Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Visit to Vancouver

Have you ever noticed how the insomniac  just keeps going ON and ON and ON when writing about something she's passionate about? Consider this fair warning ...

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Last week, the insomniac  and the youngest took a mini-vacation to Vancouver; the primary reason for the trip to deliver Mme. Polaire's winnings from the latest giveaway. It's always nicer to present in person rather than mailing, provided enough points have accumulated in the Air Miles Account to do so; however this generally limits personal presentations to winners living within a 1000 kilometre radius of Calgary.

Arrangements were made with Mme. Polaire to meet at Granville Island Market for lunch. After some confusion on the insomniac's  part as to the actual meeting place, we eventually connected and enjoyed lunch together at the market (the insomniac  had Bratwurst and Sauerkraut on a Bun, if you're interested), along with the youngest (who barely uttered a word, as she generally isn't even out of bed by 12:30 p.m. let alone being forced to eat at that unreasonable hour) and Mme. Polaire's mother.

When she was younger the insomniac  briefly contemplated moving to Vancouver, but being Canada's third rainiest city combined with her aversion to wet feet and using an umbrella, ultimately decided against it - even if it does get fewer than twelve days of snow every winter. Because of the moderate climate, ivy grows rampant on absolutely anything that remains motionless for longer than five minutes. This adds a romantic appearance to many of Vancouver's older buildings - the Sylvia Hotel, built in 1912 and the hotel of choice whenever we visit - being one of them.

R-L: The delightful Mme. Polaire in her Nevermore Dress
and the insomniac.

Being romantically obscured by rampant ivy ...

Completely engulfing the Sylvia ...

For her winnings, Mme. Polaire chose four items from the Attic: an antique metal spiderweb, a Gothic metal welcome plaque, Edward Gorey notecards and a Bela Lugosi mug.

In return, she presented the insomniac  with an enormous gift bag overflowing with the following: black and silver damask fabric, Hallowe'en gift bags, two CD's, a sugar skull mouse-pad, a sewing pattern we'd both admired, some little spider ornaments, a small gossamer bag filled with silver charms of skulls, spiders, owls, bats and the like, a book called Cabinet of Curiosities (which may or may not have already been read - one can't quite remember), a charming note written on exquisite antique Victorian mourning stationery, a beautiful necklace and matching brooch set of Death the Bride made by Mme. Polaire herself, a tin of homemade shortbread (consumed within 10 minutes after our return to the hotel), and lastly, a selection of chocolates which, as you can tell by the empty packaging strewn about, lasted only slightly longer than the shortbread.

It's glaringly obvious who got the better end of the deal here, isn't it?

Mme. Polaire - 4 items.

The insomniac - 400.

Although the primary reason for visiting Vancouver may have been to meet with Mme. Polaire, another important reason was the insomniac's  longing to visit perhaps her most favourite store ever - Salmagundi West. The word salmagundi can be defined as either: 1) a dish of chopped meat, anchovies, eggs, onions, and seasoning;   or 2) a general mixture; a miscellaneous collection. As one has never run across an anchovy or onion in the place, she surmises Number 2 was the reasoning behind the name selection.

The Salmagundi Tin Collection, none of which are for sale.

And not for lack of trying, either ...

Salmagundi is in an oddly shaped Victorian Italianate building on the corner of Trounce Alley and West Cordova Street in the historic district of Gastown. Despite the fact she has visited the store many times through the years, the insomniac  can never seem to locate that particular corner on her first try, and must always walk down Water Street, turn right on Cambie and then backtrack in order to find it.

The J.W. Horne Block, 1889

Lovely window detail ...

The insomniac  first discovered Salmagundi when she was seventeen. As an employee of the Canadian Pacific Railway, she used her train pass at every opportunity - Vancouver more often than not her final destination. Back in the early 70's, Gastown was full of antique and vintage clothing shops, and Blood Alley was home to many talented leatherworkers and silversmiths. When she stumbled upon Salmagundi, she felt as though she'd found the most wonderful shop in the whole world.

And while she may have difficulty remembering important things (like Mme. Polaire's mother's name, which she managed to forget less than ten seconds after being introduced) somehow she remembers her very first purchase from the store - a Victorian doll dressed in a white gown and bonnet, which was packed away just a few short months ago. She also purchased some black and gold deer hides, and remembers telling the shop owner she had no idea what she was going to do with them. Although she likes to think that particular purchase was the beginning of her love affair with leather and beadwork. It was  the 70's, after all ...

Over the years she visited the store many times, always managing to leave with treasure(s) small enough to fit in her suitcase. And although she never knew the owner's name, she always felt she was remembered every time she returned, no matter how long it had been since the last visit. And then came a long period when the offspring were young, we had no money for trips and there were no visits to Salmagundi. 

Finally, when the youngest was twelve, the insomniac  took her to Vancouver, eager to share her favourite store with her offspring. She was bored after fifteen minutes. In order to placate her, her Sainted Mother purchased her a book, which she loved, and some candies, which she didn't.

The hand stitched books of local artist Charles Van Sandwyk ...

A few years later, another trip was made to the coast; the insomniac  chatted with the owner about the lovely Victorian brass letter holder she ended up purchasing, along with a few more beaded flowers to add to her already large collection.

This would probably look nice in the trailer, too ...

Then last fall while discussing favourite places to shop in Vancouver, Mme. Polaire mentioned the owner had cancer and was in palliative care. Shortly thereafter the owner passed away, and it made the insomniac  very sad to think such a treasured institution might end up closing its doors. But before she passed, she gifted the store to a longtime employee - someone who “gets” the store and plans to keep it alive in the way in which it was meant. And this time, the insomniac  has made a point of being on a first-name basis with the new owner - something she regrets not doing with the former.

The new proprietress. Anne Banner and her daughters ...

L-R: Ariel, Anne, Honeybear and Kali

Following are just a few of the pictures taken during our recent visit. There could have been so many more ...





Do you also find the store mascot somewhat creepy?

Didn't even get a chance to look through these ...

Isn't he adorable?

It looks exactly as it did the very first time
the insomniac  walked through the doors forty years ago ...

Yes, it is ...

The infamous Chinese herbal chest in the basement,
every drawer containing something different.

Zombie Mints, expanding brains, candy cigarettes just like Dad's ...

Sadly, due to poor lighting, the insomniac  was unable to capture the gloriously gold-framed picture of Nosferatu under the staircase - next to the accordian and the rose-painted screen divider. But you can well imagine.

This time, the youngest made her very first Salmagundi purchase of a silver fox skull necklace. Her very first purchase with her own money, to be accurate. And though she spent considerably more time looking through the drawers of the Chinese cabinet than on her last visit, still remarked upon leaving, “You know you spent over an hour in there, don't you?” So her Sainted Mother took her across the street to New World Designs, and purchased her a new Hell Bunny dress to go with her new necklace in order to placate her.

She was sufficiently placated ...

Should you ever visit Vancouver and have, at the minimum, an entire day to kill, you really must visit Salmagundi West. And if you go in October, perhaps you'll run across the insomniac  at the 40th anniversary gathering, which Anne has so graciously invited her to attend. This time, she'll be travelling alone and plans to set aside enough time to examine everything to her heart's content. Unless Mme. Polaire would like to accompany her - one has the impression she's a kindred spirit who'd be more than happy to look through every little cupboard and drawer before getting bored. And she probably wouldn't even mention upon leaving, “You know you spent over three hours in there, don't you?

Until next time, the insomniac  wishes you nights of blissful sleep filled with pleasant dreams. Now if you'll excuse her, she's just remembered that caramel chocolate bar with black sea salt was the only one left uneaten. No sense letting it melt up there in the attic. Goodnight, my pretties.

IA


PostScript: Probably goes without saying the insomniac  didn't exactly go home empty-handed, either. We'll save that for another post.

56 comments:

  1. I love this post, reading it was almost like watching a documentary! That shop looks amazing. I have always wanted to go to Vancouver, but if you think 1000 km is far away...

    And what a lovely gift package you got from your friend! There would be nothing left of that chocolate in my case either. And finally - love the dress you got your daughter :)

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    1. Thank you, Ms. Misantropia! Well, it was certainly long enough to be a bloody documentary, wasn't it? LOL

      It truly is an amazing shop. Every time she walks in, the insomniac  feels as if she's “come home”, for lack of a better turn of phrase. And should you ever manage to make it to Vancouver, she would definitely dip into the Air Miles Account to meet you, so we could go shopping together! You wouldn't be bored, would you? ;o)

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  2. Cabinet Of Curiosities is AWESOME. I have the entire Pendergast series (so far). Special Agent A.X.L. Pendergast is probably my favorite fictional character ever.

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    1. Ugh, the insomniac  is terrible at remembering what books she's read. She knows she's definitely read some of the Agent Pendergast series, but for the life of her can't remember which ones! But that just means that even if she has already ready it, she won't remember any of it and it'll be just like reading a brand new book! :P

      So sorry to hear of all the troubles with Shelly lately. :o(

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    2. Thanks. She's bouncing back - though at her age, she probably won't be as active as she once was ever again. But she is back to lap sitting, purring, and eating (though she's learned she can hold out for her favorites now and we'll oblige).

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    3. Pets and offspring - they're quick to learn what they can get away with, aren't they? ;o)

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  3. Ah what a shame I didn't know about this when I had to go to Vancouver for my Visa interview...
    I had at the most a day and an afternoon to burn while there, and we didn't know at all where to go. So we stuck real close to the hotel :(

    What wonderful goodies you received!

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    1. That is too bad, Madame MM! Maybe you could squeeze in a road trip while you're up in Calgary next month?

      Wasn't that gift package amazing! Mme. Polaire really outdid herself. She definitely put the insomniac  to shame! We shall have to remedy the situation in October. :o)

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  4. I LOVED this post!! Wish I lived close enough to visit that shop, it's EXACTLY the kind of place I love to spend hours (and money) in!

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    1. Awww, thank you, Lucretia! That's so sweet of you to say!

      It would only be a short drive up the coast, wouldn't it? Definitely worth the road trip! ;o)

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  5. Ye gods, that shop looks like paradise! I went to Vancouver one time and stayed in a hostel downtown (The Blue Octopus or something like that), but had no idea about anything and certainly did'nt know about Salmagundi! I will definitely be stopping in next time around :)

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    1. It is paradise, Tilda! It has such a wonderful aura when you walk in, it's always very hard to leave. And next time the insomniac  visits, no offspring breathing heavy sighs of impatience whilst tapping her foot ...

      The Blue Octopus, eh? Sounds sketchy ... it wasn't on East Hastings, hopefully? ;o)

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  6. Sounds like a wonderful trip. Enjoy (re?)reading The Cabinet of Curiosities. It's my second favorite Pendergast novel!

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    1. It was wonderful - the youngest definitely needed a vacation and her Sainted Mother is always happy to oblige. When there's enough Air Miles, that is. ;o)

      Your second favourite? What's your first?

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  7. WOW! You ladies seemed like you had a brilliant time! I've always wanted to visit Vancouver and when I do, I hope to visit the store and the insomniac! ;)

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    1. It was a good time, Meagan. We also did a little shopping in the Market, hit a few fabric stores, Roger's chocolates ... You know, all the important things in life! :D

      When you do visit Vancouver, be sure to email the insomniac  and Mme. Polaire before you come - we can all get together for some good thrifting!

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  8. I adore ivy! If I owned my own home, instead of renting, I'd have garden walls covered in it, which would make me very unpopular because, for some inexplicable reason, a lot of people seem to hate it here. It's like an arrow through my heart when I see people ripping it out of their gardens like it's some noxious weed. By the way, that lush ivy beard you've got is coming along very nicely! ;D

    I'm so glad that Salmagundi West was passed on to worthy recipients who will care for it! What a trove of treasures!

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    1. The insomniac  does too, Little Gothic Horrors! She wanted to grow ivy all up the back of the Gothic Mansion, but the spouse said no. Actually, he said NO! Apparently, it's very hard on brick and masonry or something. So no ivy for us, unfortunately.

      It is a nice beard, isn't it? Photoshop is a wonderful thing ... ;o)

      There are so few independently owned stores left these days - it's nothing but big-box stores it seems. Is it like that in Australia, too? It is wonderful that it was passed on to someone who actually cares about it. One dreads the day there are no more unique stores for us to look through.

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    2. Oh, yes! It's just the same here. Big box stores and corporations are taking over! It's all way too Brave New World for my liking. Even my son's state school education seems to have a disturbingly corporate flavour about it. Okay, I'll have to stop before I go into full rant mode. ;D

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    3. LOL, full rant mode is a common thing here in the Gothic Mansion, Little Gothic Horrors ... ;o)

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  9. Oh I love a good travelogue! I thinks its wonderful that you can make this pilgrimage (that's the only word for it) on a regular basis again. Perhaps Vancouver is your spiritual home? The Salmagundi looks like just the ticket for a born browser like me. I could happily spend an afternoon going through that Chinese cabinet.

    By the way, I'm glad you just fessed right up to scoffing down the sweet stuff. I take comfort in now knowing that I'm not the only one.

    Ali

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    1. Pilgrimage - darn, why didn't the insomniac  think of that word before she wrote the post. It's the perfect way to describe it, Ali!

      Just to set the record straight, it wasn't only the insomniac  scarfing down the sweets. While she may not have inherited her Sainted Mother's “hunting and gathering” skills in the thrift department, she's definitely her mother's daughter when it comes to sugary snacks! ;o)

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  10. Wow so many treasures all in one post. It looks like you had a wonderful time. :-)

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    1. It was a wonderful time, Rachel! Such a shame that more treasures from Salmagundi couldn't have come home in the suitcase. But one must remember that one is supposed to be downsizing. Sigh. ;o)

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  11. I really like how the ivy almost completely covers the Sylvia Hotel. It must be quite a chore for them to keep it from covering the windows though. The Salmagundi looks like a place that I could spend quite a bit of time at. I'm glad that it will be staying open. If I ever make it to Vancouver I'll check it out.

    It looks like your time away from the Spooky Forest was well spent.

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    1. Doesn't it look amazing, Nightwind? You're right, it must be difficult keeping it pruned. The size of the “stems” (if you can even call them that) is phenomenal.

      It was a much-needed break for the youngest, and therefore, time well spent. :o)

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  12. It seems you had a wonderful time!! :)
    And all the goodies she gave you! Omg they do look gorgeous, all of them! It was a win win situation! Not to mention about the shop. I am willing to live there, among all those antiquities! Once again, thank you, it was a lovely trip through your photos! Cannot wait for the new pictures!! PS loved the picture with the sing "all children are welcome here" well, if they can appreciate old things :P

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    1. Seriously, the goodies were totally out of this world! And having just consumed the last of that chocolate bar yesterday, it was perhaps the very best chocolate bar the insomniac  has ever tasted in her life. Good thing we don't have a Trader Joe's in Canada or someone would be purchasing a larger pair of jeans! ;o)

      “All children welcome here.” One wonders if those words were from the store mascot and whether she had some ulterior motives for welcoming children into the store - maybe there was a large oven in the basement that went unnoticed ... :O

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  13. Oh, that shop is wonderful! Having lived in Vancouver all my life, I have spent many happy hours snooping through all the drawers downstairs :) I recently purchased a vintage looking skeletal chart, and a lovely silver bird skull pendant from there...they have so many terrific things. I have a couple of suggestions for you for other shops here in the city I believe you would enjoy very much if you get a chance to get to them on one of your future jaunts out here. The first is a shop on Main street called "A Bakers Dozen Antiques", at 3520 Main. It is one the most amazing shops here I swear. It's loaded with more goodies than you could ever see in one visit, you name it, dolls, skulls, vintage jewellery, etc, etc... I've bought animal horns, a tiny upholstered chair that is a cute replica of a adult size chair that you would see in a library or such, and other odd and assorted items. you must see the place to believe it! The other shop which I just recently discovered is a little shop on Hastings street in Burnaby called "Cogg's" at 4253 Hastings. It's a little shop, but packed with some really great treasures, and their prices are quite good, which I think has something to do with their location not being in a trendy or busy area. Anyways, I just wanted to pass those along as I'm sure you would love them both :)

    The Sylvia is a beautiful hotel, although since I live here, I have never stayed, but I do believe they have a little restaurant inside which I've been meaning to check out...and the location right by the beach is beautiful, albeit quite busy especially in the summer time. Sounds like you had a good trip and a fun time out here, which I'm sure you needed after dealing with all that awful rain and flooding back home!

    All my best to ya! xo

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    1. You live in Vancouver! (Knew you were in BC, but didn't realize it was Vancouver.) So when she comes out in October, can the insomniac  email you beforehand and you can show her A Baker's Dozen in person? :D

      “Tyrel of the Coat” in the linked post lives in Burnaby, so Cogg's sounds like a must-see especially if it has good prices. Although anything purchased these days must be tiny enough to fit in a trailer, so that really limits a person. Pffft.

      The Sylvia does have a restaurant - it's so cute. Filled with little old people. We had breakfast there every morning - buttermilk pancakes, three days in a row. Those jeans were getting a little snug by the end of the trip! LOL

      We went for a few walks along the beach (which was VERY crowded) and also into Stanley Park. We ate at the Fish House, which was lovely even if it was kind of expensive. Still, we had a couple of girly Fuzzy Peaches and then the bill didn't seem so bad. ;o)

      Right back at ya, blkhrtgurl! ♥

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    2. oh hey, that'd be fun! When in October are you coming back out here? My hubby and I will be heading over to France for a holiday at the end of October, so lemmi know when you plan to be here and whether I can make it. :)

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    3. A definite date hasn't been set yet for the party, but for sure you'll get an email beforehand!

      France ... so jealous ... :D

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  14. All I can say is: You're a lucky duck!!!

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    1. You got that right, Natalie! Very VERY lucky! :D

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  15. Your photos of Salamagundi are amazing! That little collection of oddities and medical items right at the top of the stairs takes my breath away! I can't wait 'till your next post to see what you bought! Hours are definitely required for that shop, just the weekend before you came, I opened every single drawer in that Chinese cabinet!
    Nice photoshop of that Granville Island pic, I look like a chubby geek while you get to look so mysterious...
    I LOVE the things you brought me, it was MORE than equal!

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    1. Thank you, Mme. Polaire! The ones in the cabinet at the top of the stairs did turn out quite well, but then quite a few didn't!

      LOL, very small things were purchased. Even the offspring remarked about the restraint her Sainted Mother exhibited. But the next day, the offspring was ditched for a few hours and a few more things purchased at the antique store next door. Have to spread the love, right? ;o)

      Oh, chubby geek my rear end. Everybody knows that ivy's covering up a magnificent set of jowls! :D

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  16. It was certainly a wonderful trip, or? The picture look then...

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    1. It was a wonderful trip, Madame Kismet! Other than the rain, Vancouver is one of the insomniac's  favourite places to visit. After Germany, of course! :D

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  17. What a great post! I love the curiosity shop pictures, as I am especially fond of stuffed animals wearing hats.

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    1. Thank you, Underground for Tea! Nothing quite beats a stuffed animal with a hat, does it? ;o)

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  18. Oh! What an amazing store! I love drawers with hidden treasures in!! Thats were to find me when I visit a second hand store or a thrift store.
    So nice that you were able to meet Mme Polaire in person and exchange gifts :)

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    1. Isn't it something, linnea-maria? It truly is Vancouver's little treasure! There's absolutely nothing better than spending hours poking around in drawers and bins, searching for that special something, is there? :o)

      It was  lovely to meet Mme. Polaire! Some day soon, maybe the insomniac  and spouse will be able to come to Sweden - especially if she manages to snag a wholesale account with that lovely Swedish clothing brand we both love. We are sadly lacking anything remotely resembling Dark Mori over here in Canada. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

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  19. That store do seem amazing! How great of the owner to give it to an employee who deserved it and will take good care of it's legacy ^^

    That bear is cute indeed! :D

    I loved looking at all the photos you took, If I'm in Vancouver someday, that store will be the first I'll visit.

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    1. Isn't it lovely when there's a happy ending to a story like this, Lesthi?

      If there were enough room in the trailer (and enough money in the bank account!), that bear would totally come home with the insomniac! ;o)

      Maybe Vancouver would be a lovely spot for a honeymoon? Although so would Romania. Tough choice. :o)

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    2. I googled Vancouver and it actually seems like a really beautiful and romantic place :D
      So we'll see what we choose, I think in the end we might go for the place that has autumn or spring at the time we wanna travel xD Summer and heat: No thanks.

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    3. Even winter is preferable to summer! :D

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  20. What a cool tour of the shop and area! You really gave us a feeling of the store's vibe and contents. I think the part I'd like best is that Chinese set of drawers with the mystery contents. I'm reminded of a shop in my city that is filled with Asian Antiques. There are plenty of old Chinese pieces like this in their basement too. Too bad they aren't filled with these types of goodies! Even without mystery drawers, I think you'd really like the place. The basement has lots of large dramatic sculptures of dragons, Gods, etc. It's kind of creepy, but in a cool way. This will give you an idea of what's in the basement: Art Asia Statuary

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    1. That's nice to hear you got a good sense of what the store's like, Justine! The Chinese cabinet is the insomniac's  favourite part, too. But it's been a long time since she's had the opportunity to go through every single drawer - probably pre-offspring!

      Store basements are the best, and even better if they're slightly creepy! Wow, those are some amazing statues. You're right - it is a very appealing place! Thanks for the link! :D

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    2. I was thinking about Salmagundi today and wondering if there were any YouTube videos of the store out there. I found one that gave me a tour of the place and a sense of the previous owner. I think you might enjoy this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACrsI1NvkcU

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    3. That's the perfect video and also the perfect music to go along with it! She was such a character - it makes the insomniac&nbs; chuckle, just thinking about her. Thanks for the link, Justine - you find the best stuff! :D

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  21. Hello, I'm here again, seeing updates. Excellent post, congratulations.
    Greetings from:
    http://terror-en-el-cine.blogspot.com/

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    1. Thank you, Oz! Greetings from the dark & dreary attic dormer! :o)

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  22. You have such a tremendously engaging writing style - I felt like I was hanging on your every word, growing ever more completely, rapturously engaged with this incredible shop with each passing line. How on earth is it possible that I'd not caught wind of such an magnificent establishment (that's been in business for decades) right here in my very own province before? I feel both delighted to learn of it and slightly ashamed I didn't know it existed before, but will console myself with the fact that I've not lived in the Lower Mainland since I was just a wee bit shy of my ninth birthday (and have only made it back to Vancouver proper a few times since, none of which have been even remotely recent). Thank you dearly for the excellent introduction - I now have a beguilingly appealing new entry on my "next trip to Van" itinerary.

    ♥ Jessica

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    1. Oh my, Jessica - that's quite the compliment! Thank you!! :o)

      Probably the only reason you've never found Salmagundi before now is because you really do have to come at it from the opposite direction. Those funny little pointy corners in Gastown can throw a person off!

      And even if you had discovered it when you were nine, you probably would have been just as bored as the youngest was when she was twelve. It's more of store that should be discovered when you're at least seventeen. ;o)

      LOL, nice to meet somebody else who keeps a Next Trip to Wherever itinerary. :D

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  23. Oh wow, that store looks like such a wonderful place! I'm sure I would be able to spend hours in there, looking at everything (or trying to anyhow) as well :3 Such a shame I haven't found anything like it in The Netherlands yet.

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    1. Ah ha! Yet another kindred spirit who can spend hours looking through every little drawer! :D

      Good luck in your quest to find a similar store in the Netherlands, Margaret! And when you do find it, please be sure to let the insomniac  know, so she can add it to the itinerary for the next time we visit. :o)

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