Saturday, June 25, 2011

During our four days in Valencia, we often found ourselves wondering why Vancouver did not copy some of the things that we found so appealing about the city. Some are small things, others are more significant. However, all would seem possible with some changing attitudes on the part of our civic officials and the citizenry. Here are a few things I would like to see in Vancouver

More waterfront restaurants

While we like to boast about our extensive new waterfront walkway system surrounding Coal Harbour, English Bay and False Creek…the fact is, compared to parts of Valencia’s waterfront, it is really quite boring. While we can count on one hand the number of waterfront restaurants that were allowed either inboard or outboard of the walkway/bikeway, portions of Valencia’s waterfront, like many other waterfronts around the world, are literally lined with restaurants.

Now I realize that it is probably too late to modify much of the existing south and north shores of False Creek, as well as Bayshore and Coal Harbour. But it is not too late to create new, vibrant restaurant and retail precincts on the remaining Concord Pacific waterfront and the undeveloped city owned lands next to the Olympic Village in South the seawall. While we are at it, we might want to change some of our ridiculous liquor laws too, so that people can enjoy these restaurants and cafes.

More Restaurants serving Tapas and Pintxos

Walk into many Valencian restaurants and you are invited to help yourself to a wide array of small ‘nibblies’ served on thin slices of crusty bread, along with other snacks held together by toothpicks. You take want you want, but save the toothpicks, since this is how you are charged. In some restaurants, the price varies by the type of toothpick…in others the price is the same. In some places, the food is beautifully arranged; in others it is more basic. However, this is a wonderful way to start a meal, or indeed, to create an entire meal…although often there are other ‘tapas’ to be had to complement the pintxos.

More plazas, public spaces and public art

Throughout Valencia streets have been closed off or laid out in such a way as to create numerous small public spaces, often lined with restaurants and outdoor seating areas. While we are starting to think about this in Vancouver, often as temporary arrangements, it is time for us to be bolder and create more permanent installations. While many people are enjoying the new food carts around town, we could be doing so much more.

More Festivals

Valencia and the surrounding region are known for various festivals that have developed over the ages and become a major part of the region’s annual life. In March, the city celebrates Las Fallas in which giant papier mache sculptures are erected in the crossroads and squares and subsequently burned on St. Joseph’s Day; near the end of April, two costumed armies march into the city of Alcoi and stage mock battles; throughout the region there are festivals featuring bull running in summer; and on the last Wednesday of August in Bunol, thousands of participants pelt each other with ripe tomatoes.

Now I can appreciate that we might not want to copy any of these particular festivities, but notwithstanding the problems associated with the final game of the Stanley Cup finals, I would like to think we could do more in Vancouver. One possibility might be something like Caravan which was and may still be celebrated in Toronto where each major ethnic group celebrates its culture in different neighbourhoods around the city.


david wilbert said...

well, obviously, each of these ideas is excellent, and ought to have been imposed years and years ago. but think about the hues and cries raised by your npa pals at just separated bike lanes, and then imagine the sort of red-baiting etc we'd get with even the suggestion of something like a pedestrian gastown or a real public square in the core, for instance.

there just seems to be this consensus among the lames and their allies that euro-style urbanism would be economically ruinous (because vancouver attracts the best and brightest), irreparably destructive of neighborhood integrity (!), and generally, that it would neatly lead to the sort of chaos that stands for them as the plain and obvious link between these recent hockey riots and the principals animating progressive politics.

so yeah, please, get on this in a significant way. and maybe a year from now, well into gregor's second mandate and as we clear away the carnage and ruin in what was formerly the downtown and debate the rebuilding process, ideas like these might make it to the table.

Michael Geller said...

david...thx for this..although i doubt whether this is a vision vs npa issue...i'd like to think politicians of all persuasions would support these ideas...but maybe you're right, and i'm wrong! we'll see.