Vancouver: city of reflections past and present

The 12 hour flight to Vancouver, through 8 time zones, is like having an injection of lethargy that guarantees your body clock will be out of sync for a few days. By late afternoon your brain is telling you it’s the middle of the night, so you begin to nod off on the bus or skytrain as you head back to the hotel, wondering why your body refuses to respond to your commands.

Vancouver is a city of glass-plated skyscrapers, each reflecting the other as the sun moves round the sky. People abseil from the tops of 60 storey buildings, they have park sculptures that appear to be engaged in raucous joke-telling, and the locals have been criticised for wearing too much casual yoga gear (what is the world coming to?). The wonderfully named sports retailer Lululemon seems to be Vancouver’s biggest purveyor of such garments.

It’s here in the west of Canada, whose europeanization only really began during the murderous years of the gold rush, that they call their indigenous people (with 16,000 years of residency in the area) the First Nations. At least by their name they are given some recognition of priority.

It is in Vancouver that they call a tandem a ‘double bike‘ and they think nordic walking poles are walking sticks used by the elderly! When Jenny climbed on a bus with her poles, the driver was heard to shout the whole length of the vehicle “The lady with the pink backpack needs a seat!”. Jenny could either protest or accept the seat. What’s the point of protesting……?

You can get yourself a $7 travel ticket and enjoy spending the day  riding the skytrain, the buses and the waterbus over to North Vancouver. Or you can walk along Coal Harbour admiring the view of Canada Place (which looks like a sailing ship) or the distant mountains, or even the comings and goings of the ubiquitous float-planes that share the same busy stretch of water as huge tankers and passenger ferries. Or be a bit more energetic and rent yourselves a ‘double-bike’ and take a spin around Stanley Park, and discover something of the history of totems (a kind of ‘coat of arms’ of the indigenous Indians), or the statue of the remarkable Harry Winston Jerome, who set a new world record in

Harry Winston Jerome

1966 for the 100 yards (yes, do you remember those old imperial measurements………they are still alive and well on the American continent!).  Or take a stroll around Gastown (the historic centre of Vancouver) and chance upon a clock that actually runs on steam (believe me)!

And before you leave the city you may discover (as we did) that Vancouver was the birthplace of Green Peace in 1971, and we caught them as they were celebrating their 40th birthday. Which left me wondering what special ingredients in this city of reflections triggered such an internationally important protest movement.


Steam Clock

Abseiling down a skyscraper!

Greenpeace being interviewed for TV

Canada Place: cruise ship terminal


About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace………taking the road less travelled……..striving for the ‘faculty of making happy chance discoveries’ in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on October 22, 2011, in Trans-continental America and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I really enjoy reading about this journey. I too do not know what a nordic stick is?

    • Nordic walking poles are similar to skiing poles, and originally were used as a form of summer training exercise for winter skiers. The trend started in Scandinavia, and it now makes walking a whole of body exercise, and not just exercise for the legs. Jenny loves walking with her poles. She reckons it has doubled her average speed.

  2. and Lldl sell the (nordic) walking poles very cheap and good quality ! Lots of folk in the yorkshire dales, young and old whizzing about on them…

  3. Your comments on bikes etc remind me that a bike ride led to my leaving Ushaw before ordination. I was a classmate of David Milburn, the late Hugh Lindsey, so I reckon I’m a couple of years older than you! Len

  4. Frank,
    You write so well, I have read your previous posts about America and they are delightful. There is a fellow called Bryson I believe who writes about Europe. It is fascinating to see one’s country through the eyes of someone else. I hope you write a book soon. As an American I really enjoyed your observations about our constant noshing on sweets and Halloween. Halloween is approaching now and I have to go to the grocery store and purchase oodles of goodies for the trick or treaters. Best to you and Jenny. Olivia

    • Olivia,
      it is very kind of you to mention me in the same ‘breath’ as the incomparable Bill Bryson, but see what Tony says in the next comment for the damage it can cause! When he says “buy the drinks…….” he doesn’t reference that with the numbers that may be the happy recipients! We will be celebrating our 50th anniversary class reunion……………….;0) And some of us haven’t seen each other in over 47 years! We’re all in for some surprises.

  5. So, Frank, if you are comparable to Bill Bryson, you’ll be buying the drinks next saturday? See you then. Tony

  6. Andy from st Ives

    Take the Skytrain out to New Westminster – the views are fantastic!

    • Thanks Andy. I am writing these posts retrospectively, so we are not currently there, but one day we did ride the full circle of the Millennium Line, taking in Westminster en route. Great way to see the city! And you are right, superb views.
      By the way have you seen this? Some clever joker has done anagrams of all the station names and come up with this: Click here

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