While in Vancouver, Don’t Blow by the Bloedel

Text & photos © Catherine Nichols

Never before had I been so stressed on a trip. There we were, stranded in Vancouver in a nightmare Airbnb situation with four kids. Count ’em: four. It was the one time we had decided that two of our daughters could bring two of their friends along on what should have been a month-long vacation in beautiful British Columbia, Canada. What we paid for was a peaceful house in an upscale, executive neighborhood, but what we got was construction noise from sunup to sundown from not one, but two, houses surrounding our rental property.

Best View in Vancouver

Best view in Vancouver

During the day we escaped our noisy neighbors and visited all the Vancouver tourist spots. Because it was the height of summer season when we arrived, every place we went was packed. However, one spot where we sought solace stood out from the rest: The Bloedel Conservatory.

Frazzled and frustrated with frizzy hair from the heat, we stepped inside the oasis after taking in what the Conservatory proclaims is “the best view in Vancouver” (and we would agree).

Purple "fluff" - so beautiful!

Purple “fluff” – so beautiful!

We were immediately overwhelmed by the sights and sounds coming from beyond the ticket booth and every one of us charged off in different directions to see all there was to see. Being together 24/7 makes it necessary to find an occasional escape for sanity’s sake.

Cramer's Rose

Cramer’s Rose

The Conservatory is small but chock-full of birds and blooming plants. They have three different plant zones and well over 200 birds flying this way and that. The bird calls fill the otherwise quiet city sanctuary.

He refused to talk to us

He refused to talk to us

Although there’s a desert section—unique to many who visit from other states and Canada—it looks like my front yard back home in Southern California so I didn’t spend much time looking at the cacti and succulents. Visitors will enjoy the huge collection of euphorbias and other cacti but I moved on to the subtropical and tropical zones to see what was blooming. I focused on the numerous tropical flowers—many of which I cannot see in the wilds of California.

Such bright pink color

Such bright pink color

We discovered a major stress reliever in the parrots as we attempted to get them to say something. We all tried our darndest to get the birds to talk. One did eventually say something, but it was a bird we weren’t personally pestering—we had to piggyback onto someone else’s success.

Pachystachys lutea, also known by the common name Lollipop plant

Pachystachys lutea, also known by the common name Lollipop plant

The birds made the trip to the Conservatory engaging for our gaggle of teen girls. It wasn’t just another place where Mom looks at plants and they stifle yawns, SnapChat four million pictures of themselves with their tongues out, and pretend to be interested. It had living, breathing things to harass.

"I stand out from the background!"

“I stand out from the background!”

The Conservatory is worth seeing but it’s small. Ideally, you should add other Vancouver stops onto your trip. One suggestion is Queen Elizabeth Park. We did not walk around this park much because we were there during a severe drought, and the only view we had was of a lot of burnt grass. (Again, we can see that at home!) From pictures I’ve seen on the Internet, it’s amazingly beautiful and comes highly recommended.

The Chenille plant, without pruning, grows over 2 meters tall

The Chenille plant, without pruning, grows over 2 meters tall

VanDusen Botanical Garden is also close. However, remember your travel companions because this is a lot of greenery to enjoy in one day!

For us the Conservatory had an added benefit: It was a quiet place to make an important decision. Sitting together on a bench, while listening to the sweet birds and hearing the four girls attempt to teach the parrots a word or two, my husband and I decided to ditch the construction, the noise, and Vancouver, and go home early. We decided a staycation at home in our very own tourist destination—San Diego—was a better fit for us than continuing to tolerate air compressor nail guns from 7 a.m. through till 8 p.m. every single day.


Cathie Nichols, staff member at Milliver's Travels

Catherine Nichols

Originally from the East Coast, Catherine Nichols has spent the last 29 years in San Diego, and stays in the area because of its extraordinary beauty and a lovely lack of humidity. Accused by her three children of looking at too many rocks while visiting Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon and the deserts of Nevada, she continues to marvel at the ever-changing southwest landscape. With trips to Washington DC, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Portland, and Europe planned, Catherine plans to reawaken her desire to see the world, and leave no stone unturned. Catherine writes in her blog at and tweets as @bloggoneit.


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