Our Trav­els: A Seawall For All

Van­cou­ver’s wind­ing wa­ter­front path is ideal for walk­ing, cy­cling, jog­ging—or just peo­ple-watch­ing

Our Canada - - Contents - By Vi­o­let St. Clair, Ed­mon­ton

Mak­ing the most of Van­cou­ver’s fa­mous wind­ing, wa­ter­front path.

My mother blessed me with an abid­ing love of Canada and its stun­ning va­ri­ety of land, wa­ter and peo­ple. Al­though I have en­joyed trav­el­ling to many places in the world, Canada's abun­dant nat­u­ral beauty and mo­saic of cul­tures is daz­zling.

One of my de­lights is to visit my son Stephen in Van­cou­ver, where I get to en­joy end­less days spent along the Seawall.

Com­pleted in 1980, it is surely one of Van­cou­ver’s best trea­sures, as well as a mag­net that draws peo­ple from all over to meet and greet by the wa­ter. So grab a cof­fee, find a bench and en­joy the show!

English Bay pro­vides a shift­ing and kalei­do­scopic back­drop. Gi­gan­tic freighters an­chor and await their turn at dock. Sail­boats, kayaks, pad­dle board­ers and small cabin cruis­ers fill the empty spa­ces be­tween these mono­liths. Small ferry taxis, cute as bugs, dart back and forth from shore to shore. Once in a while, a flock of geese will glide silently by in sin­gle file, watch­ful and slightly be­mused. Add a few seag­ulls keen­ing and ca­reen­ing and, voilà, you have a mo­ment wor­thy of a Monet paint­ing.

Early morn­ing prac­tices by row­ing teams com­plete the tableau ex­pe­ri­ence, and on par­tic­u­larly calm and quiet Sun­day morn­ings, the com­mands of the coxswain drift across the waters.

Closer to shore, it is im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent that Van­cou­verites love their dogs. All sizes and breeds. Jog­ging along with their hu­mans, dis­rupt­ing the lives of the pi­geons, meeting up with their ca­nine brethren and, some­times, for the more in­firm, just en­joy­ing the scenery from the com­fort of a dog­gie snug­gly. As the cherry

blos­soms bloom, many don their spring fash­ions—pink ruf­fles around the shoul­ders of the girls, muted grey and blue hood­ies for the boys. Au­tumn fleeces ar­rive for Oc­to­ber and Novem­ber.

If I may bor­row a line from the Hin­den­burg dis­as­ter “Oh, the hu­man­ity!” There are peo­ple ev­ery­where, and of such in­cred­i­ble di­ver­sity. Young Sikhs with patkas hurtling fris­bees. Tightrope

Clock­wise from top left: Stephen and Vi­o­let; Si­wash Rock, a prom­i­nent and an­cient land­mark; a colour­ful shot on an April af­ter­noon; sculp­ture of “Girl in a Wet­suit” on the north side of Stan­ley Park; English Bay res­i­dent geese—huey, Dewey and Louie. walk­ers high over the grass per­form­ing moves and shapes be­fore an im­promptu au­di­ence. The easy ca­ma­raderie among a group of friends, who grab a spot and be­gin to pass around sand­wiches, and the tan­gled ex­cite­ment of teenage girls with colour­ful hoops to twirl and toss. There are Croa­t­ian grand­moth­ers shar­ing re­cent fam­ily pho­tos, a knot of Ja­panese school­mates gig­gling un­con­trol­lably, a line of Span­ish preschool­ers, each lit­tle hand hold­ing onto a rope, and a fam­ily of kite-fly­ers teas­ing and laugh­ing as they com­pete for the high­est spot. Soapy bub­bles float by from one area and bad­minton birdies whiz by from another. What a de­light! An

En­joy­ing a quiet mo­ment by the wa­ter.

hour later, a whole new set of vi­gnettes will present them­selves for your en­joy­ment. There is al­ways change, move­ment and en­ter­tain­ment for all.

Peo­ple bike, push car­riages, walk with canes and roller blade or jog in enough flu­o­res­cent-coloured cloth­ing to war­rant sun­glasses. Oth­ers sim­ply pause to feed the gulls or en­joy some soli­tude on a log, bench or rock. Side­walk philoso­phers write a mul­ti­tude of say­ings such as "Have you smiled at any­one to­day?" in chalk, meant to slow your hec­tic pace.

A group of peo­ple even set up a sign read­ing "ocean con­fes- sions" and of­fered biodegrad­able pa­per and pen­cil to passersby who had re­grets, sor­rows or wishes they wanted to write down and toss into the wa­ter.

I've even smiled at the sight of a happy man brav­ing the March waters off Sun­set Beach with noth­ing on but a smile. Of course, it was a dif­fer­ent story 20 min­utes later when se­cu­rity ar­rived.

Each spot along the Seawall has its own unique sights and sounds: the colour of cherry blos­soms; the crafti­ness of crows; the poignant ded­i­ca­tion plaques on benches and the sud­den sound of the blues from a lone har­mon­ica.

Ev­ery­where, there are pho­tog­ra­phers, all hop­ing to cap­ture that per­fect pic­ture of sun, sea and sand, some with lenses that stretch out a coun­try mile. Whether paus­ing by the gi­ant inuk­shuk or pass­ing by the shim­mer­ing, jagged wall of glass-and-steel con­dos, where sea­planes take off, they search for that bit of vis­ual drama.

Sun­sets are par­tic­u­larly invit­ing. Lovers pose for golden-coloured self­ies, friends pause by Si­wash Rock, fam­i­lies watch from the shore­line or the deck of a sail­boat. One time, a soli­tary yoga en­thu­si­ast in a clas­sic "tree pose" stood im­mo­bile and pic­ture-per­fect against the back­drop of a coral sky.

Yes, surely the Seawall is one of Van­cou­ver’s great­est trea­sures. n

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