Confessions of a Ballerunner

Essays on Sports, Arts, Culture, and Life

Archive for the month “May, 2013”

Before Sunset: Reflections through the Byward Market

Last night was the second class of an SLR photography course I am taking at the School of Photographic Arts in downtown Ottawa. I’d taken and really enjoyed an introductory course there last summer, borrowing a friend’s old, but reliable, Nikon camera. This time around, however, I decided to invest in a comparatively beastly Canon EOS 60D camera, the operation of which, I am still getting familiar. It’s been like going from an old flip phone to a smartphone!

After getting completely drenched during the 7-km bike commute to class from a short but intense rainstorm, I was grateful to learn that we would be spending the majority of the evening roaming the streets of the Byward Market to shoot street scenes. The specific focus for this night’s class was to photograph buildings or their geometric features (e.g., windows, doors, etc), varying the angle of view by alternating between a long versus wide lens. We were given a generous 2 hours for this assignment, ample time for my rain-soaked clothes and hair to dry in the setting sun and warm early evening air.

Eager students, we all ventured off in separate directions, as if on a competitive scavenger hunt, searching for that perfect architectural gem among the many specimens we would collect. Fortunately for us, there is no shortage of interesting architecture, particularly of a historical nature, in the Lowertown district of the Byward Market. At the end of the first hour, I had easily amassed a respectful number of shots for the assignment and so began to turn my attention toward the more whimsical. The following is a sample of some of the self-directed shots I took after completing my ‘homework’.

The image below is a shot of the famous Notre-Dame Basilica located on Sussex Drive opposite the National Gallery of Canada taken at dusk from the corner of avenue Guigues and avenue Parent in Lowertown. I was struck by how much this church reminded me of the beautiful chapel of the ancient Pontlevoy Abbey in France’s Loire Valley, which I had the pleasure of visiting in September 2012. Surprisingly, I found myself transported back to Paris and the Loire Valley several times during this walk as I encountered urban parks, squares and the Château Laurier reminiscent of this inaugural trip to Europe. (Perhaps a sign that I must get back to sorting through my Europe trip pictures for a future posting!)

steeples at sunset

France continued as the theme of the night, as I found myself drawn to a puddle left over by that earlier rainstorm on the steps leading up to verdant Major’s Hill Park from Sussex Drive. The water showed a reflection of the Connaught Building, which resembled an Impressionist painting not unlike an inverted version of Monet’s Rouen Cathedral.

puddle painting 2

This is another shot of that same reflected image of the Connaught Building, but with pedestrians making their way down the steps toward Sussex Drive. I love this photo because it’s so whimsical and looks like the people are walking over a fresh painting. One could easily imagine them jumping through the image, like characters from Mary Poppins, to land at any one of the many French castles dotting the countryside of the bucolic Loire Valley.

puddle painting 1

This last photo is a reflection of a show-stopping blue wedding gown fit for a princess on display in the window of  the high-end wedding boutique, McCaffrey Haute Couture along Sussex Drive. (The American Embassy located on the opposite side of the street can also be seen reflected through the glass.)  I could imagine the late fashion icon, Grace Kelly, making a grand entrance to a royal ball in this lavish frock as smiling courtesans gaze admiringly upon her.

blue wedding dress

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Ottawa Race Weekend in Review: Snapshots from 2012 and 2013

This weekend, Ottawa played host to the largest road race in Canada – the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend. Although it wasn’t sunny & warm like it was for the 2012 edition, the cool temps, gusty north winds, and grey skies for this year’s races nonetheless didn’t stop some record-breaking finishing times.

Like I had done last year, and since I was still dealing with running-related injuries, I decided to practise some action-shooting with my new Canon EOS 60D SLR camera, which is a beast compared to the more vintage (but respectable) Nikon model I was using last year, and also a bit of a challenge familiarizing myself with all its advanced gadgetry! Hopefully, with time and dedicated practice, I will come to tame this beast. I took in the 10-k race on Saturday night (May 26th) and the half-marathon race on Sunday morning (May 27th). Since I’m not a morning person, I opted not to take in the marquée marathon event, since it got underway too bright and early for my liking on Sunday morning at 7:00 AM…

The picture below was taken from the Bank Street Bridge over the Colonel By Parkway. It shows the crowd of 10-k runners closing in on 7 km in the final stretch of their race. The night was sunny, warm, and spectacular for spectators and photographers. If I were running the race, I think I would’ve preferred the cooler conditions we had this weekend. It’s awful to be overheated when you’re running, so a good rule of thumb is to always dress a bit on the cooler side, knowing you’ll warm up as you get going.

2012 10-k race along Colonel By at Bank Street Bridge

2012 10-k race along Colonel By Parkway from Bank Street Bridge

This shot was taken of  some 2012 half-marathon runners progressing past the 4 km mark along the Queen Elizabeth Parkway just before the canal empties into Dow’s Lake. I had found a prime piece of real estate on the grassy median. Prior to descending to this spot, I had been perched atop Bronson Bridge and had a fascinating chat with a fellow SPAO student experimenting with long-exposure photography using a homemade pinhole camera. I never did get to find out how his photograph turned out…

2012 half-marathon race on Queen Elizabeth Parkway at Bronson Bridge

2012 half-marathon race along QE Parkway near Bronson Bridge

This final shot from the 2012 Race Weekend was taken from Bank Street Bridge overlooking the Queen Elizabeth Parkway just over 3 km into the race. You can see the stream of 10-k runners peeking through the trees with the old (now demolished) Frank Clair Stadium in Lansdowne Park in the background. In the foreground, a couple in a canoe alternate between paddling the Rideau Canal and cheering the runners on.

2012 10k race on Queen Elizabeth parkway at Bank Street Bridge pre-Lansdowne demolition

2012 10-k race along QE Parkway at Bank Street Bridge pre-Stadium demolition

A bit of a blurry shot of these super-fast elite women runners (=the leader pack) past 3 km into the 2013 10-k race before they disappeared under the Bank Street Bridge along the Queen Elizabeth Parkway.

2013 10k elite women on QE parkway at Bank Street Bridge

2013 10-k elite women on QE Parkway from Bank Street Bridge

The even faster elite men approaching the 7 km homestretch mark of their 2013 10-k race along the Colonel By Parkway from the Bank Street Bridge.

2013 10k elite men on CBy parkway at Bank Street Bridge

2013 10-k elite men on CBy Parkway from Bank Street Bridge

The leader of the pack after 4 km of the 2013 half-marathon as seen from Bronson Bridge. He clearly owned the road at this point, as the next competitors were several seconds behind him. I actually thought he would overtake the guy on the pacer bicycle, who looked more like a recreational cyclist than serious athlete. This guy, a local Ottawa runner, held the lead and went on to handily win the half-marathon race.

2013 half-marathon elite men leader after 4k on QE Parkway at Bronson Bridge

2013 half-marathon elite men leader after 4 km on QE Parkway from Bronson Bridge

This threesome of cyclists, who I think were probably volunteers with Race Weekend, were particularly spirited with their loud cheers and even louder cowbell. There were plenty of high fives and lots of smiles from those 2013 10-k runners who decided to glance their way or reach out for a high-five. As a spectator, it was quite a festive and fun atmosphere being alongside this group, who were stationed along the Colonel By Parkway just before the ramp to head up to Bank Street (south).

Cowbell-clanging cyclist-cheerers lifting the spirits of weary 10k runners along CBy at Bank Street Bridge

Cowbell-clanging cyclist-cheerers lifting the spirits of weary 10-k runners along CBy Parkway just before Bank Street Bridge

Tinkering with my shutter speed as another group of 2013 10-k runners speeds past me along the Colonel By Parkway just prior to the Bank Street Bridge.

2013 10k runners speeding toward Bank Street Bridge along CBy

2013 10-k runners speeding toward Bank Street Bridge along CBy

A dad encouraged his kids (who were all likely there to cheer on their running wife/mom) to step out and extend a high-five to the 2013 10-k runners making their way into the homestretch along the Colonel By Parkway toward the Bank Street Bridge. The cheering kids were clearly delighted with how many runners obliged them, often flashing them a wide smile. In the background, you can see the steady stream of 10-k runners progressing through the first 3 km of their race on the opposite side of the Rideau Canal on the Queen Elizabeth Parkway. You can also see the huge cranes punching the skyline that have become a permanent fixture in Lansdowne Park as redevelopment is now well underway.

Cheering kids delight in giving 2013 10k racers a much needed high-five along CBy at Bank Street Bridge

Cheering kids delight in giving 2013 10-k racers a much needed high-five along CBy Parkway near Bank Street Bridge

The throng of 2013 half-marathon runners progressing through 4 km of their race along the Queen Elizabeth Parkway as seen from the grassy median before Bronson Bridge. Note the pacer bunny in red in the middle, whose job it is to keep her racers on pace for meeting the group’s finishing time goal; these pacer bunnies are definitely the unsung altruists in the race, putting the glory of others ahead of their own. Having said that, it was interesting to hear how the elite pacer (sans bunny ears) from Kenya initially charged with keeping the elite marathon men’s leader pack (two men for most of the race) on track for challenging a course record decided to throw down against his lone runner protégé from Ethiopia for the gold medal through the final 10-k or so of the race. The Ethiopian runner, however, ultimately eked out the win but with the narrowest of victory margins (i.e., less than seven tenths of a second).

Pace bunnies play an essential role helping 2013 half-marathoners meet their race goals

Pace bunnies play an essential role helping 2013 half-marathoners meet their race goals. (Shot from the grassy median along the QE Parkway just before Bronson Bridge)

This woman cheering on the 2013 10-k runners along Colonel By at the Bank Street (south) ramp was so enthusiastic I thought she had to have been a varsity cheerleader with that energy. Not only did she wave a homemade poster à la American Idol or The Voice with a message she said was designed for no one in particular (‘You are Super-Fantastic!’), but she was also unwavering in her cheering words of encouragement for all the runners who raced past her.

Cheering fan holding poster proclaiming to all 2013 10k runners  'You are super-fantastic!'

‘Cheerleader’ fan holding poster proclaiming to all 2013 10-k runners ‘You are super-fantastic!’

A mass of 2013 half-marathon runners with varying gaits and cadences along the Queen Elizabeth Parkway just before Bronson Bridge. It reminded me of a conversation I had recently with my hard-core, younger running cousins, who are varsity runners in their track & field and cross-country teams at university. They noted that most people do not run as efficiently as they could, in large part because of the tendency to heel-strike instead of striking with the (more aerodynamic) ball of one’s foot. They believe that the less efficient heel strike is as prevalent as it is among recreational runners because of the design of running shoes today, which they say, favors this type of strike. They also spoke of how amusing it was to see how extensively some runners pack their fuel belts with hydration solutions and gels for such relatively short-distance runs; they personally do not don this nearly standard piece of recreational running apparatus. (Since I personally use a fuel belt to run – not to hydrate, however, but to house my i-pod and keys – I must admit to having felt slightly sheepish and a bit uncool owning up to my own habit of regularly cinching up with a fuel belt, despite my non-traditional purpose.)

2013 half-marathoners passing the 4k mark along QE parkway at Bronson Bridge

2013 half-marathoners passing the 4-km mark along the QE Parkway just before Bronson Bridge

The enthusiastic cheering section along Colonel By for the 2013 10-k race. It was such a chilly evening (owing to those strong north winds) standing out there. I actually wore gloves and dressed in layers, but still left prematurely owing to getting chilled! By comparison, this time last year, people would’ve been in tank tops and shorts, and enjoying weekends at the beach or outdoor community pool. I’m not complaining since I don’t love those protracted heat & humidity waves that invariably settle in the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto corridor over the summer months, but it seriously felt like a mid to late autumn evening. Nearly ideal for running, though, were it not for those strong headwinds on the final half of the 10-k.

Crowds lined CBy at Bank Street Bridge as the 2013 10k racers closed in on their final 3k

Crowds lined the CBy Parkway near Bank Street Bridge as the 2013 10k racers closed in on their final 3 km.

This is a shot of a particularly determined group of predominantly male 2013 half-marathon runners along the Queen Elizabeth Parkway just before Bronson Bridge. This was a great vantage point for taking some close-up shots of the runners, but I had to be vigilant of where I was in relation to the runners as some who were doubtlessly chasing PBs were so (understandably) intent on breaking free from the pack, that they would off-road it temporarily onto the grassy median where I stood before inserting themselves back onto the road. Fortunately for me and the other spectators, race volunteers were out in force to limit this leap-frogging, likely to minimize the risk of a Betty White-like Snickers ad tackle on an unsuspecting spectator.

2013 half-marathoners pushing toward Bronson Bridge and Dow's Lake after completing 4k

2013 half-marathoners pushing toward Bronson Bridge and Dow’s Lake after completing 4 km

Vancouver: Is there a more beautiful Canadian city – despite all the rain?

I’m an East Coaster born and bred, and so I already come from God’s country – The Maritimes. Having said that, I’ve also lived for nearly a decade in Montreal, a city very near and dear to my heart. Known for its vibrant arts & culture scene, politics (provincially), gastronomy, and of course, the Habs. Montreal was also where I found my voice both personally and professionally.

It has been said that those who grew up by the sea will always feel the lure of the ocean even if they end up moving away. In other words, you can take the Maritimer away from the ocean, but you can’t take the ocean away from the Maritimer. And so, whenever I have the opportunity to spend some time by the sea – east coast or west coast – I take it! 🙂

Last week, I had to be out west for business, so I decided that once the work was completed, I would tack on a few extra days and fly over to Vancouver to hang out with my relatives and recharge with a little R&R and a lot of great outdoor recreation.

If you’ve never been to Vancouver, I highly recommend a visit. I’ve been there three times in all: once in 2002 (fall), 2012 (fall), and just last week (spring! :-)) with this latest trip. Don’t let Vancouver’s ‘wet blanket’ reputation dissuade you from exploring it. Despite the clouds, fog, and rain of last fall, there was still no shortage of natural beauty and activities to enjoy in the city, including shopping and great dining. As you’ll see from the photo spread below, the weather gods totally spoiled me during this latest trip. How many cities can deliver warm sunshine, fresh salt air from the ocean, snow-capped mountains, dense forests, lush vegetation (in the form of flowers, blossoms, and a thick urban tree canopy), a magnificent, oceanside city park, cool breezes at night, all manner of outdoor recreation (believe it or not, there is still some downhill skiing to be had at this time of year), shopping, and world-class dining all on the same trip?.. I thought not. Too bad it’s so expensive to live there!?.. 😦

So, this is a sunset view from the waterfront of Granville Island looking out toward downtown Vancouver. We hunted all over the place to find a gelato vendor that was open on a Monday night. Finally, we discovered the little Asian lady’s shop tucked unobtrusively between several other small tourist shops along the wharf.

View of harbour from Granville Island

Enjoying a gelato and the view of the harbour at dusk from Granville Island

This is a shot of the harbour fronting downtown Vancouver that I took while cycling through Stanley Park last fall. It was a damp, cool, cloudy, foggy day, but I thought the grey and blue tones produced a beautiful, moody landscape.

View of Vancouver waterfront from Stanley Park, fall 2012

View of Vancouver waterfront from Stanley Park, fall 2012

A popular tourist activity in downtown Vancouver is to take a flight on a float plane over to Vancouver Island. It’s tempting and the views are probably quite spectacular, but I think I will personally stick to the ferry service!

Float planes on Vancouver waterfront

Float planes on Vancouver waterfront, fall 2012

These intrepid kayaking guys – at least one of them – were not shy about being photographed for posterity as they plied the sometimes choppy waters of the harbour from False Creek across the narrows dividing Granville Island from the downtown.

Kayakers in harbour near False Creek

Kayakers enjoying early evening paddle in False Creek harbour

This photo was snapped on my first afternoon roaming Granville Island on foot (I hung out a lot there!) using my Blackberry’s camera. It wasn’t a very high res pic, so I decided to sepia-fy it (à la MacAskill) in Photoshop to give it that old school feel.

Yacht club along Granville Island

Boats moored along Granville Island

View of harbour at dusk from Granville Island

View of harbour at dusk from Granville Island

These guys and their vintage car were such a throwback to James Dean cool. So wished I’d brought my hard-core SLR camera to take their pic instead of my BB camera. At least, the BB was much more covert than a bulky SLR with a big, protruding lens.

Boys & their car

Boys & their cool retro car on Granville Island

Ahhh, the Public Market on Granville Island… Such a great vibe, despite it being high-tourist season now. Super place for people-watching and doing some photography. When I first visited it last fall (see pics below), it was not so bustling as it was last week, but weekends can still be teeming with people. The food – especially produce – looked amazing. I was so tempted to just buy my groceries there even though that would’ve been completely impractical stuffing perishables into a suitcase for a flight home. Except for the ocean outside, the Granville Island Public Market reminded me a bit of the Jean Talon Market in Montreal, where I previously made many fond gastronomical shopping memories.

Public Market on Granville Island

Public Market on Granville Island, fall 2012

Fresh produce aplenty at Granville Island Public Market

Fresh produce aplenty at Granville Island Public Market, fall 2012

Good enough to eat!

A feast for the senses, fall 2012

Public Market on Granville Island

Public Market on Granville Island, fall 2012

A must-do activity – regardless the weather – while in Vancouver is to go for a bike ride around the seawall of Stanley Park. I read recently that the Dutch believe there is no such thing as bad cycling weather, only bad clothing choices. I would mostly concur with that assertion. It’s hard to imagine not enjoying the splendor of the Park – even if you happen to get caught in some rain. Could be quite Zen or even romantic!

Stanley Park Boathouse in the fall

View from Stanley Park Boathouse, fall 2012

Cycling on the east side of Stanley Park, fall 2012

Cycling on the east side of Stanley Park, fall 2012

Riding on the west side of Stanley Park with North Van in background

Riding on the west side of Stanley Park with North Vancouver in the background

Did I mention all the city beaches in Vancouver??? It seemed everywhere we ran or cycled, we came upon a beach. This one (below) was located on the west side of the Park facing English Bay. Clearly, school was out, as this beach was packed with sun-seeking students. I was amazed by the number of bikes. Vancouverites really embrace two-wheeled transport; at times, I felt like I was in a Little Amsterdam or Denmark.

Second Beach, Stanley Park

Second Beach, Stanley Park

Yet another beach – Kitsilano. What was so interesting about this particular pic (below) was the Coney Island-like Kitsilano Showboat stage, whose history dates back to 1935. I discovered this little nostalgic gem while I was biking back from a trip out to UBC. The huge swimming pool located behind it was also a curious juxtaposition against the Kitsilano Beach waters of English Bay. You can see the small outdoor amphitheatre of seats in the foreground, where I spotted several runners racing up and down the steps for their morning work-out.

Kitsilano Showboat - a totally retro stage with pool and English Bay in background

Kitsilano Showboat – a totally retro stage with pool and English Bay in background

Pedaling a bit further, you bike through a sandy bit of trail that cuts across the main section of Kitsilano Beach before entering a more treed section of bike trail, where if you’re lucky, you will gaze upon a number of lovely sailboats dotting English Bay through the trees. The morning before these shots were taken, I was running through this area – sans camera, unfortunately – and saw the most perfect scene of tranquility in the greyness of the sky and the colorful sailboats bobbing peacefully on the glassy water. It was a breathtakingly beautiful scene that would’ve inspired a classic Kiff Holland nautical-themed watercolor.

Bike path along Kitsilano Beach

Bike path near Kitsilano Beach

View of English Bay

View of English Bay

This was a cute, spontaneous moment. Two kids on bikes and their mom were stopped along the trail staring intently up into a tree. The little girl announced with the earnestness of a budding biologist that they were observing a woodpecker carving the entryway to his waterfront tree house. I spotted him alright, but he certainly blended in well with the bark so that I really needed a zoom lens to capture his image clearly.

Kids fascinated by woodpecker in trees by English Bay

Kids fascinated by woodpecker in trees by English Bay

When I visited Vancouver for the first time back in 2002, I did a day trip by ferry out to Vancouver Island to explore Victoria and its famous Butchart Gardens (as well as the Rogers Chocolates flagship store and the Empress Hotel). I did not even know of the existence of the beautiful Van Dusen Botanical Garden located right in Vancouver! I learned of it this trip, however, because my cousin was helping host an evening fundraising event at the Gardens, so I was invited to tag along. Since I am not exactly a glad-handing, work-the-room extrovert, (au contraire!) I decided to explore the grounds and go on a bit of a photo shoot.

Van Dusen Botanical Garden

Van Dusen Botanical Garden

Van Dusan Botanical Garden

Van Dusan Botanical Garden

Van Dusen Botanical Garden

Van Dusen Botanical Garden

This was the main building where the fundraising event was held. It was the perfect, sunny, warm evening for it. The setting was absolutely magical. Too bad I didn’t have a date! 😦

Van Dusen Botanical Garden

Van Dusen Botanical Garden

Van Dusen Botanical Garden

Van Dusen Botanical Garden

Van Dusen Botanical Garden

Van Dusen Botanical Garden

Van Dusen Botanical Garden

Van Dusen Botanical Garden

I loved wandering through the canopy of flower bushes and tree blossoms, but I also loved some of the interesting trees in the Asian garden section.  I think for my next trip to Vancouver, I will have to explore a lush, mature forest like that of Lighthouse Park recommended by my cousin.

Van Dusen Botanical Garden

Van Dusen Botanical Garden

This was a particularly stunning section of the Garden. I love roses and the landscaping reminded me of when I was in France and visited Monet‘s Garden at Giverny. This rose garden definitely would’ve inspired an Impressionist canvas!

Van Dusen Botanical Garden

Van Dusen Botanical Garden

Van Dusen Botanical Garden

Van Dusen Botanical Garden

The hustle and bustle of Granville Street… Now this was a part of the city (lower Shaughnessy) that I spent a lot of time walking through. The retro Stanley Theatre (below) reminded me of something I would see in a Fred Herzog exhibition.

Stanley Theatre, Granville Street, fall 2012

Stanley Theatre, Granville Street, fall 2012

There is a great Chapters store on Broadway and Granville where I could (and almost did) spend hours whiling away the time browsing through the latest books.

Broadway Avenue at Granville Street

W Broadway Avenue at Granville Street

Shop window along Granville Street, fall 2012

Hallowe’en display in Pottery Barn shop window along Granville Street, fall 2012

bike

One word: Meinhardt. This was my adopted food haunt in Vancouver. And yes, it’s a grocery store, but it’s a really cool, European-like fine food emporium with sidewalk terrasse and colorful flowers on display that really knows fresh food and merchandising. I discovered this shop last fall and would go there every day to pick up a delicious homemade sandwich or salad, perhaps some yogurt and fruit, maybe a slice of banana bread or homemade granola bar, but always the requisite chocolate chip cookies +/- dark chocolate bar. This time around, I picked up a 6-inch decadent carrot cake for a birthday party and it was awesome – though I still am left wondering how off-the-chain delicious that decadent dark chocolate layer cake would’ve been – my cousin is not a chocoholic like I am, so carrot cake it was!.. Next time…

Meinhardt grocery store, fall 2012

Meinhardt grocery store on Granville Street, fall 2012

This poor Lab puppy looked so forlorn waiting outside in the rain last fall as his owner no doubt was inside enjoying a delicious, fresh, gooey cinnamon roll – probably straight out of the oven…

Puppy waiting for owner outside Granville Street shop, fall 2012

Puppy waiting for owner outside Granville Street shop, fall 2012

Mmmm Purdy's along Granville Street, fall 2012

Mmmm… Purdy’s along Granville Street, fall 2012

If you are as addicted to Indian cuisine as I am, then no visit to Vancouver would be complete without a stop at one of Vikram Vij’s award-winning restaurants. Last fall, I was fortunate to be in town on business with a colleague who was acquainted with Vikram Vij, himself, so we decided to go to Vij’s one night for supper. We were greeted personally by Chef Vij and I was totally starstruck! It was a Friday night, so his restaurant was packed. They don’t take reservations, so we had to bide our time patiently at the back of the restaurant with all the other foodies, feasting on complementary wine and hors d’oeuvres. It was like a party atmosphere not unlike an after-work cocktail hour. Since my friend is Indian, I deferred to him for recommendations on what to order, but we shared our plates. He, having the famous lamb, of course. I settled for something vegetarian with (lots of) curry. We were stuffed, but it was worth it!.. Last week, my Vancouverite cousins and I went there on a Monday night and got a table right away. I think I was the only one who had eaten there before, ironically. We ordered four different dishes for sharing and it is safe to say, there was not a speck of food left on the plate when we finished. The pork tenderloin in curry sauce was particularly outstanding. I had to laugh at my super-slim cousins, who are accomplished varsity runners: they easily devoured their meal along with several rounds of naan bread. Afterward, I treated everyone to gelato on Granville Island, which required us to walk down hilly Granville Street (and then back up!) to get there. Good way to work off all that food!..

Highly recommended: Vikram Vij's two restos: Vij's and Rangoli

Highly recommended: Vikram Vij’s two restos: Vij’s and Rangoli at W 11th and Granville

A walk through the quiet, tony, tree enshrouded neighborhood of Shaughnessy, where a good proportion of Vancouver’s elite reside, is a relaxing diversion. The houses are imposing but tasteful, and the properties impeccably managed. These are the kind of homes one would expect to see featured in Canadian House & Home. An elegant black limousine stopped to allow me to cross the street during my walk, doubtlessly carrying some famous Vancouver luminary inside.

The tony neighborhood of Shaughnessy

The tony neighborhood of Shaughnessy

The tony neighborhood of Shaughnessy

The tony neighborhood of Shaughnessy

One of my last excursions was a bike ride out to the University of British Columbia from the downtown. My cousin works at the UBC hospital, so lucky for me, she said she’d bike with me to UBC. So, we set out in rush hour traffic that crisp, sunny morning, joining the throngs of other cyclists making their way to work or school. It was a great 35-40 minute ride, but wow, there was quite a section of hills to climb toward the end. Glad I dressed light and in synthetic fibers or I would’ve needed a shower! The campus was modern and minimalist with an eye to sustainability. Trees could be spotted everywhere and I was quite impressed by the flowers and shrubbery by the hospital’s urgent care entrance.

UBC campus

UBC campus

UBC Hospital

UBC Hospital

The ride back to the downtown was absolutely thrilling! I was on my own, so had to navigate my way through campus and down the hill through a couple of posh neighborhoods to pick up Marine Drive.  I was a little leery about riding in traffic without a helmet (my cousins did not have an extra helmet to loan me) on a road bike, but Marine Drive was a mostly flat, smooth, relatively quiet ride on a country-like road that ran parallel to the ocean. With trees on either side and snow-capped mountains visible across English Bay, I was practically euphoric in the experience! It got a little trickier, however, around Jericho Beach with the traffic picking up, so I moved over to the relative safety of the shoreline’s bike trails and continued weaving my way along the coastal path until Granville Island. Knowing time was short for catching my flight back home, I quickly dropped into Meinhardt one last time for a great take-away lunch before grabbing my suitcase, and hustling out to catch the city bus and then Sky Train to the airport. Until next time, Vancouver!..

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