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A few weeks ago I wrote about how I’ve been walking to work and back and promised I’d post about Chinatown. Vancouver has the second largest Chinatown in North America–runner up to San Francisco. Funny, it doesn’t seem all that big; it’s just a few city blocks. Yet when I was a kid it seemed huge.
When I was growing up my family would go to Chinatown for lunch and a bit of shopping. We didn’t do it very often, since we lived in the suburbs. Sometimes my mother and I would go during the week. Other times the whole family went on the weekend. It was a special outing that I always looked forward to. I remember wandering through the streets with my parents, feeling transported to another country as I clutched onto my mother’s hand, extra terrified of getting lost. The smells were unfamiliar and exotic, the streets raucous and noisy.
Still, I loved everything about it. The little tarts and pastries we would pick up at the Chinese Bakery, the dumplings we’d have at dim sum, the silk-covered notebooks my mother would buy me at one of the local merchants. I loved looking at all the silks and rarely went home without a new pair of Chinese slippers. For awhile it was fashionable for Western women to wear traditional Chinese dresses. My mother had a blue silk one, printed with tiny gold birds. She wore it to parties with a couple of chopsticks in her hair.
Now when I walk through Chinatown I always remember these little outings and stop to buy a pair of red silk slippers or one of those notebooks I loved so much. Of course, with great prices on produce, Chinatown is a perfect place to buy groceries. I must admit that I often have no idea what I’m looking at as I wander through some of these shops, but that’s the fun of it all.
The gates of Chinatown.
Hmm. No too sure. Some of it is dried seafood.
There are many shops where you can buy the herbs and such used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. I’ve tried some of this stuff. It really works!
I know what this is, at least. Sticky rice! A dim sum favourite. Did I mention I love dim sum?
But what the heck are these? Anyone know? I assume that they are some kind of fruit because I have seen them in the fruit section of my grocery store. They could be anything. Mushrooms, anyone?
St. James Anglican church is right on the edge of Chinatown. Suddenly I’m no longer in China …. not in Vancouver … I’m in … Greece!
How about you? Do you have a Chinatown in your city?
The old saying about March coming in like a lion and going out like a lamb has been true this year. March was horrible. I thought winter would never end. In Vancouver, we’ve actually had lovely weather. April is usually just as rainy as March is, but there have been only a few days of rain this month. I have a good memory for the weather because I walk home from work every day six months out of the year. If it rains a lot, I end up hopping on a bus. I haven’t done that once this month.
I remember three years ago, when we consistently had the best weather I can recall. It was as if summer had stretched from late April to early October. Sweltering in my south facing condo, I had to buy an air-conditioning system. I didn’t like the idea of leaving the windows open all night and was afraid of suffocating in my sleep. The year after that was horrible, with week after week of muggy grey skies. I hardly turned on the air-conditioning at all.
My walk is no little stroll. I work downtown and live on the East Side. It takes me fifty minutes to walk the 4.5 kilometers home from the school where I teach. This year I started walking to work as well. That’s almost two hours of walking a day! Why do I do this to myself? Do I love walking? Not really. I do like it, especially when the scenery is good. Mostly I know I need the exercise; I’m not too consistent about getting to the gym and I also like that I’m saving the bus fare.
Vancouver is a beautiful city, renowned worldwide for its abundant nature as well as its spectacular ocean and mountain vistas. No matter where I travel, when I come back I’m always happy that I live here. The real estate prices here are ridiculous because it’s the only place in Canada where the winters are bearable; it hardly ever goes below zero degrees. This is why I live on the East Side, and feel lucky to have my place here, which I found before the prices really skyrocketed.
So some parts of the walk home is not as nice as it would be almost anywhere else in Vancouver. It takes me by the port, the sugar refinery, past railroad tracks. My reward for that is Gastown.
Gastown is the oldest part of Vancouver. Back in the early nineties, it was also one of the most run-down. Things have changed a lot since then. It’s had a long overdue face lift and has since become a mecca of cool restaurants, shops and clubs. The sidewalks are filled with throngs of people at any given time of the day or night. I love walking the cobblestone streets and being a part of the energy.
Here is the famous Steam Clock, one of the only two in the world. It’s hard to find a time when hordes of tourists are not crowded around the clock, taking pictures. I was lucky.
I managed to snap a photo while the clock was steaming.
Chill Winston is the best place to go for a drink on a sunny afternoon.
The cute little boutiques are a distraction. I always stop and take a peek into the famous John Fluevog store.
To shake things up a bit, I can skip Gastown and take a detour through Chinatown. Stay tuned next week for that one … and more walks through Vancouver.