False Creek is a not a very long body of water (compared to other rivers and creeks elsewhere) that separates the central area of the Vancouver from much of the rest of the city and is one of four bodies of water that surround the centre of Vancouver. Its shores have been the site of two of the City’s world defining events, the World Expo of 1986 and the Winter Olympics of 2010. It is a beautiful area and has many attractions to offer the visitor so we chose to explore it via bike one late winter’s day.
Breakfast in Gastown
We had walked through Gas Town on a previous visit to Vancouver and at the start of our day we were keen to revisit a cafe near Water Street that we had enjoyed so much last time. It was called Birds & Beets and we eventually found it at 54 Alexander St. So breakfast that day was the millennial favourite, mashed avocado on toast with poached egg which set us up for the long bike ride ahead. We had organised to hire bikes for the day from Mobi – Shaw bike sharing company and so we marched to the nearest bike rack armed with our rego number and our pin. We would need these every time we returned the bikes to the available racks (before the 30 minutes time limit was up) and then, when we were ready, rehired them for the next section of the trip. We found it a very easy way to see so much of Vancouver on dedicated bike paths that followed the sea wall. From Gastown, we were also able to ride along a dedicated bicycle lane all the way to the edge of False Creek.
After arriving at the edge of False Creek, we turned left along the waterway heading toward Science World around the bend. However we were distracted by a public art feature entitled the Trans Am Totem before reaching the museum. It is an art piece by Marcus Bowcott, installed as part of the 2018-20 Vancouver Biennial Exhibition. Being a stack of cars on a cedar tree stump, standing beside a busy freeway at the western end of False creek, the message seems very clear. However, one explanation from the Biennial website takes a broader view than cars taking over our environment.“The artwork considers our consumer “out with the old, in with the new” culture in relation to the site, its history, and Vancouver’s evolving identity”.
However the beautiful Science World building is a public art piece as well but its beauty and setting is not as confrontational as the ‘Trans Am Totem’. Spending a couple of hours at this museum is apparently very worthwhile but it was not on our agenda for our bicycle tour today. However we accidentally bumped into two prominent scientists, James Edgar Till and Ernest Armstrong McCulloch seated in the piazza beside the Science World Globe. These scientists are very famous as they introduced to the world , Stem Cell research that has had such an impact on modern medicine. I was able to engage them in a philosophical debate about the future of eternal life for all humanity that I saw as one by-products of their ground-breaking research. I have to admit I left them speechless!
Just along from the Science world we were able to return our bikes to the Mobi Racks and then stroll over to the Olympic Village.
Vancouver hosted the Winter Olympics in 2010 and this was the village that hosted over 2,800 athletes, coaches, and officials. It was constructed on old industrial land and it would seem that, as is the case for all Olympic villages, the construction costs overran the estimated costs and caused quite the crisis before the State Government stepped in to back up the City of Vancouver in financing the project. On the completion of the Olympics, it was returned to the city and has become the beautiful area on the banks of False Creek that we visitors can see today. I have to admit that the giant sparrows were my favourite sights when we encountered them in the main village square.
From the sparrows of Olympic Park, we walked along False creek and joined the Canadian geese as they inspected the South East False Creek habitat island, built from 60,000 cubic metres of rock, gravel, sand and boulders. The artificial island was built to restore habitat along the creek for fish and shellfish as well as a sanctuary for birds. As we walked further along towards Cambie bridge, we encountered a curious art piece that asked the challenging question, “Should I Be Worried?” I am not sure what I was supposed to worry about, whether it was the water quality of False Creek, the urbanization of Vancouver or some other philosophical quandary of humanity that the skyline posed.
We had not gone far under the bridge when we came upon our next set of bike racks and so we climbed aboard and headed towards Granville Island along the sea wall bike path.
Leg and Boot Square
Along this section of False Creek are beautiful waterside residential communities that were built after the World Expo of 1986. The area’s previous industrial usage has been all but erased.
Acoustic Anvil: A small weight to forge the sea’.“Leg and Boot Square was a place of industry, forges, boat building and stevedores. At one point it was a police station, where a human leg, still trapped in a boot, was displayed in the hope that someone would lay claim – now memorialized in th square’s name, although the leg’s origin was never discovered.” (From poster in the square.)
View of the city’s skyline from section of Sea Wall Bike Path before reaching Granville Island
Granville Island was a tidal flat at the mouth of False Creek used by First Nation people before the arrival of Europeans. It was reclaimed for industrial use at the start of the twentieth century. Like so much of the area around False Creek, Granville Island’s industrial days were over at the start of the 1970s when it became the famous market island it is today. We had visited the island’s market a few years go by catching one of the little ‘toy’ ferries across the creek from the main city side of Vancouver. On this day our main aim was to try and find the same soup stall and have lunch. The quality of the soup and all the other food on display here is amazing; it reminded me of Victoria markets in Melbourne.
From Granville Island we regathered our bikes from their home-racks and headed along under Burrard Bridge towards Vanier Park. Just after passing under the bridge we spotted a Musqueam welcome totem pole gazing out over the water where False Creek enters English Bay. If we had have continued along the sea wall, we would have reached the Vancouver Museum of Anthropology which is rated one of the best Museums in Vancouver.
I have been pondering the question as I wandered the streetscape of Vancouver as to whether something that looks entirely useless but is placed in a prominent position, does that mean it’s an art piece? It is of course a silly question but I was confused when I first saw the object in the photo below. It initially looked something like a covered netball
court , a cage-wrestling venue or a very ornate, but small dog walking park. I then realised that the prominent dome and steeple with speakers on it didn’t belong in such circumstances; someone was having a ‘lend’ or perhaps trying to make me think a little harder about what I was looking at! Like all good Art, it had a sign nearby which announced its name … “Paradise Has Many Gates.” The artist was Ajlan Gharem from Saudi Arabia and he was “questioning the role of religion in a society, especially amongst a younger generation where ideas and knowledge are valued over religious and spiritual beliefs.” (from sign in the park) I was very happy he wasn’t a Catholic artist or that would have caused much trouble in this river city.
The day was graying over and wiser heads were suggesting that it might be time to head back to home base. So we dumped our bikes again at Granville Island and jumped in one of the dinky little ferries that cross False Creek. Given it was a bit far from our lovely Four Seasons Hotel and it was uphill all the way, we decided we would collect bikes again and cycle the long way around as per the route marked on the map of our day’s ride below.
It was a great day out in Vancouver!
Exploring Vancouver Menu
POSTSCRIPT: “I have been pondering the question as I wandered the streetscape of Vancouver as to whether something that looks entirely useless but is placed in a prominent position, does that mean it’s an art piece?”
Is the above construction ‘Art’ or is its purpose to shade the two seats underneath? Is it a shelter or do the pointless tube posts above the roof make it Art?
The above artifact is on the edge of the large square in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery so I am a little suspicious that its positioning makes it Art. We walked further down Howe Street and as I passed the Art Gallery, my attention was drawn to two vehicles, pictured below, that seemed to be parked illegally close to one side of the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Then I looked a bit closer!