Garden Flaneuring: Try it you might like it!

Why wait until you are on holidays to have flaneuring fun?  For many people, one of the fun things to do is visit gardens when they are on holidays.  Even those who aren’t into gardening, often love to “stop and smell the flowers” when on vacation. 

Bird baths create a wonderful sense of place in a garden. 

Standout Front Yards

While it may not be the equivalent to visiting Vancouver Island’s Buchart Gardens, Chicago’s Botanical Gardens, Hamilton’s Royal Botanical Gardens or Portland’s Japanese Garden, most of us can go for a walk in our neighbourhood and enjoy the lovely front gardens of our neighbours.  For those who love art, garden flaneuring can be like going to Santa Fe and visiting the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.  In our neighbourhood one or two homes on every block have a "standout" front yard or perhaps a special flower.

Iris Eroticism

The irises were lovely this year.  Every time I see an iris I can't help but think of Georgia O'Keeffe. Link:     Georgia O'Keeffe

The irises were lovely this year.  Every time I see an iris I can't help but think of Georgia O'Keeffe. Link: Georgia O'Keeffe

Iris erotism
Found this guy hidden under a large shrub in our front garden. 

Found this guy hidden under a large shrub in our front garden. 

Irises have to one of the most erotic flowers. 

Irises have to one of the most erotic flowers. 

Need I say more....

Need I say more....

Meet The Neighbours?

Wandering the neighbourhood checking out the gardens is often full of unexpected surprises.   While out gardening flaneuring, we will often say “lovely garden” when we see someone working in their yard, which always elicits a smile and sometimes even a brief chat.

Fun With Colours?

Poppies have the most wonderful colour and shapes, especially in the morning light.  

Poppies have the most wonderful colour and shapes, especially in the morning light. 

It looked like these lilies were on fire one morning in June. 

It has been a great year in Calgary for roses.  

It has been a great year in Calgary for roses.  

Dying Flower Art

Sometimes I think flowers are most interesting as they are dying, they become more asymmetrical and sculptural.  

Sometimes I think flowers are most interesting as they are dying, they become more asymmetrical and sculptural.  

Found this work of art on the next block, couldn't resist taking it photo. 

Found this work of art on the next block, couldn't resist taking it photo. 

This peony captured my eye as I was finishing up the blog, more and more I am appreciating the beauty in the dying flower. 

This peony captured my eye as I was finishing up the blog, more and more I am appreciating the beauty in the dying flower. 

Deep Purple 

Found this huge clematis (6+ inches wide) in a forgotten side garden near the end of our garden flaneur vacation.  It was perfectly formed and totally open. 

Found this huge clematis (6+ inches wide) in a forgotten side garden near the end of our garden flaneur vacation.  It was perfectly formed and totally open. 

This is perhaps my favourite flower from our garden this season.

This is perhaps my favourite flower from our garden this season.

I didn't even know they made speckled petunias.  Found these in a pot a few blocks away, while garden flaneuring recently. Next year!

I didn't even know they made speckled petunias.  Found these in a pot a few blocks away, while garden flaneuring recently. Next year!

Everyday Gardening Fun

Or if you are like me, you can create your own garden, which you can flaneur every day as there is always something new to experience in a garden. 

Just like a tourist, wander the garden with your iPhone or camera and take pictures every day.  I have often thought it would be interesting to post a “garden pic-a-day” from April to October and see what kind of response I get.  I will often tweet out a photo from one of my morning garden flaneurs with the text “Goooooooood Morrrrrrrrrrrrrrning Calgary!” 

Gardening is not only therapeutic but it can also be a fun way to get to know your neighbours. In our case, we have bonded with our neighbours on both sides over our gardens, so much so that we have integrated our front yards into one large garden.  (Backstory: This is ironic as the three houses sit on land that was one lot until the early ‘90s when an infill developer bought the 100-foot lot and subdivided it into three lots.)

The pathway to our secret garden was littered with rose pedals after a recent rain, create a romantic sense of place.

The pathway to our secret garden was littered with rose pedals after a recent rain, create a romantic sense of place.

Daycare Fun!

One of my little pleasures in life, it taking my morning coffee and wandering the garden while parents drop off their kids at the “Honey Bee” daycare across the street. The kids wave and the parents smile; the start of another perfect summer day – that is until the first double bogie on the golf course.  

In our front yard we have two old pieces of playground equipment.  The hamburglar looks out from an old fence we rescued from a house across the street that was being torn down for a new infill. The daycare kids love it.  

In our front yard we have two old pieces of playground equipment.  The hamburglar looks out from an old fence we rescued from a house across the street that was being torn down for a new infill. The daycare kids love it.  

We also have Tommy The Turtle hidden in the front yard jungle.  There are two daycare kids who have found it and ask if they can sit on it, if I am in the yard. 

We also have Tommy The Turtle hidden in the front yard jungle.  There are two daycare kids who have found it and ask if they can sit on it, if I am in the yard. 

Note the golf clubs?

Note the golf clubs?

Flaneuring gardens at night is a totally different experience from day time flaneuring.  You should try it.

Flaneuring gardens at night is a totally different experience from day time flaneuring. You should try it.

Try It! You Might Just Like It!

So if you want to try being an “everyday tourist” this summer, grab your camera and go for walk taking pictures of the neighbours’ gardens.  When you get home, grab your favourite beverage and have a look at your pics and relive the beauty of your travels, just like you would on vacation.

If you like it, consider taking a “garden flaneur” vacation every week.

Black and white garden photography lets you see your garden in a whole different light (pun intended). 

This image is taken of  grass mound with the frosted glass patio fence in the background. It is amazing all the things you see when you take out your camera and start looking. 

This image is taken of  grass mound with the frosted glass patio fence in the background. It is amazing all the things you see when you take out your camera and start looking. 

Gardens are fun places to experiment. 

Gardens are fun places to experiment. 

Our other bird bath. 

Our other bird bath. 

Nelson BC: Fun, Funky & Quirky

A recent visit to Nelson BC, brought many smiles to our faces as we explored its streets and back alleys.  Nelson might just be Canada’s most bohemian community

It started right from the “get-go” when we checked in at the Adventure Hotel and were dazzled by the psychedelic carpet staircase - inspired by an “acid dream I am sure.” 

The staircase at the Adventure Hotel is like walking on a neon sign. 

After a day of driving (with stops to check out downtown Fernie and thrift stores in Creston), we were anxious to do some flaneuring. We immediately found the two-storey  Touchstones Nelson Museum of Art and History located in a former Post Office building built in 1902. Once inside, we were quickly immersed in a fantasy world of strange goblins and creatures from the imagination of artist Jude Griebel; this was a good start.  

The fantasy world of Griebel is weird and wacky, the head in the foreground is made of bones. 

Then after checking out Touchstones’ museum, we headed to Nelson’s Main Street (aka Baker Street) for some window licking fun as most of the stores had closed by then. We stumbled upon Relish - what a fun name for a restaurant!  The place had a good buzz, we were thirsty and hungry so in we went. 

Just one of the many fun window reflections along Baker Street.

A cold glass each of Harvest Moon Organic Hemp Ale from the Nelson Brewery Company (NBC) quenched our thirst.  I think NBC should win some type of award for the best beer names – Paddywack, Faceplant, AfterDark and Full Nelson!  My amazing burger with brie and apple still has me salivating.

After a little more street and alley wandering, we called it a day.  

The evening light filters through the tree lined downtown streets to create an eerie canopy. 

Day 2: I thought I was going to die!

Up early, we decided to check out the Oso Negro Café, which research told is the best place in town for breakfast. Expecting a small bohemian café, we were stunned by the amazing urban café atmosphere mixed with an enchanting garden setting.  Service was friendly and efficient so the long line up moved quickly.  The place was full of people of all ages - adults chatting, kids playing and nobody on their phone or computer.  How quirky is that?

The Oso Negro cafe has the most inviting garden I have ever encountered. It is both private and public at the same time. The light is magical. It may well be the best place to sit that I have ever experienced.  They even have a map that tells you what all the plants are. 

It was a beautiful day so I had to check out the local Granite Pointe golf course.  Being a single golfer, it was easy to walk on. What wasn’t so was to walk the golf course (even for a seasoned walker like me).  I had a quick debate with the Pro Shop attendant if the course was walkable and we agreed I could probably do it.  He showed me the hill at hole #10 and said that is the biggest climb. It was a gradual climb so didn’t look too intimidating. 

Walking down the 9th hole I was feeling pretty good about my decision to walk the course.

So off I went, clubs on my back, to enjoy what looked like a walk in the park. The front nine wasn’t bad - the views of the city, lake and mountains were spectacular.  I climbed the 10th but it was harder than I had imagined - going down 11 seemed just as hard as going up.  By the 14th I knew I was in trouble.  I was dragging my butt and wondering if I could finish; this had never happened to me before.  “Am I really getting that old?” I had to ask myself.  I finished - but just barely - as 18 was another climb up a hill to a green guarded by a huge granite rock. If I hit the rock who knows where the ball would go and I certainly wasn’t going to go looking for it.  Fortunately, I hit the green, parred the hole, got into my car and headed straight to the Adventure Hotel for a couple of those NBC beers. 

The hill climbing provided wonderful view of the lake and mountains. 

Dinner was at Itza Pizza across the street from the Adventure Hotel as I didn’t have the energy to wander too far.  The sign said best pizza in town and we also learned that back in 2011, Rick Nelson, Itza’s owner and pizza maker was one of four chefs across Canada to compete in Canadian Pizza Magazine’s (who knew there was a pizza magazine, let alone a Canadian one) best Canadian pizza contest. While Nelson didn’t win, he still makes a great pizza.  We had front row seats to Nelson’s street ballet on Itza’s street patio located on the parking spot in front of the restaurant – very urban.   We enjoyed our Harvest Pizza with pesto, sundried tomato, apples, smoked gruyere, roasted red peppers and pickled capers.

Unfortunately I had no energy left to check out the blues band playing across the street that night at Finley’s Bar and Grill across the street.  

Day 3: Caffeine Heaven

Rested, it was back to Oso Negro Café for a repeat breakfast.  By this time we were thinking this must be the best café in the world.

On the way, we noticed a sleazy looking mannequin standing in the back alley. We had to check it out.  It was in front of a funky looking hair salon, which we didn’t think was open at 8 am, but when I peaked in there were people inside and we were invited in to the “Chop Shop.”  Turns out this 50s themed salon/museum was featured on Slice Network’s “Chop Shop” Show.    

Who could resist checking out a barber pole like this one? Not us!

The Chop Shop the most unique and friendliest barbershop I have ever encountered. 

When we arrived at Oso Negro, we were again in caffeine heaven.  It is the perfect place to start the morning as the garden was bathed in early morning sunshine. We lingered for over an hour, people watching and enjoying our muffins and Oso Negro coffee, which we found out is roasted just a few blocks away.

Another view of Oso Negro garden, sorry I don't think even if I included 10 photos I could capture the wonderful sense of place. 

Another view of Oso Negro garden, sorry I don't think even if I included 10 photos I could capture the wonderful sense of place. 

While Brenda went off to do more thrifting, I went to take photos of the buildings, streets, alleys and shops.  As I was wandering, I discovered the west end of Baker Street was closed for a flower street market.  The street was full of characters from the lady trying to sell worm farms to another lady giving her little dog a drink of water out of a baby bottle. I did say Nelson was fun, funky and quirky, didn’t I? 

There are many wonderful turn of the century buildings like this courthouse in downtown Nelson

Electric Circus books and records had this amazing collection of Beat books. It was a wonderful place to explore.

This flower shop in an alley has a wonderful European ambience. 

Found this wall of seeds in a quirky grocery/garden shop. 

The Baker Street Plant Market attracted an eclectic crowd to downtown.

Then it was off to check out Cottonwood Falls and adjacent Railtown district at the west end of Baker Street. The falls, a hidden gem, though small it packs a big punch -as the water crashing over the black rocks creates a mist that, combined with the sunlight, is ethereal.

Cottonwood Falls is tucked away in a small industrial park on the west end of downtown. 

We next met up with Alex, who toured us through the Nelson Brewery Company building, with all its shiny hardware and hoses creating what looks like a madman’s laboratory – there is even a door that says, “laboratory!” NBC is brewed in funky- looking old building that has been a brewery for over 100 years, so this isn’t some new kid on the craft brewery block, rather something that has evolved over the past century.

As all NBC beers are organic, you have to drink them reasonably quickly (they have a best before date), which I see as a bonus. If you want a tour, fill out the form on the website and they will get back to you quickly.

NBC's brewery is like a mad scientists lab.

Dinner was the Smokehouse BBQ, which is as authentic as you can get thousands of kilometers from southern USA with its plywood and corrugated steel interior. Order from the kitchen window and your meal is brought to you in a cardboard take-away box even if you are eating in.  We grabbed a window seat and chowed down on a finger licking good meal of ribs and pulled pork that was as good as anything we had in Austin Texas (unfortunately, it’s not licensed to serve alcohol).

El Taco is a very popular spot for locals. Did you know that on a per capital basis Nelson has more restaurants than New York City?

While there, we were treated to a steady stream of people picking up their Smokehouse BBQ orders as well as people heading to El Taco restaurant across the street.  As we left, we asked a young Nelsonian enjoying his pizza from Thor’s Pizzeria next to the Smokehouse what he knew about El Taco and he said it is very good and very popular with the locals.  He also added Thor’s has the best pizza in town.

Then it was off for an evening walk along the waterfront pathway. While the pathway along the West Arm of Kootenay Lake is lovely, the place was surprisingly deserted, even on a warm mid-May evening.

The waterfront pathway is a lovely walk along the lake which even has a beach at the bridge. We expected to find lots of people walking and cycling along the pathway, but it was deserted.   

One of the many lovely reflections of the boats in the water along the pathway. 

Last Word

We had a great time in Nelson; our only regrets are we didn’t have enough time to check out all of the great dining spots and that we didn’t do the Pulpit Rock trail which locals highly recommended for its great views. 

A big surprise was that while Nelson has a reputation of being a great art town, there aren’t  many art galleries and lots of the art (galleries, public art and street art) we saw was not as professional and contemporary as we expected. 

Street Art mixes with graffiti on this garage door. 

Perhaps the biggest surprise was that given Nelson’s reputation as the marijuana growing capital of Canada, we didn’t see or smell any evidence of it wherever we travelled in the city.

 

While we didn't see or smell the use of marijuana, there is a store on Baker Street next to the CIBC building where you can buy it, like you are buying an ice cream cone or perhaps some gelato. There were at least 50 flavours.  

Urban planning / Travel / Participant Observer?

My recent blog about urban planning not being a science but more of an art, got lots of comments from the public and planners, some in support and some in disagreement. 

As a result, I have been giving more thought to different approaches to urban planning and city building and the importance of the “power of observation” i.e. what works and what doesn’t in creating vibrant cities. 

I have always been intrigued by the idea of the role a “participant observer’’ plays in understanding the world we share, how we live together in urban places and how we shape our urban spaces. 

I have often thought of myself - rightly or wrongly - as “participant observer.” 

Mexico City and many other cities close down a City Centre street on Sunday to create a fun carnival experience. Why doesn't every city?

So I checked with colleague Harry Hiller, Urban Sociologist at the University of Calgary to see if he could with what is a “participant observer.”

Hiller quickly emailed back:

“Participant observation is a concept and research strategy that is
rooted in the scientific or scholarly community.  As such, it requires the utilization of the logic and canons of science.  This does not mean others cannot engage in participant observation, but it often has a less rigorous procedure.  
From a scientific perspective, we begin with a literature review in order to know what is already known about a topic and how that knowledge was discovered.  Then a research plan is established that seeks to isolate explanatory variables for that phenomenon and then to alert the researcher for the link between variables that are desired to be tested.  
So before going out into the field of research, a careful plan and set of objectives are established first that clarify what to look for, the pitfalls in doing so, and above all, an empirical strategy is created that allows one to speak to results within a carefully designed framework.  
This does not mean no one else can observe things as a participant, but it does mean that a researcher is more aware of how their presence as a participant affects the results and it means that observing is structured by a background of knowledge and a research plan.  
Perhaps one difference from journalism is that the researcher engages in research like this to make a carefully planned contribution to knowledge with some sense of certainty about the results and how they are to be evaluated.  
There are many "observers" of urban planning actions and consequences who bring their own biases to bear in their evaluations, but a good researcher is open to a variety of outcomes and can weigh the results with more depth.  
That is the challenge!”

A challenge indeed, by this definition I am definitely not a "participant observer," as I am certainly not that rigourous as flaneur cities aimlessly, enjoying the urban surprises.

In Dublin transit, pedestrians, cyclists and drivers all share the road. Travel opens everyone's eyes to new possibilities in urban design and sharing space.

Top Planners Are Often Participant Observers

While doing some Internet searching, I found an interesting 2014 article from the American Planning Association’s magazine. Written by Reid Ewing, a professor of city and metropolitan planning at the University of Utah, he referenced a 2009 poll of Planetizen (an independent resource for people passionate about planning and related fields) members asking them who the believe have been the “Top Thinkers vs. Top Academics” in the history of urban planning.  Ewing noted,  “Topping the list was Jane Jacobs, the ultimate participant-observer, who analyzed the built environment from her apartment in Greenwich Village and wrote in poetic fashion.  

Also high on the list were Allan Jacobs (no relation to Jane), Donald Appleyard and William H. Whyte all participant observers in Ewing’s mind.  He concludes, “observational methods seem particularly well suited to urban design.”

One of thousands of public open houses and workshops held every year in Calgary to engage the public in how their city should evolve short and long term, big and small projects.

We are all observers!

I have often thought many tourists are quasi “participant observers.” When you travel to a new place, you are looking with “fresh eyes” and often wonder “why don’t we have a park, street, museum, store, café, festival etc. like this in our city?” or “why does this seem to work better here than back home?”

Sometimes the thinking stops at just wondering. Other times it may go further as one tries to understand the rationale for what works and what doesn’t in making our city a more attractive place to live, work and play. More and more the public is becoming more engaged in designing the evolution of their community and city with their participation in workshops, open houses and Council meetings.

Post-it notes are essential to any public meeting/workshop.

Last Word

Today, as community engagement has become the norm for projects big and small on a community, citywide and regional basis. More and more, politicians, planners and developers are realizing the value of getting a diversity of citizen input (even if some is diametrically opposed and some isn’t feasible) to capture the hidden expertise that comes from the average person’s observation and day-to-day experience of their community, as well as experiences when travelling in other cities.

 

One could say, “it takes more than just academics to create a great community/city.”

 

If you like this blog, you will like:

Mexico City: Full of Fun Surprises

Ten Commandments Of A Flaneur

Urban planning is an art not a science.