BEAUTY IN YOUR BACKYARD

IMG_0332Nanaimo is a small city of 80,000 on the east side of Vancouver Island – twenty miles across the Pacific Ocean from Vancouver, British Columbia, in Canada. Nanaimo is also called The Harbour City. It’s one of the most beautiful settings in the world and it’s my backyard.

IMG_0339From my sunroom windows, where I love to write, I look over Nob Hill Park and Nanaimo’s inner harbour. In the distance are snow-capped coastal mountains, the Gulf Islands, and the happening city of Vancouver in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland.

This morning I took a walk around my neighbourhood. It’s in Nanaimo’s old city section and the downtown waterfront. I do this every day that I can, but today was such a gorgeous explosion of spring that I took out my iPhone and began snapping shots. The idea popped-in that I’d share this with you.

IMG_0576Across the street from my front door I cut through Nob Hill Park. It was developed in the 1800’s when Nanaimo was a booming coal and lumber town. Thankfully, they preserved this little gem which is the rocky, high-point of downtown. It’s dotted in huge Douglas Firs, Garry Oaks, Big-leaf Maples, and Flowering Dogwoods. Twenty years ago this was a dangerous place where hookers turned tricks, junkies shot-up, and one vicious murder that I remember. Today there’s moms pushing toddlers on swings, dogs running free, and teenagers smoking pot in fresh ocean air.

Heading down Old Victoria Road, I passed the old firehall. It’s now a trendy grille that serves the best sushi ever. Outside, on the boulevard, a stop-in-your-tracks trio of Dogwoods blooms full. They’re British Columbia’s official tree and you can see why.

IMG_0445Rounding Victoria Crescent, I passed daffodils, tulips, rhododendrons, and flowering cherries. The old Cambie hotel on the left was open early and slinging beer, but the Queens on the right waited a crowd come the night.

The usual street suspects appeared.

I see them every day and nick-named some. Mister Mann is out for a stroll. Lifer was talking to Osama Bin Ladin. As a cop who put him away, I supported Lifer’s early release – he’s on life parole for 2nd degree murder. I don’t know Osama’s story, but he looks for all the world like the guy who the Seals smoked in Abbottabad. Gary strummed his guitar and talked to himself and some new kid squatted with cap out for money. None of them bothered anybody.

IMG_0519I started the China Steps, passing The Thirsty Camel which has a Middle-Eastern bench outside made of dried straw and horseshit. Serious. There was a face I hadn’t seen in a while, so I stopped and asked her what’s up.  Vivian had all her worldly possessions in a folded cart; two leashed cats attached. She called herself an educated poor person with a Bachelor of Science but suffered depression. I gave her 10 bucks for breakfast.

Commercial Street made me smile. On the west are buildings from the turn of last century, perfectly preserved. On the east – the new Conference Center where they did an architectural masterpiece blending new with old. The street was bustling with people. Sidewalk café’s served eggs bennies with hash-browns and Serious Coffee at the museum had long lineups.

rsz_img_0457Diana Krall Plaza is tributed to… Diana Krall, the world famous jazz musician who still calls Nanaimo home. Intriguing wood and metal sculptures resembling piano key strikers mixed into planters with flowers and palm trees. Tourists and locals sat drinking coffee, reading books, and scanning newspapers.

 

IMG_0488A roar of a Harley with strait-pipes turned my head. I followed him up to The Palace Hotel, wondering if he had Hell’s Angels colours. We’ve got a chapter in Nanaimo, but most of the bikers are old and decrepit like The Palace itself. He parked his bike and got off. Nope, no death-head backpatch, but he swore in disgust, then picked garbage from the sidewalk and stuffed it in a black, metal trash can.

I passed the Flying Fish, where you can spend half your day and half your fortune, the Modern Café which reflects the 50’s, the Elephant Room, and at the end of the street, Nanaimo’s showpiece – the Great National Land Building – constructed of local sandstone and brick.

IMG_0541Ahead was St. Pauls Anglican church and the cenotaph which honors the dead from two world wars, Korea, and thankfully no one from Afghanistan. A block up – the old courthouse where the police and sheriffs hosted an open house. I looked at the second floor and thought back to testifying in that majestic, old room with maple panelling, stained glass, and royal-red carpets. A hundred years ago prisoners were sentenced to death in that court. I looked east and saw Gallows Point on Protection Island. No need to wonder the name.

IMG_0549I scooted down concrete stairs and onto the seawall. Float planes noisily came and went. Ferries busted wakes in glass-calm water with trips to nearby islands and Vancouver. Boats of all sizes and prices were there. Tugboats and seineboats. Sailboats and rowboats. Gillnetters, crab fishers, prawners, and trollers. Dragonboats practised races. Pleasure boats headed out. A research vessel and a multi-million dollar executive yacht tied themselves a float.

rsz1_img_0470The seawall gathers people. Coffeshops, nicknacks, clothing stores, and restaurants. Old couples walked hand-in-hand, dad’s pushed strollers, and dogs walked bent on a purpose. Troller’s fish & chips, a floating eatery, shouted the smell of deep-fried halibut, cod, and fresh salmon.

Nanaimo’s waterfront experience is far more than material. It’s the sights and sounds of the wildlife.

IMG_0397In Maffeo-Sutton Park a family of river otters gorged on Dungenous crab, looked-on by harbour seals and a big ol’ Stellar sea lion who was pissed-off about something. Squawks of freeloading gulls were backed by conspiring calls of common crows. Canada geese honked from a low-tide beach, cautiously watched by a Great Blue Heron. Topping off was twitters of hundreds of songbirds and a fluttering fly-by of a Belted Kingfisher.

IMG_0605I circled Cameron Island, the signature waterfront residential development where condos range from 300 to a million. Across Front Street was Port Place, the new shopping plaza with all you can need. Following the sidewalk at McGregor park, I saw new sculptures near the town clock – stained glass and stainless steel in the shape of some waves. Fitting.

IMG_0479The Bastion was ahead. It’s Nanaimo’s historical prize, even ahead of Nanaimo Bars and the annual bathtub race. Built in 1853 as a Hudson’s Bay Trading Company post it was recently disassembled, refitted, and now better than new. Some jackass wrote into the local paper fearful they’d never be able to get it back together. Maybe he should’ve checked that they’d numbered the pieces.

IMG_0591Coal is what started Nanaimo.

You’d never know it from up here, but there’s a labyrinth of tunnels and shafts down below, hacked by pick and shovel in 100 years of mining the fossil fuel of the day. So much of Nanaimo’s history started with coal and it’s still with us today – Chinatown, collieries, coffins, and certified trade unions.

I crossed the Bastion bridge over Terminal Avenue and hiked up Fitzwilliam Street to the Heritage Mews in the Old City Quarter. More coffee shops, dress stores, shoes, lingerie, and a  clairvoyant named Yvonne giving readings.

IMG_0578Across the street was the Oxidental Hotel, a beer swilling joint with an excellent selection of wine for such a small store. I headed east, down the weeded tracks of the derelict Esquimalt and Nanaimo railroad, and up to J.H. Malpass’s corner store that displays produce on sidewalk stands just like back when it was built.

Now a minute from home, I reached the crest of Prideaux Street and looked past the magnificent mansion that one of the early mine managers built and overtop of downtown – across the blue sea with freighters, ferries, and cruise ships – taking in 12,000 foot peaks of the Coastal Mountain Range.

NanaimoKey in hand, and a half hour later, I unlocked my front door. I looked at Nob Hill. Kids swung on swings, dogs sniffed at stuff, and I went in with a cup of coffee from the Mews to write this in my sunroom. Here’s more photos of my beautiful backyard in Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada.

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Note:  iPhone images may appear sideways on mobile and tablet applications

Great National Land Building

Great National Land Building

Commercial Street

Commercial Street

Flowering Dogwoods

Flowering Dogwoods

Old Firehouse - Best Sushi Ever

Old Firehouse – Best Sushi Ever

Harbour Seal

Harbour Seal

Heritage Mews

Heritage Mews

Maffeo-Sutton Park with SwyLana Lagoon

Maffeo-Sutton Park with SwyLana Lagoon

Harbour Tugs

Harbour Tugs

Thirsty Camels Straw  Horseshit Bench

Thirsty Camels Straw Horseshit Bench

Old City Quarter and The Heritage Mews

Old City Quarter and The Heritage Mews

Palm Trees In Diana Krall Plaza

Palm Trees In Diana Krall Plaza

The Polar Bear Winters In Nanaimo

The Polar Bear Winters In Nanaimo

Historic Commercial Street

Historic Commercial Street

Dave, My Barber, Knows Everything Going On Downtown

Dave, My Barber, Knows Everything Going On Downtown

St. Pauls Anglican Church

St. Pauls Anglican Church

The Cenotaph - Monument to Nanaimos War Dead

The Cenotaph – Monument to Nanaimos War Dead

The Gusola Block - Nanaimos Flatiron Building

The Gusola Block – Nanaimos Flatiron Building

Trollers Fish n Chips

Trollers Fish n Chips

Cameron Island Luxury Condos

Cameron Island Luxury Condos

Commercial Street

Commercial Street

Huge Douglas Firs In Nob Hill Park

Huge Douglas Firs In Nob Hill Park

Port Place Shopping Center

Port Place Shopping Center

The Oxy

The Oxy

Downtown Old Beside New

Downtown Old Beside New

Garry Oaks - Only Place In The World They Grow

Garry Oaks – Only Place In The World They Grow

Home At Nob Hill Park

Home At Nob Hill Park

8 thoughts on “BEAUTY IN YOUR BACKYARD

  1. davy jones

    did you get paid by the city of nanaimo to write such propaganda, downtown nanaimop is much worse now that it was 20 years ago and the diana krall plaza is the reason why

    what exactly has gone right in downtown nanaimo since they voted to rename the harbpurfront plaza the diana krall plaza in a secret in camera meeting an dnot explain why

    that sculpting of the tuning fork with the piano keys, that has zero, nothing to do with diana krall, it was winner of contest for improvement to harbourfront plaza

    and these yahoos wont be satisfied till they have destroyed maffeo sutton park to
    why did they rip down the civic arena again
    and now they have taken the massive TV ou of the diana krall plaza
    the place is failure country

    Reply
    1. Garry Rodgers Post author

      Thanks for commenting, Davy. You reflect a very small, negative minority that still exists in downtown Nanaimo and the unfortunate lack of literacy, composition, and keyboarding abilities some people in the “Old City” have. The public library in Diana Krall square has free educational services. I suggest spending time in the library improving your skills rather than criticizing what’s going on outside.

      Reply
  2. Gippy

    Surrounded by beauty is the only way to create. Thank you for sharing your inspiration with us. My backyard is average in comparison, but when I look out on the various birds, hear them singing, and squirrels chasing one another, a beautiful owl spread her wings and soar across the yard, and the lovely gardens, I’m inspired as well. Although, someday, I’d like to view your backyard beauty and visit all the areas you’ve been kind enough to share.
    Best, Gippy

    Reply
    1. Garry Rodgers Post author

      Thanks, Gippy. I truly believe that beauty is where you find it – it’s in every backyard. I find the deserts of the US southwest incredibly beautiful and they’re such the opposite of the coastal rainforest which is my home.

      Reply
  3. Cyd Madsen

    What a treat to wake up to on a Sunday morning. When my husband and I hit 50, we took off five years to travel and enjoy a mid-working life retirement. Of all the places we visited, Vancouver was our favorite. These photos brought back some of my best memories. You really do live in the best place in the world, and it’s high on our list of places to settle when my husband retires next year for good. The landscape was gorgeous, as you’ve shown here, downtown at night was a peaceful joy with all the restaurants packed, the atmosphere surprisingly cosmopolitan (we met a jeweler from Denmark with my husband’s exact name), but most of all, it was the people. You continually prove that it’s the people that make this such a wonderful environment. Thanks for the tour.

    Reply
    1. Garry Rodgers Post author

      Good morning, Cyd. You’re right – It’s the people that make the place. Canadians are not just stereotype polite, it’s actually the culture and the smaller town you go to in Canada, the friendlier it gets. I actually live on Vancouver Island, right across from the main city of Vancouver – sort of like Staten Island to Manhattan. The pace is much, much slower here and the cost is far, far less 🙂

      Reply
  4. Sue Coletta

    I loved taking this walk with you, Garry! What a beautiful place. Around here, all my pictures would be of trees, mountains, and lakes, nothing else… literally. Though we like it rural. This was a great idea for a post!

    Reply
    1. Garry Rodgers Post author

      Every backyard has beauty. It’s where your happy place finds it. The woods of New Hampshire are every bit gorgeous as the coast of BC. You’ve got an emerald in your backyard, Sue 🙂

      Reply

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