Granville Island Escape (with extras)

Posted on March 24, 2011 at
With journalistic interludes featuring play-by-play for drop in football games.

There are some stores which I should not be allowed to visit.  These stores aren’t electronics stores, or car dealerships, or even flashy record stores, but rather are small, unique, and independent craft and gift stores.  Stores with odds and ends, nicks and knacks, these stores are where I spend the most money.  These stores are both my muse and my economic murderers.

Granville Island is a tourist destination near Vancouver’s downtown core, known for its artsy vibe and unique shopping, a market with craft studios, and the home of the Vancouver Aquabus, two theatre companies, and the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design.  Situated under a bridge in scenic False Creek, this spot is a must-see in Vancouver.

I’m writing this post while sitting at the BC Ferry terminal in Tsawassen, waiting to catch the evening boat back to the Island.  It’s one of the first nice days of Spring 2011.  I’m sitting outside in the sunshine and nice ocean breeze, listening to the pre-teen cheers of a pick-up game of football, and a flock of sea gulls is harassing a hawk above the vast parking lot.  Hardly a picturesque view, but the ocean atmosphere and patient anticipation of travel makes the setting perfect.

I had spent the morning in Vancouver in a frantic dash for documents allowing me to travel in Europe this summer, and although it made me feel like an international spy, both my mom and I needed a gentle reprieve from the city bustle.  Settling into the bar seating of one of Granville Island Public Market’s many superb food venues overlooking False Creek Rowing Club, we listened to street musicians perform rough cover tunes and watched small children play dangerously close to the ocean.  It was packed, maybe because of Spring Break, but also with professionals and young families.

After failing at working up the courage to chat up a lone traveller sitting next to me (I could tell she was a traveller from her Lonely Planet guide to Vancouver and her backpack from Edinburgh), we began our routine of exploring the many interesting shops.  After a quick stop at Roger’s Chocolates I began a search for two of my favourite stores on the island, ones I had discovered during my last visit.

These stores, Gigi B. and The Postcard Place, both located in the Net Loft, have influenced much of my life today.  Gigi B. carries a line of plastic cameras (toy cameras or “lomographic” cameras) made by the Lomographic Society International (along with many more unique gift ideas).  These old Russian and Chinese designed knock-off cameras with the famous names of Diana, Holga, LC-A, and the Sprocket Rocket are sold in a display at the front of the store, and as a camera enthusiast I was immediately drawn to them.  Since my first encounter with them at Gigi B. I have purchased three of these lomographic cameras and have enjoyed much experimentation with their true analogue nature.

The moms of these rowdy boys stand on one side of the field with arms crossed, quietly talking to each other and tensing as the kids run towards the concrete patio, while the dads lean against a railing at the other end of the small field, occasionally shouting loud encouragements and cheers for good tackles.

While I did not plan on purchasing anything during this visit (I have to plan for Europe after all…), I was brutally tempted with Diana Mini clones like “Love is in the Air” and “En Rose,” and by the highly desired (and highly priced) Lomo Lubitel 166+.  Smaller items like lens adapter kits, aged film, and key chains also caught my eye, but I held out and walked out empty-handed.

In Gigi B., I did have a very interesting discussion on the merits of film with one of the staff, and had a quick exchange with a former art and photography teacher visiting from Wisconsin who told a story about how she used to require students to shoot all film in one course on a used Holga.  With completely uncertain results and an organic creative process, the Holga used to be a staple of photography courses and was very popular in Europe in the 1990’s.  However, with the diminishing supply of film and the rise of the digital age, these items have become quirky collectors items used by artists and garage sale hunters.  This teacher was surprised but excited to see the wide variety of products and interest in Lomography, even though only one version of the original Holga is being manufactured today.

I then walked farther into the Net Loft and visited The Postcard Place, Granville Islands home for postcard related memorabilia.  This quaint, small store has shelves on every wall displaying a myriad of image-related product, from calendars and gift cards to collector art booklets and of course postcards.  Whether you are into collecting, sending, or browsing, this store will have something that tickles your fancy.  For me, this visit brought back memories of my childhood when I read the Tintin series of comics.

One boy leaves the field holding a hand under his bloody lip, bravely shouting back a response to a kid who asks if he is ok, who himself is quickly taken to the ground.

Tintin is required reading in the early lives of most boys (and girls) who enjoy mysteries, adventure, and exploration.  I read each of the Belgian comic stories in both French and English, most books at least ten times!  The Postcard Place hooked me with a line of unique Tintin products and I left with a notebook and pin, a very well-spent $14.  This is especially noteworthy because Hergé creations’ rights are rarely released for memorabilia.

While many of the items in Granville Island’s shops and galleries are either fashion accessories or high art, there is the occasional find of truly unique product makes the Granville Island experience an exciting one.  Whether you are into collecting, browsing, or tasting, the Island is a required visit for those travelling to Vancouver.  Other stores to note are Paper-Ya (“Ya” meaning “store” in Japanese) and the Silk Weaving Studio.

The game disbands as the announcement is made for people to return to their cars as the ferry draws near the terminal.  A quiet game of chess and a kid holding a bloody paper towel is all that remains of the once bustling scene.
Tintin Journal from The Postcard Place
Tintin Pin from The Postcard Place

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