Part 2 — up the island


Eastern Coast, Vancouver Island:  heavy rain.

Cowichan Valley: we barrel through despite the hand knit sweaters and wineries; we’ll stop on our way back when the weather’s nicer. Same with the totems in Duncan, though we do stop at the grocery store for water and other supplies. The cashier gives us a tourist discount. I wonder how she guessed, we’re not decked out in tear-away pants, many zippered vests or hats with strings attached. No backpacks, hula shirts or white loafers. In fact we’re wearing the same stuff we wear at home where no one ever offers us the tourist discount.

At Chemainus we don’t walk around looking at murals the way you’re supposed to; it’s still pouring, so we’ll do that on the way back too… Instead, we just use a public restroom and duck back in the car.

By Ladysmith the rain has slowed to a steady drizzle so we stretch our legs, browse shops on the main street; I find a dollar copy of Marian Engle’s Bear [if you want to meet the nicest people in any town, go to the book store]. Across the road, the Ladysmith Trading Company is not to be missed. Creaking hardwood floors and wooden shelves stacked with the most bizarre collection of things. If, for example, you went in looking for, oh, let’s say… lipstick, then decided you needed a floor lamp, underwear, moccasins, a few thousand skeins of wool, hinges for your kitchen cabinets, a souvenir tee-shirt, curlers and a mousetrap—you would be in the right place.

I’m there looking for shoelaces.

Someone I take to be the owner—a truly delicious man who so obviously was born to be a shopkeeper, so happy is he keeping shop—smiles and asks what kind of shoelaces? Flat or round? Cotton, nylon or leather? What colour? And, most importantly, what length?

Unfortunately I’m not wearing the shoes needing the laces so I do my best to explain them. He listens intently, nodding, then without missing a beat, recommends thirty-six inch, flat (they stay tied better) brown cotton. Okie dokie, I say, and he fetches a pair, writes up a bill in a little receipt book with carbon paper; he tears off my copy. Ninety-seven cents, including tax. I look around, don’t see a cash register.

From there we wander into a self-described ‘antique parlour’ where the guy offers his sympathies when he finds out we’re from Ontario. Calls it a parking lot, says he used to live there, wouldn’t go back for a million bucks, why should he, he says, now that he lives in lotus land, and as for the weather, well, this is the one day of winter they get… sunshine from here on out, he tells us.

Pompous ass.

I am, however, happy to hear the weather’s improving as we’re already about as soggy as you can get.

[ Part 3. Next stop: a place to spend the night; it’s one of the few we haven’t got anything booked for, assuming, as we did, that quaint inns would be jumping out at us en route.]

notes from a summer holiday — Part 1


Vancouver: arrive. Rain

Who cares, there are mountains!

We have a drink while waiting for our flight to Victoria. The flight turns out to be delightfully short and pleasant and the Victoria airport is one of those charming places where you get off the plane and walk across the tarmac to the building–a civilized approach, makes me feel very Ingrid Bergman.

Victoria: arrive. Rain.

Who cares, we’re on Vancouver Island!

We grab our rental car and head up the Malahat and then up some long, winding road to a restaurant I’ve read about, an isolated place nestled high in the hills, rumoured to have a breath-taking view and an excellent cheese platter. First, however, we sit in the parking lot eating the cold chicken I’d packed in case they didn’t feed us on the plane. Very romantic this, in a Clampetts kind of way, rain pounding the windshield as we tear at chicken legs with greasy, ravenous fingers. Finally, we make a run for it to the restaurant and hope for a good table. Something with a view please since we haven’t seen much of that so far. The waiter chuckles, ha ha, apparently today is not the day for view-seeing, it is the day for fog-seeing, although if there were no fog he assures us the view would be right there… he points, and gives us the perfect table overlooking the view, if there was one.

We order the infamous cheese platter which turns out to be only okay. Local cheeses, nice, not mind blowing. Also local wine. $14 for a glass of unspecial chardonnay. We’re glad we had the chicken. This impromptu ‘snack’ turns out to be stupid expensive but you can’t think money at a place like this.
It’s all about the view.

[Part 2. Onward: up the island.]