A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about art

Vancouver BC Downtown

Short on time but long-held memories

all seasons in one day 16 °C
View Vancouver BC Downtown on DenOS.08's travel map.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Posted by DenOS.08 23:01 Archived in Canada Tagged art buildings streets harbour gallery market museum sculpture canada vancouver downtown library waterfront cherry_blossom granville_island Comments (1)

The simpler taste of Paris

sunny 24 °C

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Every city has its landmarks; temples, cathedrals, monuments, palaces and other large edifices that bleed beyond the camera frame requiring a lot of back-stepping to get the full splendour into view. They are great, magnificent and historical footprints in time. A breathtaking show of power and wealth and international icons that identify the city you stand in awe of.

But with every big, bold and beautiful, every city has its smaller, less grand images that also ignite memories of time, place and romantic occasions. In Paris, these are the street cafés, restaurants and bars. They too are icons of the city. Historical in many ways by serving up the culinary tastes of Paris in some of the most quaint locations…the backstreets. I intend to take you away from the wide boulevards with their acres of tables and chairs, the overpowering rumbling of traffic and the taste destroying plumes of exhaust. Come with me into the backstreets, parks and alleyways, pick up a copy of le Parisian, sit down, relax and tantalise your taste buds in some of the most curious, unique and sometimes whimsical eateries of Paris.

Please note, this is only a very small taste of the vast number of Paris eateries and is not an endorsement of those listed below, but only suggestions to start you on your own journey of delectable discovery.

Brasserie au Soleil de la Butte

Address: 32 Rue Muller, 75018 Paris
Metro: Chateau Rouge


On the summit of Butte Montmarte overlooking the city of Paris is the Sacré-Coeur Basilica. Facing the city from the Basilica, descend the steps on the left under verdant, shady trees to the bottom. There facing you like an isolated island is the Brasserie au Soleil de la Butte.

Deceiving in appearance, this versatile venue caters for lunchtime tourist, night-time locals and the basement becomes an entertainment hub during the weekend. The food is classic Parisian Brasserie and affordable.

Au Bistrot de la Place

Address: 2 Place du Marché Saint-Catherine, 75004 Paris
Metro: Saint-Paul

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As you can see by the bicycles and Vespa in the photo, this is a popular eatery for the locals which means affordable. Facing the leafy Place Saint-Catherine, the sweet sound of birds in the trees sing their praises to the specialties of the house, french Onion Soup, tender lamb and a light and flavoursome Créme Brulee.

Relais Odeon Brasserie

Address: 132, Boulevard Saint-Germain, 75006 Paris
Metro: Odéon

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Here you have a choice of backstreet and boulevard to get the most out of pavement dining and people gazing. Mains range from €16 to €26 but a typical French breakfast is a must from 7.00 am. If the weather is unkind the interior is rich, deep and luxurious.

La Palette

Address: 43 Rue de Seine, 75006 Paris
Metro: Saint-Germain-des-Prés

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As you may tell from the number of photos, this is a favourite. Not just for me, but for Cézanne, Picasso, Ernest Hemingway and lately stars of screen and music. Dark and intimate, works of great artists (some left as payment for their meal) stare down from the walls of the second larger room now listed as an Historic Monument. Still frequented by art students and gallery owners, the atmosphere is sure to inspire creativity.
The menu is in keeping with the creative atmosphere and ranges from tinned sardines and snails to Caviar Alverta “Petrossian”.

Le Moulin de la galette

Address: 83, rue Lepic, 75018 Paris
Metro: Lamarck-Caulaincourt

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Another piece of art history with Renoir's Le Moulin de la Galette painted on site and which Vincent van Gogh, Picasso and Toulouse-Lautrec also immortalised. The windmill on top of the restaurant is one of only two left in Paris and dates back to 1717.

After a colourful history, the restaurant, named after the brown bread made from the milled flour, was placed second by the Regional Ile-de-France Tourist Board Paris.

Vins & Terroirs

Address: 66 Rue Saint-André des Arts, 75006 Paris
Metro: Odéon or Saint-Michel

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A small, compact restaurant next to the Hotel St André des Arts continues the connection between food, wine and artists. You can't miss the menus adorning the frontage with a broad variety of tempting and delicious choices, while inside the walls are lined with cartoons from a past era. Escargot and beef bourguignon add to the homely atmosphere.

Le Marché

Address: 2 Place du Marché Saint-Catherine 75004 Paris
Métro: Saint-Paul (Le Marais)

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The green awning blends in with the shade from the leafy trees in Place Saint-Catherine opposite. Le Marché offers a sizeable menu in contrast to the compact and intimate atmosphere. Mains are priced between €15-20 with duck breast with honey, spicy fried potatoes and oyster mushrooms a specialty. The service is friendly and English spoken.

To end, allow me to deviate a little from eateries but remain related. Housed among the stacked shelves of literature – old and new – are culinary tomes in the original cluttered and claustrophobic Shakespeare and Company book store. Set aside some time to linger among the shelves while breathing in the smell of print, paper and leather binding. Find something of interest then head off into the backstreets for a place to sit, read and savour the simpler tatses of Paris.

Address: 37 rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris
Metro: Saint-Michel Notre-Dame

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Posted by DenOS.08 16:34 Archived in France Tagged art trees food restaurant paris park dining music bicycle wine eating cafe vespa shade lamppost waiter alfresco Comments (1)

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