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.

 

 

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.)

 

POP! Go the Chairs

22 January 2017 – It is a totally pissy day (dull, damp, raw, intermittent rain-spittle), & I march out into it anyway.

And I am rewarded.

If waterfront summertime chairs can be this cheerful, if they can go POP! despite the weather, who am I not to join in?

chairs in Harbour Square Park, lakefront & Bay St

I’m in Harbour Square Park, by Lake Ontario just opposite the ferry terminal, starting to walk west along the lake and thinking how my attitude has changed to out-of-season accessories. Such as these Muskoka chairs, for example.

I used to sneer — yes, peaceful broadminded me — when confronted by public facilities designed, so I thought, for one season only. And for summer at that. When we inhabit, in fact, a primarily not-summer environment.

Now I delight in them — the chairs, the huge umbrellas at HTO Park and Sugar Beach, the lot. Why? Because so many others delight in them, and enjoy them year-round. So I am now an old dog with a new attitude. (Woof woof.)

More of those chairs keep popping at me through the drizzle as I walk along.

For example, when I meet Leeward Fleet in Canada Square. Background, but still definitely a presence.

2 of 3 components, Leeward Fleet, Canada Square

I read the signboard, and learn these pivoting structures (by RAW Design) were inspired by iceboat & sailboat technology. “Ancient fleet, blowing in the wind,” says the slogan.

The signboard also excuses me for not having noticed this installation before: it is one of five along Queen’s Quay West that together make up Ice Breakers, an exhibition that only opened yesterday and runs until 26 February.

A little farther west through Harbourfront Park, and my eyes follow my ears, to discover the source of the shrill squeal that fills the air …

marina along Harbourfront Park

Oh, I know, not a Muskoka chair in sight. But we can’t let ourselves be hamstrung by a theme, can we? And the sight does support my “out-of-season” sub-theme. All these little boats in the basin, tucked away for winter, and one man out there anyway — in a T-shirt! — power-drilling his way through an off-season project.

North side of Queen’s Quay, down by the Peter Street Basin, I spot giant hands. And jaywalk to check them out.

Tailored Twins, Queen's Quay W at the Peter Street Basin

Wouldn’t you?

It’s Tailored Twins (Ferris + Associates), another of the Ice Breakers installations, 3-metre-high faceted wooden hands, their golden palms glinting, even on a dark day. “Put your hands where my eyes can see,” says the slogan, and my eyes say thank you.

the west-end of the two hands

Well, that’s fun, and I head back east full of bounce.

Another of the installations, this one Incognito (Curio Art Consultancy and Jaspal Riyait), with — yes — a POP! factor.

Incognito, Queen's Quay W at Rees Street

This time the chairs, highly visible as they are, counter-balance a theme of invisibility. “An invisible city inside a park, can you see it?” The design, the signboard tells me, copies the same camouflaging technique used by World War I warships.

And on east I go, and on, and short winter days mean that by 6 p.m. it is already dark.

I turn north up Jarvis, and at King West see one final chair. This time it is just part of a tableau, and it is the tableau as a whole that goes POP!

through the Second Cup window, Jarvis & King West

I like everything about this scene: a warm, dry refuge glowing into the rainy night; a man ensconced in that refuge, head bent over his acoustic guitar, coffee near to hand.

I pick up the pace, walking on to home. The sooner I am there, the sooner I, too, will have coffee near to hand!

  • 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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