One of the joys of traveling is coming across little gems, when one least expects it. This may be in the form of a museum or a restaurant or a waterfall or just about anything else. To me, the best gem is finding a nice park or garden, that just happens to be on our route to somewhere. What can one do when this magically happens but stay and enjoy such beauty. Parks allow us to unwind and recharge after a day of busy sightseeing. Its fun to watch kids running and shouting joyfully in local languages, while parents and grandparents look on adoringly. I’ve seen children push, shove, hug, laugh, cry, fall, rise, persevere their way across a park. What a great way to immerse in the local culture, watching life pass by in another country or continent.
I often think back fondly to times spent in these gardens and parks. So I thought to make a list of some of the most interesting parks/ gardens that we have visited. The list is not in any particular order but rather ones that are my most favorite.
Situated a short car ride from downtown Vancouver, and surrounded by water, this is easily the best park I’ve ever visited. 400 hectares of grassy green with amazing views of the surrounding bay and the harbor. There are totem poles to appreciate, walks along the Seawall on the harbor front, views of Grouse mountains to capture, and just superb vistas that beckon everywhere in the park. The kids enjoyed rolling down the grassy knolls and climbing the huge trees. I can imagine easily spending a day or two exploring this park. From food to nature, to art and culture and recreation, this park hits all the major check boxes.
About five years ago, our family decided to go on a lazy drive one summer afternoon and ended up discovering this little nugget. Chandor Gardens are a tribute to a couple’s passion for fostering natural beauty as a work of art. Developed by Douglas Chandor and his wife, Ina Kuteman in her native Weatherford, these gardens were left attended for two decades before the local residents and eventually, the city stepped in to rescue the Gardens. We were able to complete a tour of the gardens in about 2-3 hours time but am certain one could spend a lot more time enjoying the serenity of the gardens, the play of light and color and the various features arranged artfully throughout the garden.
Originally started as a royal pleasure garden in the 1300s and developed into a full-fledged one in the early 18th century, this is the largest of all gardens in Sri Lanka. It is just west of Kandy and boasts 4000 species of flora and several types of birds. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that this land had been so well protected and preserved for nearly 700 years. The depth of the roots and width of the tree trunks speak volumes about its storied history. We enjoyed lunch at it’s on site restaurant but the most fun part was walking across the suspension bridge.
Our most recent trip to Oslo led us to explore the beautiful Frogner Park. Its home to Gustav Vigeland’s sculptures and boasts some of his best known works like the Angry Boy, Monolith and the Wheel of life. The various sculptures in bronze, granite and cast iron complement the natural beauty of the park. What better place to ponder the deeper meaning of life and existence than in such a serene and verdant setting.
Back in 2010, when the JJ family visited San Fransisco, we spent an entire morning visiting this amazing park. Spread over 1000 acres or more, we barely scraped the surface with our visit. The Japanese Tea Garden held us enthralled for most of the morning. We enjoyed the lakes in the area as well, providing a good source of distraction for two young kids.
I found this park very interesting for its history. An old freight train railway track that had been in disuse for the last 25 years was converted into a sustainable and superlative park. All in the busy meatpacking district of NY city! The tracks ran above the streets of the city and its a joy to sit high up and watch the surrounding city come to life. The vivid colors and vibrant textures of the plants in the park give life to an amazing landscape.
Pollard Park, Blenheim, New Zealand
Christmas Day, 2016. We were to take the ferry from Picton to Wellington that evening and had to while away the whole morning in Blenheim. So we set out to explore this town and came across signs leading to this little park. What a precious discovery this turned out to be! Lots of locals out with family, friends and pets spending a quiet tranquil afternoon in the sun dappled light. A plethora of colors and scents that adorned the landscape. We enjoyed the fitness trails and spent some time challenging each other’s strength and endurance. Also interesting was the wall graffiti promoting self-confidence and embracing diversity on the school walls across from the park. Those messages fully resonated with the kids who still talk about it today.
In the middle of Tokyo is built the exquisite Imperial Palace, the residence of the Emperor of Japan. The palace, its moat and bridges and tree-lined grounds are adequate reasons to visit this area. But walk further and its an absolute joy to explore the grounds of the old castle, now with ruined walls. It boasts a spectacular garden that embodies a certain calm and charm, right in the center of one of the busiest cities of the world. Although many trees were stripped bare at the time of our visit in fall season, these gardens are one of the best places to see the cherry blossoms in spring.
While not really a park, the Floralis Generica is an unusual “flower” located in the United Nations Square in Buenos Aires, a walkable distance from the famed Recoleta Cemetery. Unlike real flowers, this is made of stainless steel and aluminium, but like its living counterparts, it opens by day and closes by night. With a span of about 96 feet when fully open, this is probably the largest flower one could come across. The work is the brainchild of local Buenos Aires artist Eduardo Catalano. The land it rests on doesn’t have much to speak of but the flower itself is certainly unique and well worth the walk.
En route to Ooty, India, our car driver took us via Coonoor and thus, we ended up at this park. Established in 1874, Sim’s park stands as a testament to the vision and passion of the then British powers that be, including its namesake, who were involved in the conception of the park. We got a good workout walking the length and breadth of the park and even managed to find two trees from Texas, our home state! It’s a small world, indeed!
While ostentatiousness and grandeur are not my style, Versailles struck a chord in me, perhaps for how well the palace was planned and built. I have often wondered how Louis XIV’s visitors responded to the majesty and splendor of the palace. Even more appealing are the gardens of Versailles, viewed from the Hall of Mirrors, planned to symmetrical perfection, reaching as far as the eye can see, with grand musical fountains and sculptures and groves and mazes. One could magically get lost in the gardens, pun intended!
Writing this post made me relive some of the best moments spent in these parks. I can’t wait to travel more and see what other parks and gardens lie waiting, just around the next bend.