Cities have their own vernacular. Some boast unique architecture, a common sense of style and still others, a mode of transportation favoured by the citizens. Certain cities, however have their own scent or combination of scents – both good and bad.
From the pungent aroma of spices in the souks of Marrakesh; the salty air of West Coast cities; the crisp buttery smell of the croissants in Paris to the roasted smell of a local cafe in Portland these smells serve as landmarks and add to our sensory experience of a neighbourhood or city. So close your eyes and picture yourself at 6th and 6th – any odours standing out? Now how about in the middle of Queen’s Park – inhale deeply. Down by the Quay – is that a hint of tugboat diesel? Tell me, what does this city smell like?
That is the question I’ve been asking myself after coming across a unique children’s book called New York, PHEW York. Written by Amber Jones, a hotel concierge working in Times Square, the book is a scratch-n-sniff guide of New York featuring some of the pleasant and not so pleasant smells unique to the city. From pizza, hot dogs, churros and other such tasty delights, to the ever-present stench of garbage and sewer steam common across the five boroughs.
While New West doesn’t have the density of life present in New York City, it does certainly have its own aromas – some long-standing others newly emerging. Living in the downtown area of New West, the smell of crispy fried batter of a certain fish and chip shop comes to mind, as does the earthiness of the river along the quay. Another scent that stands out is the dampness of the leaves and trees crackling beneath my feet on early morning runs through Queen’s park. And with the River Market hitting its stride, new fragrances seem to be emerging all the time. The sour yeast smell of freshly baked bread and smoky BBQ being two standouts in my eyes – I mean nose.
Be it New York City, Vancouver or New West, each of these urban environments has its own sensory fingerprint. And while New York’s imprint might be made up of skyscrapers, honking horns and the smell of churros, New West has its own unique sensory profile and it includes more than just paper pulp. What does your New West smell like?