Travelling at Home

Looking east over the rail tracks from Vancouver Lookout.

This summer seems especially full of community events. Part of it is Vancouver’s125th Birthday, with events like this past weekend’s Summer Live. Another part of it is that there’s been a groundswell of community creativity around public events that’s been supported by the current City government. Organizations like Vancouver Public Space Network, websites like Vancouver is Awesome, and initiatives like Car-Free Vancouver are helping to drive this movement. Public Dreams pioneered such community-making, espousing a grassroots ethos that includes making these events free of charge.

A view toward the west from Vancouver Lookout.

I think this atmosphere is inspiring traditional institutions like Tourism Vancouver to follow suit. This May, they ran a promotion of local attractions called Be a Tourist in Your Own Town, which was open only to residents of Greater Vancouver. Each day of the promotion, residents could download coupons good for a range of destinations around Greater Vancouver, ranging from the well-known to the obscure.

I managed to take advantage of two of the offers, admission to Vancouver Lookout and Dr. Sun Yat Sen Chinese Garden. The first was one I’d never considered, while the second was a chance to re-visit one of Vancouver’s treasures.

Looking from the top of the Vancouver Lookout over the rail lines and cruise ship dock.

Vancouver Lookout sits atop Harbour Centre’s tower, which was Vancouver’s tallest building until 2009. It still gives a clear 360° view, looking out over downtown, the west and east ends of town, and toward the North Shore. Even on a rainy day, the views were compelling. It made for a nice exercise – trying to identify our neighbourhood from that height and distance; seeing the roofs of most of the downtown’s buildings; getting an aerial view across the water.

Through a window onto the garden.

I went to Dr. Sun Yat Sen Gardens on another grey day, but the rain held until near the end of my visit. The Vancouver Tourism offer coincided with the garden’s 25th Anniversary celebration, so we were treated to tours, activities and goodies. I loved watching the koi feed, hearing the history of the garden, and contemplating the symbolism of elements in the scholar’s garden. The garden is not just a contemplative space, providing a venue for theatre, music and conferences.

Orangy koi fish coming up for food.

Mottled, mostly white koi fish grabbing a snack.


I try to approach living in this region, where I grew up, in the same way I do unfamiliar places. Looking at one’s home through traveller’s eyes means trying to discover both the surprising and delightful, along with what’s most authentic. But tourism has its rewards, too. Thanks Tourism Vancouver, for reminding me of that.

Looking up toward the pavilion.


8 thoughts on “Travelling at Home

  1. Yes, there’s so much to see and do. Wonderful to have things that encourage community involvement and are financially accessible. I look forward to increased access for those with various types of disabilities. (I miss the majority of public events because of the dearth of places to sit, for example.) It’s be great to go the Dr. Sun Yat Sen gardens some day — maybe we can go together.

    I absolutely love your first photo — gorgeous colours and composition and subject!

  2. I’ve been doing some traveling at home this summer too! Sometimes you forget just how beautiful your surroundings are. Great photos!

  3. Teresa – I love the pictures over looking the port & the intermodal yard… (I work in the transportation industry – these things fascinate me…)
    There’s no place like home, right?

  4. I got to go up the Harbour Centre tower free about 11 years ago when I worked in the tourism industry. I haven’t been since because it’s too expensive, but I remember the spectacular views and the harrowing (to me) ride up in the glass elevator!

    Thanks for the post, and for reminding us that there are so many fun things we can do without leaving town.

  5. Tourism Vancouver is great, I wish Ontario will have such a program too (or maybe they do/did??). I have yet to go up the CN Tower. 🙂 The Chinese garden looks like a relaxing place to visit.

    Thanks, too, for your kind comments on my blog.

  6. I so agree that you have to look through your home town through a traveler’s eyes as if you are seeing it for the first time – sometimes that is the only way to see and appreciate the beauty around you because we all stop seeing the places around us when we pass by them each day. The view from Lookout is spectacular and the garden is so very beautiful. What a lovely way to spend the day!

  7. I love the concept of being a tourist in your own town. What a nice chance to discover something new and to revisit something special. I love your photos from the garden. Looks like a peaceful reflective place.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.