The Olympic Flame livens up Vancouver

To tell the truth, I am not very interested in Vancouver Olympic Games. But I have appreciated the city’s liveliness for a few days. A long-time inhabitant told me she had not seen anything similar since 1986, the year Vancouver hosted a World Exposition.


Granville street
I have never seen so many people in Vancouver!

Yesterday I went for a walk in Downtown in order to look at the different pavilions, exhibitions and events. When getting off the bus, I saw a swarm of people walking towards Canada Place. I followed the crowd, thinking there should be something to see. And I found the Olympic Flame behind Vancouver Convention Centre. It burns at the ends of sculptures that depict giant ice crystals.


flamme olympique
( Click on the picture to enlarge it )


I like the originality of the sculpture, it is a change from the usual cauldrons. What is a pity is that you must look at the Flame from a distance and behind a fence. I had to take my picture through the wire fence after getting through a crowd of people.


Update February 18: the configuration has been changed so that it is easier to see the Flame

 


Version française

Whole Foods Market, the natural food supermarket

On my arrival in Vancouver, BC, I visited several health food stores. One of them impressed me with its dimensions: the Whole Foods Market located at Cambie Street and 8th Avenue whose surface area is around 51 000 square feet. I had never seen such a big natural food store before. In comparison, in Paris my organic food store measures approximately 2000 sq ft.

 

Whole Foods Market in Vancouver
storefront and green wall on the right

Whole Foods Market looks like a classic supermarket with many departments: fruits and vegetables, cheese, meat, seafood, pastries, grocery items, flowers, cosmetics…

You can have a drink on the spot. The prepared foods department includes sandwiches, a salad bar, a pizza station and a burritos bar to eat in or take away, in a compostable packaging.

inside Whole Foods Market in Vancouver      inside Whole Foods Market in Vancouver

Whole Foods Market is quoted on the stock-exchange and opens new stores every year. Its founder, John Mackey, started a small natural foods store in 1978. Today he is CEO of Whole Foods Market, Inc. , a libertarian and an union buster. He defends a concept called ‘conscious capitalism’. It means that, according to him, you can both make money and serve society. In 2009 he made news by opposing President Obama’s health care plan. His position was not accepted by some Whole Foods Market’s customers who predominantly support health-care reform and a boycott was called.

You can read Whole Foods Market’s good intentions on their website but it’s difficult to judge their sincerity. So in my review I have contented myself to list the advantages and disadvantages of the store as a customer.


Advantages:
* Large selection of organic products
* Large fine food department
* cheese that tastes like real cheese
* near transit stations
* clean and spacious store
* There are often tasting events
* If you bring your own shopping bags, you receive a small discount
* You can find everything you need for an improvised picnic


Whole Foods Market's cheese department in Vancouver


Disadvantages:
* The mix of organic and conventional products
* Prices are expensive, especially for organic meat but competitors are expensive too
* Some imported fruits and vegetables have travelled long distances
* There are many industrial products made by large companies and few traditional products from small producers
* There are often price errors
* The store belongs to a multinational company that has more than 280 stores in the United States, in Canada and in the United Kingdom. It competes with local health food shops. In Vancouver Whole Foods Market acquired Capers’ stores in 2007. This means less competition and less choice for consumers.
 


Although it is far from my home, this store is convenient to shop organic. But I do the grocery shopping at other places too.


For more information:
the official website of Whole Foods Market
an interview of John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market
a critical article on Whole Foods Market

 


Version française

Residential Vancouver

For tourists, Vancouver, BC looks like this picture-postcard scenery with mountains, sea and skyscrappers:

Vancouver


It shows Downtown Vancouver scattered with towers. Nevertheless, most of the city rather resembles that:

maisons à Vancouver maisons à Vancouver

Miles and miles of residential neighbourhood. A long series of facades, all similar. They must be impeccable. Lawns must be bright green and cut short. Appearance is important.

However the front door is not often used. We are in North America, in a car culture. People get around by car and you access the car via the back door that overlooks the alley.

ruelle à Vancouver


In Canada, an alley is a narrow street used by residents to drive home. This secondary street has no name. For example you can see the alley between 63rd and 64th Avenues on this satellite image from Google Maps:

ruelle à Vancouver (source : google map)


I walk the alleys and look at the backs of the houses which are less impersonal than the faces. There is a garage for the car or rather the cars. There is often a terrace.

maisons à Vancouver

The terrace is indispensable to Vancouverites’ favorite activity: the Sunday barbecue

maison à Vancouver


There is enough space to dry laundry and grow a few tomatoes.

maison à Vancouver maison à Vancouver

The back of the house is also used for storing garbage and sometimes hiding the mess.

maison à Vancouver maison à Vancouver

I look the houses and I wonder what kind of life their inhabitants live. Are they as conformist as their residences? Can a single-family house, which is a dream for many people, bring happiness? I rather imagine lives stuck in a never-changing routine. I would not be surprised if these polished facades accomodated some desperate houswives.

 


Version française

Climate Day of Action in Vancouver

On Saturday, October 24 I participated in the International Day of Climate Action organized by 350.org and Bridge to a cool planet. The goal of this day was to to put pressure on governments to push for an “ambitious, fair, and binding” climate deal at the Copenhagen Climate Summit in December.


In Vancouver, 5000 people joined the walk from the Cambie bridge to Science World where a festival was scheduled. The weather was good and there was a pleasant atmosphere. I did not take my camera. So the pictures below have been found on the internet:


International Day of Climate Action on Cambie Bridge
photo 350.org (c) Creative Commons


Many cyclists and families attended the parade. Some people wore well-made costumes.

man disguised as a bird     man disguised as a dinosaur
                        photos ajfis2 and 350.org (c) Creative Commons


 


A giant banner saying: “Canadians care – Climate action now” was hung off the side of the bridge.

 


The day is finished but you can still be a part of the climate action:

* You can sign the petition on tck tck tck website

* You can download the ‘Beds are Burning’ song for free on Time for climate justice website (2015 Note: the site is not active anymore).

* You can spread the message

 


Version française

Unfamiliar animals in Stanley Park

The other day I took the air in Stanley Park, Vancouver’s most well known park. While I was walking, my attention was caught by a rustle in a thicket. I thought that I would see a bird or a squirel, but instead an animal appeared that I had never seen before. It was a small black and white mammal. It didn’t stop moving so I could not take a picture of it. I felt deeply disappointed when it disappeared behind a bush.


I went on my way. A few meters further on, I realized that the place was actually full of these small animals.  They could not be very wild, surely, because they are used to stuffing themselves with peanuts given by visitors to the park. Some of them were turning around an old man with a walking stick, they seemed hooked on him. I grabbed the chance and took some pictures:

 

 

 

 

Later I saw a drawing of the animal on a board in the park and I learned its English name: raccoon. But I had to go home and consult my dictionary to know what I had met.

 


Version française