March 20, 2018
Sometimes in life, we just need a new perspective. That’s exactly what you’ll get exploring BC’s scenery and wildlife from the water—not to mention some…
By Shirley Culpin April 26, 2016 #php comments_number('0 Comment', '1 Comment', '% Comments'); ?> #php echo wpb_get_post_views(get_the_ID()); ?>
What can be better than being embraced by the heady green and floral fragrances of Spring after a long and dreary winter? We savoured that and many other delights during a Spring getaway to Vancouver Island’s spectacular Cowichan Valley.
The word Cowichan (Quw’utsun’) means ‘land warmed by the sun’ to the local Coast Salish First Nation, perhaps because the area has the only Mediterranean climate zone in Canada. This makes it perfect for a wide variety of agricultural activities, superb dining experiences and infinite places to kick back and enjoy the sweet essence of a new season.
We headed to Cowichan just as the tender greens of Spring were making an appearance, creating an exhilarating combination of visual and aromatic delights that were enough to lift the spirits of the most winter-weary visitor. Dogwoods, Arbutus, fruit trees, flowering red currant, wild roses and dozens of other plant forms were bursting in to bloom and farm fields played host to gamboling lambs and early field crops.
Our accommodation was in the luxurious large yurt at Merridale Estate Cidery. A canopied bed, comfy recliners, gas fireplace and a claw foot tub created a peaceful and cozy ambiance. Each night we fell asleep to the song of frogs at the nearby pond and every morning a very dedicated rooster roused us. There is no internet connection, phone or television at either of the property’s yurts, so it wasn’t difficult to unplug and relax. Each morning we trekked up to the bistro for a delicious and healthy breakfast before heading off for the day.
The Cowichan Valley is a haven for talented chefs who relish the opportunity to work closely with local farmers and fish mongers. Farm-to-table is the name of the game in the Cowichan, much to the delight of foodies who visit the area.
On the first night of our mini-vacation we dined at The Farm Table dining room at Providence Farm. A culinary collaboration between the farm, Vancouver Island University and the local school district, The Farm Table is a training ground in the culinary arts. Innovative three-course meals are prepared and served by the program’s students three nights a week and feature as much local product as possible. The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed, and the food is not only tasty, but reasonably priced.
Heading north towards Duncan the next morning we stopped in at the Red Arrow Brewing Company, housed in a beautiful red brick building just off the highway. Red Arrow has already developed eight unique craft beers over its one-year life span. We spent an hour tasting product and learning about the company from the friendly staff.
Lunchtime found us in the quaint, waterfront village of Cowichan Bay. A leisurely stroll along the main road revealed funky shops and restaurants, a vibrant houseboat community and the Cowichan Bay Maritime Centre. Cow Bay is a designated Citta Slow community, dedicated to a slower pace of life, and it shows in every corner. Full of character and characters, it’s easy to enjoy several hours just puttering, pondering life and taking pleasure in the maritime ambiance.
Next, we headed further north to spend the afternoon at the The Raptors centre. Dedicated to public education and wildlife management, The Raptors staff clearly have a passion for what they do. The centre offers a great opportunity to see eagles, turkey vultures and owls up close and personal. The 45-minute flying demonstration hosted by operations manager Robyn Radcliffe is nothing short of magnificent. The educational component of the demonstrations is compelling and fun thanks to Robyn’s great sense of humour.
We spent a day exploring Duncan’s downtown, home to many charming shops that offer an eclectic array of goods (including an independent book store that has thrived for more than forty years.). We spent an hour doing the self-guided Totem Tour, taking in the 40 totem poles created by First Nations carvers throughout the downtown core. Each has a plaque detailing the significance of the totem and the background of the carver. Starting at the museum, the tour is easy to follow thanks to the bright yellow footprints posted on the sidewalks along the route.
Our final day in the Cowichan Valley included a visit to the Duncan Farmer’s Market and guided tour of O.U.R Ecovillage, an inspiring sustainable co-operative community settled on 25 acres near Shawnigan Lake. We ended the afternoon soaking up the sun at the lake, watching a water skier, inhaling the sweet Spring air and reveling in the quiet peacefulness of it all.
Our Spring getaway wrapped up with a scrumptious dinner at Vinoteca at Zanatta. With good food and gorgeous views of vineyards, mountains and fruit trees bursting into bloom it couldn’t have been a sweeter end to a perfect three days.
Did you know that British Columbia, Canada, has the longest lift-serviced vertical in North America? Or that you can go cat-skiing for $10? Or that…
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