Seedy Saturdays herald Spring – or at least the hope of it

Qualicum Beach Seedy Saturday crowds in the civic centre

Seedy Saturday in Qualicum Beach is a major community affair, as evidenced by the large crowds that turn out

They are popping up as readily as weeds in a garden, but the dozens of Seedy Saturdays planned for Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands can’t help but lift the spirits (and, perhaps, hopes, that this year’s events will reveal a magical method of eliminating weeds permanently?).

Information on heritage tomatoes at Seedy Saturday

Information displays abound at Seedy Saturday events

Seedy Saturdays have sprung up all over the place thanks to the renewed interest in gardening and home-grown food that has flourished over the past 10 or 15 years. Even if you aren’t a gardener and have no aspirations to become one, a visit to one of these diverse events will instil a new spring in your step and a lightness of heart.  The Seedy Saturdays are, of course, the precursors to the gardening season, and if that is the case can warmer weather and sunny skies be far behind?

            So, what exactly is a Seedy Saturday, you may be wondering. There are actually no hard and fast rules on this one, but the general concept is to introduce the general public to new and/or existing information about gardening, whether it be flowers or foodstuffs. Most often there are seed swaps and many of the larger events have vendors, speakers, demonstrations, raffles, door prizes, information booths. It is entirely possible that you will find heritage seeds to purchase (remember those marvellous, flavourful tomatoes your grandmother used to grow? You may well be able to grow them too). There are often ‘started’ plants available, you might find the perfect piece of ornamentation for that difficult spot in your yard, or you may have an opportunity to speak to some of the local growers who comprise your area’s farmers markets. There are frequently Master Gardeners to consult for free gardening advice. One of the beauties of these events is that you are able to talk to growers in your own area, which means they have a good idea of what does – or doesn’t – do well in your particular region.

Outdoor vendors Seedy Saturday
The Seedy Saturday at Qualicum Beach has become so large that vendors spill out of the civic centre

            One of the grand-daddies of the Seedy Saturday concept is located in Qualicum Beach, where it has flourished for many years.  It is the first such event each year to be held on Vancouver Island proper; until recently it was the first each year in all of western Canada. All of the features mentioned in the paragraph above, and many more, can be found at the Qualicum Beach event.  It is always the first Saturday in February, and since its inception has grown to the point where vendors now overflow into the parking lot at the large Civic Centre site. In excess of 2,000 visitors pour through the doors to enjoy the varied displays and lectures, and to revel in that first breath (or at least, hope) of Spring.

Vendor discusses products

Vendors at Seedy Saturdays offer a wide range of products and expertise

The Seedy Saturday series kicks off this coming weekend (January 31) on Denman Island, followed on February 7 by the event in Qualicum Beach. After that there is one almost every weekend somewhere on the Island(s) until early April. Some events have become Seedy Sundays, but a quick look at the events listing on the Seeds of Diversity website at www.seeds.ca will tell you exactly what is on, and where. Virtually all of the Seedy Saturdays are organized and run by legions of volunteers in their respective communities, so be sure when you attend to thank them for all of their hard work and dedication to the cause of local, sustainable growing and marketing practises. They truly do make a difference.

             Further information on the Seedy Saturday  at Qualicum Beach can be obtained by going to the website at

 http://www.qbseedysaturday.com/

Wheelchair accessibleThe Qualicum Beach Seedy Saturday is held at the town’s Civic Centre at 747   Jones Street

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 49.34626334450604  Long. -124.4491982460022

N 49 20.776 W 124 26.952

Posted in EAST CENTRAL ISLAND, EVENTS, KID FRIENDLY, WHEELCHAIR ACCESS | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

THANK YOU flowers

Today marks the launch date for this blog/website in 2012, and we would like to take this opportunity as we swing into our fourth year to thank all of our readers and advertisers for their support. It has been a great ride discovering so many special places and people and introducing them to our readers all over the world; we look forward to continuing the adventure.

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Tina’s Diner brings the 1950s back to downtown Nanaimo

tina's signWe felt as if we had been in a time machine recently when we walked into Tina’s Diner in downtown Nanaimo. We headed there for a late Saturday breakfast after hearing about this unique spot, and we weren’t disappointed.

Tina’s is an authentic 1950s diner that has survived for more than 60 years by providing simple, basic food at a reasonable price. The fact that the distinctive décor and relaxed ambiance remains intact may have something to do with it too – in fact, it probably has a lot to do with it.  There’s nothing like a good dose of nostalgia to start the day.

The warm butter-yellow walls in Tina’s are dressed with old vinyl records, period prints, photos of 50s-era movie stars and many other items that bring back the 50s for those who knew them.  There are booths (with vinyl-covered seating) featuring arborite table tops, a long counter with seating, and radio music coming from the sound system – no elevator muzak in this place – it didn’t even exist in the 50s, so it’s in keeping with the theme.

Tina's exudes old-fashioned warmth and friendliness - not to mention a healthy dose of nostalgia

Tina’s exudes old-fashioned warmth and friendliness – not to mention a healthy dose of nostalgia

The service at Tina’s is friendly and quick, which is a good thing because the place is popular.  All told, without counting the couple of outdoor tables Tina’s can seat about 35.

We ordered off the traditional fifties-style menu, which includes basic old-fashioned offerings like Eggs Benedict, corned-beef hash and a variety of bacon-sausage-eggs combinations. There is a bit of a tip of the hat to modern times in that wraps are offered on both lunch and breakfast menus. But the hash browns are real, cooked-from-scratch potatoes and the French fries are house-cut. The eggs are what we call ‘real’ too – none of those pale, insipid grocery store eggs, but specimens that are obviously fresh, with bright yellow yolks.

Good old-fashioned Eggs Benedict

Good old-fashioned Eggs Benedict

As I have mentioned, the food here is basic 50s diner-style.  No gourmet twists, no ostentatious seasonings, no claims to be organic, gluten-free, vegan or any of the other trends that have invaded many menus these days – nothing fancy, just plain-simple food from plain, simple times.  My husband’s eggs benny were flavourful and filling. My corned beef hash was a generous serving accompanied by two poached eggs – had to jazz it up a little with extra salt, pepper and HP sauce, but it worked for me.  The accompanying multi-grain toast was made from really nice bread that had some texture and flavour to it.

We spent about an hour in Tina’s, watching the world go by and expecting Fonzie from Happy Days to saunter in the door at any moment – the place truly does reflect the atmosphere of the 1950s to that extent.

Another throwback to times past – cash only is accepted, and all menu items have tax included. You get bottomless cups of coffee. We liked that we could figure out exactly what our meal was going to cost without having to pull out a calculator.

Further information on Tina’s Diner can be found at:

http://tinasdiner.shawwebspace.ca/

Price rating: $-$$

Tina’s Diner is located at 187 Commercial Street in downtown Nanaimo.

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 49.166373330064836  Long. -123.93693272387531

N 49 09.982  W 123 56.216

 
Tina's Diner on Urbanspoon
 

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Royston’s Seaside Walk offers beautiful views, wildlife, history

BenchsittersIt’s amazing what can be accomplished in the tiniest of communities, as we discovered recently on a trip to the hamlet of Royston, just south of Courtenay. The settlement is home to just over 1,500 residents – and to a spanking new seaside walkway that provides a pretty walk (or jog) along the waterfront.

The Royston seafront walk is a great spot for folks of all ages - this family enjoys a little winter beach time

The Royston seafront walk is a great spot for folks of all ages – this family enjoys a little winter beach time

Although we found it a little confusing as to the actual length and location of the walkway and parking facilities, we decided the simplest plan was to start our adventure at the far south end of Marine Drive and just keep walking.  As it turned out, it was a good decision that provided a delightful outing.

The Marine Drive end of the walk features picnic tables and a large stone fireplace

The Marine Drive end of the walk features picnic tables and a large stone fireplace

The Marine Drive portion of the walkway straggles along beachfront that looks across to the community of Comox.  There are picnic tables and a huge stone fireplace, built as a centennial project and documenting all the youngsters who helped to haul stones from the beach for its construction.

Since 1937 derelict ships of all shapes and sizes have formed a breakwater in the bay

Since 1937 derelict ships of all shapes and sizes have formed a breakwater in the bay

At low tide walkers can continue for 600 metres (656 yards) along the beach to connect up with the level gravel portion of the walkway.  We visited when that was not possible, so detoured up the hill at the end of Marine Drive, and trundled briefly along a roadside trail next to Highway 19A before dipping back down to the waterfront at Lince Road.

The trail is easily accessed and easily traversed

The trail is easily accessed and easily traversed

The level, groomed trail commences at the bottom of Lince and wends its way along for 1.1 kilometres (just under a mile), with delightful views of the water, wildlife and a unique breakwater locally known as the Royston Wrecks.

A history lesson along the way - the story of the Royston Wrecks

A history lesson along the way – the story of the Royston Wrecks

The Royston Wrecks (or ghost ships, as some call them) have a long history in the area – beginning in 1937 wrecked tugs and sailing ships were sunk to create a breakwater for the log booming grounds in the Comox Harbour. The ship graveyard includes a three-masted windjammer built in 1876, a number of five-masted barquentines, a four-masted barque, whaling boats, navy frigates, freighters and tugboats.  While the breakwater and its ship remains certainly can’t be described as beautiful there is a sense of times gone by and wonder at the sight of history slowly sinking into the sea.

From the bottom of Lince Road we ambled north, through the parking area at Hilton Road and all the way along to the end of the trail at Chinook Road.  There is a wheelchair-accessible porta-potty at the parking lot, and the trail is easily navigable for motorized scooters or wheelchairs – it is level, wide and well-groomed.  There are benches at various points for those who need a rest or simply a place to contemplate the natural beauty and wildlife of the area.

Dogs are also welcome on the trail, as long as they are leashed

Dogs are also welcome on the trail, as long as they are leashed

We spent a couple of hours on the trail, although that time can certainly be shortened by parking at the Hilton Road lot and just doing the north end of the walkway.

We are so delighted that what was once an abandoned logging railway grade that was being destroyed by erosion has been rehabilitated for the enjoyment of the general public.

Further information on the Seaside Walk and a map of the trail can be found at:

http://www.comoxvalleyrd.ca/EN/main/community/parks-trails/comox-valley-parks/royston-seaside-trail.html

             wheelchair-lGPS co-ordinates for the trail, beginning at the Hilton Road parking lot, are:

Lat. 49.6524742306177  Long. -124.95285429416503

N 49 39.148  W 124 57.171

Posted in COURTENAY/COMOX VALLEY, DOG-FRIENDLY, KID FRIENDLY, SPECIAL PLACES, WHEELCHAIR ACCESS | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Buttertubs Marsh – a little bit of heaven in the heart of Nanaimo

A view of the pretty and serene marsh, located in the heart of Nanaimo

A view of the pretty and serene marsh, located in the heart of Nanaimo

With the feasting, partying and indoor activities of the Yuletide season often comes the desire to just get outdoors for a bit of fresh air and exercise. There is a perfect spot right in the heart of Nanaimo that will fulfill that need without killing you if there have been excesses of food and drink in your life of late. Buttertubs Marsh is a lovely, level 100-acre man-made bird sanctuary that offers wide walking trails, peace and quiet and exercise as gentle or rigorous as you care to make it.

The level loop trail offers varying vistas of the marsh and its inhabitants

The level loop trail offers varying vistas of the marsh and its inhabitants

We still haven’t managed to figure out why this marsh was given its name.  Buttertubs is actually an area in the Yorkshire Dales of England that features 20-metre (65 feet) limestone potholes.  When farmers were on their way to market during hot weather they would pause to rest at Buttertubs Pass and lower their butter into the potholes to keep it cold.

Looking for lunch.....

Looking for lunch…..

Name confusion notwithstanding, the Nanaimo Buttertubs is a lovely spot that offers pretty sights from viewing platforms and the opportunity to enjoy a variety of wildlife in its natural habitat.

The buttertubs in England, where farmers travelling to market would stop for a rest and lower their butter into the chasms to keep it cool

The buttertubs in England, where farmers travelling to market would stop for a rest and lower their butter into the chasms to keep it cool

Our recent outing was pretty quiet wildlife-wise – we apparently had just missed seeing Trumpeter Swans, managed to observe a few ducks and one hungry hawk on the hunt for lunch.  However, it is apparently not uncommon to see great blue herons, mallards, Canada geese, ring-neck ducks, hooded mergansers, and American widgeons. Violet-green swallows and red-winged blackbirds are not unusual in the spring. Virginia Rails and American Bitterns are vocal denizens of Buttertubs Marsh Bird Sanctuary, which is also Vancouver Island’s only documented breeding site of American Bitterns.

Someone with a sense of humour dressed up a downed tree

Someone with a sense of humour dressed up a downed tree

Regardless of the lack of ‘things on the wing’ – or in the marsh, for that matter – we ambled along greatly enjoying the various views and the crisp, sunny day.  English oaks arch over the trail at several points, and hawthorn and blackberry bushes provide a cornucopia of feeding options for the winged residents.

Buttertubs Pass in England

Buttertubs Pass in England

There are a number of benches located along the trail, and a raised viewing platform offers the perfect vantage point for bird watching or photography.

Bullruishes Because it is a sensitive conservation area dogs (even on-leash), bicycles and motorized vehicles are not allowed. Narrow gates at the entrance to the 2.4 kilometre (1 ½ mile) loop trail around the marsh conservation area ensure that no wheeled modes of transportation can access the area. So, the speediest trail user you are likely to encounter will be a runner.  If you aren’t up to anything more than walking (or even if you are confined to a wheelchair) you will be in good company.

The brick miner's cottage

The brick miner’s cottage

At the end of our wandering we also discovered an historic brick miner’s cottage off to the side of the conclusion of the loop trail.  Built around 1910, it is the only brick house known to have survived.  The bricks were made in nearby Wellington and the building now serves as a meeting place.

            Further information about Buttertubs Marsh can be found at the website:

http://www.nanaimo.ca/PRC/Locations/Parks/177-Buttertubs-Marsh-Park

Buttertubs Marsh Park is located at 1780 Jingle Pot Road

 wheelchair-l

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat.  49.166538123883136  Long. -123.97196259412396

N 49 09.992   W 123 58.318

 

Posted in EAST CENTRAL ISLAND, KID FRIENDLY, SPECIAL PLACES, WELCOME, WHEELCHAIR ACCESS | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas clip artWe are going to take a some time off to spend time with family and friends over the festive season, but hope you will re-join us on January 8 for the first post of the New Year. Thank you to all of our readers and advertisers for your positive feedback, support and enthusiasm, and Merry Christmas to one and all.

 

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The reason for the season brought to life at Bethlehem Walk

 

Butcher, Bethlehem Walk

A huge array of vendor stalls are included in the Bethlehem Walk, including a butcher

Ask anyone in the Parksville/Qualicum Beach area about the best festive season attractions in Oceanside and the Bethlehem Walk is sure to be near the top of their list of ‘must do’.  This amazing spectacle is built and manned totally by volunteers from the congregation of the Parksville Fellowship Baptist Church and draws visitors from all over the Island through its annual four-day run. This event  is an amazing re-creation of the town of Bethlehem at the time of Christ’s birth, right down to a live baby (the newest member of the congregation) nestled in a manger.

Sheep at Bethlehem Walk

Livestock is included in the walk, adding to the authenticity

           The congregation begins building the ‘walk’ each autumn and by the end there is a totally undercover reconstruction of the cobbled streets, rustic vendor stalls, livestock enclosures and pretty much everything else you can imagine would have been found in Bethlehem all those years ago. There are bakers, basket makers, an apothecary, wool brokers, candle makers, metal workers, butchers and fish mongers. There are sheep and other livestock and so many more features that it is difficult to remember them all.

           

Fishmonger, Bethlehem Walk

Members of the congregation are in period dress

And then, not content to just build this awe-inspiring village, the entire congregation, from youngsters to adults, mans all those features for four nights, dressed in period costume and filling the roles of merchant called for in each shop or stall.

            We have returned to the Bethlehem Walk many times over the years and are always so impressed by the authenticity and endless hours that go in to providing such an amazing attraction for the community. All of the smells and sounds of this ancient town are there, drawing us back to yesteryear – and providing a gentle reminder of the real reason for the festive season.

           

Weaver at Bethlehem Walk

Ancient skills are displayed too

We generally find that we have to wait outdoors for quite some time prior to being admitted to spend an hour or so enjoying the Bethlehem Walk, which as I mentioned earlier is all enclosed and under cover.  It’s a good idea to bundle up and come prepared for whatever the weather is throwing at us but rest assured, any wait you may have to endure is well worth the trouble. And, there hot chocolate and cookies are offered in the church at the end of your tour of Bethlehem so you can look forward to warming up afterwards. The church also takes donations of food and money for local charities  at this event so, while there is no charge to take in this marvellous display we always take something as a contribution for those who are less fortunate.

            Dates for this year’s Bethlehem Walk are Saturday, December 13 – Tuesday, December 16 from 6 – 8:30 p.m. , with a special showing for pre-school and special needs on the morning of Monday, December 15, although we have seen folks in wheelchairs attend the evening showings in past years. There is a shuttle service from a nearby mall to accommodate easy parking for those attending.

            Further information on the Bethlehem Walk can be found on the church’s website at:

            http://www.parksvillebaptist.org/events-and-calendars/bethwalk

             Parksville Fellowship Baptist Church is located at 550 Pym Street, Parksville

wheelchair-m GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 49.332716332422805  Long. -124.33788028465574

N 49 19.963  W 124 20.273

 

Posted in ATTRACTIONS, EAST CENTRAL ISLAND, EVENTS, KID FRIENDLY, WHEELCHAIR ACCESS | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

McLean Mill Christmas Village offers the charm and loveliness of an old-fashioned festive season

The entryway to the magical village welcomes visitors for the festive season

The entryway to the magical village welcomes visitors for the festive season

Christmas is one of the most magical times of the year for many folks, me among them. There are many, many great Yuletide offerings here on the Island, beginning with the craft fairs that seem to get under way earlier every year (first weekend in November) and running right through to the New Year.  One of our favourite events is the annual  McLean Mill Christmas Village, which brings this National Historic Site back to life with the charm and loveliness of an old-fashioned festive season.

Just one of the beautifully-decorated cottages in the Christmas Village

Just one of the beautifully-decorated cottages in the Christmas Village

The history of the McLean Mill is chronicled elsewhere on this website in the Attractions section; the folks who oversee the mill’s operation are full of great ideas that keep visitors coming throughout the year. We think the Christmas Village and the affiliated craft fair and steam train ride from Port Alberni is one of the best attractions for folks young and old.

            The kick-off for the Christmas Village events is an engaging steam train ride from the old train station in downtown Port Alberni, this year slated for Saturday, December 6.  The village light-up takes place that night, heralding the Festival of Christmas Lights.  The craft fair gets under way at the same time.

You can stroll through the entire National Historic Site enjoying Christmas music and the small village Christmas ambiance

You can stroll through the entire National Historic Site enjoying Christmas music and the small village Christmas ambiance

The beauty of this particular event is that it isn’t your usual run-of-the-mill Christmas venue. The craft vendors are set up inside the small bungalows that served as actual homes to the mill workers and their families more than 85 years ago. You can spend hours poking through the historic structures, enjoying the beautiful and varied offerings of many talented merchants.  Each house is ablaze with colourful Christmas lights and other seasonal decorations, and the opportunity to wander from building to building enjoying the sights gets the festive season off to an enchanting and relaxed beginning. If you are lucky, as we have been in past years, you might even get a bit of snow, which adds immeasurably to the old-fashioned Christmas spirit of the place.

Cheerful greeters!

Cheerful greeters!

For the little ones, Santa will be on site for photos.  There is entertainment galore and a huge bonfire offers a great spot to warm up and visit during your explorations. And, here’s a bonus at this expensive time of year – admission to this delightful happening is free.

            The 2014 McLean Mill Christmas Village and Festival of Lights commences on  Saturday, December 6,  one of a couple of occasions when you can  enjoy the Spirit of Christmas steam train ride out to the mill and back – after that you will have to drive or find other means of transportation to the mill site.

 The website for the McLean Steam Sawmill National Historic Site is at:

 www.alberniheritage.com/mclean-mill/welcome-mclean-steam-sawmill

 The McLean Mill National Historic Site is located at 5633 Smith Road in the Beaver Creek area, about 11 miles out of town.

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 49.30866544272342

                                                               Long. -124.82910633087158

N 49 18.520  W 124 49.746

Posted in ATTRACTIONS, EVENTS, INLAND CENTRAL ISLAND, KID FRIENDLY | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Find the magic in Milner Gardens Christmas event

Tens of thousands of colourful lights brighten the historic Milner estate for the annual Christmas Magic event

Tens of thousands of colourful lights brighten the historic Milner estate for the annual Christmas Magic event

The magic of the Christmas season arrives at  Qualicum Beach’s  Milner Gardens beginning December 5, offering up a cornucopia of festive delights not to be found anywhere else on the Island.

Every year there are new displays, such as this lighted archway en route to the house

Every year there are new displays, such as this lighted archway en route to the house

The historic Milner estate is a 70-acre blend of forest and waterfront woodland garden anchored by an enchanting gabled house that was completed in 1931. The garden and house are a major attraction for visitors and area residents throughout the year for a variety of events, but the Milner Christmas Magic experience has to be one of its most popular.

            Designed to appeal to kids of all ages, Milner’s yuletide attraction begins with a leisurely walk or shuttle ride along the lengthy winding driveway that leads to the house. The driveway is strung with lights, and static decorative displays along the way draw the eye and build anticipation of what is to come. When the driveway terminates at the house and 10-acre waterfront garden visitors are greeted with an eye-popping blaze of thousands of multi-coloured lights.  They are strung from trees, along the house and from almost any other vantage point you can imagine. It is impossible not to be cheered by the sight.

What would a Christmas event be without Santa and Mrs. Claus?

What would a Christmas event be without Santa and Mrs. Claus?

The light displays, however, are really just the beginning. The folks at Milner do an extraordinary job of creating the ambiance, charm and excitement of an old-fashioned Christmas in so many ways, and in many locations on the estate.

            The gracious old home is the main focus for much of the special activity that occurs. It is decorated end-to-end, indoors and out, with greenery and twinkling lights, evoking memories of a gentler time that preceded the commercial juggernaut of modern Christmases.

           One of the main attractions in the house is the story room, complete with comfy chairs and cushions on the floor. Volunteers spend the evenings reading to book fans young and old.

Christmas stories for kids at the main house - what could be better?

Christmas stories for kids at the main house – what could be better?

The beautiful tea room, complete with handsome fireplace and festive decorations, offers scrumptious treats and warm beverages – again, thanks to the work and dedication of many volunteers. There is a room offering live seasonal music for those who enjoy that aspect of this festive time of year, and another of the rooms is set up as a mini-shop, where visitors can purchase a variety of lovely items.

The tea room at the main house serves up warming deliciousness during the event

The tea room at the main house serves up warming deliciousness during the event

Volunteers also man an outdoor concession near the house where hot chocolate, hot dogs and other sustenance is available.

            There are other special spots on the estate as well, all located near the driveway access that leads to the house. The old gardener’s cottage is transformed into the Teddy Bear Cottage, and the pool house is an expanded permanent version of the shopping opportunity found at the main house.

The Teddy Bear Cottage is always a favourite attraction

The Teddy Bear Cottage is always a favourite attraction

All-in-all, Milner Christmas Magic is one of the best ways to begin the Christmas period. It offers a relaxed two or three hours that will take you back to the festive seasons of yesteryear; and who knows, you might even run in to Santa and Mrs. Claus!

            Comfortable footwear and warm clothing are recommended, and it’s not a bad idea to take a flashlight along. Admission to Milner Christmas Magic is by donation at the main entry gate.

            Dates and hours for the 2014 Milner Christmas Magic event are as follows:

December 5 – December 7, December 12-14, December 17-21  from 5 – 8:30 p.m.

 Milner Gardens and Woodland is located at 2179 West Island Highway at Qualicum Beach. Further information can be obtained at the website:

www.viu.ca/milnergardens/index.asp

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 49.352825  Long. -124.412852

N 49 21.170  W 124 24.771

Posted in ATTRACTIONS, EAST CENTRAL ISLAND, EVENTS, KID FRIENDLY | Leave a comment

Old world charm combines with a casual vibe at The Vault

Vintage lusury combines with good food and old world charm for a great combination at The Vault

Vintage luxury combines with good food and old world charm for a great combination at The Vault

If you are looking for a casual meal in a truly wonderful environment you need look no further than downtown Nanaimo and a place called The Vault.

The exterior of the historic building that houses The Vault only vaguely hints at the delightful ambiance to be found inside.  The building was constructed in 1912 from a design by one of the most popular architects of the day, Francis Rattenbury.  Rattenbury had designed the stunning legislative buildings and the Empress Hotel in downtown Victoria, thus coming to the project for the Merchants Bank of Canada with a considerable reputation. The place is now on the Nanaimo Heritage Register – the sole example in the city of the graceful Free Renaissance style that was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

It doesn't look all that special from the outside....

It doesn’t look all that special from the outside….

The only exterior features that hint of the charming interior are the elaborately detailed round arched windows featuring radiating mullions. Inside, however, is a whole different story.

...but the interior serves up beautiful antique finishes and a relaxed ambiance

…but the interior serves up beautiful antique finishes and a relaxed ambiance

We instantly fell in love with the relaxed vibe of The Vault.  There is no haute cuisine here, no high-end service.  You walk up to the service bar, peruse the blackboard menu, order and then find a comfy spot to wait and enjoy the intrigues of the interior – of which there are many.  The folks at The Vault have managed to combine all manner of eclectica to provide a casual ambiance that offers old-fashioned elegance and beauty.  Intricately carved wooden ceiling beams combine with beadboard, vintage furniture, lots of natural light and a multi-level structure to provide plenty of elbow room. Meals are served on mismatched vintage dishes, adding to the appeal. There are antique odds and ends all over the place, taking patrons back to another era. Live posies arranged in china teacups grace each table

Comfort good at its best - home-made, home-grown

Comfort food at its best – home-made, home-grown

The food is good, too.  We shared a hearty bowl of from-scratch soup featuring double-smoked farmer sausage and harvest vegetables, accompanied by a yummy open-faced chicken pesto sandwich (on home-made bread) crammed with bacon, spinach, cheddar and cream.  The Vault sources many of its ingredients here on Vancouver Island and the food, as we were told by our server, is ‘made with love.’

Although the menu is limited it all smacks of good old down-home comfort food goodness, which goes hand-in-hand with the atmosphere of the place.  Nightly live entertainment brings in the evening crowds, adding to the revival of downtown Nanaimo.

The beauty of yesteryear reverberates throughout the cafe

The beauty of yesteryear reverberates throughout the cafe

Clearly, the combination of flavourful honest fare, welcoming vibe and heritage chic is working.  During the hour we enjoyed at The Vault all manner and ages of folks wandered in. It seems to have become a favourite spot for Nanaimo residents to study, knit, read, watch street life or enjoy a quiet coffee. It may seem to be kind of an odd combination, mixing casual with old-world refinement, but it works here.wheelchair-lPrice rating: $ – $$

Further information about The Vault can be obtained via the Facebook page at:

https://www.facebook.com/thevaultcafe

The Vault is located at 499 Wallace Street, Nanaimo

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. : 49.1636748  Long. -123.93668170000001

N 49 09.820  W 123 56.201

The Vault on Urbanspoon

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