A week of wandering in and around bold, beautiful Vancouver BC [pt 1]

In mid-July, my agony/ecstasy ratio moved in the right direction thanks to one little phrase: summer vacation. August would find me in Vancouver Canada, and golly gee was I excited!

Preparation began immediately after booking. I mentally doodled hearts and flowers and rainbows around “British Columbia + Me”. I browsed suggested activities and solicited recommendations from friends. I bought sandals that could handle days filled with significant walking.

Secretly, however, I fretted a bit.

As a citizen of the Pacific Northwest, I’d originally longed to go somewhere a bit more exotic, somewhere that shared many qualities with my new best friend, the sensory deprivation tank. What if my chosen destination’s renowned lushness and plethora of coffee shops made it feel too familiar? What if I didn’t have the energy to handle the city’s scale and scope?

I needn’t have worried. Vancouver has a way of making one want to explore, while constantly providing opportunities to relax. Those sneaky Canadians!

Once I arrived I understood why it’d been so brutal to find a rental on relatively short notice—it’s an easy city to navigate, and an easy one with which to fall in love. Whether agenda’d or aimless, I don’t see how a visitor could ever be bored.

Most days, Mr Vix and I left our rather miraculously snagged West End condo without much more than sunblocked skin, water, and a loose idea of what we’d be doing. Though I tend to get a little too attached to my point-and-shoot when I travel, I tried to remember that world-class photographers have documented much of the area’s landscape. Why (literally) follow in their footsteps with inferior results when I could save the camera for capturing fleeting moments or compelling whims?

In the end my ego-salvaging plan ended up being both freeing and a bit of a challenge. But it permitted me to be unapologetically drawn to a dog enjoying a different sort of plenty at the Granville Farmers Market…

Outside the Granville Island Farmers Market, it’s not just the people who enjoy a summertime snack

structures that dazzled with their strong use of color…

Looking up pays off at Lonsdale Quay, the Burrard Street Bridge, and Granville Island’s GI Gelato

tile that underscored my “blue and green should always been seen” philosophy…

The Electra Building’s mid-50s tilework supplies a jolt of excitement to my billowy scarf-as-overdress

and views that invited a shift in perspective.

From a reflected take on the landmark Electra Building to a cutout that offers a peek of construction progress, Vancouver supplies many chances for a change in perspective

I’m afraid I may have strayed from my original intent when encountering public art, though. It’s hard to resist acknowledging artists’ work in a way that feels somewhat tangible, especially when a piece causes me to mirror what’s shown…

A glimpse of Chinese artist Yue Minjun’s A-maze-ing Laughter, a series of 14 8.5 foot tall bronze statues found in the West End’s Morton Park

…or has me marveling at how it sits in a given space.

Like so many other areas in and around Vancouver, Kitsilano’s Vanier Park embeds art into the public landscape; here, a detail of Jun Ren’s Freezing Water #1

As the density of Vancouver’s downtown gave my retinas little chance of rest, I’m not sure I could handle living there full-time. But in small doses, places where unexpected pairings and layering of past, present, and future manage to co-exist are right up my proverbial laneway.

I find those areas are where one discovers things like owls on either side of a socio-economic line…

In Gastown, low- and high-end owls live as neighbors

a rather disturbing mural looming over expensive cars…

A Gastown parking lot hosts a vivid mural that includes this fragment and much, much more

the chance to participate in a scene that’s wholesome by day, but takes on a vaguely Weegee-esque air at night…

Given our walking-filled days/evenings, I decided that checking out VIVA Vancouver’s temporary Pop Rocks installation was a double win: lolling + cultural immersion

and zones where the staid meet the brazen.

Gastown’s laneways (alleys) communicate in ways both formal and spontaneous

With all this served up to me in a compact time period, naturally I wondered what else the visit would yield. The answer turned out to be simple: “Lots of surprises.”

Next: Part 2 of A week of wandering in and around bold, beautiful Vancouver BC, in which I tromp farther afield to investigate multicultural, hipster-strewn streets and sprawling botantical gardens

10 Responses

  1. Wonderful images!! I’ve been wanting to get back to Vancouver since our (very) short visit a few years ago. It has such a wonderful juxtaposition of sophistication and accessibility (and friendliness) you can’t help but get sucked in.

  2. Pseu —

    Thank you! We are so, so much closer to BC than you that it’s shameful we haven’t made time and budgetary effort to go before now. I hope you all get to go again soonish; we felt a week was like a minute in terms of seeing/experiencing all the city had to offer.

    [This is where I admit this will be a 3-part series because I found Vancouver so inspiring — but the rest will be mostly photos vs text.]

  3. So glad this will be a 3 part series. I cannot get enough of your photos. I bet I would want to move to Canada by the looks and your description of things and of course the mindset of Canada is all about ME. I love the way you have the scarf draped over your dress. And with that background it really stands out.

  4. Ms B —

    Man, the pressure’s on to keep you entertained through all 3 parts now; hope I’m up to the task! Thanks much for the support.

    With your eternal love for the new and the now I think Vancouver would indeed suit you. [Plus, rain doesn’t get to you like it does me!]

  5. Vancouver looks like a fantastic place! I love seeing so much art everywhere. The weather also look lovely. Such a shame that it’s so far away, but lucky that you’re such an accomplished photographer!

  6. Kaffe/Tine—

    I certainly had a fantastic time; the public art and greenspace definitely contributed to my enjoyment (as did the weather)! Thanks for stopping by….hope to get to the rest of the story soon.

  7. Sorry to be so behind on my reading: I’m playing catchup after a 3-week vacation myself.
    My reaction, on looking at these photos, is that they would make a wonderful coffee table book. I love the colors and they’re unusual, too.

  8. Pauline—

    I am eternally behind with just about everything these days, so no worries; thank you much for actually catching up and even leaving a comment. Vancouver has so much going on it was a little tough to choose a color story for the entries, but these seemed to say “summertime” to me!

    Hope your trip was a great one and that the post-trip re-entry wasn’t too brutal. I’d better check my Reader this week and see if you have updates for us….

  9. Hi Vix! Just popping by to say…LOVE THIS. You have definitely hastened my Vancounver-and-West-Coast trip dreaming. 🙂 Love the laughing sculptures and “freezing water” – amazingly, this is the first time I’ve seen photos of those. Thanks for capturing the best-of, art-wise, of the city. Enjoyed the photos and commentary muchly. Hope all is well with you! 🙂

  10. Hi O Canada!

    So glad you stopped by, Helen, and that I actually surprised you a bit! I support your need to cross your country then pop down into the States 100%. It was an awesome trip for me and when you get to yours—and you will—I will hope the same for you.

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