Short on time but long-held memories
14.04.2018 - 18.04.2018 16 °C
Two reasons I chose to enter North America via Vancouver, Canada. First, Air Canada flies direct from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. Second, it is less painful entering the United States through Canada as my destination is New York. On my return, I stopped over in Vancouver for a few days and discovered that it was a worthy third reason.
The short few days there I found to be regrettably too short and my exploration was restricted to downtown Vancouver. Breaking out of the city boundary will be for another and most certainly longer visit.
As an Australian, there is a sense of familiarity with Canada and its history — ignoring the obvious where there is vast areas of ice and snow compared to the red earth deserts of Australia. In particular Vancouver, with its wide, grid designed streets similar to Melbourne, a sensible blend of old and new buildings, and plenty of art, culture and urban experiences to leave a lasting impression.
As an art lover my first stop — and not my only one — is the Vancouver Art Gallery situated in the renovated provincial courthouse. It is one of the largest art galleries in Canada featuring local and international art as well as major touring exhibitions. I was lucky enough to catch the Takashi Murakami The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg exhibition.
The original facade of the provincial courthouse facing W. Georgia Street. Gallery entrance is in Hornby Street on the right.
The main rear entrance to the gallery overlooks Robson Square Ice Rink. Above the entrance is the rooftop courtyard that feeds into the gallery restaurant — a great place to take a break, have a wine or coffee and indulge in other pleasures. If a more commercial environment is your thing then close by is the vast Pacific Centre shopping mall.
To broaden your understanding of the history and culture of the city is the Museum of Vancouver. Set among seasonable pink cherry blossom in Vanier Park, it is a leisurely stroll across the Burrard Street Bridge that spans False Creek — derived from the indigenous name, Snaug (sandbar). The Museum shares the park with the Academy of Music and the Vancouver Maritime Museum.
Above left: view from Burrard Street Bridge looking towards Granville Island. Above right: April is Cherry Blossom Festival time. Below: entrance to the Museum of Vancouver in all its blossom glory.
The Museum covers the history of the city from the First Nation People, the city before the city and the Neon Age.
A walk through the park offers a sombre panorama of the city skyline as the Museum’s echos of the past still hum in your fresh understanding. Around you pink blossoms bloom, spring is greening the trees and the remnants of winter’s clouds brush the distant mountain tops.
Past the Maritime Museum is the ferry dock and once again the past seems to have never left. Dedicated maritime craftspeople ply their skills fashioning oars by hand and timber boats by collaboration — and a bit of pondering.
Then it’s time to walk the jetty, past the jingling rigging of cutter, ketch and sloop to board the cute little False Creek Ferry to Granville Island.
There’s two ferry services that zigzag between docks each side of two-mile long False Creek from the Maritime Museum to Science World at the very end.
My first stop is Granville Island. It was lunch time, I was hungry and straight off the ferry there was Bridges Bistro in radiant yellow and beckoning me in. Time to rest, take in the magnificent view and gather my thoughts of what I have learnt so far about Vancouver’s history. Culture and art. At least two glasses of wine worth!
Refreshed and eager to move on, my walk around Granville Island continued to come across little and big gems. Like the Public Market for all things food and goods, the Artsclub Theatre Company Backstage Lounge sheltered under the Granville Bridge and the towering well-dressed cement silos.
Artists studios, galleries and print shops, craft shops, leather goods, fashion designers, jewellery designers, a distillery, hand-made furniture, ceramics & pottery, cafés and restaurants and much more are spread over the Island with intermittent entertainment from street performers. No wonder Granville Island is a favourite for both tourists and Vancouverites.
Time had come to leave the Island and the many enjoying the sunshine, view and fresh air to catch my little ferry and continue my Vancouver discovery tour.
At the eastern end of False Creek sits the orb-inspiring Science World. Unfortunately time was against me and the crystal ice-cream dollop-topped building will be on the agenda for another visit to Vancouver.
A short walk from Science World is Pacific Central — the main Vancouver station. Previously known as False Creek Station it is understandably listed as a heritage station. It is not huge by world standards, but regal and imposing facing the manicured Thornton Park.
From the station I walked up Main Street to Hastings Street and came upon the darker side of Vancouver. Like all major cities there is the poorer side but I felt things a little different here. There are the unkept and empty buildings and lingering crowds, but there is also a sense of community and support centred around the Carnegie Community Centre, at times referred to as the living room of Downtown Eastside. Built in 1903 as the Carnegie Public Library its purpose still remains a place of social, cultural and recreational support for the low income society.
Further up Hastings Street, where East becomes West, is Victory Square at the junction of Cambie Street and in sight of the Vancouver Lookout where you can ride a glass elevator to the top for a 360 degree view of Vancouver. But it’s late in the day and I’m heading back to my pad.
My next and final day in Vancouver is spent checking out the Waterfront with the sprawling Convention Centre looking like a liner about to set sail on a cruise with sails up and funnel-like hotel towering above. Of course if you don’t want to cruise you can always catch a sea plane.
On the left, like landing from the sky with a bending crunch is the Burrard Landing sign while on the right is the more sedate and elegant Inges Idee collective sculpture The Drop.
As a final bow to the character, imagination and brilliance of Vancouver I leave you with my favourite piece of architecture, the downtown Vancouver Public Library.
I look forward to a longer stay in this fascinating city.