Ladysmith’s Christmas Festival of Lights extravaganza

 Ladysmith Festival of Lights street scene, Vancouver Island The Ladysmith Festival of Lights is worth planning ahead for and making the commitment to get to the Island from wherever you are. This is the 29th annual light-up that involves 1,ooo volunteer hours and tons of fun!  

Two hundred thousand Christmas lights grace the town of Ladysmith for the festive season

     For a small town of 8,000 Ladysmith, located on the east coast of Vancouver Island between Nanaimo and Duncan, knows how to do it up right when it comes to kicking off the Christmas season.

Santa ready to light up the town at the Ladysmith Festival of Lights, Vancouver Island

When Santa appears on a rooftop, the big light-up is imminent

The town’s annual Festival of Lights, always held the final Thursday of November (weather permitting, this year November 24), is a great family outing and a huge attraction for those from far and wide. Upwards of 20,000 people attend, coming from all over Vancouver Island as well as from the Lower Mainland/Vancouver area and other areas of the Pacific Northwest.

The afternoon gets under way with a big craft and gift sale at the Aggie Hall, and there is a community spaghetti dinner hosted by one of the local service clubs. As dusk falls the bright Christmas lighting and displays in the store windows come into play.  The merchants located all along the town’s main drag (First Avenue) and on several of the small side-streets stay open throughout the evening.   By 4 p.m. there is street entertainment on First Avenue, complemented by various concessions hosted by local businesses and service clubs.

Local merchants are enthusiastic participants with beautiful window displays, special sales and treats for attendees

            While many visitors to the area attend the community spaghetti dinner, we tend to opt for a quick, tasty and very inexpensive meal o at Appetit, a tiny hole-in-the-wall in the middle of the business district on First.  Quick service and a table shared put us in a happy frame of mind for the rest of the evening. We spend quite a bit of time checking out the many unique shops on First, then head up the hill to the area occupied by the mobile entertainment stage.  It is a perfect location – we have a great view of First Avenue all the way down the long, gradual slope, and also are almost directly across the street from the building atop which Santa appears promptly at 6:30 p.m.to ‘plug in the town lights.’  The light-up is spectacular – 200,000 Christmas lights blaze to life to the cheers of the crowd.

Everyone loves a parade, and the participants in this one go all out

The light-up is followed by a really great parade full of brightly decorated floats, clowns and participants from a wide variety of community organizations. It lasts a good solid hour, and is special enough to keep any kid (or adult!) enchanted. The evening wraps up with a huge fireworks display, providing the weather behaves itself and there isn’t too much wind. It can get cold, but the various concessions offering hot chocolate and other goodies help to keep energy levels up. A visit to Ladysmith’s Old Town Bakery for some of their scrumptious baked goods isn’t a bad idea either, we have discovered.

Clown at Ladysmith Festival of Lights, Vancouver Island

There is plenty of entertainment for the kids….

For anyone who is a Chrismaholic, loves parades and/or grand community events, this one is a great bet. The historic town, founded in 1900, has lots of interesting nooks and crannies (be sure to check out the antique store in the old Post Office/Customs building on the highway – even if you aren’t an antique aficionado, the building itself is full of history and an interesting look into the past)

Ladysmith Festival of Lights parade, Vancouver Island

Thousands line the parade route

Further information on Ladysmith and the Festival of Lights can be obtained by going to www.ladysmithfol.com/ or visit the visitor information centre at 411B First Avenue, phone 250-245-2112.

 The GPS co-ordinates are: Lat. 48.9926132

                                                 Long.  -123.8163

                                S 124 26.022  W 123 48.982

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Qualicum Beach offers a charming small town kick-off to Christmas with Moonlight Madness

Decorated streets for Moonlight Madness in Qualicum Beach, Vancouver IslandThere’s nothing better than sparkling lights, special treats, beautiful displays and Christmas music to put one in the mood for the yuletide season. The Qualicum Beach merchants do a bang-up job of kicking off the festive period with their annual Moonlight Madness event, this year scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 17.

Steet decoration for Moonlight Madness, Qualicum Beach, Vancouver IslandWe usually venture out after dark to take in the activities and, rain or clear skies, there are always hundreds of people out enjoying Moonlight Madness along with us. Things get under way at 5:30 p.m. and run until 9 p.m. Virtually all of the local merchants stay open late (an unusual occurrence in Qualicum Beach), offering everything from good cheer to great deals to free popcorn, hot chocolate or mulled cider.

Merchant dressed for Moonlight Madness, Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island

Local merchants are enthusiastic participants.

This year marks the 22nd event for Moonlight Madness, and every time we go there is more to enjoy throughout the evening. It is organized by the Qualicum Beach Downtown Business Association and has become a favourite community fixture over the past couple of decades.

Santa Claus at Moonlight Madness, Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island

Santa Claus is always a big draw.

The 2016 version of Moonlight Madness kicks off around 5:30 p.m with the light-up at Glassford Square, more commonly referred to as the village square or town square. Centred by a fountain, the square abuts the town hall with its’ tall clock tower, so it’s not difficult to find.

Christmas decorations at Moonlight Madness, qualicum Beach, Vancouver IslandEntertainment at the square will include the Legion pipe band, dancers, a barbershop quartet and the Village Voices. The RCMP will be in attendance waiting to welcome Santa Claus, who will then be escorted to the twinkling Santa’s Village, located up Second Avenue at the quaint Chilham Village retail complex.

Shoppers at Moonlight Madness, Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island

Wander the shopping district and enjoy the festive ambiance

Musicians and singers will be scattered throughout the central shopping area of town, and many businesses offer special deals. Most of the restaurants are open for those who might feel the need of a sit-down and a warm drink or more substantial sustenance.

Chilham Village pathway at Moonlight Madness, Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island

Santa’s twinkling village will be tucked away in the courtyard of Chilham Village

All-told, Moonlight Madness is a fun evening for folks of all ages. Wandering the festively-lit streets, listening to the town clock tower playing Christmas carols and enjoying the beautiful yuletide window displays and merchandise makes for an inspiring evening in this quintessential small town.

The best spot to begin your Moonlight Madness adventure is around Second Avenue and Memorial, wandering up along Second to take in all the activity and fun.

wheelchair-lGPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 49.347121 Long. -124.441695

N 49 20.827 W 124 26.502

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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

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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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Cassidy Country Kitchen – diner food with a difference

Cassidy Country Kitchen near Nanaimo, British Columbia It’s diner food, but it’s diner food with a difference. After a couple of years of incredibly hard times and bad luck, the Cassidy Country Kitchen has literally risen from the ashes to become a new landmark located just off the Island Highway, a little north of Nanaimo’s Cassidy airport.

The saga of the restaurant began in 2014, when it opened in a small, aging structure. New owners Donovan and Kristine Stauffer had done interior renovations and built a pretty new outdoor patio. They were forging ahead with plans when, six weeks after opening, fire destroyed the building. The patio was spared, but the rubble from the building remained for months while the owners and insurers sorted out details for a re-build.

Halibut tacos with polenta fries at Cassidy Country Kitchen near Nanaimo, British Columbia

Halibut tacos with polenta fries and apple fennel slaw

There was no movement on re-building a year later, so the Stauffers set up a food truck on the site for the summer. We stopped in one day for a quick lunch in an effort to support them and found their stocks severely depleted – someone had broken in to the truck the night before and stolen much of their food inventory. Several weeks later we learned that the vintage tractor that they kept on the grounds had been stolen.

Not to be beaten down by adversity, the Stauffers carried on, and this year a classy new building has appeared on the site. We stopped in for lunch one recent warm autumn afternoon to check things out and were delighted to see the restaurant doing well.

Macaroni and Cheese at Cassidy Country Kitchen near Nanaimo, British Columbia

Classic country mac and cheese – with a twist

We had a dog with us, which was welcome on the outdoor patio. So, settled in (complete with bucket of water for the dog, brought unasked by our kindly waitress), we perused the extensive menu.

The Cassidy Country Kitchen serves what it calls ‘classy country food with a Southern twist’, which pretty much hits the nail on the head. Pulled pork, jalapeno and Cajun flavours pop up throughout the menu, which offers breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes.

I settled on the halibut tacos, served with polenta fries and an apple fennel slaw. The plate that arrived included a stack of gigantic flavourful and creamy ‘fries’ finished in corn meal. The apple fennel slaw was extraordinarily good, and the tacos were generously filled and plentiful.

My husband opted for the classic country mac and cheese, also served with a bit of a different twist – in addition to the usual cheddar in the sauce there was a distinct flavour enhancement courtesy of the inclusion of applewood smoked cheddar. The mac and cheese was accompanied by a flaky buttermilk biscuit.

Cassidy Country Kitchen near Nanaimo, British ColumbiaOur friend ordered the steak sandwich. Served on thick-sliced French bread, it arrived heaped with sauteed mushrooms and onions. A generous portion of French fries accompanied this dish.

All three of us were full to the brim at the conclusion of our meal – there is certainly no lack of food served at this establishment. While their desserts looked pretty amazing none of us had room for another morsel. Next time we will probably split a main so as to have space (and inclination) left for a sweet treat at the end of our meal.

Overall, you will find good value for your money at the Cassidy Country Kitchen. The food is fresh and made in-house, service is attentive and the ambiance is relaxed. We are happy to see them up and running after all the misfortune they have endured.wheelchair-lFurther information on the Cassidy Country Kitchen can be found at the website:

http://www.cassidycountrykitchen.com/

The Cassidy Country Kitchen is located at 2930 Trans Canada Highway, between Ladysmith and Nanaimo.

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat.: 49.067426 Long. -123.877405

N 49 04.046 W 123 52.644

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Cumberland’s Chinatown and Japanese Town

Jumbo's cabin and information kiosk at Cumberland Chinatown and Japanese Town, Vancouver Island

Historic log cabin from Chinatown and an information kiosk mark the access point to the Asian communities

They did their best, but unfortunately the efforts of the citizens of Cumberland to preserve an important cultural heritage site were unsuccessful. As a result there is very little left of the community’s historic Chinatown and No.1 Japanese Town.

View of old Chinatown site, Cumberland, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

A view of the Chinatown picnic shelter from along the pathway where a thriving town once existed

We discovered the existence of these settlements purely by accident – what is left of them is located more than a mile out of the heart of Cumberland off Comox Lake Road. A large information board and one of the original Chinatown log cabins marks the beginning of a half-mile trail that connects the two communities.

Information placard at Cumberland's Chinatown, Vancouver Island

One of the information placards that tell the story of Chinatown. These are scattered throughout the former townsite

Chinatown was built on wetlands at the site of the #2 mine of the Union Colliery Company. The swamp was drained in 1888 and houses, businesses and market gardens were established to the point where the Cumberland site was one of Canada’s largest Chinese communities by the end of World War 1.

Trail between Chinatown and Japanese Town, Cumberland, Vancouver Island

It’s an easy half-mile walk west from Chinatown to Japanese Town

The town site is little more than a memory now, but information placards at building locations tell visitors a little about the structures that occupied those spaces. Churches, bakeries, general stores, social centres, residences and restaurants were scattered throughout the area. One restaurant was capable of seating 100 patrons and served 10-course meals – a sign that the community thrived despite the extreme hardships endured by the railroad and mine workers.

Asian-style bridge on trail between Chinatown and Japanese Town, Cumberland, Vancouver Island

This pretty Asian-style bridge symbolically links the two communities. Lettering on one of the end posts means ‘tranquility’

A fire that swept though Chinatown in 1943 destroyed 43 buildings – one third of the community. Work for the Chinese had diminished due to government regulations and the population in Chinatown declined precipitously into the 1960s. In 1963 the Village of Cumberland unsuccessfully applied for funding to restore Chinatown as a tourist attraction. By 1968 collectors had ransacked the town and the decision was made to raze the remaining buildings. The aforementioned log cabin was spared and moved up the hill to the roadside as a marker for the site.

Japanese Town residence, Cumberland, Vancouver Island

Not much of the old Japanese Town is accessible, but one of the residences can be seen from the trail

Half a mile west along a pretty, easy trail are the few remains of #1 Japanese Town. This community got its start in 1891, but didn’t really amount to much of anything until after a world-wide Depression in 1892. The Japanese returned to the site in 1893 and constructed 36 homes and businesses, a bathhouse and two general stores. Between 1914 and 1939 the Japanese women had a traditional tea garden at Comox Lake.

Only two or three structures of the original buildings remain standing, with the two houses still occupied. There is no where near as much on-site information about Japanese Town as there is at Chinatown, but a wander through what was once a small thriving community is instructive.

Commemorative plaque marking Japanese Town, Cumberland, Vancouver Island

Commemorative plaque marking Japanese Town

The Japanese community flourished for 49 years, until the advent of World War ll when 31 families from the Cumberland Japanese Town were sent to internment camps in the interior of the province. They never returned, and the community fell in to disrepair when bottle diggers and collectors dug up the former town site.

The 104 acre property encompassing Chinatown and Japanese Town was gifted to the Village of Cumberland by Weldwood Canada in 2002. Initially known as Perseverance Creek, the site was renamed Coal Creek Historic Park in 2008.

Bunkhouse at Japanese Town, Cumberland, Vancouver Island

This is also in Japanese Town, but there is no indication as to its use. A bunkhouse perhaps?

The site of Chinatown, in addition to being home to many information placards, also hosts a picnic shelter. Preservation and management of the old site is overseen by the Coal Creek Historic Park Advisory Committee, which takes direction from the Chinatown Picnic Reunion Group, comprised of former residents and descendants who have met yearly since 1972.

Flowering cherry trees at Japanese Town orchard, Cumberland, Vancouver Island

Flowering cherry trees at the old Japanese Town orchard

Japanese Town commemorative components are also slowly being installed under the auspices of the advisory committee. In 2009 31 flowering cherry trees were planted in the old orchard to commemorate the 31 families forcibly removed from the community in 1942. A bronze plaque honouring the families was unveiled in 2010. The project was made possible by donations from the National Association of Japanese Canadians and by former residents and their families.

Information sign at Japanese Town, Cumberland, Vancouver Island

Information sign at Japanese Town

We came away from both communities feeling a little melancholy because of the sad histories behind the town sites. But we were pleased, too, to see the acknowledgment of both the Chinese and Japanese contributions, and to have the opportunity to better understand the hardships they endured. It may not have been the prettiest part of Canadian history, but the endeavours of both communities were crucial to the success of a young and growing country.

The site of the old Chinatown cabin and the large commemorative sign board marks the access point to both communities. They can be found on Comox Lake Road, about 1 ½ miles (2.5 km) west of the village of Cumberland.

Further information on both Chinatown and #1 Japanese Town can be found at the excellent Cumberland Museum website at:

http://www.cumberlandmuseum.ca/visit/

GPS co-ordinates for the Comox Lake Road site are:

Lat. 49.617176 Long.-125.048633

N 49 37.031 W 125 02.918

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Cowichan’s Unsworth Restaurant relaxes

Unsworth Restaurant, Duncan, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The beautiful heritage home that houses Unsworth Restaurant

The vibe has changed, but the ambiance at Cowichan’s Unsworth Restaurant remains very much the same since new operators Christie Pope and Steve Elskens took over a couple of years ago.

Situated amidst the verdant beauty of  the Unsworth Vineyards, the heritage home that houses the dining spot of the same name continues to attract a devoted following.  The feeling is less formal these days – a lot more casual, in fact.  It seems to have more of an appeal for family gatherings, and the menu reflects that feeling.

Beef burger, fries and salad at Unsworth Restaurant, Duncan, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Not-your-average beef burger

While we adored the ‘old’ more high-end Unsworth under the direction of Brad Boisvert, we found the new iteration just as pleasing.  The restored historic home, built in the early 1900s, seems to be able to morph with ease and grace – it’s a classic, no matter which way you look at it.

Christie and Steve have spent many years cultivating relationships with local food mongers, so there is a great emphasis on the ‘fresh local’ angle at Unsworth.  The menu offers seasonal specialties integrating such delicacies as spot prawns and lamb.  There are small plates for sharing, or larger offerings – all of them innovative.

Spaghettini with lamb bolognes at Unsworth Restaurant, Duncan, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Spaghettini with lamb bolognese

We arrived for dinner on a Spring evening, when the vineyards were awash in  dusky sunlight.  A clutch of free-range chickens worked their way up and down the rows of grape vines as we perused the menu and enjoyed the pretty view.

I settled on a burger – but not just any burger.  My husband chose the spaghettini pasta with lamb Bolognese, parmesan, mint and parsley.

View from Unsworth Restaurant, Duncan, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The view from the restaurant

Our meals arrived in good time, and I went to work on the generously-sized burger that included beef, smoked chorizo, pancetta, basil cream and sweet and spicy tomato jam. I can only say it was unlike any burger I have ever consumed – the combined flavours were a delightful surprise on the palate and had my taste buds wondering what the heck had hit them.  The burger arrived with fries and a salad – no lack of food on the plate, to the point where in the end we decided we probably could have split a single order and been quite satisfied.

My husband’s pasta dish was also a nice change from the standard beef or pork Bolognese, with the flavour of the lamb coming to the forefront in the sauce.

`We finished our meal by sharing a slice of decadent hazelnut brown butter cake accompanied by caramelized pears, sour cream and whipped cream – a lovely combination that was not too sweet.

Hazelnut brown butter cake with caramelized pears, whipped cream and sour cream at Unsworth Restaurant, Duncan, Vancouver Island

Sweet endings – hazelnut brown butter cake

Unsworth Restaurant has also come up with the concept recently of a CSR – Community Supported Restaurant.   Based on the concept of CSAs or Community Supported Agriculture produce boxes, the CSR accepts pre-paid subscriptions that get participants a set number of meals on designated nights through the winter and early Spring months.  It’s a smart method of ensuring the viability of the restaurant during less busy seasons and has obviously appealed to those in the Cowichan region.  Christie revealed that Unsworth had 100 subscribers last winter.

So, it’s onward and upward at Unsworth.  If the operators continue going in the direction that they started from there seems to be no limit to what they can accomplish.  In the meantime, we get to eat interesting food in a beautiful setting – it’s a sweet deal for all concerned.

            Further information on Unsworth Restaurant, it’s hours of operation, location and menu can be found at the website:

            http://www.unsworthvineyards.com/unsworth-restaurant/

Price rating: $$

            wheelchair-lUnsworth is located at 2915 Cameron Taggart Road in the Mill Bay area

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 48.660453  Long. -123.589376

N 48 39.627  W 123 35.363

 

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

Good food and good value at BoMé Café in Coombs

Goulash soup with foccacia bread at BoMe Cafe, Coombs, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Goulash Soup with house-made foccacia bread

It took more than 15 years to get things rolling but finally, this past Spring, BoMé Cheese and Café opened its doors to the general public.

Pork donair at Bome Cafe, Coombs, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Pork donair

When Horst Boehm and his wife Bibi Menge immigrated from Germany in 1999 and settled in Coombs their dream was to produce artisan cheeses.  However, various bureaucracies had other ideas. Between milk quota problems, equipment containing brass elements that were no longer allowed and a variety of other delays the couple had to persevere.  They constructed a state of the art cheese-making facility with a pretty café above, looking down on the production area.

Interior of BoMe Cafe in Coombs, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

There is plenty of space in the pretty cafe

We recently ventured out to the café for lunch and were delighted to find a variety of German-themed foods on the blackboard menu.  The culinary offerings harken back to Bibi’s past as a hotel and restaurant operator in Germany and, while quite simple are nonetheless flavourful and plentiful.

We each started with a cup of soup – creamed carrot for my better half and a spicy goulash soup for myself.  Both were served with a tasty slice of in-shop-made foccacia accented with BoMé’s cheese.  My husband’s carrot soup was a smooth blend of the bright orange vegetable that resonated with carroty flavour.  My goulash soup was substantial enough to serve as a meal all on its own, with the hearty flavours of Germany shining through.

Frankfurter Kranz buttercream cake at BoMe Cafe, coombs, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Frankfurter Kranz cake, a German specialty

I ordered the pork donair for lunch, a crammed-full triangle of lovely fresh bread stuffed to the max with a tasty combination of pork and slaw.  We could easily have shared this and been completely satisfied, but my husband was dealing with an equally-delicious schnitzel sandwich that included a slice of the BoMé cheese, pickles and other accoutrements.

We should have stopped right there.  But there were four tempting desserts lurking in the display case.  We ended up sharing a slice of Frankfurter Kranz cake – a dense buttercream creation layered with a creamy concoction featuring, once again, the BoMé cheese and finished with crunchy caramelized nuts.

Cheese-making facilities at BoMe Cheese and Cafe, Coombs, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The view from the upstairs café, to where the cheese is produced

By the time we were done we both agreed that a very light supper was in order that day.  We purchased some of the delicious foccacia to take home and enjoy with home-made soup that night,

One of the really nice things about the BoMé café is that the tables are spread out (we figured there was seating for about 24, plus outdoor availability of tables on the patio for fine weather days.)  The view downstairs to the cheese-making facility offers a different kind of ambiance, and the old family photographs on the walls add a hominess and different interest to the place.

Outdoor patio at bome Cheese and Cafe, Coombs, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The outdoor patio offers views over verdant fields and woods

The other nice thing about BoMé is that you can purchase some of their specialties to take home and enjoy if you feel so inclined, saving the hassle of cooking or making for a quick and delicious meal on a busy day.

Service was quick and friendly at BoMé and, although the café isn’t even mentioned on their website word of mouth has brought patrons through the door on a regular basis.  Located just off the Alberni Highway between Parksville and Port Alberni, BoMé offers a tasty, nutritious, reasonably-priced and easy dining option if you don’t want to battle the crowds at the famous Goats on the Roof just down the road.

Further information on BoMé can be found at the website:

http://bomecheese.com/

wheelchair-lPrice Rating: $-$$

BoMé is located at 1876 Alberni Highway, near Coombs.

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 49.306247  Long. -124.393805

N 49 18.375  W 124 23.628

Posted in EAST CENTRAL ISLAND, INLAND CENTRAL ISLAND, KID FRIENDLY, WHEELCHAIR ACCESS, WHERE TO EAT | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment