Most cities have their wooded "gem", their pièce de résistance among the highrises. Some rather annoying HGTV hosts like to employ this phrase when talking about a shabby chic cupboard or a just-right chandelier in a room. Pièce de résistance roughly translates to "showpiece" or "highlight", and when talking about a piece of furniture, it's used to describe that one piece that defines the entire room.
Vancouver's natural pièce de résistance is Stanley Park. Stanley Park is a 1,000 acre park on the edge of downtown Vancouver. A 6 mile seawall perimeter (which we ran along) rarely cuts away from stunning water views, either of the English Bay, the Burrard Inlet, or Vancouver's Harbor. The Stanley Park Causeway neatly divides the park in half, as it heads towards the Lions Gate Bridge into West Vancouver. The center of the park houses a network of trails through century old forests; the outer areas feature beaches, a large collection of totem poles, and a variety of more modern constructs like an aquarium and zoo.
Vancouver strikes an interesting balance between urban and natural; if you scan a google map of the city, you'll quickly understand this. While the downtown skyline is expansive and much of Vancouver's population lives in tightly packed homes or apartments, an aerial view shows numerous parks and public spaces dotting each neighborhood. We discovered this just wandering around – it was rare to walk a few blocks without passing a park. Stanley Park's 1000 acres makes it possible for residents and visitors to enjoy city or nature views in an undisturbed manner, and is a rejuvenating break from the downtown hustle.