Vancouver: surviving a grey, wet Family Day

In his book ‘Notes from a Small Island’ Bill Bryson records that when he arrived one Sunday in Blaenau Ffestiniog in North Wales that it was raining and that it was closed (I paraphrase from memory because someone has borrowed my copy which I read many years ago).

On Monday, after a gloriously sunny Sunday in a Vancouver thronged with people ……. it was raining and it was closed.

My hotel was ideally located for exploring on foot.  On the Sunday I had crossed False Creek immediately to the south via Granville Street Bridge and then walked along The Seawall promenade to English Bay.  On Monday I headed north to Canada Place on the other side of the peninsula with the intention of following The Seawall westwards from there to Stanley Park and then south to English Bay and back to the hotel.

The contrast could hardly have been greater.  There was a heavy drizzle, the kind of rain which wets you through without noticing until it is too late, and the cloud was so low it shrouded the tops of the tower blocks.  And the streets were deserted, the shops, the offices, the coffee bars, the Art Gallery, even the Canada Place ‘Welcome Centre’ were all closed.

I was particularly disappointed that also closed was the exhibition to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.  No not the Napoleonic War.  That was going on in Europe but in that year the newly fledged USA invaded Canada, a war about which little is heard of in Britain but the outcome of which reinforced Canada’s pride in nationhood and secured a more dignified place for the indigenous population compared with the USA.

It seemed very odd that on a Monday morning I was virtually the only person out and about in Downtown.  Was every Monday like this in Canada outside of ski resorts?  Or did I just happen to be there on a public holiday?  Eventually I found an open coffee shop near the seaplane terminal and enquiry soon elicited the fact that it was indeed a public holiday, Family Day.

After a caffeine fix I continued rambling as I had planned, clicking away with the camera despite the pervading clagginess and complete absence of sunshine.  There were others out and about in Stanley Park at the tip of the peninsula but not in large numbers given that Downtown was almost completely closed.  I guessed that many of the city’s residents had headed up to Whistler or somewhere else out-of-town.

Not what I had expected but it did not diminish my view of the city.  I’m back home now and trying to come to terms with the contrast.  I certainly hope to return to Vancouver and spend longer exploring it.  Hopefully in the sunshine.

Ice rink at the University, one of the very few places open Downtown on Family Day

Ice rink at the University, one of the very few places open Downtown on Family Day

Exhibition Centre East at Canada Place, built to represent an ocean liner .... and all closed up on Family Day

Exhibition Centre East at Canada Place, built to represent an ocean liner …. and all closed up on Family Day

Part of the seaplane terminal between Canada Place and Coal Harbour

Part of the seaplane terminal between Canada Place and Coal Harbour

'The Light Shed', sculpture representing a freight shed which once stood at Coal Hartbour

‘The Light Shed’, sculpture representing a freight shed which once stood at Coal Harbour

A bit of colour in a grey scene

A bit of colour in a grey scene

Pale reflection, fabulously tranquil

Pale reflection, fabulously tranquil

Tower blocks, boats, masts .... and shrink wrapping.,

Tower blocks, boats, masts …. and shrink wrapping.,

If you can afford it, put the boat in a garage.

If you can afford it, put the boat in a garage.

Sulphur: a reminder that this is still a working port with a history of mineral extraction

Sulphur: a reminder that this is still a working port with a history of mineral extraction

Some of the First Nation totem poles in Stanley Park

Some of the First Nation totem poles in Stanley Park

Detail

Detail

'Girl in wetsuit' keeping an eye on Lions' Gate Bridge

‘Girl in wetsuit’ keeping an eye on Lions’ Gate Bridge

Figurehead from 19th Century Japanese merchant ship trading between the Canadian Pacific coast and Japan

Figurehead from 19th Century Japanese merchant ship trading between the Canadian Pacific coast and Japan

The waters of Vancouver harbour are so well protected that they are flat-calm and reflective

The waters of Vancouver harbour are so well protected that they are flat-calm and reflective

Too wet for the cormorants to stretch their wings to dry them

Too wet for the cormorants to stretch their wings to dry them

There will be a gap now before the next time I post on the blog as I have to write a chapter for a book with a deadline of 1 March.

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