Qualicum Beach kicks off Island Seedy Saturday season

Crowds at Qualicum Beach Seedy Saturday, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Crowds flock to the first Seedy Saturday on Vancouver Island, held in Qualicum Beach

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?).

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 instill 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, 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.

Tomatoe seed display at Qualicum Beach Seedy Saturday, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

You may be able to find seeds that will produce the same delicious vegetables that your grandmother used to grow

One of the grand-daddies of the Seedy Saturday concept is located in Qualicum Beach, where it is moving in to its 15th year. 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 (this year, Saturday, February 4) 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 2,900 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.

The theme for this year’s Qualicum Beach Seedy Saturday is Flourish and Nourish, At 10:30 a.m. There will be a lecture by Linda Gilkeson about flourishing food gardens year-round. At 12:30 p.m. Amy Robson will speak on ‘nourishing your soil – the world beneath your feet.’

Vendor at Qualicum Beach Seedy Satuirday, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

There are many opportunities to talk to local growers

Other features at the Qualicum Beach event include more than 70 vendors, an indoor farmers market, seed swap, the Milner Gardens Shoots with Roots children’s program, door prizes, raffles and the seedy cafe. The Town of Qualicum Beach will have a truck in the civic centre parking lot to collect garden chemicals. From its start 15 years ago in a single room at the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre this Seedy Saturday has flourished to the point where the civic centre now bursts at the seams with activities and features. Organizers are expecting in excess of 3,000 visitors this year. The volunteer force for this event is impressive too – 104 of them will be on hand to ensure that the day goes smoothly.

Outdoor displays at Qualicum Beach Seedy Saturday, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The Qualicum Beach fixture has grown to the point where it now is bursting the seams of the Civic Centre

Entry to the Qualicum Beach Seedy Saturday is by donation, with proceeds going to a variety of school and community garden projects. The doors open at 10 a.m. and things wind up at 3:30.

After Qualicum Beach’s event there is a Seedy Saturday 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 which events are on, and where, anywhere in Canada. Just click on the Events tab on the website for the listings. Virtually all of the Seedy Saturday events 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 event at Qualicum Beach can be obtained by going to the website at

http://www.qbseedysaturday.com/

The 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

A slower pace in the pretty seaside village of Cowichan Bay

Sign at entrance to Cowichan Bay, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaIf you are looking for a pleasant way to dawdle away a leisurely morning or afternoon, Cowichan Bay, located on the east coast of the Island, just may be the ticket. The funky little waterfront village is located smack in the middle of the route between Victoria and Nanaimo, just an hour’s drive from each of the Island’s major cities.

Storefront of True Grain Bread in cowichan Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

A stroll along the main road abuts the waterfront and serves up quirky shops like this one.

The laid-back atmosphere of the village can’t help but transmit to visitors, who will find a cornucopia of interesting shops and galleries to visit, several top flight restaurants to enjoy, many outdoor activities and scenic views from every vantage point.

Float homes in Cowichan Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

There is a vibrant floating home community in Cowichan Bay

The Cowichan Bay area has served as home to First Nations people for thousands of years, and was the gateway for European settlement of the area in the 1860s. Sport and commercial salmon fishing and log and lumber exports served the area well in later years; sportsmen from throughout the British Empire traveled to the area to enjoy some of the best salmon fishing to be found anywhere in the world. Although much was going on in the small community during the 19th and 20th centuries, it was bypassed by both the Island Highway and the railway that ran north-south on the Island. In retrospect, that was probably a blessing – that extra bit of an out-of-the-way location has no doubt helped to preserve the ambiance that attracts so many visitors today. The pretty drive along the back roads to get to Cowichan Bay helps set adventurers up for the slow pace they will encounter in the village.

Cowichan Bay Maritime Centre, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The maritime centre is located in a number of pods stretched along a waterfront wharf

In addition to all the expected visitor-oriented businesses in the area, Cowichan Bay serves as home to the Cowichan Bay Maritime Centre, which stretches along 82 metres (269 feet) of wharf into the bay. The centre is operated by the Cowichan Wooden Boat Society and serves as home to all sorts of interesting artifacts related to the area’s maritime history. Designed and purpose-built by a member of the society, the centre’s four galleries are an attractive addition to the waterfront scene and offer an unusual diversion during a tour of the area.

Waterfront homes in Cowichan Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Waterfront homes in Cowichan Bay

We found when we visited Cowichan Bay that the best plan was to park our vehicle at the far end of the village and walk the length of it, so as not to miss anything. Depending on the time of year that you visit you may end up parking on one of the residential streets and having to hike a little, but it’s worth the trouble. There is so much to see and enjoy in this appealing little community, and much of it is tucked away down obscure alleyways and through hidden entries that are easy to miss if you are moving at anything more than a strolling pace.

Cowichan Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Pretty views abound

It should also be noted that Cowichan Bay would be a good spot to stay for a few days if you like touring wineries and great places to eat. There are many bed and breakfast accommodations available in the area, and the Cowichan Valley wineries are gaining considerable attention for the excellent vintages they are producing. Foodies will love the area as well – it serves as home to some of the very best culinary experiences to be had on the Island.

Boat garden in Cowichan Bay, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaFurther information on Cowichan Bay can be obtained at:

www.cowichanbay.com

GPS co-ordinates are (roughly) :

Lat. 48.742047562461856 Long. -123.62569570541382

N 48 44.523 W 123 37.542

Posted in ARTISAN GALLERIES, ATTRACTIONS, DOG-FRIENDLY, DUNCAN/COWICHAN, KID FRIENDLY, SPECIAL PLACES | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

More great food at Qualicum Bay’s West Coast Food House

chicken pesto quesadillas at West Coast Food House, Qualicum Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Chicken pesto quesadillas

I don’t know how the tiny settlement of Qualicum Bay got so lucky in the ‘eating out’ department, but a second notable dining option in the form of West Coast Food House is helping put the seaside community on the map for lovers of good food.

It should come as no surprise that the new place is operated in partnership by Ashley Martz, owner of the much-loved and heavily patronized Tidal Taco Shack, just a few hundred feet down the Old Island Highway. The Taco Shack’s reputation has grown exponentially, based mostly on word-of-mouth and its generous and delicious offerings. The West Coast Food House seems destined to follow in the Taco Shack’s footsteps, if the new place’s track record in its first seven weeks is any indication.

Bar area at West Coast Food House, Qualicum Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The bar area, as seen from one of the separate dining areas

Normally we wait at least three months after a new place opens to give them a chance to settle in, get menus and service sorted and work out any other kinks there may be in the operation. We broke our own rule this time around thanks to the urging of foodie friends, who accompanied us on our initial venture to West Coast Food House. I am happy to report we suffered no regrets.

Kids room at West Coast Food House, Qualicum Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The kids room

The layout of West Coast Food House is kind of interesting – three distinct areas occupy the high-ceilinged cedar-clad building. Two separate dining areas are centred by a large room with a bar area and big-screen television sets. There is also a room for kids, complete with comfy sofas and a big screen TV, where the little ones can occupy themselves watching a movie while their parents enjoy a meal – a stroke of genius, to be sure. The high ceilings and bare floors combined with rather loud music made for a bit of a noisy dining experience, although I am sure that is all muffled when there are more patrons – we went for a late lunch, so not a lot of folks were there when we visited.

Comfort Zone Salad at West Coast Food House, Qualicum Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Comfort Zone Salad

And the food? Well – nothing short of delicious. Although the menu is fairly limited West Coast Food House does justice to the varied menu offerings. There is a focus on fresh local seafood, but for those who have other preferences there are options as well, including bison sliders. There is also a kids menu that is inviting for the younger set.

The day we visited West Coast Food House three of our party of four ordered the daily special – a plate heaped with chicken pesto quesadillas with sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese, spinach and red onion. The quesadillas were accompanied by a green salad with a delicious house-made herb vinaigrette (they should be selling this stuff by the bottle!) and crispy, perfectly-seasoned potato wedges. Plenty of good food, great flavour combinations and a reasonable price – all three in our party who ordered the special decreed it excellent, and all of us are hoping that the offering will eventually appear on the regular menu.

Apple caramel dessert at West Coast Food House, Qualicum Bay, Vanouver Island, British Columbia

Mouthwatering apple caramel dessert

Being the renegade that I am, (and wanting photos of more than one menu item for this article) I ordered the Comfort Zone Salad. The combination of generous portions of mixed artisan greens, candied pecans, crunchy nuts, sliced red onion and apple, dried cranberries and a bountiful dollop of a lovely creamy goat cheese combined with a maple vinaigrette to leave me happily full. There is great value in this offering as well, at just $9.

We finished off by sharing a decadent slice of an apple-caramel concoction nestled on a shortbread-style crust.

Exterior of West Coast Food House, Qualicum Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Look for this building on Highway 19A if you need a great meal!

Service, courtesy of our delightful waitress Lisa, was excellent, and we liked the fact that natural light floods in from the many large windows in the place. Lisa let us in on the restaurant’s plans for ‘special’ nights like Taco Tuesday (surprise!), Wing Wednesdays and features like buckets of seafood. (The Coconut Curry Mussels already on the menu come highly recommended by our dining companions, by the way).

Although West Coast Food House hasn’t been open long I have a sneaking suspicion that it won’t remain a local secret for any great length of time. The combination of good, simple food at reasonable prices, great service and a relaxed ambiance is destined to have folks coming from near and far, just as they do for the Tidal Taco Shack. Personally, I can’t wait to get back there.

Further information on West Coast Food House can be found at the website at:

https://sites.google.com/site/wcfoodhouse/home

Price rating: $-$$

West Coast Food House is located at 6060 Island Highway West, Qualicum Bay.

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 49.403678 Long. -124.630058

N 49 24.221 W 124 37.803

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History underfoot at Union Bay’s Washer Creek

Family and dog on Coal Hills Trail, Union Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The Coal Hills Trail is a perfect location for a family walk

On a recent cold, clear day we decamped to a rather obscure walking trail that found us, literally, walking on history. We had passed the parking area for the Washer Creek coal hill trails near Union Bay hundreds of times without ever having the time to stop, but a trip to pick up our regular bread order from Just Like Mom’s Bakery, also in Union Bay, afforded us the opportunity to explore this most interesting site.

Looking south from the Coal Hills trail near Union Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Looking south from the peninsula

The village of Union Bay was once a bustling coal port, with high grade coal from Cumberland being shipped by rail to the waterfront where it was washed, processed and loaded onto sea-going ships for delivery all over the world. The slim peninsula that stretches into the water across from the heart of the village is the most prominent vestige of the shipping port, although a wander along that pathway and back along the easternmost edge towards Comox offers up other residue as well.

Railway tie plate artifact at Coal Hill trail near Union Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Remnants of the colliery abound, including this railway tie plate

Known locally as the Union Bay Coal Hills, the trail network is a popular destination for families and dog walkers. There is a variety of walking options, all relatively easy and flat. Pretty vistas abound in all directions and, as mentioned earlier, the trails and beachfront are riddled with remnants of the yesteryear that saw Union Bay develop beginning in 1887. Several wharf pilings continue to dot the waterscape – the last signs that a 600-foot long pier once jutted out in to Baynes Sound to accommodate the ocean-going vessels. Many of the masted ships were so large that they had to be escorted up Baynes Sound between Vancouver Island and Denman Island by tug boats.

Wooden pipe on beachfront at Coal Hill trail near Union Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

An old wooden pipe, found along the beach front

In its heyday the peninsula was host to coking ovens, a railway that delivered the coal, machine shops and a coal washer (hence the change of name from Hart Creek to the more commonly -known Washer Creek),

View to Comox from Coal Hill trail, Union Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The view to the north, towards Comox, with some of the old wharf pilings in the forefront

Keep trekking back from the southern point of the peninsula towards the north and you will find bits of old railway grade, wooden pipes, broken bricks and a host of other industrial bits and pieces that speak to the past of the area. Walk even further along and you will end up at the 13 hectare (32 acre) coal hills, comprised of the offal from the coal washing process. This area is privately owned and posted by a development company that, since 2010, has been proposing a 3,000 home sustainable development with a 27-hole golf course, marina, hotels, capping of the coal hills and all the other bits and pieces that seem to go along with high-end developments these days. To date there appears to have been no movement on this, but for anyone interested in the history and remains of this vital area it would be worthwhile to visit sooner rather than later.

old rail bed at Coal Hill trail, Union Bay, Vanocuver Island, British Columbia

It’s a level, pretty easy walk, thanks to the old rail bed route

In any event, visitors to the Washer Creek area tend to hike up the coal hills, posted as private or not, to enjoy the spectacular views of big sky, water and mountains to the north. The slopes are gentle and an easy climb for pretty much anyone. All-told we spent just over an hour exploring the area, but your adventure can easily be made shorter or longer depending on the route you take.

Driftwood at Coal Hill trail, Union Bay, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaFinding the Washer Creek trails is simple – just a little north of the village of Union Bay on the east side of Highway 19A there is a graveled parking area. You can pull in there and access the trails and pathways very easily.

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 49.587447 Long.-124.887204

N 49 35.247 W 124 53.232

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Deep Bay Marine Field Station

Deep Bay Marine Field Station exterior, Deep Bay, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaIt took almost two years to build, start to finish, but the careful design and consideration of natural habitat at the Deep Bay Marine Field Station, combined with a fascinating look at the sea life that surrounds us on the Island, has combined to create a compelling destination.

Fish at Deep Bay Marine Field Station, Deep Bay, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaThe marine station is located a little off the beaten path at Deep Bay, a small waterfront community at the south end of Baynes Sound on the east coast of Vancouver Island. Operated by Vancouver Island University, the centre is home to research facilities, culinary events (usually featuring shellfish), educational opportunities, social events and a myriad of intriguing sea life. For visitors, it offers a glimpse into the spectacular world of the ocean and all the beautiful (and some not-so-beautiful) creatures that inhabit it. touch-tanks-overheadThere is a huge aquarium located on the upper floor and a series of ‘touch tanks’ on the lower floor that encourages kids of all ages to handle the sea life therein. Interpretive signage throughout the building chronicles much of what goes on at the centre, and views of the research labs can be seen from the upper mezzanine, looking downwards.

Upper mezanine at the Deep Bay Marine Field Station, Deep Bay, Vancouver Island, Britiswh ColumbiaThe building itself is an inspired design in the shape of a clam shell – fitting, considering its purpose. It is totally wheelchair-accessible and incorporates hundreds of environmentally-friendly features, keeping with VIU’s goals of sustainability. A glance at the poster featuring current and future plans for development of the site reinforces the dedication to the ‘greenest’ project humanly possible.

Fish artwork at Deep Bay Marine Field Station, Deep Bay, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaIn addition to all of the sea life and interpretive displays the field station is graced with some fine-looking artwork in various mediums. On the upper floor there is a small gift shop area filled with beautiful ocean-oriented items courtesy of the Salish Sea Market, a unique shop in nearby Bowser that features local artisans.

Pink and white sea anenome at Deep Bay Marine Field Station, Deep Bay, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaThe field station is open 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. daily with the occasional closing for special events, so best to check the website calendar prior to making a foray in that direction. Admission is a very reasonable $7 for adults, $3 for children (6-17 years) and kids under 6 get in free when accompanied by an adult.

Although visitors primarily partake of self-guided tours of the centre, special events offer a broader taste of what makes the place so special – there is something for almost everyone, young or old.

White sea anenome at Deep Bay Marine Field Station, Deep Bay, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaOne way or the other, at any time of the year, a trip to the Deep Bay Marine Field Station is well worth the effort. It is filled with unusual beauty and educational opportunities not to be found anywhere else on the Island.

For further information on the Deep Bay Marine Field Station, go to the website at

http://www.viu.ca/deepbay/about/Mission.asp

The centre is located at 370 Chrome Point Road, Bowser/Deep Bay

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 49.45652068756555 Long. -124.73173141479492

N 49 27.391 W 124 43.904

Posted in ATTRACTIONS, COURTENAY/COMOX VALLEY, EAST CENTRAL ISLAND, KID FRIENDLY, WHEELCHAIR ACCESS | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

christmas05[1]We are taking a few weeks off to spend time with family and friends over the holidays. Many thanks to our readers all over the world for your continued support,  loyalty and ideas – we are now wrapping up our fifth year of producing weekly stories for the website, and have loved every minute of it.  We will be off on new adventures in the New Year, beginning on Thursday, January 5.  Until then, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to one and all.  See you in 2017!

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Qualicum Beach’s undocumented Town Trail

Qualicum Beach Town Trail on Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The beginning of the trail, located beside the museum

If you didn’t know it was there, you might never actually find it. There is a lovely trail in Qualicum Beach (we call it the Town Trail) that has virtually no documentation, either in print or on-line. It isn’t listed in the Qualicum Beach Recreation and Parks Guide, it isn’t mentioned in any of the multitudes of internet trail guides – it is mostly just a picturesque local secret that is used as a pedestrian thoroughfare by area residents who prefer not to drive in to the village to run errands.

Bench on the Qualicum Beach Town Trail, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

A bench sits in a pretty setting at the Arbutus end of the trail

Actually finding the Town Trail is the first objective, because it isn’t marked with any signage. You can either start your jaunt from the top of the Grandon Creek trail, or hook in to the trail a few hundred yards further along at the junction of Arbutus Street and Hoy Lake Road. Or, you can start out from the local museum located on Beach Road across from the old train station and General Money Park.

Qualicum Beach Town Trail, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaThe forested trail meanders for 1.1 km (about 7/10s of a mile), sandwiched between the tony Hoy Lake Road community and the railroad tracks. There is a bench located at the Arbutus Road end, a quirky carved stump along the way, and several spurs off the trail that lead to various neighbourhoods. Other than that, the well-maintained, mostly level trail offers little more than a peaceful walk with good footing, pretty vistas and a nice diversion from the everyday world. It took us about 20 minutes to traverse the entire length of the trail – it would have been less if the obligatory pauses to take photos hadn’t been included.

Gnome or fairy house, Qualicum Beach Town Trail, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

A home for gnomes? A fairy house?

There is no parking at the Arbutus Road end of the trail, but plenty of space for vehicles at General Money Park, just off Beach Road.. If you want to avoid seeing the same scenery twice you can always turn left up Arbutus at the end of the trail, turn left again on to Harlech or Mill Road and enjoy the ambiance of one of Qualicum Beach’s oldest neighbourhoods on your way back to Beach Road.

Qualicum Beach Town Trail, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaThe best starting point is at the Qualicum Beach Museum, located at 587 Beach Road.

GPS co-ordinates for the Museum are:

Lat. 49.350062 Long. -124.447896

N 49 21.004 W 124 26.874

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Port Alberni’s La Bruschetta

Perogies at La Bruschetta Bistro, Port Alberni, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Hand-crafted perogies served without the usual accompaniments – a nice twist

We weren’t quite sure what to make of Port Alberni’s La Bruschetta Bistro when we looked at the menu posted outside the entrance. ‘Welcome to Tradition’ it trumpeted, leaving us with the impression that we were heading in to an Italian dining experience. To some degree, that was true – there were plenty of Italian offerings. But we were also faced with making a decision between those and such anomalies as perogies (Ukrainian), burgers (American) and Roma Salad Nuovo (described on the menu as a modern twist on a classic Greek salad). Intriguing, to say the least.

Interior of La Bruschetta Bistro, Port Alberni, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The interior is spacious and comfortable

La Bruschetta is one of Port Alberni’s newer eateries, having only opened this past February, and it is tucked away in the downstairs of the Italian Canadian Hall in a semi-industrial area . It’s not the sort of location you are going to trip over by accident but it’s worth the trouble to seek it out.

Tortellini at La Bruschetta Bistro, Port Alberni, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Roasted garlic and asiago-stuffed bake tortellini

The large room is nicely decorated in calming colours. Tables are spread out so diners are not sitting cheek-by-jowl, offering privacy and space for a quiet conversation. White linen cloths adorn the tables and real fabric napkins are the order of the day. So, a nice environment other than the rather wild rock music, which was totally out of character with the ambiance.

I ordered the plate of hand-crafted perogies, expecting the usual accompaniments of sour cream, bacon and/or onions. The dish that arrived offered only onions, but the medley of perogies (six different varieties, with interesting flavour combinations), nicely presented with wilted greens, lightly sauteed zucchini, very garlicky ciabatta and flavourful grilled sausage offered a refreshing twist on the traditional additions.

Tiramisu at La Bruschetta Bistro, Port Alberni, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

House-made Tiramisu

My husband opted for the tortellini and cheese bake featuring pasta stuffed with roasted garlic and asiago cheese, baked in a thick, cheesy sauce. Again, a very generous serving of food, to the point where we decided that our lunch out was supper for the day, which got me off the hook for cooking a big meal later on.

We shared a slice of light and lovely house-made Tiramisu cake to complete our meal – a fitting end, we thought, considering the Italian bent at La Bruschetta.

Exterior of La Bruschetta Bistro, Port Alberni, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaTable service is efficient and friendly at La Bruschetta and the menu, while not strictly Italian, offers enough variety for most tastes, including a vegetarian burger, beef stroganoff, steak and ribs. The place is a refreshing addition to the Port Alberni dining scene.

wheelchair-lFurther information on La Bruschetta Bistro can be found at:

www.labruschettabistro.com

La Bruschetta is located on the lower level of the Italian Canadian Hall in Port Alberni, at 4065 Sixth Avenue.

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 49.250323 Long. -124.803028

N 49 15.019 W 124 48.182

Price rating: $$

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Parksville’s Little Mountain offers spectacular views

    View from Little Mountain near Parksville, Vancouver Island, British Columbia Little Mountain near Parksville is one of those local secrets that can be easily missed if one isn’t paying attention or seeking out a particular hiking opportunity.
Arbutus trees on Little Mountain, Parksville, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaNestled in the heart of the Errington/Parksville area, Little Mountain offers spectacular views of the surrounding countryside from sheer limestone bluffs that rise 300 feet above sea level. Mountains, agricultural land, forests and endless sky fill the eye.

Hiking trail on Little Mountain, Parksville, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

There are some pretty hiking trails at the top of Little Mountain, as well as at the bottom

Although there is a network of hiking trails at the bottom of the mountain, easiest access to the viewpoints is obtained by driving to the top of the mountain, scrambling over low barricades, and trekking a short distance in. Less than a five minute walk from your vehicle you will be swept away by the stunning beauty of the area.

Bluffs and views from Little Mountain, Parksville, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

It’s a sharp 300-foot drop off those bluffs in the foreground – yikes!

As one whose stomach plummets at the mere thought of looking down from great heights (when did that start to happen, anyhow???) I chose to not get too close to the edge of the bluffs. There is no fencing or barrier of any sort to prevent a heart-stopping (in the most literal sense of the word) plunge. We were up there on a dry day, but according to local information the rocks can be very slippery regardless of weather conditions. Common sense dictates staying away from the edge, and if you are taking a dog with you, make sure it is kept on leash. Keep young children close at hand as well.

Mountain bike trail on Little Mountain, Parksville, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Mountain bike trails can also be found on the mountain

There is a network of pretty trails that wends its way around the top of Little Mountain, between rock faces and among arbutus trees. Additionally there are mountain bike trails for those who are so inclined.
Little Mountain is relatively easy to find. From Highway 4A take Bellevue Road, then take the second left off Bellevue – Little Mountain Road. Follow to the top, park your vehicle and head out on your adventure.
GPS co-ordinates for Little Mountain are:
Lat. 49.294959 Long. -124.324636
N 49 17.698 W 124 19.478

Posted in DOG-FRIENDLY, EAST CENTRAL ISLAND, INLAND CENTRAL ISLAND, KID FRIENDLY, SPECIAL PLACES | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Silver Meadows Harvest Festival – tons of fun for everyone

SM SignSilver Meadows Farm in Errington is one of those cherished local institutions that draws support from area residents for a whole bunch of reasons.  For many, it is the excellent fresh produce (especially the corn!) that comes off its fields and into the tiny farm store.  But the annual Silver Meadows Harvest Festival keeps families coming back every autumn, too – and with good reason.

Entrance driveway at Silver Meadows Farm, Errington, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Heading up the Silver Meadows laneway towards adventure and fun

This October is the farm’s ninth annual harvest festival and boy, what a delightful madhouse it promises to be! Last year we arrived shortly after the opening at 11 a.m. and there were already cars parked along the side of the road for upwards of half a mile. Families young (mostly) and old trekked along the pretty pumpkin-lined driveway to congregate near the farm store and enjoy the many fall-themed activities.

Little girl with pumpkin face paint, Silver Meadows Farm Harvest Festival, Errington, Vancouver Island

There was face painting…..

Pony rides at Silver Meadows Farm, Errington, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

…pony rides….

Sack races at Silver Meadows Farm Errington, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

…sack races….

Corn maze at Silver Meadows Farm, Errington, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

…and a corn maze

The day is heavily geared toward creating quality outdoor family time, offering a profusion of old-fashioned delights that engaged kids and parents alike.  The huge corn maze was a big hit, as were the pony rides and the hay wagon tours of the farm.  There was a pumpkin toss, and good old sack races, face painting, a food concession.

Pumpkin field at Silver Meadows Farm, Errington, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Pumpkins everywhere….

Carved pumpkin at Silver Meadows Farm, Errington, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaAnd, of course, there was the opportunity to wander the pumpkin field to choose the perfect orange squash to carve for Hallowe’en.`

Although more than 1,200 people streamed up the driveway in 2015 there was never the sensation of being crowded.  Folks waited patiently in line for some of the experiences like the hay wagon rides – even with three wagons going, there were long line ups.

But the waits didn’t seem to bother anyone – there was plenty to enjoy on a fine autumn day, including the bucolic loveliness of the farm itself. Picnic tables provided a spot to rest or enjoy a light lunch from the concession, and friends and neighbours stood about chatting and visiting while kids ran helter-skelter.  It was one of those quintessential neighbourhood gatherings that make you appreciate the simple things and re-connect with what’s real in this world.

Hay wagon ride at Silver Meadows Farm, Errington, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Hay wagon rides were a very popular attraction

To make things even better, entry to the Harvest Festival this year is again  by donation, with proceeds going to B.C.Childrens Hospital. In just four hours last year Silver Meadows Farm raised $ 3,600, making for cumulative donations over the years a total of $ 10,000. Those funds will go towards helping sick kids hopefully get to the point where they, too, will be running wild and enjoying events like the harvest festival in the future. A great effort for a great cause!

            Further Information about Silver Meadows Farm can be found on Facebook at:

https://www.facebook.com/silvermeadowserrington?fref=ts

Silver Meadows Farm is located at 1019 Errington Road, Errington

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 49.303478  Long. -124.369525

N 49 18.209  W 124 22.171

 

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