Always craving an escape from Vancouver, I recently decided at the very last minute to book a seat on the Coast Starlight and head to Los Angeles for some sunshine and to visit my friend Ben. According to Amtrak, the Coast Starlight route from Seattle to Los Angeles is “widely regarded as one of the most spectacular of all train routes”. I’ll admit, I’m still a bit skeptical of this claim and think the marketing team might have been having a laugh during that particular brainstorming session.
Deciding the night before to embark on such an epic journey such as this is the wisest of choices, as I barely slept before heading to Vancouver’s Pacific Central Station at 4:45am the next morning. From here, I caught the 5:30am bus connection to Seattle and barely made my train departing Seattle’s gorgeously restored King Street Station a few hours later.
Sometimes, your evening walks have a way of surprising you. Sometimes, residents of your neighbourhood contribute magical and heartwarming pieces of themselves to the public space. Sometimes, you can’t help but smile (and maybe tear up a little) at the humanity that is found when you least expect it.
As I spent time reading through the wishes of my urban neighbours, I was struck with the similarity between the messages. No one was wishing for material possessions, rather, they were all wishing for love. Romantic love, friendly love, love for their families. The one thing that ties us all together, that makes us all human, that inspires us all to live life more fully and freely than we could ever imagine.
Doors Open Vancouver (DOV) is a free and behind-the-scenes look at many of Vancouver’s sites, buildings and services. It’s a great opportunity to learn about how the City of Vancouver is run and experience some of the city’s unique architecture, sustainable design, and cultural heritage.
As a social media and photography volunteer, I spent a few hours traversing a few of the West End’s DOV sites, including the Vancouver Police Department’s Mounted Unit, the Parks Board headquarters, and the Stanley Park miniature train.
DOV is a quick start action identified by the Mayor’s Engaged City Task Force, and was presented by the City of Vancouver in partnership with the Architectural Institute of British Columbia, Cascadia Green Building Council, Tourism Vancouver, the Vancouver Heritage Foundation, and Vancouver Public Space Network.
DOV is a one-day event with 20 participating buildings, nearly 200 volunteers and over 8,600 visits. I’m looking forward to supporting the event again next year!
I’ve always loved spending time at local markets, particularly farmers markets full of fresh and local produce. The markets are always a great opportunity to observe locals in a foreign city, and when visiting a market in my own city it is nice to interact with other members of the community. They help to shape and develop a sense of community in larger cities, in addition to driving debate, neighbourly connections, and fostering a ‘shop local’ mentality that benefit the economy. Living in a big city can feel somewhat isolated and anonymous and farmers markets are one place where barriers fall away and strangers chat under the informal gathering space of a 10×10 tent.
The last time I was in Los Angeles, I was a young preteen and my biggest goal for the trip was mouse-spotting at Disneyland and window shopping on Rodeo Drive. At the time, I was under the (false) impression that Beverly Hills was the be all and end all of LA culture. My adolescent impressions of the city came from my favourite movies, such as the ditzy yet goodhearted Clueless. Thankfully, my idea of what Los Angeles is all about has changed a great deal since then.
Patrick and I headed down to the sunny state of California in May, which is a truly great time to visit. A good friend of ours had recently relocated from Vancouver to Marina Del Rey and we were keen to be able to spend some time with him and soak up the sun. The weather proved to be perfect for exploring on foot and on bicycle, as we didn’t wish to spend our entire weekend in an air conditioned car (and have to deal with infamous LA traffic).
Ever since I moved to Vancouver in 2010, I have been happy to call the West End home. This community is vibrant and lively, with a diverse mix of people from all different backgrounds. Not only is the West End home to the Davie Village, which has been the heart of the city’s LGBT community for many years, but also the buzzing retail hot spot of Robson Street, and the majestic green space in Stanley Park. This neighbourhood has something for anyone and it is here where I make my home. The area comes to life in the spring and it is always fun to go for long walks and admire the flowers, heritage homes, and renewed greenery. Here are some of my favourite iPhone photos I’ve taken over the last few weeks.
On my recent trip to New York, my mum and I opted to forgo the hustle and bustle of Midtown for the relative peace and quiet of Greenwich Village. Having been to NYC before, I knew from experience that staying in the tourist ‘hot-zone’ didn’t really connect you to the best of the city. I was excited to show my mum all of the Midtown classic spots, but felt that spending our nights in Greenwich would be much more relaxing. Upon arriving at our hotel, the quaint and historic Washington Square Hotel, I knew that we had made the right choice. The Christmas tree in Washington Square Park was lit up and the streets were adorned with twinkling white lights. Students and young couples milled along the streets that Friday evening, revelling in the crisp holiday air. The next morning, after a sound sleep on the most luxurious mattress, we woke up early and spent the morning wandering the quiet streets of the Village. Although it was Saturday morning, the streets at nine o’clock were practically empty and I was stunned by the silence in such a large city. More than that, the empty sidewalks and streets allowed me to take my time while photographing the beautiful buildings, entryways and windows – under a brilliant blue sky no less!
Click through for some more photos of my favourite NYC neighbourhood.
Views from the Empire State Building from my quick trip to New York City in December.
Last year, I spent five months living just north of London from January until May. Last year also seemed to be a particularly cold winter for the southeast of England, and my wussy Pacific Northwest manner could not cope. On one of the coldest days in March, I took the train down to Richmond to meet my aunt for an afternoon at the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens.
Since arriving in Hanoi, I have been completely overwhelmed in the best way possible. Hanoi is impossibly energetic and there is so much going on that it can be difficult to know where to look. Every time I turn my head I see and observe something new. I have only been here for two days and already I feel like a new person.
My first meal was made by a woman sitting on a sidewalk. I watched as she deep fried handmade spring rolls and egg, snipped up cold rice noodles, and placed fresh chillis in fragrant nuoc cham. We sat on tiny, child sized plastic stools in a small alley and I marvelled at how such a delicious meal could be made in plastic buckets and a homemade deep fryer. As I ate and embraced the variety of flavours in my meal, I saw a Vietnamese police officer pull up on his motorbike and chase away a woman selling fruit from baskets hanging off her arms. This was truly a memorable introduction to the city and gave me a real sense of place.
Although dealing with jet lag and a hand injury is frustrating, I am greatly enjoying my time and looking forward to the rest of the trip. I know there will be challenges but this country is beautiful, alive and incredibly inspiring. Already I have met some amazing new friends and colleagues and it is only the beginning!
More updates to come, including a story about my ride on the back of a Vespa through the busy streets of Hoan Kiem district… Another “wow, I’m in Vietnam” moment.