Linda Poole spent 12 years working abroad alongside her husband in the Canadian Foreign Service – and when she returned to Vancouver, she was instantly reminded of her love for the city’s blossoming cherry trees. Linda soon turned her passion into a citywide celebration: she created the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival, taking inspiration from the age-old tradition of sakura festivals in Japan. Now in its eighth year, the festival draws international attention and attracts thousands of attendees each year. Here, we ask Linda to tell us about the city’s best parks and gardens, and where visitors and locals can find the best cherry blossom sightings.
How long have you been a Vancouverite and why did you move here? I’ve been a Vancouverite for more than 20 years. A dream came true for me when Pacific Western Airlines transferred me for work from Edmonton to Vancouver.
Favourite way to spend a Saturday? Cycling around Vancouver’s 28-kilometre scenic beltway to Spanish Banks. What’s great about the city is you can bike from Stanley Park, across Burrard Street Bridge, past Kits Beach and safely along to UBC (especially with the new traffic-calmed Point Grey road). I also enjoy stopping by Epicurean (located in Kitsilano) for a perfect cappuccino alfresco, and then filling my wicker basket to shop for fresh and local produce at Granville Island (especially for organic Okanagan-grown Honeycrisp apples). I also enjoy grabbing a croissant at Daniel Le Chocolat Belge (located in South Granville) – it reminds me of being in Paris.
Favourite parks and gardens in Vancouver? Stanley Park was a motivating factor in my move here. I love biking the seawall, walking through the park’s forested trails and stopping at Beaver Lake Park – it’s simply stunning, especially during fall months. I feel particularly lucky that the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival offices are located at VanDusen Botanical Garden – the grounds are an inspiration for me and my everyday work. Another favourite is Queen Elizabeth Park, especially during springtime, with its magnificent display of cherry trees. You’ll also find me at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. The mosaic floor patterns are mesmerizing, and I like visiting the garden in late spring when the Royal Empress Tree is in bloom – it’s such a rare sight.
Top picks for local attractions and activities? The University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology is fantastic. Designed by late architect Arthur Erikson, the building itself is worth a visit. Also, many people don’t realize that behind the museum you’ll find stunning views of the ocean. I also enjoy attending local performances at the Arts Club Theatre and The Cultch. We have such a great theatre scene in Vancouver, and I always like seeing what’s new. I’m also a huge fan of alfresco theatre, and look forward to summer months when I can attend Bard on the Beach and Theatre Under the Stars.
Best locations for viewing the city’s cherry blossoms? For a canopy of cherry blossoms, visit the Burrard SkyTrain Station – there are few cherry blossom canopies in the city as beautiful as this. I also love the “Grand Pappa” cherry blossom tree at Queen Elizabeth Park, which is one of Vancouver’s largest cherry trees. If you’re up for a drive, I suggest cruising along Graveley and Lillooet streets (in Vancouver’s Hastings Sunrise neighbourhood). You’ll find yourself driving under a tunnel of old, blooming blossoms – it will blow you away. It’s even better in a convertible.
Top insider tip for visitors? Have a pop-up picnic under the cherry blossoms – its free and so beautiful. The VCBF Google Viewing Map is also a great guide for finding the best cherry blossom sites and locales for your picnic.
Photo and article/interview courtesy of Tourism Vancouver’s travel media newsletter for April 2014.