It’s just a few days before Christmas and I’m in Vancouver on my last trip of the year and although I’ve been here many times before there’s still places that I’ve not been to.
The day was dull and overcast but at least it was dry. I start my morning in Library Square home of the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library. The building was designed by architect Moshe Safdie and was enormously controversial when it opened in 1995. The exterior reminds me of the Coliseum in Rome however the architect denies this was his inspiration. I personally liked it and apparently it’s just as popular with the locals.
Heading south down Homer Street I find myself in Vancouver’s former meatpacking warehouse district, Yaletown. It was here where roughneck miners from Yale, further up the Fraser Valley, used to come to drink and brawl. The area was due to be flattened in the 1970’s but was saved and the old warehouses converted into new commercial spaces. It’s taken a long time for the area to catch on but now it has it’s a district of funky upscale shops, restaurants, bars, clubs and multimedia businesses. Above all of these are some seriously trendy not to mention expensive New York style lofts. The metal canopies that hang over the loading docks on many buildings used to keep shipping goods dry, now they do the same for the outdoor terraces of the bars and restaurants that occupy the space.
Not far away from here is the Roundhouse, originally the Canadian Pacific Railway’s switching yard. This old brick and timber frame building is now used as a community centre. At one end of the building is locomotive CPR 372 which was the first passenger train into Vancouver in 1887. It’s worth a look inside and the volunteers that work there are more than happy to tell you all about the history of this beautiful locomotive.
The actual switching yard has been fully restored and is now used as an outdoor performance space with a canopy cleverly held up by one of the old cranes.
At the bottom of Davie Street is Yaletown Landing which looks out onto the False Creek waterfront. The area here was also part of the railway switching yard and was transformed for the Expo ’86 World’s Fair. After the fair came to an end the local government sold the land to Li Ka Shing, a Hong Kong billionaire and owner of Concord Pacific. The area was redeveloped and hundreds of apartments were built. At the landing site there is a large piece of street art called Street Light, designed by Bernie Miller and Alan Tregebov it has large panels, each of which depicts a seminal event in Vancouver’s history. They have been arranged so that on the anniversary of that event, the sun will shine directly through the panel, casting a shadowed image on the street.
At this point I catch a mini ferry to Granville Island, it cost me C$4.50 one way and takes about 5 mins to get across to the Island. I get some great views of the waterfront as I make the crossing.
Granville Island is not really an island but it does contain a fascinating collection of shops, restaurants, artists workshops and even some heavy industry. The place is very compact and easy to explore, my first stop was the Granville Island Public Market.
If it’s edible it will probably be in this market, whatever you’re looking for I pretty sure you’ll find it here from handmade chocolates and local salmon to artisan bread and fresh fruit and veg. I’d recommend coming hungry and getting some food on your way round. The cake stalls were a particular favourite of mine, the choice was amazing and it all looked delicious but unfortunately for me time was short and I had to move on.
I followed Island Park Walk north and quite quickly came to Government Fish Dock which is where you can buy fresh fish literally from the boat. Fresh salmon, scallops, prawns and other shellfish can all be bought from here. Sales take place daily in the high season and on weekend mornings at all other times. Look for Go Fish, a simple hut serving fish tacos and battered fillets more or less on the fish dock.
I continue my seaside walk and eventually pass below the Burrard Bridge. In 1926 the city fathers commissioned noted urban planner Harland Bartholomew to provide some guidance on how to expand the city. One of his ideas was to build bridges and so the Burrard Bridge, an elegant steel span with two castles guarding the approaches at either end, was built.
As I pass beneath the bridge I enter Vanier Park, on my left is the white cone of the Museum of Vancouver and H.R. MacMillan Space Centre, next to that is the Vancouver Archives. On my other side is the waterfront with some beautiful views of the city and the mountains beyond.
After walking a little further along it was time for me to head back, I made my way up to Burrard Bridge and started walking across it back to my hotel. This part of the city was all new to me and I enjoyed seeing Vancouver from a different perspective, I look forward to returning and exploring some more.