Jan 27, 2011

Gastown Alley Graffiti

It was wet, it was raining hard, I worried about my leather boots as I unavoidably stepped in and out of puddles. I was trying hard to see clearly through my rain beaten glasses. I didn't want to get lost. I didn't want be late for my interview. Scanning this way and that way, a flash of colour in the otherwise grey and dreary street caught my eye. Graffiti. The prettiest graffiti I've seen in Vancouver so far. Click click. How could I resist stopping and taking photos. And besides, I still made my interview on time.

Here's a selection from the back alley on Cambie Street near Hastings.
Are you being served?
Vancouver Gastown Alleyway graffiti
Vancouver Gastown Alleyway graffiti

After I left my interview, I decided to have a gander and see if I could find more graffiti treasure since this seemed to be the place to find it. And I was right. I found the bonanza in the back alley between Richards & Homer off Hastings. The writing on the wall called it an art installation by Cold World. Here's a sample from the north wall.
Vancouver Gastown Alleyway graffiti
Vancouver Gastown Alleyway graffiti
Across the alley on the south wall, there was a collection of murals that were of a distinctively different flavour so I'm not sure if the artists are from the same crew as Cold World.
There's a retro Asian thing happening in these ones.
Bring it! by coldworldmedia
Vancouver Gastown Alleyway graffiti
Vancouver Gastown Alleyway graffiti
And some west coast aboriginal graffiti happening here:
Vancouver Gastown Alleyway Graffiti

You know, before I saw these alleys, I was really beginning to wonder about the Vancouver graffiti scene. I lived in barrio Lavapiés in Madrid for 4 years and saw really exceptional graffiti come and go and come again, and then later I lived near London's Shoreditch graffiti scene, where I saw eye candy everywhere I looked. So needless to say, I had higher expectations from Vancouver than the polite murals I've seen decorating store fronts. I was later schooled as to why there's this muzzle on Vancity's graffiti scene. Turns out that there's a city bylaw that requires property owners to have graffiti removed within 10 days after being served a notice from the City or pay the city's removal cost. Ouch. These days it's the City of Vancouver that sanctions and funds some of the better murals seen around town through its graffiti-management program. I guess that explains the general lack of beautiful and/or politically edgy street art on the walls around here. Who knew yoga loving, granola munching, organic crunching, vegan noshing Vancouver was so conservative at heart.

All photography by Shehani Kay

Jan 21, 2011

Two tasty, cheap eats on Main Street

My time in Vancouver hasn't been all seawall walks and gourmet coffee, I've also been applying for jobs, interviewing, socializing, catching up with old chums, and pigging out like a cerdita. I've got restarting yoga classes on the agenda for next week so I don't grow out of my pantaloons! Although I've had some excellent Leb Leb (a Lebanese with Lesbians dinner at Nuba) and a gorge fest of all you can eat Japanese and Korean food at a restaurant whose name I can't recall now, today I'm going to focus on a couple of restaurants in my new hood.

First is a Vietnamese Pho place called Pho Tan (4598 Main Street). When we arrived the restaurant was packed with Asian people, which is always a great sign that the food is authentic and delicious. I ordered the satay beef pho (#38), which was just the right amount of spicy and peanutty. The raw thin beef slices cooked in the broth as I gave the bowl a stir after I loaded on the fresh Thai Basil and bean sprouts. Can't get fresher than that. I don't have a photo of it because I was just too busy eating and slurping, and my only thought of maybe writing something for this blog occurred to me long after the bowl's concave face was gleaming and empty. And this my friends is a testament to how yummy it was. My mind could barely focus on what my dinner companion was saying, my head just nodded as I slurped. The menu has quite a large selection of phos and other Vietnamese dishes, and the staff were super friendly and smiley.

Hawker's Delight on Main Street, VancouverHawker's Delight on Main Street, Vancouver
Second is a place called Hawker's Delight (4127 Main Street), which does street hawker style Singaporean Malaysian food for less than the price of a McMeal at McD. The decor is no frills, and by that I mean it has no-table-cloth, cafeteria-style, hole-in-the-wall chic. I ordered the Laksa because it's one of my favourite Malay dishes and it didn't disappoint. The bowlful of tofu, boiled egg, shrimp, chicken, fish cakes and noodles in a coconut curry broth was just the right combination of spicy and coconutty. While this typical curry Laksa from Singapore was tasty, at some point I will have to find a place that does Sarawak Laksa, which has a base of Sambal belacan, sour tamarind, garlic, galangal, lemon grass and coconut milk, topped with omelette strips, chicken strips, prawns, fresh coriander and lime OR go visit my mommy in Edmonton and have her make me some ;) Mmmm. Anyway, back to Hawkers. My dinner companion is vegetarian and we were pleased with the amount of selection she had to choose from. She ended up getting the Mee Siam, which is thin rice noodles (vermicelli) smothered in a spicy, sweet and sour, peanut gravy. Yum. According to Lonely Planet, Hawker's Delight is ranked #190 of 434 things to do in Vancouver but bring cash because this joint doesn't take plastic.

Seawall by 2nd beach in Vancouver
From my mere two weeks in Vancouver, this city seems to be all about the outdoors and food. As I slowly but surely eat and walk my way around Vancity, I'll be sure to bring you all along so stay tuned!

Happy Friday!

Jan 13, 2011

Early days in Vancouver

Well, it's been a week and I'm slowly adjusting to my new surroundings. One of the ways I'm rooting down to rise up is by taking photos as I wander through my new life. Here's a glimpse of what my eyes have seen:
The first tag that I noticed on my first day in Vancouver.
Hello Vancouver! 1st tag I saw on my 1st day in Vancity
The skyline from Main Street
Vancouver skyline from Main street

My buddy Clint is a super cool dude who is housing me and I'm grateful for his affectionate, loving support. You are the bees knees Clint! Muuah! Here's a peep at his dudecentric antique shop on Main Street:
Refind on Main Street
Refind on Main Street

Then there's my sweet dear beautiful Debora, who took me to the beach and fed my soul:
A Sunday stroll along the seawall
Couple on the rocks at 2nd Beach in Vancouver
Hello ocean
Taking flight
And showed me the Lost Lagoon with its golden trees.
Golden tree at the Lost Lagoon
Golden tree and duck watching at the Lost Lagoon
Golden reflections at the Lost Lagoon
I am so blessed and lucky to have such awesome, nurturing friends here. They are part of my root system and I am grateful for them.

But it hasn't been all wandering around looking at the beauty of Vancouver, I've also been busy trying to find work so I've been firing off my CV and going in for interviews at temp agencies. Here's a photo I snapped from the 18th floor of a high rise on Hornby Street where I sat for hours doing computer skills testing.
From the 18th floor on Hornby

At Burrard Sky Train station, here's a photo of a slightly shabby painted whale I'm sure every Vancouverite overlooks but I found it cute.
A Burrard Welcome Whale

It snowed yesterday and here's proof from the sky train:
From Skytrain on a snow day
Science World from skytrain on snow day

Well, it seems I'm really off on this new adventure. The yogic mantra of you gotta root to rise is reverberating in my soul and forcing me to face my old fears and the old debris I've had buried while I've been an expat swanning around Europe for years. This is what it means to come home with your treasures. It is now my work to face my sorted history and my undone laundry, and to see how I've grown, to test my mettle, to use the skills and knowledge I've attained aboard and to apply it to my new life back home. This is the task of the returning wanderer...

So here I go rocketing into the great known unknown to battle my dragons. Wish me luck!
And off I go into the great unknown...

All photography by Shehani Kay.

Jan 8, 2011

Last Carefree Day in London: River Ferry, Highgate Cemetery and more

I'm here... in my home and native land, Canada, the place that raised and grew me. My body is in Vancouver but I think the jet lag, the 7,585 km, the denial has left my mind hovering somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean. And then there's my heart, which is still in London curled up on a bean bag in front of a hearth. I am here and not here. So as I learn to let go of this feeling that I haven't left the UK, I'm going to share my last carefree day in London with you.

We got lucky with the weather. The sun came out so we took the ferry from Greenwich to Embankment.

Views from the Thames Clipper
Views from the Thames Clipper
Views from the Thames Clipper

On our way to Highgate Cemetery, we emerged at Archway Station, a place that is as rough as Hampstead village is posh, but even in this shabby place there is beauty:

Graffiti near Archway Tube Station
St Josephs R C Church

Tears fell on us from the sky as we wandered Highgate Cemetery but it quickly cleared up into a thoughtful greyness.

Highgate Cemetery
Highgate Cemetery
Highgate Cemetery
Highgate Cemetery
Highgate Cemetery
Highgate Cemetery
Highgate Cemetery
Highgate Cemetery
Highgate Cemetery
Highgate Cemetery
Highgate Cemetery
Highgate Cemetery
Highgate Cemetery
Highgate Cemetery

We stayed until they locked the gates behind us. Then we made our way towards Hampstead Heath. Along the way we saw a pretty parish church and gorgeous gated communities.

Hampstead: St. Anne Church
Hampstead: gated tudor-inspired community

We crossed the mist covered heath and had dinner at the Wells Tavern, a gastropub where the mulled wine is easily the most tasty and most expensive we'd yet encountered.

Then we walked down 300 ancient steps into bowels of Hampstead station to the tube platform.

Hampstead Tube Station

And went home.

All Photography by Shehani Kay.
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