|It might look like my grand-niece Emi has moved to the tropics, but she's just celebrating B.C.'s Family Day at the Bloedel Conservatory in Vancouver.|
|Emi's mom Aya appears to be plotting how to tackle this place while my nephew Etienne holds the family's coats and bags, along with his daughter.|
|Exotic trees stretch up to the top of the Bloedel Conservatory's dome. There were plans in 2009 to close the conservatory for financial reasons, but it was rescued by an outcry and support from groups that formed to save it.|
|Emi and Aya with an amaryllis and other greenery that turns the dome into a jungle.|
|A potted orchid adds an exotic touch.|
|Aya photographs Emi among the red anthuriums, a common plant where she grew up in Mexico.|
|Outside, a snowy Queen Elizabeth Park makes a stark contrast with the tropical climate inside the dome.|
For the first time ever, John and I celebrated Family Day on Monday, with, well, family. We joined my nephew Etienne, his wife Aya and their two-year-old daughter Emi -- along with hundreds of other families -- for a walk through the Bloedel Conservatory in Vancouver's Queen Elizabeth Park.
It's described in its advertising as a "domed lush paradise" with hundreds of exotic plants and free-flying exotic birds in a temperature-controlled environment. What it feels like, when you walk in from the snow-covered park outside, is a different world: humid, green, light-filled, with unusual foliage stretching up to the dome's roof and strange screeches filling the air.
As always, it is interesting to see what catches each person's attention in an excursion like this. My favourite part was the exotic birds, a rainbow of otherworldly colours. Aya, who grew up in Mexico, liked the crimson anthuriums she knew from home, and pointed out coffee plants, papaya trees, banana palms, pineapple plants and jasmine. John took pictures; Etienne, the patient papa, carried everyone's coats and bags.
And Emi? Surrounded by exotic fish, flowers and birds, she discovered . . . the water fountain. Located in a grotto-like area near the washrooms, with banks of anthuriums at its base, it looked like an ordinary water fountain to us. But to her, it was irresistible, and every time we tried to move our little party along the path, back she went.
Proof that whatever we expect of each other, we just never know, even if we are family. In a tropical paradise, some of us might go for the birds, some for the plants, some for the photos -- and some for the water fountain.
|Aya holds up Emi so she can see the plants climbing to the top of the dome.|
|A stick of purple chalk from her purse occupies Emi's attention while a white macaw -- in the centre of the picture beside the red heat lamp -- looks on.|
|Ah, the best part of the whole show: the water fountain!|
|None of us adults tried it, but perhaps the water was something special to keep drawing Emi back.|
|Emi isn't in this picture -- she was at the water fountain -- but at the feeding station, one girl was delighted to hold a basin of exotic birds eating the food in it. Photo by John.|
|Etienne, Aya and Emi rounded out the day by coming to our place for supper. Emi likes to prepare crackers for everyone by spreading them with cheese, then handing them around.|
|In the kitchen, Emi previews dessert at the counter while Aya does dishes.|
|Cheesecake with whipped cream and raspberries. What's not to like? A pretty good Family Day all round.|