Outside, in the area between the museum and the cliff, you will find totem poles of the Kwakiutl, Haida, and Gitxsan people as well as two Haida houses, one for the living and one for the dead. From here you get a good view of the main building of the museum, a unique design if ever there was one. If you like Erickson’s architectural style, you may be interested in visiting the Burnaby Mountain campus of the other major university in Vancouver, Simon Fraser University, whose main buildings were also designed by Erickson.
The Nitobe Memorial Garden is an authentic Japanese tea garden where visitors can stroll past waterfalls, rivers, islands, and mountains. The highlights are the delightfully pruned maples and cherries, and of course all paths lead to the teahouse. The cherry blossoms in April or May and the iris blooms in June are spectacular. The UBC Botanical Gardens and Centre for Plant Research was established in the 1960’s and is a 70-acre coastal forest with plants from temperate regions around the world. For rhododendron fans, the Asian Garden features more than 400 species, while traditional gardeners will enjoy the physic garden for medicinal herbs, which is planted around a sundial in a geometric design. The Food Garden attracts many visitors simply because of the name, and I think some people are genuinely disappointed that it contains espaliered fruit trees and the latest varieties of vegetables. In the autumn a week-long apple tasting festival is held here. The E.H. Lohbruner Alpine Garden is the largest alpine garden in North America. The UBC Rose Garden was completed in 1994 and is on top of an underground car park. On a clear day, you can see the mountains along Howe Sound for miles. From the Rose Garden the campus stretches along tree-lined roads with a pleasing mixture of older and newer buildings. One of these is the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, a beautiful theatre that holds regular concerts of classical music featuring distinguished artists from around the world.
Surrounded by lush rain forest, the campus of the University of British Columbia (UBC) protrudes into the Pacific Ocean. Most of the Point Grey peninsula is given over to the Pacific Spirit Regional Park, an area of Pacific red cedar. Some 34 trails meander for over 50 kilometres through this park. When hiking here, you wouldn’t believe you are only half an hour’s drive from downtown Vancouver. These trails are popular with dog walkers, joggers, and mountain bikers, but their presence won’t detract from the sense of tranquility that prevails. Birdwatchers may see blue herons and will definitely hear woodpeckers hammering away.
The Museum of Anthropology is an Arthur Erickson-designed museum that is located on the cliffs of Point Grey, overlooking English Bay and the North Shore Mountains. It is probably Canada’s most memorable museum, housing one of the world’s finest and most colourful displays of Northwest Coast First Nations art. Inside the soaring glass and concrete structure of the Great Hall, with its 14-metre high windows that allow natural illumination to flood into the interior, you will see the totem poles, feast dishes, and canoes of the Gitxsan, Haida, and Coast Salish peoples amongst others. The museum also features the world’s largest collection of works by acclaimed Haida artist Bill Reid, including his most famous sculpture “The Raven and the First Men”. The award-winning Koerner Gallery within the museum houses a collection of European ceramics unique to North America. The museum also has around 15,000 objects from around the world that are accessible to the public in the Visible Storage Galleries. This is a unique way of displaying artifacts that invites the comparing and contrasting of objects from different cultures around the world, without visitors touching the exhibits, which are held in glass drawers.
If you fancy an ice-cream on Commercial Drive the selection, from the hundreds on offer, will include chili, Gorgonzola, or lavender. If you want a coffee, the options on Commercial Drive aren’t small, medium, or large; they’re Ethiopian, Vietnamese, or Cuban. There are numerous fruit and vegetable stores along ‘The Drive’ too, ideal if you want to buy supplies for a picnic.
During the 1870s and ’80s, Commercial Drive was a skid road that supplied logs to the Hastings Sawmill on Burrard Inlet. After WWI there was a big influx of Italian, Chinese,
and Eastern European immigrants. After WWII a further wave of Italian immigrants established the basis for today’s Commercial Drive, which was called “Little Italy” for
decades. Commercial Drive is easy to reach on the Skytrain. Get off at either Broadway or Commercial Drive stations and head towards the North Shore mountains. You may at first
wonder if this rundown-looking area is the right place, but don’t turn back. After a block or two you’ll begin to see the choices available.
The lively 16-block area of Commercial Drive (between Broadway and Venables) is an enormously popular district with locals, but is often overlooked by tourists. The main
reason for tourists to come here is to discover the most diverse mix of people, dining, shopping, and entertainment that Vancouver has to offer; in fact Commercial Drive might
just be the most culturally diverse neighbourhood in North America. Any walk along ‘The Drive’, as it is known by Vancouverites, will quickly show you that there is an almost complete absence of chain stores and fast-food outlets; indeed the McDonalds went out of business and became a gym. Not that this will unduly concern you for too long as you will soon be open-mouthed at the abundance of culinary and shopping choices that this vibrant community has on offer.