Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Vancouver: The Beautiful

When I first came to Vancouver as a child all I recall is the magnificent ocean and islands. It was hardly a city then. But when I came later as a young adult in the 1971 it was the peace and love era but what I remember most was the green. It was the most luscious, and remains the most luscious city, I've ever seen. Not surprising given that it's in the middle of a rain forest and the plants are happiest here. Emily Carr depicted in her forests the otherworldliness of this sacred land of Kwaukiutl. The place of abundance where natives found unlimitted salmon in the rivers and ocean runs and great stags in the mountains and fields. The people I met were always so friendly and decidedly given to the outdoors because there was so much of it. In contrast to most the rest of Canada the climate here made it accessible all year round. .
In the 80's I came to visit and stayed. My friends had taken me mountain climbing with packs and telemark skis in spring to the nearby Coastal mountains. We hiked up to the snow, then with skins on our skis for grip climbed up to the alpine to ski the next couple of days spending the night in a public cabin just for this purpose. Then we climbed down again. I remember travelling the sea to sky highway watching the sailboats tacking in the harbour. People actually were swimming and scuba diving in the waters along the way. All seasons in one day and within one hour of the city. I was hooked.
The city itself grew more beautiful every year with the light glass fairy beautiful buildings of the west coast with their pastel colours starkly in contrast to the heavy dark east coast sky scrapers. When I was young I loved the party life of the wild and exotic nightclubs which reflect the influx of so many different people from different lands. A truly multicultural experience in the night life and dining.
There was always the English, Italian, French and Eastern European influence in dining but in time the Pacific Rim contributions were reknowned. Travelling I rarely found our local chefs, be they French, East Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican or Canadian American surpassed in their countries of origins. It seemed over and over again that the very best of the world was coming to Vancouver.
Older I loved living on my sailboat in False Creek, taking a dinghy to the Market on Granville Island. In the fall I'd go inland and hunt for venison and moose. All winter I'd love the wild stews I'd make and on weekends enjoy the down hill skiiing in the city on Grouse Mountain or drive up to Whistler and Blackomb for the really great skiing and the luxury of Chateau Whistler. Later I'd love the cross country skiing on Cyprus where the hiking and dirt biking was so fine other times of the year.
Stanley Park was a wonder beyond compare with the old forest and trails for walking or biking. I loved the duck pond and took so many pictures of all the migratory birds that came there and swans laying eggs and raising young. When relatives came to town I delighted in sharing the incredible Vancouver Aquarium with the most exotic fish inside while outside the beluga, dolphins and sea otters were the most amazing characters.
Working in the city I came to love China town with it's dim sum. The Chinese moved mostly to Richmond suburb which became a little Hong Kong of sales and industry but old China Town near Coal Harbour port was where I loved to wander and eat. Gas town with it's famous Steam Clock, cobblestone streets and vast array of tourist shops and artisan wares was always a joy to walk through. Outdoor cafes are everywhere in Vancouver and all seasons you can sit inside or outside enjoying coffee or tea.
Yaletown developed almost overnight from warehouse area to exclusive interior designers dream with great seafood and oyster restaurants.
The Vancouver Art Gallery and Museum have always been entertaining with their local exhibits and visiting shows. I've always loved the avante garde creative extraordinare theatre of Fringe while having season's tickets to Pacific and Queen E enjoying the high standards of drama Vancouver is reknowned for. Ballet BC with it's contemporary, traditional but uniquely west coast experience is a favourite season ticket delight while the Vancouver Opera hosts the finest shows. The arts are so alive in Vancouver.
But what would Vancouver be without the Canucks, the greatest hockey team of all to a city of rowdy hockey fans. But with the international community growing there's soccer too. And always the aboriginal community has had Lacrosse. Their totems famous on the west coast are proudly displayed in Stanley Park and always there are the Haida carvings so prominently displayed in the world reknowned Vancouver Museum of Anthropology. The war canoes and masks continue to be produced by the most creative people who now form friendships with all the aboriginal peoples of the world and celebrate their First Nations status with drumming and dance.
Spiritually there's their Sweat Lodges and every Church and synagogue and temple known to man seems to have sprung up in celebration of the divine. These places serve not only as places of congregation and worship but like Christ Church Cathedral are a centre for outstanding orchestral music and weekly compline. St. Andrew Wesly United Church has weekly jazz vespers where the finest jazz musicians perform.
And there's the sea wall for miles around Stanley Park and that's just down town because across the grand restored Lion's Gate Bridge there's the north shore Ambleside Park. Lonsdale Quai is just one of the many pleaures that abound out from the centre of Vancouver that is the West End.
There Kitsilano with it's distinctive shops leading out to UBC, a gem of a campus. Banyen Books is an institution of ecumenicalism with books from Christianity to Islam to Paganism reside side by side in a great complex, a rare place on the earth where those of different spiritual faiths can brush past each other without warfare. On UBC Regent College Bookstore caters to Christians of all faiths. Vancouver is a centre of peace. Though the famed hilarious bathtub races from Nanaimo to English Bay or the Dragon Boat Races in False Creek would seem anything but peaceful. Davie Street which is the centre of the annual gay pride parade is also where Little Sister's bookstore continues to defend civil liberty at high cost. Commercial Street is where the Italian cafes and cyclists gather among artists and students. Shaughnassey once the wealthy centre of VAncouver still is a feast of old world decadence while the new world decadence has moved to West Vancouver's British Properties. Architects have contributed as much to the city in the remarkable homes of Vancouver as they have with buildings like Canada Place where the tour ships depart from.
It's a truly beautiful city so full of creative, industrious, incredible people who come together to celebrate life of the North West Pacific Coast.
There's just too many wonders to name that I fear I've hardly touched the surface of this amazing city and it's people who have kept me enthralled for decades. I can only apologise for all those unsung heroes and the places of wonder I've cherished so long.

1 comment:

bobbi said...

Really enjoyed this writing Bill.
I have always felt blessed to have been born at St. Pauls hospital on Burrard and to be able to live the glory of the West coast ,from birth, through no fault of my own.
Loved this read, it reminded me how lucky I have always been.
Cheers Friend