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:


             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

Posted in ACCOMMODATIONS, ATTRACTIONS, NORTHEAST ISLAND, SPECIAL PLACES | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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


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:


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:


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:


 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

Ladysmith harbour tours a hit with all ages

The greatest little tour boat on the water - operated by the Ladysmith Maritime Society

The greatest little tour boat on the water – operated by the Ladysmith Maritime Society

We have found another reason to love Ladysmith as much as we do (and no, we don’t live there!)  The town’s maritime society is chock-a-block with enthusiastic volunteers who do a lot to preserve and promote the nautical history and ambiance of the area, including a really enchanting harbour tour aboard a small restored lifeboat.  We recently climbed aboard the Maritimer with eight other passengers and spent almost an hour taking in the many sights and sounds of the marine environment.

Boom boats - part of the industrial activity in the harbour

Boom boats – part of the industrial activity in the harbour

Youngsters enjoy all sorts of new experiences on the tour, including getting to hold a star fish

Youngsters enjoy all sorts of new experiences on the tour, including getting to hold a star fish

The harbour tour program is one that appeals to all ages – there were small youngsters right up to a bunch of us grandparent-aged folks and, I would venture to say, we all returned to the wharf with a sense of wonder and appreciation at what’s ‘out there’ once you leave solid ground.

The Ladysmith Maritime Society volunteers are responsible for running the harbour tours, and are all certified by Transport Canada.  They also have a great grasp of local history, wildlife and the many interesting sites around the harbour, giving those travelling with them a greater appreciation of what is beyond the marina docks.

Our tour commenced with a sail past the sign designating the 49th parallel of latitude (one of Ladysmith’s claims to fame), and then a cruise past a small waterfront log dump operation, complete with log booms, a perching Great Blue Heron, and a fleet of boom boats used to maneuver logs.  Further along we took in an oil spill recovery operation being supervised by the Coast Guard following the sinking of a small boat (not an occurrence you would see on every tour, but interesting nonetheless).

Not usually on the tour (thankfully) - an oil spill containment supervised by the Coast Guard

Not usually on the tour (thankfully) – an oil spill containment supervised by the Coast Guard

We saw lovely vistas of water and a few homes scattered along the shoreline facing across to Ladysmith, then pulled up alongside a rocky precipice where our skipper scooped up a purple sea star, which was handed around to the youngsters on the Maritimer to see and feel. We saw an endless array of wildlife that included kingfishers, bald eagles, crabs and a variety of other sea life.

And who wouldn't get a thrill out of piloting the boat?

And who wouldn’t get a thrill out of piloting the boat?

And then, it was onward.  Our skipper kindly let the little ones take the tiller and showed them how to steer the Maritimer, how to speed it up or slow it down and, most fun of all – how to do doughnuts! The kids had a ball, and we did too, watching them enjoy themselves so immensely.

Finally it was back towards the marina, viewing the town on the hill, derelict boats, and other boaters and kayakers out on the water. It’s amazing what a different perspective you get from ‘out there’ – so pleased that the Ladysmith Maritime Society undertakes these tours each summer.

The full-length summer harbour tours last about 1 1/2 hours and run twice a day, Tuesday through Sunday.  The tour fee is $15 per person, or $10 for children under the age of 16.

Further information on the tours can be found at:


The tours leave from the Ladysmith Community Marina. To get to the marina follow the signs for Transfer Beach Park and keep your eyes peeled for directions to the marina which will be to the left (north) of the park area.

GPS Co-ordinates for the community marina site are:

48.99552295361928  Long.-123.81512403488159

N 48 59.731  W 123 48.907




Hovercraft provides a unique experience

Vancouver Island Hove3rcraftIt most definitely wasn’t your average boat ride.  In fact, I’m not sure you could have called it a boat ride at all.

When we happened upon Rob Hoban and his small hovercraft at a Ladysmith maritime event recently we looked askance at the low, broad amphibious craft that he and his wife were offering 20-minute tours with.  But neither my husband nor myself had ever been on a hovercraft so, curiosity piqued, we climbed aboard after donning flotation devices and hearing protection, and off we went.



Rob’s hovercraft is a smaller model, seating three passengers. Built in Shelton, Washington, it is one of the most fuel-efficient high speed watercraft in existence. The hovercraft uses a cushion of highly-pressurized air to lift it above the surface of land or water, thereby avoiding any friction that would normally be generated The giant fan at the back of the vehicle creates a massive air draft downward, which pushes the craft upwards. The fan is operated with the help of an engine at the rear of the craft. A flexible skirt of heavy rubber quarantines the air under the craft, providing the lift that makes a hovercraft…um…hover.

It’s kind of a weird sensation skimming along mere inches above the water, listening to the hum of the giant fan at the back that propels the craft.  And it was also an interesting experience having to lean in various directions in concert with Rob as we ran into various currents and wave situations – almost more like riding a motorcycle at times.

Skimming over the mudflats

Skimming over the mudflats

The agility and speed of the hovercraft were impressive, along with the fact that we could go where no other water craft would dare venture.  We could glide over mudflats and rocky outcrops and at one point, landed with a gentle clunk on a beach. A mere push of a button and we were up and running/flying/sailing again – hard to know how to describe it, but it was amazing.

After 20 minutes out we came back with a few splatters of mud and sea spray.  My camera, unfortunately, had to be kept covered most of the time due to the spray coming over the low windshield, so not a lot of photos from this experience.  But it was fun, interesting and a great opportunity to experience the sensation of a hovercraft at not too great expense. And, as is the case with most of the stuff I write for this blog, I learned something new.  Twenty minutes well-spent!

Rob and his hovercraft are based in Ladysmith, and offer hover-tours and charter tours.  There is not a regular schedule for these, so if you are interested in riding with Rob best to contact him via the Vancouver Island Hovercraft website at




Ladysmith’s Pirates Day is all about the kids

Pirates Day in Ladysmith

Cap’n Jack Sparrow and his scurvy crew

It was all about the kids, there was no doubt about that.  Ladysmith’s Kids Pirate Day was pretty much the most fun anyone could hope for, young and old alike.  The combination of dozens of ‘grown up’ volunteers, hundreds of youngsters, a huge variety of activities and a sunny Saturday on the pretty waterfront at Ladysmith proved to be an irresistible amalgamation that left us in a very happy state of mind.

Ahoy, mateys!

Ahoy, mateys!

The folks at the Ladysmith Maritime Society have split their popular Maritime Festival over two weekends after ‘almost killing our volunteers’, in the words of one local, when in the past the entire festival centred on a single weekend.  So now, Pirate Day is the first event followed by Maritime Heritage Day, which is this coming weekend on Saturday, June 7.

We arrived around 10 a.m. at the harbour and were delighted to find so much on the agenda for the day. The bullhead fishing derby was already in full swing, adult pirate volunteers were gearing up to man the barbeques set up on the float, and the free harbour tours were in the offing.

The Kinsmen Bullhead Fishing Derby is a very popular attraction

The Kinsmen Bullhead Fishing Derby is a very popular attraction

We started out with the harbour tour (also being offered free this coming weekend, and soon to be fully featured on our website), cruising off in the delightful 11-passenger Maritimer for a 45-minute look at the flora, fauna and beautiful scenery in the hidden nooks and crannies that can’t be viewed from the docks by landlubbers.

We arrived back at the wharf in time to take in some of the dozens of youngsters (many attired in pirate garb) participating in the fishing derby, grabbed a hamburger (prepared by pirates, of course) and dawdled through a leisurely lunch, during which Captain Jack Sparrow arrived on the scene.  So much of the fun of this event is generated by the many pirate volunteers who remain right in character throughout the day. Their swashbuckling antics can’t help but bring smiles of delight to anyone who encounters them as they swagger along the docks, always happy to be photgraphed or have a word with a youngster.

Face painting was a big hit at the festival

Face painting was a big hit at the festival

The land-based activities for the kids were many and varied, too.  Up the ramp on the outcropping of land above the harbour we found a craft table with youngsters who were busy creating pirate hats, face painting, a huge bouncy castle, an even larger bouncy slide and a very popular small petting zoo featuring goats, a pony and a calf. All of the activities were swarming with kids – a sure sign that the day was a success, no matter how you looked at it.

We always marvel at the magic that a town the size of Ladysmith (population 8,000) manages to create with its special events.  There is so clearly great support from the town’s indefatigable volunteers as well as the business community.  We owe great thanks to all of them for another superbly-orchestrated event that put smiles on faces and created many happy memories.

Kids had an opportunity for up-close-and-personal encounters with a few farm animals

Kids had an opportunity for up-close-and-personal encounters with a few farm animals

            Further information on the Ladysmith Maritime Festival (including the events planned for Maritime Heritage Day on June 7) can be found at the website:


A big hit with the youngsters - the bouncy slide

A big hit with the youngsters – the bouncy slide

To get to the marina follow the signs for Transfer Beach Park and keep your eyes peeled for directions to the festival site, which will be to the left (north) of the park area.

GPS Co-ordinates for the community marina site are:

 48.99552295361928  Long.-123.81512403488159

N 48 59.731  W 123 48.907



Qualicum Beach’s Father’s Day Show ‘n Shine attracts fans (and cars) of all ages for a great day of family fun

Vintage Car at Seaside Cruizers

Vehicles of all shapes, sizes and ages compete at the Show ‘n Shine

I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a fan of things vehicular.  But every year in mid-June I am drawn to the streets of downtown Qualicum Beach for the annual Seaside Cruizers Father’s Day Show ‘n Shine – there are just too many great sights to miss out on, and the local club has managed to turn this in to a great family event that has something for every member of the family.

Crowds at Seaside Cruizers Show 'n Shine

Thousands of people from far and wide show up to enjoy the day

            The show is celebrating its 21st anniversary this year.  It has grown and flourished to the point where upwards of 700 vintage vehicles from near and far invade the area for the weekend.  The combination of the pretty venue of the village of Qualicum Beach and the hundreds of amazing vehicles has become such a draw, in fact, that it was mentioned on the Oprah Winfrey show as one of the 10 best things to do on Father’s Day.

Face painting at Seaside Cruizers Show 'n Shine

Children enjoy many activities, including the face painting

While things get under way for the show participants on the Friday preceding Father’s Day, events for the general public gear up on Saturday night with a street dance in downtown Qualicum Beach. The entire downtown area is wired for sound, and music from the 1950s and 60s drifts through the streets during the day of the show ‘n shine, adding even more of a vintage flavour to the day.

            Although I have no particular interest in cars other than having them get me where I want to go, I am always amazed at the huge variety of vehicles on display at this event, and at the countless hours of devotion so obviously poured in to them. Every square inch of the exhibits, inside and out, gleams. A few hours spent wandering the streets of the village gets spectators a complete lesson on the history of motorized transport, in a most enchanting way.

Lunch in the village square in Qualicum Beach

Visitors enjoy lunch in the village square

            Over the years the event has evolved to be an all-inclusive family event.  There is face-painting for the kids and the downtown business association organizes a ladies Shop and Walk event, complete with prizes. Those attending can take in the Shriners Pancake Breakfast, located right in the heart of the shopping area, and lunch is available throughout the day from the many restaurants and food vendors.

            Thousands of visitors show up for this event, so if you plan to go be prepared to park your vehicle and walk a block or two to get to the heart of the action. Comfortable footwear is highly recommended.

Restored interior of vintage car

It’s not just the exteriors of the vintage cars that are immaculately restored…

            The 2014 event gets under way for the general public on Saturday, June 14 with a street dance featuring live music from 6 – 10 p.m.  Sunday, June 15 (Father’s Day) features the car show, pancake breakfast from 7:30 – 11 a.m., the ladies walk and shop from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m., entertainment for the children, and a performance by the Arrowsmith Pipe Band at noon. Things wrap up at 2:30 with trophy and awards presentations.

            Further information on the Seaside Cruizers and the show ‘n shine can be found at the organization’s website:


IgnitedGPS co-ordinates for the Father’s Day Show ‘n Shine are:

Lat.: 49.347220922291704  Long. -124.4416880607605

N 49 20.833  W 124 26.


Parksville has a new ‘Taste’ sensation

The interior at Taste is classy-but-casual

The interior at Taste is classy-but-casual

It’s bright and cheerful.  It has a lively vibe. It has good, in-house-made food.  And it’s very, very busy after only two months of being open.  Taste Café and Bistro is Parksville’s newest entry into the dining-out scene and judging by what we found there recently it’s no surprise it is already rated #1 in the area.

The cheddar waffle BLT offers up great flavour and texture combinations

The cheddar waffle BLT offers up great flavour and texture combinations

We had heard about this tiny (20 seats) new bistro via the foodie grapevine in the Oceanside area but, as is our habit, decided to put off visiting for a bit in order to allow for a settling-in period.  Glad we did, too – we had no complaints, and came away after a nice lunch feeling more than satisfied with the culinary offerings, the ambiance and the service.

Taste is operated by Jason, a veteran of the Oceanside restaurant scene, and his girlfriend Kirsten. The two of them make a great team – he creates the main course offerings at the bistro while Kirsten produces all the sweet treats and desserts in-house. It has turned out to be a happy pairing of two complementary talents.

Jason and Kirsten - a great pairing of complementary talents

Jason and Kirsten – a great pairing of complementary talents

Our first visit to Taste was just after noon on a Thursday, and we got the last available table.  We feel that is always a good sign in a young restaurant, and our instincts were certainly right on the mark this time around.

The bistro is a long, narrow space with the small kitchen area and counter running along one wall, tables set at the front, back and along the other wall. There are big windows that let in plenty of natural light and jazz music adds to the upbeat atmosphere.

Pulled pork macaroni and cheese

Pulled pork macaroni and cheese

Taste offers a set menu along with daily specials for the lunchtime crowd.  My husband opted for the very flavourful butternut squash soup and one of the patron favourites – the cheddar waffle BLT sandwich.  I ordered the daily special, a pulled-pork mac and cheese dish.  Generously augmented with the house-made pulled pork, half of the serving left me more than satisfied – the remainder went into a container destined for home and lunch on another day.

We also split Kirsten’s version of a ‘skinny trifle’, designed to cut calories but not flavour.  It was delicious and certainly much less guilt-inducing than some of the desserts we have consumed over the course of ‘researching’ our feature articles.

Exterior A recent innovation at the bistro is an early closing on Fridays and Saturdays (at 4 p.m.), but then re-opening at 6:30. On those two evenings only each week Taste will offer a tapas menu for those who want a light meal complemented, perhaps, by an alcoholic beverage. Sounds like a great option for those nights when you may not want much to eat but are looking for quality food in a nice setting.  Hmmmm – I can already envision a nice summer evening spent in such a way.

Taste Café and Bistro does not presently have a website, but contact information and opening hours are available on their Facebook page at:


Price rating: $ – $$           wheelchair-m Taste is located at 101B – 1080 Resort Drive, Parksville

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 49.31370504782232  Long. -124.27117151158762

N 49 18.822  W 124 16.270