7 May 2008


The seagulls are huge. The first time one landed beside me I thought perhaps it was a dodo.

I walk to Canada Place, where my self-guided tour of public art begins. In a repeat of obstacles I will meet during my stay, a number of the roads are closed as construction continues for the winter Olympics to be held here in 2010. Around the water, new and boring apartment towers are growing like feral grass, like they grow around the Docklands in Melbourne. It looks the same the world over. Or does it? If I turn my back on them and look out across the water, my eye snags on a floatplane picking up speed and rising up above the orange buoys, the harbour walks, the masts of the yachts, above the evergreens of the park, leading my gaze to the mountains behind the city, dark blue and white, now behind a cloud, now gleaming as snow slips off the slopes.

Throughout my stay, my first impressions of the airport become second, third, fifteenth impressions of the city: water. Fountains, waterwalls, features, waterfalls, bays, a gentle rain that arrives without comment or excitement and leaves with the slightest breeze. Every time I walk past another pool in another courtyard I almost cry.

fountains /
water / dry
trickles / dry
/ concrete / tulips
/ bleached / bloom
/ yellow / cloud on mountains
/ dry
i am not homesick / until i think
i am /
/ so thirsty
and i like it here /

I wander around the marina, stop in this park to drink in the magnolias and apple blossoms, in the next to watch a Canada goose grazing in a lawn speckled with tiny daisies, and then again on the pier to examine the barnacles and mussels on the wood. There is a scratched up sign telling all arrivals to Canada to report to customs and immigration immediately. There are rows of tulips and pansies in every garden.

At Lost Lagoon I sit for a while on a park bench, watching the geese grooming themselves, twisting their necks and flipping upside down in the water, legs kicking and wings beating as they perform what may be a practical but is certainly a less-than-elegant toilette. I choose the paths closest to the water, the unsealed paths, the tracks that are quieter, without toddlers throwing bread at ducks and children learning to control their scooters. At one point I pause to watch a photographer sitting a short way off the path, offering almonds to little grey squirrels as payment for their pictures. Later I see a tourist couple trying the same trick with a black squirrel, but this one grabs the nut and scampers off around a tree trunk. Mute swans glide carefully amongst the branches at the edge of the lagoon, and small ducks – black and white ones, tiny speckled ones – paddle timidly in the quieter areas, while the wood ducks (as the information sheet said they would) hang around like pigeons waiting for food.

I take some random paths, confident I’m heading in the right direction, and soon find myself at Second Beach, where I buy myself some fries and a cup of tea, and am once again overwhelmed by the array of condiments available. I choose green pickle and ketchup and sit myself down on a wall near the beach. It’s colder now, so I’m wearing my scarf and beanie. I have noticed a distinct lack of beanie action in Vancouver (and LA, but it was hot there), and I wonder if the looks I get when wearing it indicate that it’s obvious I’m not a native. Wandering along the beach paths, I see a few people selling pictures, playing guitars, etc. I also eventually find the highrise apartment with the tree planted on top – apparently that’s the height to which the trees used to grow in this area. It’s astonishing to think, and I wish I could have seen them. As my feet begin to hurt, I stop more frequently on the way towards the bridges, watching a game of roller-hockey and admiring the strange untitled black ball sculpture in a random suburban feeling plaza.

Eventually I make it back to the hotel, and check the time (I don’t have a watch or phone with me). It’s after 5:30, and I’ve been walking and looking for just over six hours. I collapse after having a shower and rubbing my feet (I wish Dan was here to do it for me!), and write a few postcards, buy some internet time, listen to some music. Later in the evening I go out (it gets dark quite late) and realise this area of town is clearly the seedy area at night. Mind you, seedy in Vancouver is hardly too obnoxious, so I feel quite OK about wandering around a few blocks and finding another Crepe CafĂ©. I hope to replicate the delicious one I had in LA with Grace, but it is not quite so delicious. Maybe it’s true what they say about good company being important to the flavour.

I fall asleep in my own (borrowed) space for the first time since I left home, and sleep without interruption until the morning.