Dick’s Fish and Chips popular for a good reason

Some of the best fish and chips anywhere on the Island

Some of the best fish and chips anywhere on the Island

Can there be anything better than enjoying superb fish and chips on an outdoor patio on a fine evening? For us, it is one of the simple pleasures, but sometimes finding good fish and chips – even here on the Island, where fresh fish is plentiful – is a problem. We have more often than not been disappointed by fish that was not fresh, chips that came from a freezer bag, heavy greasy batter – you name it, we’ve seen it all even in supposedly ‘good’ fish and chip joints. Maybe that’s why Dick’s Fish and Chips in Campbell River was such an extraordinary delight.

Dick’s is located along the waterfront on a wharf, easily visible from the parking lot located at the marina that is its neighbour.  We wandered down there for dinner during a brief overnight stay in Campbell River to discover that we weren’t the only ones planning to enjoy the fresh air and maritime ambiance that paired so beautifully with the fare offered at Dick’s. The place was hopping!

Dining al fresco at Dick's

Dining al fresco at Dick’s

We placed an order for a couple of ‘one piece fish’ dinners knowing, thanks to our B&B hostess, that there is always an extra smaller piece of fish thrown in for good measure. After ordering we plunked ourselves down at one of the picnic tables and watched as a wide variety of meals arrived at other tables.  We tend to be purists on the fish and chip ‘thing’, going for the deep-fried variety, but there are many other options on the menu including grilled fish, burgers of every imaginable variety, wraps, salads – choice is not an issue here if traditional fish and chips are not your heart’s desire.

We only had to wait a few minutes until our order, served up in large paper cones perched in unique trays, was ready.  We unloaded the tray, inserted the paper cones into the holes cut in our table (I had been wondering what they were for….) and plowed in. And oh my, what a treat!  Cut-to-order chips, lovely fresh fish in a light and non-greasy batter – it was enough to warm the cockles of a fish ‘n chip lover’s heart. Hands down, it was certainly the best fish and chips we have eaten in a very long time.

Service with a smile....

Service with a smile….

There isn’t much to say about the ‘ambiance’ at Dick’s – it is cheerful, clean and, it seems, always busy.  There is limited indoor seating if the weather isn’t co-operating but really, half the experience here is enjoying the fresh salt air, watching the activity on the docks and gazing in wonder as the spectacular Alaska-bound cruise ships glide by. It’s a great way to enjoy good food in a lovely setting and, for sure, Dick’s will be a destination for us on future trips to Campbell River.

Further information on Dick’s Fish and Chips can be found at their website:

http://www.dicksfishandchips.com/welcome/

             The restaurant is located at 1003B Island Highway, at the Coast Marina and beside the BC Ferry terminal

             GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 50.02650215559821  Long.  -125.24089387539828

N 50 01.590  W 125 14.454

 

 

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Sointula – still a place of harmony – offers a warm welcome

Looking towards Sointula from Rough Bay

Looking towards Sointula from Rough Bay

How can anyone fail to love a place where little girls can set up a lemonade stand in the middle of ‘town’, unaccompanied by adult supervision, whiling away their summer days and maybe making a little bit of pocket money?  How can anyone fail to admire a settlement that still honours the pioneers that founded it more than a century ago?  And really, is it possible to not appreciate the sweeping beaches, mountain views, gorgeous trails, the history, in that place? Those are only a few of the things that entranced us during a visit to Malcolm Island and Sointula, the tiny, isolated 600-soul village that is its heart.

Sointula is safe enough that kids can be kids, in the truest old-fashioned sense of the word

Sointula is safe enough that kids can be kids, in the truest old-fashioned sense of the word

Sointula was founded as a socialist Utopian community in 1901 by Finnish immigrants fleeing the brutal and dangerous life of coal miners on Vancouver Island. The Finns settled on Malcolm Island with nothing in the way of job prospects – there was absolutely no industry there – but with the vision of developing a creative and harmonious life.

Ultimately the dream died but many of the Finns, noted for their perseverance and work ethic, remained in Sointula (which in Finnish means ‘place of harmony’).  They carved out lives in the fishing and logging industries, raised families, built homes and farms.

One of the many  beautiful sweeping beaches to be found on Malcolm Island

One of the many beautiful sweeping beaches to be found on Malcolm Island

One of the most endearing things about Sointula is that it continues to honour that heritage.  Finnish is still spoken periodically in the community, some signage and publicity literature includes Finnish translation as well, and there is an excellent museum that illuminates the legacy and hardships of the past.

Although the Utopian ideal didn’t survive there is still a lovely sense of community  on Malcolm Island.  And for those who think that remote communities may be lacking in things to do, think again.

Gillnet rugs were designed by a Sointula resident in the 1950s and are still unique only to the community. This display can be found in the excellent museum

Gillnet rugs were designed by a Sointula resident in the 1950s and are still unique only to the community. This display can be found in the excellent museum

In addition to visiting the museum – which is staffed almost entirely by volunteers – there are some charming galleries and restaurants to enjoy in Sointula.  The Upper Crust Bakery became our favourite spot for a light lunch and delectable goodies, and the Burger Barn proved to be purveyors of some of the best burgers we have ever consumed.

Bere Point Regional Park is a lovely stretch of forest and waterfront.  If you are lucky, you might see orca whales rubbing on the beaches in that area.  We spent a couple of hours hiking the Beautiful Bay Trail that skirts the shoreline – not what anyone would call a groomed trail but most certainly manageable for anyone who is reasonably fit and wearing a good pair of walking shoes. There are other well-documented trails on the island as well – unfortunately time limitations prevented us from exploring all of them.  That’s fine with us though – it gives us an excuse to return some day.

The beautifully maintained cemetery is the final resting place for many of Malcolm Island's pioneers - a history lesson in itself

The beautifully maintained cemetery is the final resting place for many of Malcolm Island’s pioneers – a history lesson in itself

It’s also worth taking the time to explore the beautifully-located cemetery, which is a history lesson in itself. Many of the original pioneers are buried there, overlooking the ocean.  It is rather poignant in many ways – there are headstones marking the deaths of everything from hardy pioneers to a mother and four children who died in a disastrous fire that swept through the communal sleeping quarters of the original settlement.

There are sailing charters available out of Sointula, regular organized public events and, of course, there is the delicious opportunity to simply kick back, relax and revel in the spectacular scenery and the peace and quiet of the place.

Malcolm Island is progressive in a good kind of way

Malcolm Island is progressive in a good kind of way

The Sointula Resource Centre is the ‘go to’ organization for information on the community and on Malcolm Island in general.  Their website can be accessed at:

http://www.sointulainfo.ca/

Malcolm Island is located a 25-minute ferry ride across from Port McNeill.

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 50.62716178796512  Long. -127.01726400000001

N 50 37.630  W 127 01.036

 

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Gold River’s LandnSea Bed and Breakfast

Home sweet home for a night - the lounge area in the tiny, comfortable suite

Home sweet home for a night – the lounge area in the tiny, comfortable suite

As I have mentioned in the past finding comfortable, reasonably-priced accommodation in isolated settlements can often pose a conundrum. We were faced with the same issue several times this summer, most notably in the town of Gold River on the northwest coast of the Island. A link to LandnSea Bed and Breakfast on the website of Get West Adventures, with whom we were sailing to Kyuquot, spared us the choice of a lengthy drive to the dock or having to spend the night before our excursion in accommodations frequented by logging and construction crews. Being that we were up and out the door by just after 6 a.m. that proved to be a very happy situation for us.

We arrived at LandnSea in the early evening, hungry and tired from a long day of travel, to be greeted by owner Sharron Jefford.  We couldn’t helped but be cheered immediately by Sharron’s jolly countenance and a couple of suggestions of a good place for dinner.

The kitchenette had everything you could want

The kitchenette had everything you could want

Our sun-washed suite, while tiny, had all the comforts of home – including an air conditioner.  There was a comfortable lounge area with sofa, a kitchenette with dining table, and a separate bedroom area, complete with writing desk.

Because we had to leave by 6:20 a.m. to catch the Uchuck III Sharron brought us a sumptuous breakfast basket in the evening, which, stowed in the refrigerator overnight,  got us off to a happy and filling start early the next morning. The generously-filled  basket included a cornucopia of fresh fruit, yogurt, granola, milk, orange juice, home-made muffins and banana bread, bags of trail mix, granola snack bars … and two brown paper bags to pack up anything we didn’t consume for breakfast to take along on the voyage the next day.  Needless to say, we were well-stocked during the trip thanks to Sharron’s generosity and thoughtfulness.

The bedroom is spacious enough to comfortably accommodate a writing desk

The bedroom is spacious enough to comfortably accommodate a writing desk

We enjoyed a good, quiet night’s sleep at LandnSea and the next morning slipped quietly away as the Jeffords’ neighbourhood was still steeped in slumber.  We couldn’t have asked for a better, more restful start to our Gold River/Kyuquot adventure.

LandnSea Bed and Breakfast does not (like so many other small operations) have a website, but Sharron can be contacted via e-mail at: landnsea@cablerocket.com

            The bed and breakfast is located at 546 Mallard Way, Gold River.

           GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 49.7821372  Long. -126.05300090000003

N 49 46.928  W 126 03.180

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Midden Lane Suite – a gem in the middle of nowhere

Midden Lane Suite

The view from the suite at Midden Lane

Finding a great place to stay in isolated locations (without having to hand over big bucks) can sometimes be problematic.  But we lucked out during a recent visit to Sointula and Malcolm Island, which is a 35 minute ferry ride across from Port McNeill on the northeast coast of the Island.  The Midden Lane Suite, located above beautiful Mitchell Bay, proved to be just the ticket for us during our 2 ½ day visit.

Deck at Midden Lane Suite

The charming covered deck, complete with small barbeque

The problem with finding accommodation in remote areas lies in the fact that so many small bed and breakfast operations don’t even have websites, much less a presence on social media.  So finding them is half the battle.  Many of them don’t accept credit cards, either, so travelers to the likes of Sointula and other outposts need to be prepared to pay cash.  I actually sent a deposit by cheque to Audrey Purdon to hold the Midden Lane suite for us – there isn’t even a credit union left on Malcolm Island.

Still, the minor hassles in finding and reserving Midden Lane were well worth the effort.  The suite is located on the ground level of the Purdons’ beautiful home, which is located a 25 minute drive (on gravel roads) from Sointula. Our initial foray to Mitchell Bay found us following a single-lane track almost to its end, and left us wondering what we had got ourselves in to.

The fully-equipped kitchen looks out over the water

The fully-equipped kitchen looks out over the water

Once we had swung through the gate and up the driveway, however, we were transported to the loveliest environment, with sweeping views of sparkling water and a warm welcome from Audrey, her two horses and two dogs.

We settled quickly into the spacious pet-friendly self-catering suite. Audrey supplies organic eggs and a bottle of home-made wine, home-made bread, jam and hot beverages, but it’s up to guests to do their own cooking.  I loved the fact that there are plenty of flat surfaces in the suite to put things on, and a well-stocked rack with local information informs guests of all that there is to do and see in the area.  Additionally Audrey is an enthusiastic hiker, so she can dish the goods on all the hiking trails of which Malcolm Islanders are justifiably proud.

A comfortable lounge area makes for a great place to read, relax or listen to music

A comfortable lounge area makes for a great place to read, relax or listen to music

In addition to the very comfortable bed and spacious bathroom there is a small lounge area with a comfortable futon and a fully-equipped kitchen with a window that looks out to the water. The suite is fronted by a charming covered patio area with chairs and table and a small barbecue. I spent the better part of our final morning out there, enjoying the sound of the waves below while imbibing in a cup of coffee.

The chunk of Midden Lane beach that we enjoyed during the evenings (complete with beach fire, a cooler for cold beverages and a table) presented spectacular views of sunsets, water and mountains. Lulled by the lapping of waves on the beach and the calls of sea birds, it is easy to stay there indefinitely.  For anyone who prefers to be closer to the water (or for a larger group of travelers) there is a tiny cottage on the beachfront that sleeps three, so it is possible for Audrey and her genial husband Frank to accommodate a fair-sized group of guests.

The beach at Midden Lane offers a beautiful spot for a waterside dinner

The beach at Midden Lane offers a beautiful spot for a waterside dinner

Midden Lane is one of those places, undoubtedly, that draws people back.  Its simple, homey comfort, peace and quiet and lovely location make that 25 minutes on the gravel road more than worthwhile. My dream is to return when I don’t have so much work on my plate and to simply laze the days and evenings away surrounded by the sounds of ocean and the wind sighing through the trees.  If you are looking for a vacation that includes doing nothing (or at least, not much) this is the place for you.

Further information on Midden Lane Suite can be found at:

 http://www.bcbbonly.com/1190.php

Sunset at the Midden Lane beach

Sunset at the Midden Lane beach

Midden Lane is located at 295 Mitchell Bay Road

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 50.6217449549302  Long. -126.83802980939663

N 50 37.305 W 126 50.282

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Get West Adventures provides a magical journey up the Island’s spectacular northwest coast

Nootka Sound

Scenery along the northwest coast of the Island is nothing short of spectacular

Our many travels on Vancouver Island have taken us to a wide variety of locations, but a recent trip up the northwest coast is one that will remain in my memory until the day I die.  It was nothing short of magical thanks to a combination of very fine summer weather, breathtaking scenery, the great crew of the MV Uchuck lll and a destination that was tiny, remote and serenely lovely.

Skipper on MV Uchuck

‘Smile’, I said. ‘Haven’t had my coffee yet,’ he replied. Nonetheless, our skipper for the trip smiled, as did the rest of the crew, who were most informative and lots of fun.

Our journey with Get West Adventure cruises (an adjunct to the cargo deliveries performed by the packet freighter) commenced very early on a perfect summer morning, when 16 of us straggled on to the dock at Gold River, traipsed downstairs with our luggage and settled in for the day-long trip to the minute fishing village of Kyuquot.  Elaine, the cheerful queen of the full-service kitchen, had coffee and breakfast options ready, and away we went, chugging along at 12 knots an hour.

While the overnight trip involved two pretty long days on the water there was never a lack of things to do and see.  The scenery all the way up the coast, through Nootka Sound and Esperanza Inlet was nothing short of spectacular.  We made many freight drops during the course of the day, delivering food to fish farms, supplies to remote fishing lodges, equipment to isolated log-sort operations – the list of stops was endless and engaging as we watched the skillful crew hook and lower a huge variety of goods to waiting recipients.

Log sort in Nootka Sound

We stopped at a log sort up the coast where we were able to watch the entire operation, from delivery of logs to sorting, dumping and organizing into log booms. The scenery there was pretty spectacular too

And, of course, our fellow passengers were a source of interest.  Lazing on the comfortable benches on the upper deck or below-decks in the indoor lounge we found ourselves talking to folks from England, France, New York, Seattle and many Island locations.

Inside lounge, MV Uchuck lll

The inside lounge of the Uchuck has plenty of space and comfort for passengers

There was plenty of wildlife to enjoy along the route as well, including a whale, black bears, bald eagles, Great Blue Herons, seals, otters and, at one of the freight drops, hummingbirds.

MV Uchuck lll

The MV Uchuck lll, berthed for the night at Kyuquot

Although the weather was sunny and warm it was fairly windy, which meant when we hit open water for the final couple of hours to Kyuquot things got a little rough.  We were hitting 10-foot swells on a pretty consistent basis, so Gravol was the order of the day at that point. A few of our fellow passengers were sea sick, but we managed to survive the rough water.

Just before 5:30 p.m. we pulled into Kyuquot, were introduced to our respective hosts and were whisked off to our accommodations for the night – some went by small boat, while we sauntered up the wharf and briefly along the waterfront to the very comfortable and welcoming home of Mike (a retired fisherman) and Judy Sharpe.

Our Kyuquot hosts, Mike and Judy Sharpe

Our Kyuquot hosts, Mike and Judy Sharpe

At 6:30 we all assembled at the old school house, now a restaurant, and enjoyed an extraordinarily good meal, served family style. Post-supper some of us wandered back along the waterfront trail, exploring beaches and pretty vistas and enjoying dusk in this stunning, remote location.  Kyuquot reminds me of what Tofino was like 40 years ago when I first ventured there – just a simple, lovely spot perched on the edge of the wild Pacific, unencumbered by commercialism, traffic or the intrusions of cell phone service or internet.

Kyuquot

An evening walk in Kyuquot

Early the next morning we were on the deck with Judy and Mike with coffee, enjoying a peaceful waterfront sunrise and a generous breakfast, then it was back down the hill to the Uchuck and heading out for the long trip back to Gold River.  There were more freight drops on the way back, along with pick-ups of kayakers and passengers from a remote camp. By 5 p.m. we were back on solid land with hundreds of spectacular photographs and memories to last a lifetime. I am so thankful that Get West Adventures offers such a unique experience – if you don’t mind roughing it a bit, and if a little ‘wild’ is your idea of a good time you will never regret making this trip.

Sunrise in Kyuquot - only peace and quite, with the call of eagles and ravens in the background

Sunrise in Kyuquot – only peace and quite, with the call of eagles and ravens in the background

More information on Get West Adventures can be found at the website:

http://www.getwest.ca/

Get West Adventures is located at the wharf about a 15 minute drive from Gold River.

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 49.68033966169039  Long. -126.11745544683521

N 49 40.820   W 126 07.047

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Haig-Brown Heritage House B&B full of history and inspiration

 

Haig-Brown Heritage House

The lovely old house, built in the 1920s, is fronted by lawns and gardens that were established by the Haig-Browns

This is not a tale about your average bed and breakfast.  The Haig-Brown Heritage House bed and breakfast is a story about a pair of kindred souls who created a rich and satisfying life in the wilds of northern Vancouver Island in the 1930s – and whose solid, well-built and well-loved home now serves as a B&B, as a writer-in-residence site and as a captivating and totally charming lesson in the rewards of hard work, an enduring love and lives well-lived.

Study at Haig-Brown Heritage House

Hostess Catherine MacLeod brings the place to life with her stories of the Haig -Brown family. She also gives guests tours of the stunning study – every book-lover’s dream!

Roderick Haig-Brown is one of those luminaries of the early 20th century whose name may (or may not) be familiar for a variety of reasons.  He is best known for his books about fly fishing (which was how I recognized him), but a little research reveals that there was so much more to the man and his wife Ann that it is mind-boggling.

As a couple, they survived the travails of raising four children on a 20-acre farm that bordered the Campbell River. Ann was very active in various community organizations, and also took in battered women when the need arose. Roddy (as he was known to family and friends) was a revered magistrate, one of the very first conservationists and a prolific and very successful writer of both fiction and non-fiction (he wrote a total of 25 books and countless magazine articles – in longhand).

The upstairs hallway is lined with books and family photos
The upstairs hallway is lined with books and family photos

 

We were fortunate enough to spend a night at the Haig-Brown house recently, hosted by Catherine MacLeod, who is herself a fount of information about the house, the property and the Haig-Brown family.  Catherine worked briefly for Haig-Brown when he was a magistrate and tells stories from those days as well as those recounted to her by many local residents and the Haig-Brown’s four children, all still alive but scattered to the winds.

If you are looking for high-end accommodation this is not the place for you.  The lovely old house remains essentially as it was when the family lived in it.  There are three bedrooms and two small shared bathrooms on the upper level. Worn bare wood floors and simple-but-comfortable furnishings complete the picture. Breakfast (served at a table that Haig-Brown built) is good, but basic – as it would have been in the days of the Haig-Browns.

This was the guest bedroom when the Haig-Browns were in residence - cool, serene and quaint

This was the guest bedroom when the Haig-Browns were in residence – cool, serene and quaint

If, however, you want a taste of history and a better understanding of how people lived in ‘the good old days’, you need to stay here.  The Haig-Browns were people of tremendous substance, integrity, intelligence and community-mindedness, with an international circle of friends and family. Catherine will regale you with her anecdotes, and you can take time to delight in the family photos and sketches from nature that line the walls, the furniture created by Haig-Brown, the expansive gardens and lawns, the all-entrancing Campbell River….and the amazing study, built as an addition to the house after World War ll. It is a bibliophile’s dream – four solid walls of books, Haig-Brown’s desk and chair tucked into one of the corners looking out to the gardens.  A couple of his beautiful old fly rods are displayed in cases, and there are stunning artwork mementos from friends, neighbours and family all through the room. It is the kind of wondrous environment that leaves you in awe – not only of the room itself but of the people who created it and so clearly enjoyed every aspect of it – more than 4,000 books, comfortable furniture and magical views to the outdoors. It’s easy to imagine what a sanctuary it must have been for Haig-Brown, and no doubt continues to be for the writers in residence who spend the winter months in the house after the bed and breakfast operation has closed for the season.

Roderick and Ann Haig-Brown

The Haig-Browns in their later years – the tale of their lives is as much an enduring love story as anything

The Haig Brown House Bed and Breakfast (and Catherine, with her marvelous stories) sparked our curiousity, and I ended up purchasing two books while we were there.  Haig-Brown’s ‘Measure of the Year’ includes his lyrical descriptions of everyday life at his beloved home.  Deep Currents, written by the Haig-Browns’ daughter Valerie, is a biography of the couple, gleaned primarily from the copious numbers of letters they wrote.  I can’t put the darned thing down, am enchanted by their enduring commitment to each other and the community in which they lived.

One of the lovely garden areas created by the Haig-Browns - complete with reflecting pool

One of the lovely garden areas created by the Haig-Browns – complete with reflecting pool

While things at Haig-Brown House have changed to some small degree, the actual property continues to inspire.  The gardens and lawns are lush, the house offers up its unique charms, the river flows on, as ever.  And, there is a lasting legacy that keeps the memories of the Haig-Browns alive – the bed and breakfast, the writer in residence program (I am sure he would have been so thrilled with that), the summer kids’ camps and special afternoons of tea and croquet on the lawn. My only regret is that I never had the opportunity to meet these amazing people, but the opportunity to learn about them and their many contributions to society is one that I will cherish.

            More information on Haig-Brown Heritage House can be found at the website:

http://www.haig-brown.bc.ca/bed_and_breakfast.html

             Haig-Brown Heritage House is located at 2250 Campbell River Road

GPS co-ordinates are:

  1. 50.0345967625092  Long.  -125.27904594999336

N 50 02.076   W 125 16.743

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Nanoose Bay Art in the Garden a summertime favourite

Nanoose Bay Art in the Garden

The beautiful venue includes great gardens, a pond and shaded trails

Can there be a lovelier place to be on a fine summer’s day than a beautiful garden filled to the brim with talented artisans and musicians?  If you think that nothing could be better, be sure to mark your calendar for this coming weekend, July 19-20, and head to the fifth annual Nanoose Bay Art in the Garden event.

Pond at Nanoose Bay Art in the Garden

Trails around the large pond serve as pretty locations for the artists, and the platform at left is a performance venue for musicians

The beautiful 10-acre garden meanders along shady trails surrounding a large pond and across lush lawns.  All along the way artists in various disciplines display their creative and very attractive wares, all of which are for sale.  I never manage to get away without purchasing something that has caught my eye – it is often a starting point for my Christmas shopping, promising gifts that are unique and won’t be found anywhere else. Garden décor is another big favourite of mine at this event – there is always so much beautiful and different work available.

We usually plan to spend at least a couple of hours wandering this delightful site, enjoying the summertime ambiance, live music emanating from the platform suspended over the edge of the pond, and always, a sit-down with a beverage and something to nibble on.

Nanoose Bay Art in the Garden

The event appeals to peop0le of all ages, and is wheelchair accessible

The event has grown tremendously during the five years it has been in existence, beginning with just a handful of artists and a great vision.  This year there are more than 60 artisans who will be setting up their canopies, so we are looking forward to the expanded offerings and an excuse to linger even longer.

The other wonderful aspect of this occasion is that all proceeds from the donated admission fees are given to the Nanoose Food Bank.  To date Nanoose Bay Art in the Garden has raised $10,700 that has gone into purchasing foodstuffs for those less fortunate – a feel-good aspect that comes as a bonus to those attending.

Vendor at Nanoose Bay Art in the Garden

More than 60 artists will be displaying their unique work

The 2014 event runs from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday at 2525 Northwest Bay Road, with admission by donation.

             wheelchair-mFurther information can be found at:

www.nanoosebayartinthegarden.com or on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Nanoose-Bay-Art-in-the-Garden/221049994574742?fref=ts

 GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 49.2871544  Long. -124.19079139999996

N 49 17.229  W 124 11.447

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

Cowichan’s Teafarm offers a delightfully unique culinary adventure

Moroccan Tea Service

The Moroccan tea service is unique, educational and very, very tasty

It could only have happened in the Cowichan region. Canada’s first (and, it is believed, only) tea crop is nearing maturity on a verdant 11-acre bit of heaven near Duncan. Perched along sun-drenched terraces at Teafarm, 600 Camellia sinensis plants are the focus of hundreds of hours of dreams and labour by Victor Vesely and Margit Nelleman, the enthusiastic owners of this most unique undertaking.

Indoor tea room at Teafarm

The lovely indoor tea room features artisanal teas for sale, Margit’s tea pots, mugs and cups, and a place to enjoy a spot of unique teas from around the world

Victor and Margit abandoned the big city of Vancouver in 2003 and purchased the property located along a bucolic country road not with the goal of growing tea, but with the aim of making a life for themselves that would combine their varied talents.  The idea of growing tea came to them only fairly recently, and the first 200 plants went in to the ground in 2010.

Affairs at Teafarm have evolved greatly since that first crop was planted.  Part of the old dairy barn on the property has been converted to a calm, welcoming combination of tea room and retail outlet for more than 100 artisanal organic teas from around the world. Margit’s unique clay pieces, including tea pots, cups and mugs, also take pride of place in the tea room area.

But one of the very best parts of visiting Teafarm is the actual experience of drinking some of the unique blends, and learning about the history and culture of tea. Victor is a walking, talking encyclopedia on the subject, and it’s not difficult to spend upwards of an hour or two (depending on how busy they are) enjoying Teafarm’s products and gleaning new-found knowledge on the subject.

Outdoor tea room at Teafarm

The outdoor tea room offers relaxing views of the pretty surrounding countryside

We arrived late on a Sunday morning and were immediately taken with the luxuriant growth and rustic ambiance that surrounded us as we reached the bottom of the sloping driveway.  Luckily for us we were the first ones through the door that day, so we had Victor’s undivided attention.  We embarked on a lengthy verbal and culinary journey that took us from drinking tea based on our birthdates to a traditional Moroccan tea service complete with beautiful silver pot, freshly-picked spearmint and several pourings that revealed varying complexities of flavour and colour.  Teafarm also offers sweet treats, all infused with tea, as part of the experience in the tea room.

Victor and Margit surrounded by their tea plants - a first for Canada

Victor and Margit surrounded by their tea plants – a first for Canada

Intermittent downpours meant we were pretty much confined to the indoors for our visit, but there is a lovely outdoor seating area available as well, with views of the fields below.

The actual tea grown at Teafarm is not yet available for consumption or sale.  Tea plants take upwards of five years to reach full maturity and to develop the flavour unique to their region and the terroir.  Victor and Margit are exceptionally cautious about when their own Cowichan tea will be on the market – as Victor points out, because of the uniqueness of their location the entire tea world will be watching, so they want to get it right.  Based on what we saw and experienced during our first visit to Teafarm there is no doubt in our minds that they will, indeed, ‘get it right’ – their devotion to this venture ensures that, and promises many years of future great delight for the visitors who take the time to venture off the beaten path along that pretty country road.

Tea-infused sweet treats are part of the offering at Teafarm, presented on Margit's beautiful clay pieces

Tea-infused sweet treats are part of the offering at Teafarm, presented on Margit’s beautiful clay pieces

Further information about Teafarm can be found at the website:

http://www.teafarm.ca/

Teafarm is located at 8350 Richards Trail, North Cowichan

 GPS co-ordinates are:

  1. 48.8512225 Long. -123.70646899999997

N 48 51.073  W 123 42.388

Posted in ATTRACTIONS, DUNCAN/COWICHAN, SPECIAL PLACES, WHERE TO EAT | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Great food in funky surroundings = Zoe’s Espresso Bar and Cafe in Cowichan Bay

Quiche at Zoe's Espresso Bar

Some of the best quiche anywhere

You just never know where you might trip over some really great food. We were fortunate to have one of those unexpected experiences recently in Cowichan Bay when we traipsed up the steps into Zoe’s Espresso Bar and Café.  We were ravenous, tired and in a hurry, but none of that was a problem for Zoe’s owner Katherine Pallister. We got a quick rundown from her of what was on the limited menu, made our choices and plunked down at one of the small Formica  tables with a couple of Americanos to listen to Billie Holiday on the stereo system and (happily) relax for a few minutes.

Roasted vegetable pie

Roasted vegetable pie

Zoe’s (named after Katherine’s granddaughter) is one of those small, funky retro spots that is clearly a favourite neighbourhood hangout.  Katherine has run the place single-handedly for three years, doing all the cooking from scratch – thus the limited but changing-daily menu. Her diverse employment background includes a stint in the world of formal dining, from whence many of her recipes originate. The Saturday that we dropped in we had a choice of roasted vegetable pie, broccoli and cheddar quiche or beef pot pie. A glance through Zoe’s Facebook page however, reflects the true diversity of the good and interesting food that is on offer there. But, I digress.

Interior at Zoe's

The interior décor is funky and comfortable, offering a unique charm

By the time our lunch arrived a few minutes later our adrenaline levels had dropped somewhat and we were slowly settling into Cowichan Bay speed (which is a whole ‘nother story). We were delighted to be presented with generous portions of the very beautiful and delicious roasted vegetable pie (for me) and some of the best quiche that my husband and I have ever sunk our teeth into. Both meals were accompanied by a hefty spinach and strawberry salad. Aside from the excellent, reasonably-priced food a good deal of the charm of eating at Zoe’s is the environment. Old-fashioned wicker and Formica furniture combine with book and video exchanges, a small gift shop and cool jazz on the sound system to provide a unique ambiance that invites patrons to slow down, take a break and enjoy a hot beverage and some truly good food.  There is a pretty little outdoor patio as well. Zoes signUnfortunately time constraints meant we didn’t have an opportunity to enjoy any of Katherine’s home-made sweet offerings, but that is definitely on the agenda for a future visit to Cowichan Bay. In the meantime, the memory of that lunch will linger, and keep us looking forward to ‘next time.’

            There is no website for Zoe’s, but you can access information via Facebook at:

https://www.facebook.com/ZoesEspressoBar

Price rating: $

            Zoe’s Espresso Bar is located at 1725 Cowichan Bay Road in Cowichan Bay.

GPS co-ordinates are:

            Lat. 48.740347317886254  Long. -123.61928435763661

            N 48 44.421  W 123 37.157

Posted in DUNCAN/COWICHAN, KID FRIENDLY, WHERE TO EAT | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cowichan Bay’s Dream Weaver Bed and Breakfast offers comfort and calm in a Victorian setting

The Rosewood Suite - exquisite in every way

The Rosewood Suite – exquisite in every way

There has been a lot of stress in our lives the past few months, and a weekend trip to Cowichan Bay was about the last thing I wanted to do after going to the mainland three times in a week, returning home on the Friday night.  But, interviews for Tourism BC needed to get done so off we went on Saturday morning, me dragging my heels and reluctant to leave the comforts of hearth and home (and garden and dogs) when I had only just returned to the Island.

Fresh fruit salad with vanilla yogurt - a healthy start to breakfast

Fresh fruit salad with vanilla yogurt – a healthy start to breakfast

That all changed, though, when we stepped into the quiet sanctuary of the Rosewood Suite at Dream Weaver Bed and Breakfast in Cowichan Bay. In retrospect it was one of the best places I could have been, even for a single night, after the madness of the mainland and the craziness that has been my life for quite some time.

We arrived at Dream Weaver three hours before check-in, desperate to find a place to park (always a major issue on a summer weekend in Cowichan Bay) and hoping that even if our room wasn’t ready our hostess would at least allow us to drop our vehicle and walk to our interview appointments.  We were delighted when Jo welcomed us, showed us to our cozy room, made arrangements for breakfast the following morning and left us to it.

Dream Weaver is situated right on the edge of the charming village of Cowichan Bay, walking distance to all the lovely shops, restaurants and the waterfront. So, it was a happy location for us, for a lot of reasons.  Created in Victorian style, the rooms reflect the grace and comfort of that era, with extra perks that made this a special haven for us.

The main course for breakfast was hearty and delicious

The main course for breakfast was hearty and delicious

Although the Rosewood suite is small, it comfortably accommodated a comfy queen sized bed, a couple of pretty wing chairs, a lovely fireplace and an immaculate small bathroom with a jetted tub and all the extras anyone could hope for – not just shampoo, but toothbrushes, toothpaste, artisan soaps, shower gel, bath accessories.

Tucked away in a small closet we discovered more than the usual coffee maker. There was a small fridge, a complete set of bowls, cutlery and plates, pretty ceramic mugs, and a kettle.  There were a couple of wine glasses on the fireplace mantle, and chocolates on the bedside tables. Essentially, there was everything that could possibly make anyone happy and comfortable, and as soon as I entered the room I felt the stress begin to melt away.

The exterior of Dream Weaver is every bit as pretty as the interior

The exterior of Dream Weaver is every bit as pretty as the interior

The following morning we headed upstairs for breakfast.  The pretty water view and good company enhanced the fresh fruit salad with vanilla yogurt, fresh orange and grapefruit juices and the hearty main dish of baked eggs in bacon cups, pan fries and toast that were served for breakfast.  The coffee was endless and we lingered for quite some time talking to the couple who were thanking their lucky stars that their reservation elsewhere had been double-booked, which had landed them at Dream Weaver. By then I was thanking my lucky stars, too, that I was there – with no cooking or other responsibilities, no dogs to feed or garden to tend.  It was the perfect antidote for an exhausted body and soul.

            Further information on Dream Weaver Bed and Breakfast can be found at the website:

www.dreamweaverbedandbreakfast.com

 Dream Weaver is located at 1682 Botwood Lane, Cowichan Bay

 GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 48.73974949999999  Long. -123.61728210000001

N 48 44.385 W 123 37.037

Posted in ACCOMMODATIONS, DUNCAN/COWICHAN | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment