Vancouver city blues
The getting up not too early idea didn’t work out quite as well as I had hoped as Id forgotten about jetlag and going to bed early tied in with going to bed late at home. Up at just after 5am Vancouver time I opened the curtains, turned on the tv and decided to wait for sunrise or breakfast, whatever came first.
Breakfast did come first and then I wandered out through almost deserted early Saturday morning streets.
Another cold dreary damp overcast morning where the pigeons outnumbered the people on the streets. I began to wonder if most people were using the underground routes or did people not venture out downtown this early any morning. I would have thought Saturday mornings would be busier but nothing much was happening here. Maybe the recession was taking its toll or maybe they did something else than go into town. I thought Id just go for a walk and see how far my legs would take me so I set out to walk across downtown and out to Granville Island market in time for it opening.
It took about 3/4 of an hour to walk from downtown to the market and that was a long 3/4 hour, particularly the last wee bit crossing the granville street bridge when the wind got up. Its a long way down.
I got to the Granville Street Market just as the heavens opened once again, and boy did they open, soaked through once again! The market was like similar markets across the world but this time I was coming in cold and wet through, the heat, the smells just hit you with such a welcome. Everyone seemed to have the same idea as I saw more people here than Id seen in the last hour walking across town. So this is where people go on a Saturday morning!
Now Id never heard of a Chai Latte before so I thought Id ask what the hell it was and sit down with one. Cold, soaked through, looking miserable and being the first person Id spoken to in over 20 hours the poor girl couldn’t understand a word I said, so I ended up just pointing to the menu!
The Chai Latte is a weird experience, it has the consistency of a latte and whilst not tea exactly, the spices were just the thing for my state of mind and state of body. After one or two sips I thought Id just throw it out and start again but it did grow on me and Ive had a couple since. I think if they had done mulled wine or a spiced hot chocolate it would have went down the same but I don’t think that’s normal Saturday fare in these parts still a while from Christmas!
I stayed out of the rain about three times longer than a chai latte and danish would normally get you in a coffee but I think they were either taking pity on me or scared of me or a bit of both. In that hour my status went from ‘soaked’ to merely ‘wet’. I couldn’t face another spicy tea in an attempt to get my status to ‘dry’.
Im being overly unfair on Vancouver, particularly coming from this perma-soaked corner of the world but I haven’t been outside all day precisely because it has been the type of weather Id been walking around Vancouver in. 3 more days of that here and Id been looking to see if my friend had any room down in Mexico!
Only 3 more hours to kill until the photowalk. Yes, yes I know Id rather normally stick pins in my eyes but it was about a 20 min walk from here and I could take pictures on the way, and they were meeting in an interesting coffee shop and and and…
30 mins of jumping in and out of shops pretending in being interested in buying something and in the end just dripping on their floors wasn’t working out so I thought Id spend some time getting busses and subways to the photowalk meet.
Being the only moron standing out in this weather and wondering if I was even standing on the right side of the street for a bus I decided that life was too short and the money I was saving not buying more chai lattes would get me a cab to the next coffee shop.
The coffee here is good which means that in a rainy city with little else to do than coffee shops I was totally wired by 3pm. Not the best form to be in wet and surrounded by other photographers. I still couldn’t see the guy I was here to meet but was scanning the room for people with cameras. After introducing myself to three different people with cameras and having to translate my english into their english I realised that people often go to coffee shops with cameras, none of whom knew about a photowalk. Glad to see I still have a knack for drumming up business, even if it is for someone else!
I went outside to were a smaller group of wet people had gathered and were going through settings on their various cameras. There was lots of talk of all sorts of stuff and I was being my anti social self and trying not to get dragged into the technical minutiae of megapixels and other such shite that doesn’t really matter. I discovered that the guy I wanted to meet couldn’t make it and someone else would be leading the walk. The guy leading it described himself as an ‘enthusiastic amateur’. I’m always perplexed by that phrase. Particularly when the person doesn’t appear particularly enthusiastic. To be fair though with the rain running down our faces I don’t think any of us were and we had all introduced ourselves and talked a bit so the ‘sod this for a game of soldiers, anyone fancy a real drink’ probably wouldn’t have gone down too well.
As part of the getting to know each other we each did a quick bio and showed our equipment. I of course went last as usually at this point in the proceedings I usually turn into the grumpy pro who gives all the body language of ‘fuck off’ without actually saying it. To be fair I need to explain that. When I out working, particularly at a tourism event or something high profile or usually for a key client, someone thinks its ok to just wander up to me and start talking about cameras. Megapixels, great black and white photos and leaves in the drain, that sort of shite. Now I will talk all day about cameras and photography, indeed part of my business is involved in doing just that on a professional basis but usually when I’m out and about someone is actually paying for my time. I’m not afraid that the client will see me talking to someone who looks like they just have seen civilisation for the first time but I would be more concerned about missing something key, having a shadow for the day or just drawing attention to myself when Im trying to do fly on the wall or looking for that one single glimpse which sums up the day.
So that’s where I’m coming from….
…but of course now Im not being paid by anyone, on my own, soaked, in a foreign city, wanting to kill a few hours before my date with a pizza and the movie channel. Besides which these seemed like a nice bunch of people…
..and then I took my camera out of the bag….
…which in a lot of places would make an enemy of the alpha male of the group and two guys did go quiet in their megapixel discussion to ogle my equipment… (had to use that phrase somewhere ;-))
About 30 seconds later the inevitable ‘how many megapixels is that’ question arose to which my standard and usually quite factual reply was ‘I honestly don’t know’.
Vancouvers 3G works really well in the rain because two people grabbed my camera and googled it and were able to tell me the specs of my camera. Thanks for that, Ive forgotten them already. All I need to know right now is that it is waterproof…
..but I am not.
I quite enjoyed the experience of walking and chatting with the good folk of Vancouver on the photo walk and although the notion I could charge for this back home did cross my mind, the image of me sitting crying later the same day sticking pins in my eyes did come to mind. Maybe I could make some money at it but lets face it, prostitution would be the easier option, and equally as likely to make me money.
About half way through I found a bus stop that would pretty much take me back to main waterfront station near my hotel. I said very quick goodbyes and headed back into town. Still soaked through at this stage with that not too familar noise of bottom half of boxers cold wet squelching sound. When I reached the hotel I wouldn’t be leaving again until either all my clothes were dry or I bought new ones.
Just to prove I did go on the photowalk
Down at the waterfront the rain had stopped and it was that blue hour glow that makes for interesting photos so I decided to go for a wee wander for a bit as the lights were bouncing off the rain soaked streets and this was one of the best times to be walking around vancouver. It has that just after the rain fresh feeling and everyone was running around head down getting home before the next rain shower.
You might be wondering why I haven’t mentioned going to many of Vancouvers art galleries or museums, well I was leaving those to the real rainy days which were Sunday and Monday. You know the days the hotel staff warn you are going to be ‘wet’. Of course these just happen to be the days most of all of the above are closed and the only one that is open want me to check my bag in the locker. Not with all this photo gear Im not. So the next day was spent wandering the streets crying inwardly, going from coffee shop to coffee shop, ticking down to the James Bond movie on at 7pm.
As I wandered back to the hotel I came across a group of what looked like photowalkers with tripods running about the place. They were interesting to observe as they would run around, take a photo or two then go back to this one guy talk a bit and then go and take more photos. I was again tired and wet so didn’t want to hang around but took a run past this photographic equivalent of a queen bee and sure enough it was the photographer I was hoping to meet up with the day before. I completely startled him by asking him by name and then introducing myself. We spent an enjoyable hour or two in a dry coffee shop talking about the business and this place (he was a recent immigrant as well).
After that it was just time for a quick japanese style hotdog from a stand I walked past every day and well worth the visit.
I had a few hours the next day to wander around with my luggage trying to find a cash machine that accepted my visa card as the Canadian money I had from the last trip had ran out. No easy task! Lots of queuing up at an ATM at monday lunchtime rush only to get to the front and swear loudly before heading off and repeating the process across downtown vancouver dragging my luggage behind me.
I hadn’t been to Vancouver Island yet and whilst you couldn’t see it from downtown due to the rain I thought Id make the trip anyway. On a good clear day/night I can only imagine that it would be similar to crossing the now shrinking Hong Kong harbour
but it wasnt a clear day!
This time soaked through by 10am I wandered around the market until it opened, got a cup of coffee, went back across the harbour the straight up to the airport to get my bag and get changed into some clean dry clothes. Hanging about airports is something I seem to do increasingly and by the end of this trip something Im coming to dislike intensely which is putting me off travelling, that and whilst I was in Vancouver I received notification that one of my agents was cutting its percentage by 20% in real terms… …its getting harder and harder…
Still, next stop Saskatoon and I wonder if I’ll beat my world record lowest temperature which was -19.9C one night walking back from a nightclub in Glasgow. I was walking back the 4 miles that night because the diesel froze in the busses and well it seemed like a good idea at the time. That’s a really cold temperature to be wearing jeans 😉
Looking forward to the evening flight back over the snow covered Rockies!