...... previous day next day ......
Vancouver Vancouver

24th May 2010

Stanley Park and Yaletown

Panoramic View of Burrard Inlet      (please use scroll bar)

    With the odd patch of blue sky peeping out between the clouds, I decided to walk around Stanley Park. The park is truly a walker's paradise right in the heart of the city. It's one of the largest urban parks in North America, with 400 hectares (1000 acres) of woodlands, gardens, flowers, trails, lakes, beaches and wildlife.
    I retraced my steps from the day before and took a long walk down Robson Street towards the park. At first, there weren't too many people about, probably because it was Victoria Day, a public holiday stemming from the Commonwealth days. However, as I proceeded along Robson, it filled up with people. This long road and some of its offshoots appeared to be a major retail centre. It was a good 90 mins. walk to the park, but the fresh insight into the city that it gave me made it worth the while. Vancouver is a major port, which, coupled with the amount of industry in the area, must have created wealth to stimulate demand for all this retail.
    The park was a peninsula on the western end of downtown Vancouver, surrounded by water on three sides. Indeed downtown Vancouver itself has the Burrard Inlet to the north, and English Bay and False Creek to the south. It seemed as though half the city had come down here to walk, jog, roller blade, cycle, push buggies whilst jogging or roller blading, or picnic. Basically today was a rest and relaxation day. The park was lush with gentle hills and lots of space for families to let the kids burn off excess energy. I, like thousands of others, was content to walk around the seawall perimeter and make the occasional detour into the interior to visit something of interest.
Detailed Totem Pole
Totem Poles
    The first major stopping point was the totem poles. The totem was the British Columbian Indian's "coat of arms". Totem poles are unique to the north west of British Columbia and lower Alaska. They were carved from Western Red Cedar and each carving tells of a real or mythical event. They were not idols, nor were they worshipped. Each carving on each pole had a meaning. The eagle represented the kingdom of the air, the whale, the lordship of the sea, the wolf, the genius of the land, and the frog, the transitional link between land and sea.
Siwash Rock

    I carried on along the seawall, watching huge ships sail into the Burrard Inlet and under the Lions Gate Bridge. Opposite, on North Vancouver, huge yellow mountains, perhaps sulphur, waited to be loaded onto ships. The backdrop to this was the 4100' Grouse Mountain. On reaching a cafe, I joined a throng of people in tucking into fish, chips and coffee. That appears to be a popular dish from San Francisco to Vancouver.
    Close to the Lions Gate Bridge , a curious seal popped his head out of the clear water for a breather, and cormorants lazily drifted by searching for their next meal. It was now quite warm and the mountains rising up to the north of Burrard Inlet were transformed from a dark brooding mass to sun-dappled shades of green, occasionally topped with snow. Further round the seawall I stopped to watch a raccoon. He seemed unperturbed by all the people staring at him, in fact he seemed a little timid. I heard dads caution their kids not to get too close to him. The lady next to me said that she gets them in her back yard rummaging through her bins. In the opposite direction to this little fellow, beyond the ships sitting at anchor, I could make out in the blue distant haze Vancouver Island, my destination later in the week. Small beaches were now appearing along the seawall by English Bay with washed up logs lined up to make convenient seating.
Hollow Tree
    After 5.6 miles of park seawall, downtown Vancouver was once again reached. At this junction I came across an exhibition of pencil drawings. I was attracted to them since quite a few followed Surat's pointillist technique. I fell into conversation with the self-taught artist, Peter Berg, a native of Vancouver, though he has spent some time down in the Florida. We discussed Impressionism and how that had influenced his work. I related to him a Turner, Whistler, Monet exhibition I went to a few years back in London, which focused on their Impressionist views of London. He was exuberant about the vivid sunsets Monet painted of the Thames and Westminster. I explained to him that these 'golden sunsets' were not actually sunsets that Monet was trying to capture, but the smog. At that time the smog was appalling due to the number of factories based along the river near Chelsea, and it actually became a tourist attraction. It as the challenge of capturing these smoggy conditions that brought Monet to England. He was over the moon with that enlightenment. The artist told me it was hard making a living out of art in Vancouver; nobody wanted art. He said most people just have bare walls in their dwellings; no paintings, posters or photos. We talked at length about art, and as the conversation moved on to families, I found that our wives had a common factor. I discussed my experiences about it with him and gave him my support, but I shan't dwell on the issue here. I wished him and his wife well, and expressed my every hope for his future success as an artist.
Unusual Roof Garden
    I followed the city seawall along False Creek, and I noticed that unlike San Francisco and Seattle, there were no fast food places and tacky shops lining the waterside, none. There was the occasional bistro/restaurant. All in all, the waterfront was kept very tasteful. Every so often there would be a water feature by the seawall path: a fountain, waterfall, and water running over cobbled stones etc, indeed water everywhere. In the Yaletown district, the high rise prestigious accommodation blocks that grew over the remains of huge timber mills that were still thriving here until recent times, were surrounded by greenery and water features; inspirational from an urban planning viewpoint. I turned away from the seawall to enter Davie Street in Yaletown.
Ideal Seating
    This district had many shops and eating establishments. I dined in this part of town; pistachio crusted halibut. As in many restaurants over on this side of the Atlantic, large screens were showing sports events with the sound muted. This particular restaurant was one of them, and an ice hockey match had the attention of a number of customers, including the two guys on the next table. I got into conversation with them and realised they were French Canadians. Now the match was between Montreal and Philadelphia. I thought this was an international joust, but they explained to me that Canadian and North American teams combine to form the Northern League. I asked them if they were from Montreal, they were from Gatineau just north of Ottawa. What a coincidence, I was in Gatineau Park with my wife 30 years ago this year.
    Whilst savouring my food, I had time to mull over the day. The location of Stanley Park with it almost surrounded by water, coupled with the sheer vitality of it, ranked it one of the best parks I have ever visited. Yaletown added an extra sparkle to the overall experience. The city grew on me a lot today.
    On my way back to the hotel, I came across a huge building that seemed to have a stream of folk entering and leaving. Being curious, I went to investigate. It was a massive casino. There were many tables playing card games which I hadn't a clue about, and watching them had me even more baffled. The croupiers seemed to have warp speed dealing skills. Roulette wheels spun incessantly, but nobody was throwing dice. There in the background, almost stretching to infinity, were halls of slot machines. This place really was colossal. I was tired and just couldn't take it all in, so I left and made my way back to my bed. I reckoned I had walked 18 miles today, and enjoyed every minute of it.
...... previous day next day ......
Vancouver Vancouver

Uploaded from Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel Vancouver, 395 Kingsway, Vancouver, BC V5T 3J7 on 25/05/10 at 10:00

Last updated 7.6.2010