Vancouver intimidates me. It is a huge shiny perfect kind of city and its traffic signals are strikingly foreign. One particular problem is that construction is everywhere. I am sure it has everything to do with preparations for the Winter Olympics, but I wonder if it isn’t a constant fixture because all of the buildings in the downtown area look modern and new. They all have the exact same sea-green glass and very little distinguishes one high-rise from another.
My goals for the day include visiting the art museum, which I passed a banner for yesterday announcing an exhibition of Rembrandt and Vermeer. Ooh, I think… dark and shiny. That sounds nice. It is. The exhibit is actually of Dutch masters and I believe only had one Vermeer and maybe four Rembrandts. Also, they didn’t have a Rembrandt self-portrait. I don’t understand how this is possible because Rembrandt must have done a hundred self-portraits so it seems easy enough to procure one. But it doesn’t really matter. The exhibit is well put-together and organized in groupings of similar subjects. My favorite being the Vanitas section, showcasing lovingly detailed portraits of skulls and books and empty goblets, symbolizing the futility of life and finality of death.
Another highlight was a camera obscura demonstration where they show how the Dutch artists used this tool to reflect a brightly-lit subject into a dark space, which creates the glossy, high-contrast images they are known for. It’s hard to describe, but the resulting image looks exactly like a Dutch painting, while the original looks flat and ordinary.
When I’ve seen everything I debate whether I have enough time to see another attraction I was interested in seeing: the Van Dusen gardens. I decide that I do have the time and I’m glad I did. I’ve got to say, I liked this place more than Butchart or Longwood Gardens. It was mostly because I don’t like my gardens overly-kept. I thought Butchart looked almost fake in its perfection. I liked how at Van Dusen there were occational dead flowers and leaves with yellow edges. Don’t get me wrong, the place was well-kept, but things were left to grow intentionally. Bushes and tree branches cut across paths and made it so you had to duck and edge over to the side. It felt more natural.
Also, I think I liked the gardens because there was a huge variety. They had forests and native plants, Asian rock gardens and mazes, a vegetable garden, ponds, reflection pools and a waterfall. They even had my absolute favorite thing: deep purple leaves and flowers offset by almost chartruse light greens, what they called the Black Garden. It was exactly how I would fill my own flower-bed.