The many layers of a city take a while to explore, and for me one of the best ways to unravel the ins and outs of a city is on foot. Walking the streets of a new city at different times of the day, seeing the light change, seeing the habbits of the people and feeling the temperature shift are all things unique to being in a place- as opposed to looking at pictures in a magazine or on a hand held device.
While I was in Vancouver I took many walks:
to my various backpackers
to the library
out to dinner
to Rogers Arena- the home of the Canucks to watch the ice Hocky
to Granville Island to get tasty and pretty things
to go and see the twinkling Christmas ‘Lights of Hope’
Rogers Arena- Home of the Canucks
‘Lights of Hope’ St Pauls Hospital, Burrard Street Vancouver
The walk best worth sharing however is the one I did around Stanley Park on the afternoon after my Visa interview. I was pretty mentally worn out- having spent all remaining omph on getting my papers together and over the line. But after a post interview nap I set off outside again- the sun was out and the 10km walk along the sea walls seemed like the best thing for my tired brain.
It was late November and although the sun was splendidly out when I started, it (and its warmth) were well and truely gone when I had finished. It was a people watching expedition, nature walk and sculptue walk all in one.
The first sculpture I encountered was Dennis Oppenheim’s Engagement, this eye catching piece was originally only a temporary installation as part of the Vancouver Biennale, but it has recently been gifted to the city. Of course they speak of romance, commitment, promise and love, but the twin ‘stones’ on the rings, illuminated at night, also remind me of light house beacons, are they warning ships off? Or showing the way home safely.
Engagement: Dennis Oppenheim,
An Inuk Shuk looking out onto English Bay
Some of the sculptures on my walk tell stories of Canada’s indigenous population. The hefty stone blocks are an ancient symbol of Inuit culture traditionally used as landmarks, but also representing northern friendship and hospitality. Before I saw this sun drenched mammoth I had only seen examples of the Inuk Shuk dangling from key rings. The one on my walk was far more impressive. The same goes for of the grand, vividly coloured carvings telling first nation origin stories- they were the first real looking totem poles I had seen in Canada.
As the journey progressed I became anxious that I had missed my most looked forward to sculpture. I knew it was possible to miss her, as she is positioned out in the water, but I was reassured when I asked a passing local that she was still ahead. Many people refer to her as the mermaid, though any attentive glance will reveal that she is wearing flippers and goggles. I don’t think of her as marooned there on her rock, she is just taking a break, The sun had gone from the harbour by the time I greeted her, giving her something of a lonely aura, but I imagine the swimmer takes on different attitudes in different seasons and it would be lovely to revisit her some sparkling morning.
Girl in Wetsuit: Elek Imredy
Getting back towards the city I re-visit the Meeting – a sculpture instalation I first encountered on a morning run on my first day in Vancouver. I love this serene circle of figures who mock world leaders who sit down to endlessly try and fix the worlds problems, but also reminds you that the act of sitting down together is probably the best way forward.
Meeting: Wang Shugang
The Drop: Inges Idee
By the time I got to The Drop my legs were weary and the air was cold. It is impressive- but more so are the views beyond it.
Making it back into the city as dusk was falling the 10km I had walked on concrete was making my legs very tired, that and the icy wind from Grouse Mountain told me that outdoor time was over for the day- so I took myself for a feed in Gastown. Slightly re-invigorated after my meal I could not help finishing my sculpture filled walk at the Vancouver Public Library even though it was slightly out of my way. The whimsical light installation outside this magnificent, and always welcoming curved building were great favourites of mine in Vancouver-
The Words Don’t fit the Picture: Ron Terada
This work by Ron Terada makes me think: what words- the words in my head? The words in a book? The words on the forms I have to fill out? Does the bureaucracy ever fit with any picture of reality? No!
But we do it anyway- because sometimes it gets us what we want/ where we want to be.
A walk helps you get to know a city, but it also sets me free, sends my mind spinning in new directions, fills in the blanks, reminds me that there is more to life than paperwork.
And the Stanley Park walk – packed full of mountains, trees, ships, bridges, sculptures and history… PERFECT.