Monday, June 29, 2015

2015 PNW trip day 5-6: Vancouver, BC

We’ve been in Vancouver, British Columbia for two days now, and it hasn’t been love at first sight. True, its location is stunning, as you can see below.

150628_Vancouver_Strait_of_Georgia_pano

But the city is very large, very crowded, and very noisy. In addition, everybody seems to always be doing something: running, bicycling, speed-walking. It’s as if life is happening at a faster pace here than elsewhere. More than once I was reminded of an old documentary called Koyaanisqatsi. Its time-lapse and fast-motion sequences of modern life left quite an impression on me when I first saw in in the mid-80s.

2015-06-281_Vancouver_collage

I will say that on the morning of day 3, I’m getting acclimated to Vancouver, and that we’ve progressed from frenemies to acquaintances. Who knows, by the time we leave tomorrow, we may have struck up a friendship.

Yesterday we drove to the resort town of Whistler, about two hours north of Vancouver. I’d seen photos of towering mountain peaks and pristine alpine lakes. All of that may be there somewhere, but what we encountered was an extension of the traffic and crowdedness of Vancouver. Whistler Village is dominated by massive upscale lodges completely out of scale given the environment; expensive shops; and stressed-out drivers looking for parking. I felt so uncomfortable there that we left as soon as we arrived.

The most interesting thing of the whole drive to Whistler were the bilingual road signs in English and Squamish. Squamish looks to be a highly complicated language. Just take a look at the sign in the collage above (lower right). The town of Squamish is written as “Sḵwx̱wú7mesh.” Click here to hear it pronounced by a native speaker.

After our less-than-satisfying outing to Whistler I dropped my family off at our apartment on the campus of the University of British Columbia and headed to nearby VanDusen Botanical Garden to find some peace and solitude. In his 2014 book The Pacific Northwest Garden Tour: The 60 Best Gardens to Visit in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, Donald Olson calls VanDusen not only “one of the great gardens of the Pacific Northwest” (and the one garden to visit in Vancouver if you only have time for one), but “one of the great gardens of the world.”

I haven’t been to enough gardens internationally to judge the merit of that claim, but I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to VanDusen for several reasons: There were very few people there, and shortly after I arrived it started to drizzle. Feeling raindrops on my skin felt indescribably good. It was warm, around 80°F, and quite humid, but I didn’t mind.

150628_Vandusen_raindrops

Water lilies in Cypress Pond, VanDusen Botanical Garden

VanDusen is a large garden. I spend a couple of hours walking and I still didn’t see everything. It wasn’t until later that I read it’s spread out over 55 acres (22 hectares).

Living in California and typically drawn to sun-drenched Southern California and Arizona, I’m used to xeric gardens that are wide open. In contrast, VanDusen has many shady areas with dense stands of trees, alternating with expanses of grass and ponds (some of them called “lakes”). Clearly there is no shortage of water here in British Columbia. It took me a while to get used to such an abundance of water-loving greenery.

150628_Vancouver_Vandusen_cutting_garden_pano

Cutting garden at VanDusen Botanical Garden

I took many photos, more than enough for a dedicated post. Look forward to a cornucopia of large-leafed plants!

2015-06-28_VanDusenBG_collage

VanDusen Botanical Garden

I should also mention the Visitor Centre. Opened in 2011 and one of only five buildings worldwide that have received LEED Platinum certification (LEED’s highest energy-efficiency and sustainability rating), it is a fluid combination of wood, glass, concrete and metal. Seen from the air, it apparently resembles an orchid. I wish I’d had more time to explore it, but I’d already stayed longer than I thought I would and I had to meet my family for dinner.

RELATED POSTS:

2015 Pacific Northwest trip index

16 comments:

  1. I love this post. Typically, everyone raves about Vancouver and its extension, Victoria. Can't wait to get your views on Victoria. Never heard of Van Dusen before. My (native Californian) reaction to the wetness and greenness is always, can't they scrape some of this green stuff off so we can see the rocks and the ground? Thanks so much for the continuing posts about your trip and your reactions. Very enjoyable.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jane, I had expected to love Vancouver and was very surprised when I didn't. Maybe it's one of those cities that grow on you?

      I know exactly what you mean about all that greenness. It's getting to be a bit oppressive, LOL.

      Delete
    2. Me three on the reaction to So Much Green. Love to visit it, but glad to live (and garden) where I do!

      Delete
    3. I'm already beginning to suffer from succulent withdrawal. Saw a trunked Agave attenuata at the VanDusen Botanical Garden the other day and wanted to hug it!

      Delete
  2. Gerhard, this is slightly off topic, but on your way back home through Washington, try to find time to go to the Bellevue botanical garden. It's fantastic. Sue

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sue, not sure if our return route takes us through Bellevue but if it does, I'll swing by. Thanks for the recommendation!

      Delete
  3. Sounds like Vancouver has changed a lot since we visited 20 years ago. The VanDusen looks marvelous! Sorry that Whistler was a bust for you. I've never been but people rave about it. Good to hear a bit of reality.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think if somebody had driven us around in a limo, my first impression would have been much different, LOL.

      VanDusen BG was very nice indeed.

      Delete
  4. I have about 3,000 cousins in Vancouver, so all that traffic was family. ;^) Hope your visit improves...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your cousins AND all their relatives and friends! I hadn't realized that the Vancouver metro area has 2.4 millon people...

      Delete
  5. I haven't been to Vancouver since 1965. Sounds like its changed a bit! I'm enjoying the updates on your journey, Gerhard.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I bet there are about 2 million more people than in 1965!

      Delete
  6. Maybe British Columbia has been infiltrated by too many Californians? It's lovely to think of plentiful rain but I wouldn't exchange one frenetic city for another.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I won't even begin to speculate. Let me tell you, I'm glad our rental car has Oregon plates. At least people don't hate Oregonians the way they hate Californians.

      Delete
  7. Loving these posts, and looking forward to the dedicated posts for even more garden goodness. Haven't been to Victoria/Vancouver in ages, so this is all fascinating. (Also enjoying your photos on Instagram!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Off to Nanaimo today, then Victoria tomorrow. Victoria is MUCH smaller than Vancouver, and I expect great things.

      Delete