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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

QUEEN ELIZABETH PARK: From a Gravel Quarry to a Place of Beauty



Beautiful Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver started out as a basalt quarry owned by the C.P.R.  The quarry was officially closed in 1911 but the land was left like an ugly scar on the landscape for nearly two decades.  In 1940 the site was given the name of Queen Elizabeth Park after the 1939 visit of King George VI and his consort, Elizabeth. But it wasn't until 1949 that anything was done to transform the site by the Parks Board.  The quarry was then planted as an arboretum with the intention of displaying all the tree species native to Canada.
B.C. Dogwood


Other trees were planted too, including this Lebanese Cedar which was a gift to the park.




The main quarry was developed next and by 1969 Mr. Prentice Bloedel donated over a million dollars toward a new plaza, waterways, fountains and the domed Bloedel Floral Conservatory.

Today the Park is a favorite location for weddings and family excursions. It's a pleasure to stroll among the floral displays and gardens or to enjoy some spectacular scenic city views.






One winter or rainy days be sure and visit the Bloedel Conservatory which is filled with tropical plants and a hundred free flying exotic birds.  http://www.vancouver.ca/parks/parks/bloedel/index.htm
Or stop for a meal at the Seasons in the Park Restaurant (open daily) www.vancouverdine.com/season-park



The Park is located off 33rd Avenue between Cambie and Main Street.







Sunday, May 20, 2012

SNIFF,SIP,SWILL,SWALLOW,SPIT (and don't forget to DUMP)


SNIFF,SIP,SWILL,SWALLOW and don't forget to DUMP. Those are the rules of wine tasting.
I went to the New Zealand Wine Fair recently -- me a wine lover from away back who can never quite remember the names of wines that I favor.  And there I was confronted with HUNDREDS of bottles of wine waiting for me to taste, from the twenty six participating wineries of New Zealand.  Boy! Where to start?
First there was a separate table set up with some new wines that were not part of the main tasting room display.  So we started there and I tried diligently to mark down (one - five stars according to my likes.)The first wine I tasted, a Riesling, medium fruity taste, was actually my favorite of the whole day. From Waimea Estates. I was with my friend Mari who is a wine connoisseur and writes a very good wine blog. So I copied her and as we cruised down the table, glass in one hand, spit cup in the other, I remembered the protocol: first you sniff to get the bouquet, then you sip to get the taste and swill it around in your mouth to get even more taste (just let those taste buds explode!) and then you spit it out.  Mari reminded me to dump the spit cup occasionally or once and awhile you forget and might take a sip of it.  Yuk!

Once we had finished tasting the special collection, we moved into the larger room where long tables were set up with reps from all twenty-six participating wineries.  You could take you pick and taste any one of the wines they had on display.



It was one big wine-tasting party.  Soon we met up with Lenora, one of the travel writers, and the three of us cruised the room sampling and stopping to chat with the wine reps. There was a lot to taste: Riesling, Pino Gris, Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir,Chardonnay,Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. How do you keep track of it all?  Well, I made notes in the little book provided and marked the * to ***** stars but in looking back at them all I still decided it was definitely the Riesling I tasted when I first started out that I liked the best.


Of course, you can't drink all that wine (oh yes! I didn't spit ALL of it out!) so there were tables of the most delicious foods to sample as well, all aromatic New Zealand varieties to compliment the wines.

Nothing tastier than sizzling New Zealand lamb!

Or some beef savory sliders

Garnishes

The yummiest of all were the oysters on the shell. (I could have eaten a whole plate full!)

Then, for a little dessert:


Wine tasting is fun!  But I must remind myself next time to pay closer attention to the particular brands that I like most and make more detailed notes about them. 

If you want to read a good blog about wines,  check out my friend Mari Kane's wine blog. She's an expert! www.tastingroomconfidential.com













Sunday, May 13, 2012

BLOSSOM TIME AT VAN DUSEN GARDENS


One Sunday recently I went to Van Dusen Gardens to see the cherry blossoms.  It was one of our first really mild days so I made it a day for my first picnic of the year too.  Not too many of the flower beds were blooming, but there were many blossoming trees and shrubs which made it a pleasant, picturesque walk.

These lovely gardens, located at 37th and Oak Street in the city and easily accessible by public transit, have been developed on property that once belonged to the Canadian Pacific Railway and later leased by the Shaughnessy Golf Club from 1911 - 1960 when the golf club moved to a new location.  The CPR wanted to subdivide but this was opposed and in 1966 Van Dusen Botanical Garden Association was formed to assist the Vancouver Park Board with developing the site. The development started in 1971 and was officially opened to the public August 30, l975.

The garden covers 22 hectares (55 acres) and is a spectacular collection of plants from around the world representing ecosystems from tropical South Africa to the Himalayas, South America, the Mediterranean and plants native to the Pacific Northwest and other parts of North America.  No matter what season you, there's always something beautiful to see.

At this time of year, cherry blossom time, I specifically wanted to visit because every year in Vancouver they hold a Japanese haiku poetry contest.  Van Dusen Gardens has many Japanese cherry trees and there is a stone engraved with some of the haiku that people have written about the trees.
One of the very first haiku I can remember reading was one by Basho, and it got me interested in the haiku verse form.  "This day on which the cherry blossom fell has drawn to its close."  The translated forms of haiku, written in English are usually three lines of 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables, although the American version varies to sometimes shorter lines.  The haiku is usually about nature and the finally line will leave a lasting visual impression.

I enjoyed strolling around the pathways of the Gardens, discovering new shrubbery in bloom and even some sculptures.
Even though it was still early in the season, there were many flowers in bloom as well as the shrubbery and trees.




Rhododendron blossoms




The garden design has displays of plants in picturesque settings, to illustrate botanical relationships such as the Rhododendron Walk.  The gardens are set amidst rolling lawns, small lakes and rock work.



There are some areas that represent specific origins such as the Sino Himalayan Garden, and this beautiful pavilion honoring the Koreans.






There's always something interesting to see at Van Dusen, no matter what the season!  It's open seven days a week. There's a restaurant on the site if you want to stop for a meal.  Or why not take along a picnic lunch like I did?

For Admissions and other information:  www.vandusengarden.org