate their way right up the walls …

and all over the recycling bins.

Anti-pigeon spikes are firmly attached to every horizontal surface.

Which, as Mama Pigeon discovers, makes them the perfect fence to support her nest and keep the babies from tumbling out.

I am not sympathetic to pigeons — the sight of them has me humming Tom Lehrer’s ditty, Poisoning Pigeons in the Park — but I catch myself applauding Mama P. for her ingenuity.

We repeatedly have to stop gawking at the alley’s paint job and leap out of the way of delivery trucks, threading their way through the narrow space, guided by Useful Guy working the film shoot.

He gets a moment to breathe between vehicles; that gives us a moment to admire his arms. He’s as snazzy as the rest of the alley!

And then finally away we go, Frances & I, walking on north through town, vaguely planning to reach Burrard Inlet somewhere around Canada Place, where we will then — probably — follow the seawall west for a bit.

An hour or so later, the time accounted for not by kilometres walked but diversions enroute, we reach Canada Place. The cranes on the Port of Vancouver’s Centennial Pier punch a dramatic orange through the haze, but the Coast Range Mountains, just across the Inlet, are almost totally obscured.

It is not a romantic mist, it is not Rain City about to have a rainy moment. It is wild fire smoke.

More than 500 fires are burning province-wide as I write this. We pause a moment, think about all the displaced people, all the exhausted fire fighters, all the terrified wild life, all the trees … all the loss.

We are sombre as we walk on.

Our mood doesn’t lighten until we pass this notice on a blocked staircase.

Oh! Sorry! is that one image too many? Am I boring you?

I apologize…

Walk & Gawk

28 July 2017 – Tuesday we do indeed go walkies on the Arbutus Greenway, as promised in my previous post. Another bright sunny day, so I’m armed with hat/sunblock/water.

I’m first to arrive at the 6th and Fir Park, the north (False Creek) end of this 11 km pathway stretching south along a disused rail corridor to the Fraser River. (In fact, we’re still on temporary pathways, with the final work yet to be done, but the details are beyond me and … frankly … at the moment I don’t care. I’m happy as is.)

Being first to arrive, I kill time reading messages on the Park noticeboard. Here is my favourite:

Have you ever seen tattooing so winsomely advertised? I am thoroughly charmed — though not enough to respond to the ad.

Lots of notices, lots to read, and this lady ignores her pooches long enough to scrutinize them all. Maybe she’s local, checking for updates?

Busy park, 9-ish in the morning: a volunteer (I assume) watering & pruning, a visitor checking her messages, parents & toddlers (out of frame) in the mini-playground. And a discarded water bottle. This is real life, after all, not Fantasy Land.

The Park’s online write-up includes, in its list of amenities, a water fountain. It should, but doesn’t, point out there is a canine fountain as well,

Frances arrives, we slap on another layer of sunblock, swig some water, and set off.

And stop pretty darn soon, because who could resist this gate?

Not us. The gate is unlocked, even better, so we head in. I linger to admire all the fun someone has had, creating the objets d’art — all from objets trouvés — on the gate.

Turns out we are visiting the Vancouver Compost Demonstration Garden, which since 1990 has been a joint project with the non-profit City Farmer Society. The Society manages the Garden; the City taps multiple departmental resources (Solid Waste, Water Design, Parks, Health, Green Streets…); all this to show Vancouverites a whole range of ways to “go green” at home.

Raised produce beds and other features show us water conservation techniques, pest control, and composting options. Including — but of course! — a very classy composting toilet.

Back to the Greenway.

We’re still in the northern section, with community gardens and wild greenery all around. Including blackberry bushes, their fruit just beginning to ripen.

See those few fully ripe berries? They are no longer on the bush. They disappeared, lickety-split, down our throats.

Not a lot of art on display, and it would be ungrateful to demand that the Greenway also be an art installation. All the more reason to enjoy the artist’s palette on a signal box (or something) ’round about where we cross West 16th.

Farther south, we’re on a long staightaway of naked paved pathway. Not pretty. It’s a relief to arrive at a stretch that is, we suddenly realize, lined with painted rocks. Well … at least it’s something.

I warm to it when I see a Vancouver Biennale sign, explaining that this is a BIG IDEAS Education Program carried out by grade 2 students at York House School. After seeking community input, they decided to beautify their stretch of the Greenway with these long lines of rocks —  more than 800 in all, moving from one colour block to another.

But! Wait-there’s-more! Turn over a rock or two. Go ahead, says a sign; do it.

So, in a red-rock stretch, we do.

Love it.

Even farther south, we’re back in cascading greenery, here up and down a retaining wall with trees soaring overhead. Vancouver keeps stunning me, the way green stuff just tumbles over other green stuff…

And suddenly we’re crossing West 41st, where, I am very reliably informed, there are excellent cafés.

We admire yet another harlequin painted signal box (it seems to be the Greenway theme), plus the wooden bench behind it with old railway axles (or something?) for end pieces …

and head for a near-by bistro.

Which is as good as promised.

I pass up my usual almond croissant & try something new: a flaky sacristain —  twisted puff pastry with ground almonds and cinnamon.

All I can say is: go find yourself a French bistro, and try it for yourself! (Or follow this recipe.)

 

  • 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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