It has been a long time since we posted a new story on our blog. This blog is not about Tadoussac so I will say that up front. We have just returned from a great trip out to Vancouver and Vancouver Island, with a couple of the Gulf Islands thrown in for good measure. Since our return we have been telling people that the weather was spectacularly bad and the scenery spectacularly beautiful – a good trade off. It is called the “storm watch ” season at this time of year on Vancouver Island so you get what you get!!
We started in Vancouver to be present when Anne, Alan’s sister, received an award from the International Diabetes Federation for her career work in diabetic education around the world. We were very impressed with her talk, her research and with the conference itself. We are so very proud of her.
We stayed with Gwen, Alan’s cousin – Yahoo and had lots of fun walking the trails near her house with Ripley just like we do in the summer. We also had dins with 2 of the Bruemmers – Jennifer and Matthew, and Gwen’s son Chris and his fiancée Lacey.
We headed to Vancouver Island on my birthday!! December 3rd and were looking forward to seeing the islands up close as we went across on the ferry. No such luck – pea soup fog and pouring rain. The ferry was terrific though – had a full breakfast that was fantatstic!
We went to the West side of the Island first – Tofino and then Ucluelet. Everything you have heard about the beaches there are true and then some. Granted we had some rain and fog but this time of year is also billed as one of really big waves and wild winds. It was soooo impressive. We could not believe that people were surfing (Ian Belton Jr. I now know you are crazy to be doing this!!!) and they even had a beginner’s class which looked pretty suicidal to me. At any rate, we spent a whole day just combing the beaches and walking the trails. It was amazing. We walked part of the Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet later in the morning and it was quite different with craggy cliffs and swirling waves over rocks. Ucluelet also is home to a tiny café called the Blue Café where we had, bar none, the best Seafood Chowder we have ever eaten. I was studying it with every bite to see if I could figure out all the ingredients – I need to go back for further study.
In Tofino we stayed in a neat Motel called West Marine that was also part working fish docks, marina and had its own pub onsite. What a great combo. I have to show you this picture as one of the things we loved best – especially Alan, was all the wooden boats! And there are lots and lots of crazies who are living on them – and you know how I feel about that (Second life, Second Wife!!!)
One of the highlights of our trip was walking the Rain Forest Trail in the Pacific Rim National Park (Forêt Pluviale), near Tofino that my friend Marie Josée Normandin from Parcs Canada recommended. What a beautiful trail amongst the giant cedars. We met not another sole and it was amazing to be in this park all alone. So quiet and majestic. I love walking in the forest – I always have – this was totally outside my experience and it is set up with all kinds of good plaques to outline the ecology of the forest. We learned so much. We have beautiful trees were we are, but they seem like gnarled twigs in comparison to these soaring giants some of which are more than 800 years old.
A bridge made from a fallen tree
Our next trip was to cross over to Gabriola Island. A short 20 minute trip to an island that is farmland, marinas and trails. I think this island would be a good example of the word bucolic and we were told it was one of the original hippie islands that never lost its hippy roots. Very organic, artistic and environmentally conscious. We stayed at a B&B owned by a couple who had emigrated from Britain 5 years ago. Everyone we met was from somewhere else!
Our final island visit was to Saltspring Island. Again a mix of farm and village. We loved this island for very different reasons than Gabriola. One being that we actually had a half day of sun – amazing. Thanks to David Price and Jane Walker for the recommendation we stayed at Maracaibo on the island and spent the better part of the first afternoon exploring the coast around that area.
We did have a day of rain – surprise – and spent a great part of an afternoon in a wonderful book store Black Sheep Books. A throw back to the old days it had towering bookshelves, classical music playing, stools in corners for you to read on and a very quiet ambiance. Ahhhhh
A highlight of our Saltspring stay was to have dinner with Jill Evans another cousin. She opened her beautiful home on Oystercatcher Place and invited a friend of ours from an early parish who also retired to Saltspring. What a wonderful small world it is.
We returned to Vancouver Island via ferry and the ferries reminded us so much of our own. The small island ones are similar to ours in that they are a lifeline. Primary school students stay on island (ie Gabriola, Saltspring and others) but secondary students go to the main island for school. Many work on the main island so go back and forth everyday twice.
Once back on Vancouver island we spent a great day exploring the towns of Duncan and Chemanius before heading to Ladysmith.
Duncan is known as the town of the totems and several years ago the town decided to trumpet its aboriginal history and have totem poles carved and posted throughout the village by local aboriginal families. Each totem tells the story of a family, a family story or tribal history. They are magnificent. I have posted a couple below. They actually have footsteps painted on the sidewalks so that you can follow the steps and go to see each of the over 30 totems. Some as you will see were posted with a wall mural.
Chemanius, in an effort to capture their history, chose the use of murals on the walls of commercial buildings as their creative venue. Each was more magnificent than the last depicting the introduction of the railway, farming, mining and fishing that sustained their community. Brilliantly done and updated to ensure their vibrancy it was like an outside art gallery.
We spent an afternoon in Ladysmith to visit colleagues of mine who moved there 15 years ago when they retired. We spent the afternoon combing over a marine museum of old restored boats and dioramas of the timber and mining history of the village.
The final two days of our trip were spent in Victoria. We were lucky enough to have another cousin just move there – we obviously need even more cousins to spread out across the country. Bill Stephens opened his new home to us and drove us all over the city. He even found more cousins, Tim and Claire Evans who we had not seen for many years, and invited them to join us for a great evening of laughter together. We climbed up the Mt Douglas Trail, drove all around the coastal area of Victoria on a day when the surf was really, really up; visited the Royal BC Museum and a fabulous exposé in the Robert Bateman Museum. We attended a beautiful Victorian Advent Evensong at the Cathedral and then returned home for a lovely glass of wine, or two, dinner and prep for the trip home. Kudos to Bill for a great visit and the drive to the airport at the ungodly hour of 0500!
And then we came home. We spent a night in Ottawa with our close friends Don and Brenda, had tea with Tom, Heather, Julia and girls then spent the night with Susie and George Bruemmer who are our dogs adoptive parents while we are away. Our dogs were happy to see us but not quite as happy as they should have been!! Life is pretty good at the Bruemmer hostel for dogs.
And finally we arrived home in Tad to snow YAHOO, and belugas in the river. We loved our trip but we were so glad to be home again too. The blitz is on now for Christmas. The tree is up, some of the baking is done the rest is a work in progress. We are waiting for this week when Michael and his family arrive with another couple who are long time friends joining us for Christmas.
It is almost the end of the year and we cannot believe we have had yet another year here in paradise. We hope that wherever you are as you are reading this that you have a blessed Christmas and find your paradise wherever it may be. All the best for 2016!