Friday, May 20, 2011

Vancouver's Gastown

I promised you a little tour of  Gastown once we were off the seabus and out the doors of Waterfront Station.  Gastown is where Vancouver originally started and was famed for its tavern named Gassy Jack's. Apparently his nickname was earned from his penchant for spinning tall tales, rather than for any digestive troubles he might have had.
One of the first things you'll notice upon exiting is this statue of the Angel of Victory.

The statue was designed by Coeur de Lion McCarthy (how's that for a great name?!) in remembrance of the 1100 Canadian Pacific Railway workers who died in WWI, with a plaque added in the 1940s to commemorate those who died in WWII.

(I created a different version of this photo which you can see here, should you be so interested.)

Another iconic monument in Gastown is the steam clock on the corner.  I almost got a picture of it but I was trying to avoid being hassled by a rather aggressive beggar and missed the mark, catching the ornate lampost in front of it instead.  But you can see the little gathering of tourists that are always clustered there, having their pictures taken while waiting for the clock to blow off some steam and make its tooting noises. 

That tower in the background that resembles a spindle whorl is the Sears Tower, which used to house the department store of the same name, but which is now the downtown "campus" of Simon Fraser University (my old alma mater).

Here's a different view of it, caught in a curbside puddle.  When I was resizing it for the blog, I noticed a rather ghostly image of a person peering up at me from the puddle.  Do you see it?  I guess it was a cloud formation but it looks rather spooky.  And do you see the Canadian flag?

Gastown is, essentially, a tourist area.  It was a pretty rough part of town for quite some time, and though it has been largely gentrified, it is an interesting mix of shiny new, authentic funk, and decidely down and out.

Deluxe Junk consignment clothing shop has been around for a number of years.

As has this eclectic shop with its odd mixture of antiques, faux antiques, and generally odd stuff. 
I was so pleased with myself for capturing this woman's image in the mirror as she walked past.

Next time I'll take you inside the shop for a little look around. 
Let's meet back at the steam clock, okay?


  1. Fabulous place, and I love the name! I saw that spooky puddle image before I read your comments, spooky indeed! I thought I had best get my comments in now in-case the world as the rest of you know it disappears...and with my WV 'bessoluc' - best o' luck to yers! :-) Cheers.

  2. Wow! Vancouver is just getting better and better... You must have warm memories of your college days.
    Two photos remind me of your art form: 1) the reflection of the Sears Tower with the "geometric" colored lines and 2) the peach and mauve Romanesque buildings (beautiful!) with the store window reflections of the embroidered linen, sheers, gloves. I can envision them with your layering style--stunning!
    What you did with the Statue of Victory (by McCarthy the Lion-Hearted) is magnificent! The hand-written page brings it down to a scale of delicate proportions; the angel is now a ballerina ascending grandly with the slain soldier.
    And maybe where we're meeting--under the steam clock--was created in honor of Gastown? xxox

    WV - berminf
    Brrr..Men f(reezing)

  3. I love the romance & layering of the photos you take into shop windows. Statue of Victory is also a stunning photo--something Renaissance about it. Brava!

  4. Your Victory is well captured in the original and well manifested in the recreation. I remember that statue. It provoked in me the same acute ambivalence as a scene in the Caribou region.

    One sunny day in early summer many years ago I was travelling in northern BC and saw the sun gleaming in blinding silver on power lines against an achingly blue sky. No sooner had my childlike soul exclaimed, "How beautiful!", my adult censor said, "You cannot seriously find that industrial travesty beautiful!"

    But I did.

    My intellectual anti-religious censor likewise tells me that I should not be moved by that statue. But I am. I always have been.

    Thank you for the fine renditions.

  5. Anonymous20 May, 2011

    I agree with DCW on the beautiful capture of the Victory statue, and your interpretive version of it is equally moving.

    I remember one time giving a cousin of mine who was visiting Vancouver a tour a Gastown. A junkie walked up to me, and asked me for money. I told him that I was sorry, but I didn't have any to spare. He looked at me for a moment, and then broke into the most beautiful toothless grin. "Oh, that's okay! You gave me money earlier today!"
    "Yes, I did," I lied. We then wished each other a good day, and went our seperate ways. Once we had parted, my cousin looked at me in astonishment and asked, 'You gave him money?"
    "No!" I told her. "But if he thinks that I did, why would I correct him?"
    Yes indeed - eclectic group of people living in that area!

  6. I really like your photo of the girl in the mirror.At first, I thought it was a painting.

  7. Beautiful series, I love those reflections, the windows are very good, but my favorite is the reflection of the tower in a pool of water, very good.

  8. what a fabulous tour you've taken us on! your images are beautiful - love the victory angel - such a majestic piece - but my most favorite thing i think has to be the spirit in the water looking right back at you! ;)

  9. Thanks for the tour. Neat. Really like the angel statue. And the antique shop would be a must visit if I was there. Does it have antique prices ?

    Stopping by again.

  10. what a wonderful tour around Gastown - quite amazing and I especially love that puddle shot!!

  11. Saj,
    I thought you might appreciate a city that started out around a tavern run by a raconteur of tall tales. I totally didn't see that spooky face while taking the picture. Do you think I should call GhostBusters or something, or send the image into Yahoo news? Maybe it was the spirit of Gassy Jack himself! Cheers to you, too, providing you're still of this earth after today.

  12. Margaret,
    That's very cool how you made an association between my photos and my art forms. I, too, was struck by the similarity of the linens and old buildings overlay in the window photo with my Calabria Series. Actually, a pleasant surprise when I saw it on the screen.

    I hadn't noticed the balletic aspect of the Victory statue until you pointed it out, but it is so true! Good observations, Margaret.

  13. jann,
    I never get tired of taking window reflection pix. They seem to lead into alternate universes, and I love the layering effect. I had to Photoshop a lot of modern day busy-ness from that Victory statue picture so I'm happy you find it has a Rennaissance feel to it.

  14. DCW,
    Ambivalence,yes. Very well described. Your story, in turn, reminds me of an incident when I was about 7 years old and had just discovered a beautiful, luminescent rainbow shimmering in a rain puddle. I was exclaiming over it in delight when some little know-it-all boy scornfully told me that it was nothing more than a stinky old gasoline smear. I still hear both voices in my head whenever I see an oil slick rainbow.

    I think the beauty of the statue is in the sensitive detailing and grace of its carving rather than the subject matter.

  15. Audrey,
    The Gastown junkies seem to have moved (ie. been pushed) a little further east and are not quite as prevalent, though if one wanders a little too far past the slick stores and into the rougher edges of the area, there's no guarantee on who you'll run into. Do you remember Woodwards Dept. store? It closed several years ago but has been revived as a very stylish, mixed incomes, condo building. I wouldn't feel too comfortable letting myself into it at night, though. The area on the edge of Gastown is still pretty rough, but arty types and speculators are gradually moving in.

  16. Shirl,
    I was lingering outside that store and had notice a couple of people pass before that woman and noticed in the mirror how they looked at me to see what I was up to. So when I saw her coming I timed it just right to get her perfectly framed. I'm glad you appreciate my cleverness!

  17. Leovi,
    I felt as if I'd found gold when I saw the tower reflected in the puddle! Glad you like it.

  18. Gypsywoman,
    Isn't that just eerie? Being such an historical area of Vancouver, and having undergone a major fire early in its development, that figure could well be the manifestation of a ghost. They are said to be visible in mirrors, so why not puddles?

  19. Keith,
    That store has an odd assortment of goods as well as an odd assortment of prices. I think you'd mock the "antiquenss" of the stuff but might find it amusing. The store certainly has an antique smell to it.

  20. Catherine,
    Thanks for coming along on the tour. That puddle was really the best thing I found that day...well, one of the best things...and the price was certainly right. I received a few odd looks as I knelt down to get that shot, so I'm glad it was worth it.

  21. Anonymous21 May, 2011

    Feels like the city owes you many thanks for showing such wonderful scenery.

    With the need/wish to travel much, this escape is more than appreciated. Thank you. Please have a wonderful Sunday you all.

    daily athens

  22. Anonymous22 May, 2011

    Yes, I so remember the Woodwards store, and just as I was leaving my beloved Vancouver, the developer had announcd his plan to convert the building into condos. I remember people lining up for a couple of days for the opportunity to buy. My friends father-in-law tried to secure an entire floor, but the restrictions allowed him to only purchase two units. At the time, I doubted that they would be able to return Gastown to the "hip" area that it had been in the 60's, but it sounds like maybe they are making progress.
    I really enjoy "walking" Vancouver with you. Your pictures capture the city so perfectly.

  23. Robert,
    I worked for BC Tourism in Vancouver for a year or so, so I guess Vancouver has pretty much paid me already for promoting the local attractions. Glad to have you along for the trip.

  24. Audrey,
    Gastown is still fun but pretty much a mixed bag. Extremely touristy. They're trying to push its edges but it gets seedy pretty quick. Robson Street and Yaletown are the trendier "happening" areas downtown. I remember when Robson St. was the cool destination when I was in high school and there were very few shops along it...a record store, a bead shop, and of course Murchies. I think the International News store came along later. Do you recall? And the library on the corner of Robson and Burrard was the perfect place to meet up with pals. Now Robson is awash with trendy shops and restaurants, all teeming with people. I didn't have time for a stroll along it on this visit. Opted for Gastown.

  25. Anonymous23 May, 2011

    Yes, International News did come along later. I believe it is no longer there, but I could be wrong. I thought that it closed just before I left in 2006.

    Robson St really did go through a transformation - during the glory days of "Hollywood North," all of the visiting movie stars would wander up and down Robson, eating at Joe Fortes and Cin Cin.

    Did you happen to get down to English Bay?

  26. the puddle image is gorgeous, and yes, you are right, i also felt a bit uneasy facing that cloudy ghost. but the ghost in the mirror is even more spectacular, at first i thought it was an originally framed painting :-)

  27. Audrey,
    My last move from Vancouver was in 1993 (after having returned there in 1991) so I missed the "glory" days of Hollywood North.

    Did I get to English Bay?! Just wait...\:-)

  28. Roxana,
    I waited for just the right moment to get her perfectly framed and click! I like how it seems as if she is looking out of the frame at the viewer...or looking into the mirror at herself. Neither of which is true, much like the cloud image in the puddle. Life is an illusion.

  29. yes, it is true, life is an illusion but it also matters how, in what way one expresses this truth, that is why we need artists like you!

  30. Roxana,
    Your words are a balm to my artist's soul which sometimes goes out into the world with its little dented begging bowl.