Part 4 — art and the scent of oysters

Qualicum Beach: Fog.

I see a sign for an arts centre. Let’s stop, I say.

We don’t expect much from the tiny white building in this quiet town, nor do we expect much from the small white woman that sits at the desk inside. She seems startled as we enter, says they don’t get a lot of visitors. She’s very nice but knows nothing about the current exhibit—needlework wall hangings of some kind. There is no literature. We thank her anyway and wander about on our own, trying to figure things out and then another woman appears and life changes completely. She is the curator she tells us, and these are not needlework wall hangings or even embroidery, but tapestries, locally made by a women’s guild. She walks along with us pointing things out, explaining the difference [a tapestry is woven into the cloth, embroidery is done on it]. She describes how they’re made, talks about dye and warp and weft, looms and history, the stories they tell, the symbolism, their original purpose. She cites a few famous, ancient, examples and tells us if we ever find ourselves in Normandy we must see the centuries old Bayeux tapestry, which, she adds, is technically embroidery. She travels all over the world, visiting tapestry museums, it’s her thing, she’s mad for them, she says. By the time we leave, so am I.

Art makes us hungry and we go in search of lunch—aka: oysters [we hope].

At Fanny Bay the air suddenly pongs deliciously of seaweed and salt. An old red boat, once used as a restaurant, is beached near an oyster shucking station set out a good distance in the water, got to by row boat. It’s nothing more than a huge open-sided shed inside of which are oyster shucking tables, piles of oysters and several shuckers. Fanny Bay oysters, we learn later, are mostly huge and used fried or baked or cooked in some other way… oyster burgers are a big thing out here. Near the beached boat  is a very small rustic packing plant where oysters are readied for delivery. We ask the assembly line workers where we might go to eat some oysters. They look dazed. Probably wondering why anyone in their right mind would want to eat the #$*&ing things. They shrug, say up thataway, or back thisaway, and we leave with no concrete recommendation of any specific dining establishment.

We head thataway and hope for the best.

At Courtney (still foggy) there’s a tourist info place and we stop to ask about a place to eat. While the guy is showing us a map with a few suggestions, I remember that Courtney is also famous for a glacier. The guy says it’s a five day hike with a guide and I say, oh, I was sort of hoping to see it before lunch. Well… he says, you can ‘see’ it from anywhere in Courtney, on a clear day, that is. He points out the window, says it’s just there on the side of the mountain. [Mountain?? What mountain?] Today is not a clear day.

We have lunch at the Edgewater Grill, which is indeed on the edge of the water but despite being surrounded by oysters, there are none on the menu. We have salad and halibut, clams and chorizo. All very pleasant. Afterwards I make an inukshuk on the beach and Peter takes a picture of me, my hair so wild in the wind that my young niece, on seeing the photo later [I thought the inukshuk would amuse her], looked horrified and said: auntie Carin, what was wrong with you??

[Part 5: ferry to Quadra Island, organic farm, ahem, ‘experience’, diving, yoga, and the continued search for the mythical oyster.] 

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