Romer’s, River, and a Ride

I’ve discovered my new favourite cycling route and it’s close to my home—even better! It borders the Fraser River which isn’t quite as glorious as the ocean, but hey, it’s still water.

The Artist and I had discovered the River District earlier this summer after a friend’s recommendation to eat at Romer’s Burger Bar.      

I forget what burger this was but it was delicious.

I forget the name of the burger but it was delicious.

Then we decided to bike there one Sunday morning. We took Kent Avenue east, a semi-busy industrial street that eventually leads to a dedicated bike path along the water.

The light gravel path is flat, making it a nice ride.

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Looking west towards Oak St bridge

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Looking east to what lies ahead

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Elegant townhouses along the way. Love those oval windows and steep angular roofs!

River District feels like this mysterious up-and-coming neighbourhood at Southeast Marine Drive and Kerr St that no one really knows about. And yet obviously people do because there’s quite the vibrant community there—condos, townhouses, a park, a Farmer’s Market every Saturday in the summer, and a bustling Romer’s Burger Bar (maybe because it’s the only restaurant there at this point).

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The website markets the River District as a “master-planned” neighbourhood similar to Yaletown, yet without the steep prices.

Here’s a blurb about it:

River District is Southeast Vancouver’s newest and largest waterfront community. River District, an award-winning project being developed by Wesgroup Properties, will be a complete community with unique sustainability features.  Covering 130 acres and including 7,000 homes, River District will include shops, restaurants, schools, daycares, parks and a community centre. Designed by a world-class team of planners, architects and engineers, River District will offer a new way to live, work and play in Vancouver.

Yeah, I’d live, work, and play here.

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The pier near Romer’s

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the main intersection

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If you keep following the bike path, it won’t be long before you reach this park in Burnaby, making you feel pretty hardcore that you just biked to a different city.

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The Object I Photograph the Most

While flipping through a scrapbook I made after a trip to the UK in 2009, my friend commented, “You take a lot of pictures of bridges.”

She said it casually but her comment stayed with me. It’s like someone drawing your attention to a phrase you always say that you weren’t aware of before, and now that you are, you’re almost paranoid to use it in any subsequent speech.

I looked through my scrapbook again. She was right. Bridges were everywhere.

The drawbridge of Herstmonceux Castle I studied at that magical summer

London’s iconic Tower Bridge

My favourite pedestrian bridge – Millennium Bridge in London

Another shot of this bridge with St. Paul’s in the background

If you love bridges, go to Newcastle – it’s a feast of bridges for your eyes!

Another Newcastle bridge – how cool is this design?

somewhere along the Royal Mile in Edinburgh

Why do I love bridges so much? I love their silhouette against the night sky, their shape on a city skyline. I love what they represent, their liminality – neither here nor there. In between. Connecting places, connecting people. Crossing what was previously uncrossable.

I love how I feel when I walk and drive over them – a little bit nervous, like the good kind of nerves you get before you’re about to go on a roller coaster and you know it’lll be fun and you’ll love it, but you’re not there yet so you’re still nervous. Caught in a middle space. I love how the very act of crossing a bridge changes you, how walking across time and space makes you different somehow when you reach the other side.

new Port Mann Bridge when completed

Apparently, I’m not the only one who loves bridges. On Global news a month or two ago, Mike McCardell did his human interest feature like he always does at the end of the news hour (my favourite part), where he interviewed a young couple in Surrey who spent their summer evenings watching the new Port Mann Bridge get built from the deck of their home. In fact, I think the man said he built the deck just so he and his wife could have front-row seating to view the graceful white cables of this bridge stretch out over the Fraser River, supporting what will be a 10-lane bridge, 65 m wide – the widest in the world.

The couple said watching the bridge after they came home from work was how they liked to unwind. When asked why, they said it was peaceful. No irritating construction sounds from their idyllic spot in the distance. And the view changed each night before their eyes, like their own home theatre – the landscape their screen. Movies aren’t the only things that move you.

If this couple felt moved just by looking at the bridge, imagine what you feel when you drive over it. A little bit like reaching for heaven.

View looking up from Port Mann Bridge. Photograph by Lisa King

the Quay

I’m always on the lookout for poems in unexpected places — such as the one on the Fairmont Hotel in Vancouver that I wrote about here or poems on public transport that I wrote about here. I encountered another example of architexture today — at the New Westminster Quay.

The poem on the building reads, “She slipped softly from a summer stream, as seamless as a summer’s dream.” Quite a tongue-twister! It’s written by Toby Barazzuol and is displayed on the north side of River Market, which houses a variety of unique eateries and shopping stalls.

New Westminster was actually the capital of BC before Victoria was. It was the oldest city in Western Canada, founded in 1859. I think of it as a forgotten city in the Lower Mainland (I never hear anything about it), but apparently it’s becoming the newest real estate gem (compared to Vancouver, I’m assuming, and yet still easily connected by Skytrain to commute there). Its riverside area called the quay has enjoyed a revitalization in recent years, and it’s a lovely walk along the Fraser River, although the river itself is not so lovely.

What I like most about the quay is the funky decor and creative signage they have inside the River Market building. Did you catch the kitchen appliances like cheese graters stapled to the top of the ceiling in this “Eat” picture? On the brown cutting board on the wall is a map of the market with the first floor labelled “the Hungry Floor” and the second floor “the Curious Floor.” Clever, eh?

Even the art in the washrooms is quirky and fun. Just to let you know, I normally don’t take pictures in washrooms, but these ones warranted a couple snaps.

And this one is fun too. Notice the figures falling down the escalator.

So there you have it — a quirky architextural space of words and symbols at New Westminster Quay where even the washrooms are places you don’t mind lingering a little longer.