I’m in Boston for work, staying down in the old financial district near waterfront. Last night I took a walk out onto the Long Wharf, which juts out into the Charles River. The area has been a focus of redevelopment efforts, and last night it was crowded with people getting on and off harbor boat tours, enjoying an after-work beverage and the music at an outdoor gathering spot on the wharf, and trying to decide which of the many nearby restaurants to select for the night’s dinner.
It’s a great area if you’re a Midwestern landlubber who always enjoys checking out real harbors. There were sailboats on the water, enormous chains and tie-off pilings, and a sense of bustling activity that you always get at a busy harbor. It’s a fun thing to watch and experience, and gives you a good sense of what making the waterfront easily accessible to walkers and joggers can mean for a town.
We’re up on Lake Erie today for a family reunion of sorts. We’re staying in a cottage complex on the lakeside. Today is a bright but windy day, where the breeze has whipped the lake in frothing waves.
The Lake Erie shoreline is interesting and a bit more egalitarian than you would find by many large bodies of water. It’s not the exclusive domain of wealthy people in McMansions. There are lots of of small cottage complexes like this one, where the average folks can rent a small cottage — and some of the ones here, like those below, are pretty tiny — and enjoy the waterfront for a few days.
The Seattle waterfront features some enormous cranes used, no doubt, for significant ship repair purposes. We were far away, so it was hard to determine just how large they were — but from a distance they looked remarkably like their namesakes, flocking to the water and stretching out their necks to drink.
I was up early this morning, trying to adapt to the Eastern-to-Pacific time zone change. It was black outside as I worked to get my mobile devices connected so I could catch up on the Eastern time zone world.
As the pre-dawn darkness turned to a dim and overcast gray, I heard the cry of a seagull. It’s a unique combination of high-pitched squeal and squawk that immediately tells you that you are very near a large body of water — in this case, English Bay, Burrard Inlet, and the Straits of Georgia, the principal bodies of water on which Vancouver sits. That seagull sound is one of those sounds that is so closely identified with a location that, when you hear it, you can almost smell the sharp tang of salt water and the wafting odor of seaweed decaying on shoreline rocks.
For this landlocked Midwesterner, who doesn’t have to deal with the less pleasant aspects of oceanic birds, the sound of a seagull is a welcome, pleasing sound. I sat for a while at the predawn minutes ticked by, listening to the seagull cries and the sound of the water slapping against the dock below and watching the birds wheel over the bay.
Kish and I had a beautiful afternoon in which to walk around downtown Pittsburgh yesterday. We crossed one bridge to get to the Point, where the Ohio River begins, and then strolled around downtown before crossing the colorful Sixth Street bridge to return to the other side.
You can’t draw too many deep conclusions from one short walk, but in one area, at least, Pittsburgh clearly has succeeded where other cities have failed. Here, the riverfront is fully integrated into the city. It’s easy to get to the waterfront on both sides of the river, and once you’re there you find beautiful and wide walking paths and biking areas. There are great walkways on the bridges, too.
In many cities, it’s almost impossible to get down to the water. That’s just bad planning. Many people are drawn to the water and consider it an asset. Pittsburgh has capitalized on that asset, and yesterday there were lots of bikers, joggers, dog walkers, and visitors like us that were happy about that.
Today, walking along the Scioto Mile and heading back to the office after lunch, I saw an odd sight: a seagull perched boldly on the concrete abutment next to the walkway. The purpose of the Scioto Mile was to make the riverside into more of a part of the downtown experience, and I found myself wondering momentarily whether the gull had been hired and trained to hang out along the Scioto Mile as a kind of ready-made photo opportunity, so people would be reminded that there is, in fact, a waterfront in Columbus, Ohio.
It’s strange, indeed, to see a seagull framed against the Columbus skyline.
We’ve been staying in a bungalow on the shores of the bay outside Blue Hill, Maine. Our cottage is a bit rustic, but with the beautiful scenery and sound of water and the wind through the trees, you quickly adopt a more forgiving attitude toward the world.
No air-conditioning? No problem! Open the windows wide and enjoy the fresh air. Spiders in the shower? That’s okay, too — just part of the woodsy charm of this place. Put your wet clothes outside and let Mother Nature dry them for you, leaving a faint scent of salt behind. There’s no point in hurrying off to dinner, either, not when you can sit on the porch chairs, your feet up on the railing, and have a pleasant, meandering conversation and drink some wine while you watch the boats slip by.
It didn’t take long for the water to work its magic on the big city attitude. If only we could bottle the relaxed waterfront approach and take it with us, to dole out when the stresses and pressures of work and normal daily life seem to conspire to make every molehill into a mountain!