R.I.P. Alice Munro (1931 – 2024)

“Compared to Anton Chekhov for her peerless short stories for which she won a Nobel Prize for Literature in 2013, Alice Munro (left) has died.FULL STORY

 

Walks through Vancouver

Vancouver is known for its beaches, forests and mountains. But what does the city have to offer to the casual urban stroller?

April 19th, 2024

Author of the award-winning travelogue Gone Viking: A Travel Saga, Bill Arnott lives near the sea on Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh land.

In his new book, Bill Arnott ambles through the neighbourhoods of Kitsilano, Granville Island, False Creek, Chinatown, and beyond. In this excerpt, he explains his approach to these explorations.


EXCERPT: A Perfect Day for a Walk (Arsenal Pulp Press $24.95)

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There’s a quote that I like, from William Fiennes, in his book The Snow Geese. A travel memoir inspired by the lovely and tragic old novel, The Snow Goose. In his book, Fiennes ventures from England across the Atlantic, then from the U.S. through Canada, all the while tracking the migration of snow geese, following the birds as they make their way north. En route, the excursion becomes introspective, the author’s very own migration, as well as a homecoming.

The quote captures the gist of his expedition, discovered as geography unfolds. “We tend towards home.” An idea that could well apply to any and every journey. Perhaps starting with Homer’s The Odyssey, what may be the first travelogue, albeit fiction and shared as a poem.

I find that circularity of excursions, and exploration, appealing. Steering us back to where we began, ideally with fresh insight and knowledge. At least that’s the idea, most often. Not including getaways designed to just get away. Having fun, and not reading Homer.

A crow takes flight at Kitsilano beach. Photo by Bill Arnott.

My own little odyssey, walking throughout Vancouver, also tends toward home. Ranging from a few city blocks to a couple of half-marathon, twenty kilometre days. These strolls have taken place over a span of six months. October to March. Setting aside solstices, it’s been autumn and winter, with a taste of spring. References to weather, streetscapes and clothing reflect this finite city window. Summers here are lovely as well, with plenty of sun and warm weather. But for this book, I’ve shared a select calendar swath that I feel works well on several levels.

The Gastown Steam Clock. Photo by Bill Arnott.

Geography too, where I walk, has been arbitrary. Radiating out, more or less, from my home, with dotted-line boundaries I’ve created for my view of Vancouver. In part because it’s convenient, and for me, walkable. Also because I find the array of artwork and artifacts, history and stories, particularly rich where I live, here on Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh land. But to give it parameters, I’ve focussed my walks south of Burrard Inlet, west of Main Street, and for the most part, north of West Sixteenth Avenue. To the west, beaches blend with UBC and the sea, a scenic ellipsis in blue. I feel West Sixteenth is a tidy yet flexible southern border as it once served to delineate railway and city township lands. A muddy, forested ditch which became a tree-lined street where my Nana and Gramps made their home. So a personal tie-in as well. In its way, a stamp, an imaginary flag planted in dirt.

Not unlike a map of the city I passed along Granville. The layout a bit vague, only useful if the viewer already knows the lay of the land. On the map there’s no dot and no X, simply words. You Are Here. Which I like. And think to myself, Of course I am. Where else could I possibly be? Applicable to anyone, anywhere, anytime, a reassuring statement of the obvious.

Another reason I chose the roughly drawn boundaries that I did is because the area encapsulates a good cross-section of Vancouver neighbourhoods, museums, galleries, beaches, greenways and walkways, and incorporates the various “birthplaces” of the city’s iterations, from Gastown, and Granville, to Vancouver. Acknowledging the fact this is all Indigenous land. And bringing home the notion that history, artifacts, stories and myth reside collectively in a ragged-edged quilt on this bustling crescent of forested seaside.

Going home is what I’ve done as part of each walk, peeling back city layers, meeting people, hearing stories. Even writing a bit of haiku, a tone for each neighbourhood. Maybe a nod to The Odyssey too. While maintaining the comfortable pace of a stroll. Several in fact. Which I hope you enjoy. Sharing the area in this manner. Where it’s nearly always A Perfect Day for A Walk.

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