Visiting Vancouver’s parks, a passion of the locals, is highly recommended for visitors. Locals go rain or shine, fog or mist. Others of us may be more cautious. If you are lucky, as we were on Tuesday, the fog lifts by the afternoon and we get the view.
There are many attractions at the top of Little Mountain. The Large Quarry and the Small Quarry have spectacular plantings and several walking paths cascading down from the summit. Even in January when the multiple greens of the trees, moss and plants predominate, there are a few flowers in bloom and many budding. The head gardener of the park told us that the spectacular winter roses we saw blooming in the small quarry were acquired for the 2010 Winter Olympics and originally planted at Prospect Point in Stanley Park. Who would have known that plants proliferating in multiple city parks would be another legacy of the Olympics?
Overlooking the quarries is Queen Elizabeth Plaza, the Bloedel Conservatory, and the Seasons in the Park restaurant. The Plaza is a hidden water reservoir, featuring The Dancing Waters fountain and the striking bronze casting of Henry Moore’s Knife Edge Two Pieces (1962-65). It is a vast expanse which also has extensive seating for visitors and a nearby Celebration Pavilion for weddings. The Bloedel Conservatory is a tropical garden and aviary featuring over 200 free-flying birds and over 500 plants in three habitats: tropical and sub-tropical rainforest and desert.
The complex was built to celebrate Canada’s Centennial, funded in part by a donation of $1.5 million by Prentice and Virginia Bloedel. Theirs was the largest donation ever received by the city to that time. The Conservatory, a triodetic dome manufactured in Ottawa, was opened in 1969. With financial deficits in 2009, the Parks Board voted to close it. The public rallied to save the Conservatory and since 2010 it has been operated jointly with nearby VanDusen Botanical Gardens. We didn’t have time to visit the Conservatory; clearly we will have to go back.
The Seasons in the Park restaurant is one of Vancouver’s best, a splendid site for special celebrations. Situated high above the little quarry, diners enjoy the view of the city at their feet and the mountains beyond. When we peeked in on Tuesday, we saw diners on the enclosed patio, eating by the warmth of three blazing fireplaces.