Sheringham Point Lighthouse

Sixty kilometres from the British Columbia Legislative buildings is the Sheringham Point Lighthouse, in Shirley BC. From where I live in Langford it is roughly a 45 minute drive that goes through Sooke and Otter Point before reaching Sheringham Point Road, anchored on either side by the red, Shirley Community Hall and Shirley Delicious. Although only a few minutes drive down the narrow, windy road to the first Regional parking lot a sense of the wild begins to calm anyone in need of a break.

People in Shirley know who the visitors are. I had barely pulled into the small parking area when another driver motioned for me to roll down my passenger window – had I mistakenly entered private property despite the signs clearly indicating a path marking the entrance to the Lighthouse? Not at all, he wanted to inform us there was another parking lot closer to the Lighthouse! We thanked him, indicated we were planning to walk the trail, and headed out. Anytime I go on on a hike into the woods I try to be somewhat prepared. Particularly this early in March.

Sturdy footwear, layered clothes – hat, gloves, a small bag to carry water and a snack. I also have a whistle on my keychain to scare off any grumpy bears or hungry cougars. I also look at a map to determine the type of trail: easy, moderate, difficult. Based on the ‘easy’ I had read I chose to leave my stick at home, in my car. I also do not go on hikes alone in an isolated area. I was with my sister. The trail was closer to being moderate than easy with its rises and falls that were covered in soft, springy moss, leaves, and mud in some areas. Considering I have been wearing my knee brace for hikes from now on I will take my stick.

There are two routes to the lighthouse, we chose the approximately 1.1 km, direct trail. Sure enough, there is another parking lot at the top of the gated entrance to the Lighthouse. The area is locked between 9:00am to 5:00pm, a precaution against vandalism and thrill seekers meeting an early death. The cliffs are steep and unforgiving. The vista is breathtaking. Peeping through the trees we came upon the first glimpses of the lighthouse jutting 20 metres up from the sheer rock. Every time I am lucky enough enough to visit a new place with a lighthouse I am awed by how these simple structures could withstand the fury of the ocean and warn sailors to steer clear. As we approached the cement steps and path to the structure I was stopped by the heaving sound of waves crashing on rocks – and this was a relatively mild day for wind. Trees and shrubs are windswept back, as though combed into a pompadour. Daffodils carpeted small areas, a sunny welcome in unforgiving territory if a wrong step is taken.

A bee was also enjoying the lovely, slightly stunted, sunny daffodils

Sheringham was built in 1912, (one of 12 to serve the area after many shipwrecks). Automated in 1988, declared surplus in 2010, the lighthouse was declared a heritage site in 2015, giving the Lighthouse Society (est. 2004) the green light to begin restorations in 2016. The land and the lighthouse are now protected as a community park, free to all visitors. After we managed to pull away from the enthralling view, the breaking water against the rocks and shore, the many shades of blue to grey of sky and sea we slowly made our way back to the relative quiet of the trail with thoughts of lunch beginning to form.

My goal was to introduce my sister to the craziness of Shirley Delicious. A wonderful, quirky restaurant that serves fabulous, delicious food, and great Fernwood coffee. I had warned that the place is very popular and usually extremely busy – we arrived before noon. Indeed it was hopping. The owner was flipping paper coffee cups, playing with the music and acknowledging everyone with a quick hello, quip, or handing over coffee – all with a smile behind his South African accent. I do not get out there often, and am always bouyed when I do. I had one of their focaccia sandwiches (they were all only $9.00) each has a silly name, of course I cannot recall what mine was, all that really mattered was that first bite. Warm, soft, perfectly seasoned focaccia bread filled with turkey, cranberry sauce, although I am not a fan of cranberry sauce I was intrigued by the combination with the light touch of chutney and brie plus fresh greens. Heaven. Except for the tomato slices. I hate tomatoes. These are eat with both hands sandwiches. Right away we knew we would need boxes to pack away at least half. Recyclable of course.

Now we know where the dragons are.

The air was too damp to sit outside – an absolute delight, and necessary if planning to stay to eat, during warmer weather. Take a walk along the paths, look down and around. There is much to delight the eye before or after your meal. A mini-Sunday adventure. I was home after only four hours. My body and soul were full.


Chemainus: the little town that did

What does a small town falling into wrack and ruin do when all of its resource jobs are rapidly disappearing? Pull out the paint and brushes! This little town understood the concept of “build it and they will come.” They did, into the millions, from around the world, since the early 1980s. Which is how I first heard about this out of the way little town.

Named for a local Cowichan First Nations band, “Tsa-mee’-nis” that had been living off the land and sea for thousands of years before the first Europeans arrived in 1791. By 1858 settlers were felling trees to clear the land, within four years the first sawmill was up and running and took advantage of the naturally deep port to move logs and board. Although iron ore was mined in the area and fishing was important, the forests provided the majority of jobs. Until everything fell apart with the downturn of the markets. As this was happening I was moving to Vancouver Island. By 1983 the last sawmill in Chemainus had shut down. Five murals had been painted in 1982 as part of a revitalization plan. With the closure of the mill plans were put in place to keep on painting. The theme was the history of the area – trains, logging, the working man, the immigrants, the festivals. Although the mill did re-open in 1985 the locals had discovered a new way to earn money. Tourism.

Street heading to the docks from the main park.

My first trip to Chemainus was probably some time between 1986 – 1989, the murals were so fresh it seemed that wet paint would be left on your hands if you dared to touch a wall. Wood walls, brick walls, rough and smooth walls, were painted with stunning, and not so great, murals. They were impressive, present and approachable. These were our people depicted in giant form. Over the years I would return a few times, my children encouraging me to hurry up and look. They were always interested – and each had a favourite. They also had an uncanny memory for where to find the best ice cream cones.

check out the upstairs windows! This is a candy shop. I wonder if my children could find the ice cream store now.

It has been probably 15+ years since my last visit. My mission was to drive to Nanaimo, north of Chemainus, to purchase some wedding centrepiece items – the store would not send to the either of the Victoria stores. That accomplished, two hours from home to store and back on the road, I felt we needed a little adventure. I chose Chemainus.

I cannot swear to this however I am quite sure this building was a new build in the ’80s

Today was out of season, many shops were still closed, or only open Tuesday to Saturday. This gave my daughter and I the freedom to just wander without jostling elbows, avoiding tour buses and cars. We checked out the Chemainus Theatre, I have heard their shows are high quality. I finally picked up a list and schedule of the plays for this coming year – with a goal to see one. I love trains, so was quite happy to find some murals of various trains. Of course there were others, 44 is the number I read. We did not make a full tour of them, perhaps when it is less chilly.

Mural showing iron ore being mined. I do not see the hardship in this one. Perhaps the artist did not want to upset tourists

One I liked, not of trains, was of float festival winners from 1939. This was a Japanese float, all I could think of was if any of the people who had been part of the float were forced to one of the Japanese interment camps in Canada during the Second World War. I looked it up. Despite being Canadian citizens, even second or third generation, perhaps 200 were displaced out of Chemainus. Many never returned, their homes, businesses, property had been seized.

where else but on the wall of the Post Office

I bought a rather yummy sausage roll, an apple turnover and a coffee (except I think it had a different name) at Utopia Bakery, hidden around a corner. The sausage rolls, including the meat, are house made, beef and pork with a little spice for a bite. Warmed just enough rather than piping hot like many places do. The coffee was bold, probably because we managed to get caught in the only rain during the five hours we were up Island! I ended up not eating the turnover until I was home, it was quite good. Not overly sweet, always a bonus, and flaky, yet sturdy, pastry. (I never appreciate having pastry crumbs flying about)

Many of the homes built over 100 years ago are still in use, or sadly, sitting empty and looking rather forlorn. I was rather intrigued by Castle B&B, so much so I suggested we might want to rent the small ‘castle’. The rent was reasonable, Chemainus perhaps not so much.

There are some problems with living in a tourist town, particularly one that operates seasonally- what to do when the tourists leave. Of course there are still some mills. Outdoor activities are thriving, still mainly during warmer weather. Which is a pretty decent window – usually March to October. However, I could not help but notice the once bright yellow footprints showing the way are fading, the paint is chipping on a few murals, several shops have closed permanently.

We came across this and a similar one in the garden of a house. Look closely to see the white orchid

Once a shop filled with a variety of items to entice tourists. Now it sits unloved, draperies pulled tight.

Spectacular mountain, ocean and forest views

We left home at 7:30AM and were home by 12:30PM. A five hour trip up island and return with a wonderful little break in ‘the little town that did’ where we were refreshed, walked and enjoyed the art. It is suggested visitors stay a little longer. Perhaps I will when the place comes out of hibernation, to be drawn into the full magic of Chemainus just as my children were over twenty years ago.

The Tale of Three Cities: Chapter 3 – Kitchener

Thirteen days in Ontario should have been easy for me; after all I spent nearly six months of winter there one year, as well as four other winters for a month each time. Then there were the two early summers. Surely I could manage less than to weeks. Let me just say that I did try. I even had fun, as noted in earlier posts. It was just so darn difficult this time. A dragged out cold left me wilted, and I am still not fully over it despite being home for six days. However, time, rest, the gym, glimpses of the sun and the west coast air will soon find me back in full swing. I am feeling well enough to finish up the tale of three cities.

I talk about Kingston a lot so writing about Toronto was fun and I was looking forward to visiting the Kitchener-Waterloo area where daughter 3 is studying. It is an interesting area, a lot of cross connections, including Waterloo University and Sir Wilfred Laurier University. My daughter goes to Waterloo. They have a Starbucks on campus – which was a huge issue and seems to be all on its own in what I believe is the Engineering Department. Waterloo has many Starbucks. It appears Kitchener has none. I like to keep track of such things for orienting where I am.

I did not find too much to enamour me with Kitchener-Waterloo. Perhaps it was just due to it being winter, cold, my being sick, and my daughter being robbed a week earlier. There is a definite factory town feel to the area. Not a lot was happening. The Tannery District, (as far as I could tell this is just one building rather than a true district – it was too cold to explore) as the name implies, was once an early 20th century mill that has been refurbished and now holds a number of businesses, eateries and, from I read, an event venue. The only place open was Balzac’s Coffee Roaster. For which I was grateful.

The day I decided I should just stay at the house, early 1900s, was only broken up when I finally ventured outside long enough to get the kinks out and to find a store. I came across one house, apparently into offices, and one austere Lutheran church worthy of photographing. Unfortunately I did not cross the street to be across from the Sun Life Financial head office property that appears to include a building dating back to 1912. It was not until the next day, when on a bus, that I saw there is a provincial plaque of its history – next time I visit I will check it out. However, further research seems to indicate the building was always in the hands of Sun Life, until 2014. (Now leased back to them)

Not my photo – no snow here!

Lutheran Church on King St.

I loved the brickwork and the tri-corner style is lovely. The area it is in not so much.

It was not until the day before I left for home that I would go on an adventure. This is when I ventured to the university with my daughter, had coffee at Starbucks and hid from the elements,while waiting for her to attend a class, for a couple of hours before we headed to the Mennonite village of St. Jacob’s. I was feeling a bit better and looking forward to something different. The village dates back the 1850s, with Mennonites settling in the the region in the 1840s. The population of St. Jacobs is around 2000 and swells during tourism season with visitors arriving on bus tours, heading to the market and checking out the many, many shops along the Main Street. As often happens in small places that depends on tourism, many stores were closed. However, we did manage to have some fun poking about what was open, discovering some treasures – a pity my phone battery died – enjoying lunch, then coffee, and a sense of a time warp. Interesting bit of history, St. Jacobs is the home office for Home Hardware

A real fire in the fireplace at Stone Crock Restaurant !

Former Anglican Church is now a pretty neat toy store. I had to force myself to not leave with a few fun items.

Talk about a time warp! I could not have caught a better sandwich photo of past, present and cold.

We discovered the maple syrup museum along with a small model train set up. We had hoped to visit the larger model train display across the street – it was closed. We did however walk through the old silo mill where there are a few stores. The only one actually open was the pottery store. Here they sell products made locally, or made in Canada. There is a Wedding store that uses an old freight car as a place to store dresses and a section of the silos as a boutique. It was probably just as well it too was closed. With so much closed for the season, including the huge market, I already know I will be returning in the summer when I visit. I will most likely be with 2-3 of my daughters, maybe even one SIL so it will be attended unattendedgrandma.

We made this discovery on a side street when searching for the old school house. Unable to discover if it was open until after we finally tore ourselves away, I was happy to just take pictures and marvel at the collection. Such fun!

look at what we found at the mini train model display! My daughter graciously took then shared this with me after my phone died. I am looking into taking both trains. The table settings and menus belonged to other trains. Too bad!

Slow Down, You’re Movin’ too Fast

Or: Woe Is Me

Sometimes I look in the mirror and wonder who that reflection is only to admit it is definitely me after attempting to outrun age and common sense. So, after having fun in TO, visiting my daughter, ‘SIL’ (they are the ones getting married) and my grandson in Kingston and finding a dress I slowed down a bit after arriving in Kitchener. Just a little though.

When I arrived my other SIL and 3rd daughter greeted me at the train station and I foolishly agreed a twenty minute walk would be fine. I am happy to say I survived that, the temperature had started to plummet. I seriously wonder why the whole population of anywhere beyond the south west coast of Canada does not head to a warmer climate during winter. I guess Canadians are just too polite to overtake another nation. Besides, what would we have to talk about if our weather woes were taken away?

By the next day it seemed to be warming up enough to venture out. We decided to check out The Museum, an interactive space that encourages visitors to actively experience the space. We were disappointed to discover half of the third floor, and all of the 4th were closed. No idea why for the 3rd floor section, but the 4th floor was being changed over for a new exhibit.

Although a bit dubious we would find much to engage us for a couple of hours we decided we would take a look. Indoor activities during winter can be a challenge so we were happy to discover a large self serve coat check. Divested of coats, hats, mittens and scarves makes it easier to explore.

The space for children under 4 looked inviting to my daughter, when she was encouraged to enter she tried out all of the big buttons that lit up various boards before heading to a low peek-a-boo window for little ones to wave at unsuspecting patrons. Of course my travel companions were by now quite excited. I had stuffed them into my pocket at the last minute when I worried they could get lost if sitting in the coatcheck.

My daughter and SIL had a marvellous time and, although I did try to get into the mood I would have enjoyed myself more if I had been feeling a little healthier. However, just look at the fun we had! The Museum is a great little gem. We did indeed visit for nearly two hours before hunger took over. I was taken to Crabby Joe’s where I ate half a chicken prosciutto sandwich (with only half the crusty bread) and a small Caesar salad. Dinner ended up being the other half. I had half expected to not be able to taste anything due to my cold but it was good. We took the bus home with minor plans for the following day.

A playroom like this would be fabulous.

A real bed of nails!

who hasn’t wanted to try out a bed of nails?

We had a little help from a visitor with small fingers to extract the bears.

Who would have thought my parents Commodore 64 might have become a museum exhibit! Most of the computers were in working order.

Àq1An extremely rare photo of me (I look as old as the dinosaur) with my somewhat worried travel companions.

The next day my SIL stayed home to cook while my daughter and I headed to City Hall Rotunda Gallery art exhibit with a stop for lunch at a place called Slices. I ordered a gyro breakfast that was enough to feed both of us – I convinced my daughter she was hungry. There is a small skating rink outside City Hall where happy looking families were enjoying a somewhat warmer day as they glided, spun and tumbled on the ice.

The title of the exhibit, The Face to Face Project, by Eva McCauley is 38 pieces, mixed media, with two common threads – people (understandable considering the title) and a turquoise hue in all of them. I have no idea if the colour was significant, my daughter read the information to me as I had left my glasses behind. A small number of the paintings were of the artists students while the majority were photographs of single or groupings of people from several decades ago that were then painted over to enhance, reveal, or possibly hide some aspects. It was an interesting view to the past.

I now want one of these coffee bean bins!

As we headed home we discovered a coffee shop in the Tannery, Balzac’s Coffee Roasters. So of course we had to go inside. My daughter was quite pleased to see they also had Turkish Delight – have I missed something – seems this delicacy is making a comeback. I had coffee, my daughter had hot chocolate made from Lindt chocolate – sinful! I ate a piece of the pistachio Turkish Delight, and we just relaxed.

We also saw an interesting wall mural along the way that at first we thought was a structure with a person standing on it. From another point of view it appeared to be 3D with several cut outs of people, it was not until we were across from it we realized it is a flat surface. It was colourful and fun on what was quickly becoming a chilly late afternoon.

Imagine how happy we were to arrive home to home cooked lasagna!

When morning arrived the next day plans to visit Waterloo University, where my daughter is a PhD student, were postponed when the guest speaker for a workshop had a flight cancelled somewhere out of the States. Coupled with more dipping temperatures plus wind it was a perfect day to stay inside and finally listen to everyone who had told me to SLOW DOWN!

One Night In Toronto

My thirteen day trip, including travel time, to Ontario was planned in Sep. This, of course meant I was reluctant to make any changes after all the back and forth emails, phone calls and building excitement. What I had not factored in was my being ill, and needing some minor surgery at my doctor’s office. However, come Hell or high water, I was determined to make the rendezvous with my daughters.

I started to feel unwell on Christmas Day. This was fine as I ended up staying home with yet another daughter where we had a very quiet day. I did manage to enjoy a turkey dinner – I even made the gravy. However, by evening I knew I was not at all well and left the cleaning up for my daughter to take care of while I went to bed. I had come down with the flu. I had twelve days to get well. No problem. Except for the small marble sized growth on the back of neck that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. The growth that definitely felt like it might be infected. Getting sick, and needing to see your doctor over the holidays is never good planning. Fortunately I was able to get in on Jan 2nd, having made sure to call at 9:00am on the dot. There were also two doctors in that day.

I had never met my GP’s student until that day. My first impression was just young she is – I later found out she is the same age as my youngest daughter, 26. She took one look, then did a more thorough assessment, then called in my GP for further consultation before the next step – basically lancing what turned out to be a sebaceous cyst. My GP never shows a lot of emotion, so his quiet exclamation of, ‘Oh my, that will need taking care of’ did rather worry me. Three absolutely horrid needles later, to freeze the area, and a lot of tugging and pushing meant the cyst had been emptied although it was not certain the actual cyst was fully removed. It was time to discuss after care.

Even before all that was done it was suggested I might want to rethink my travel plans in case of infection or complications. My response was absolutely not. I had sound reasoning for this, first I was not leaving the country. Second, I would be spending the first weekend of my trip that included two nurses, the second week with one. I felt I was well prepared and the doctors agreed so long as I went back the following day. Armed with instructions for care I assured everyone I would be fine. Which I basically was although there were a few days that had us a little worried. I went to a walk-in clinic while in Kingston for another assessment and was given the good news that everything was healing nicely. Canadian medical is absolutely fantastic!

It is now time to go back to the beginning of my actual trip. I like to think I am always well prepared for when I travel. I tend to arrive early to my departure point, carry as little baggage as possible, have all my necessary documents, and even empty personal water bottle. What I had not factored in was just how insane security would be on this last weekend of the holiday period. Despite arriving at the airport over an hour ahead of my flight, and having only carry on bags, I nearly missed my flight. The saving grace was the 50+ passengers still behind me who were also stuck at security. Once seated my first flight, to Calgary, was fairly uneventful.

Deicing in Calgary – it looks like so much fun!

I did have to nearly run from the Calgary international gate (rather random in my opinion for a domestic flight) to my next plane at the farthest domestic gate. While flying to Calgary it suddenly dawned on me that WestJet no longer provides meals – I was looking at about another four hours flying without a meal. (I had packed four healthy cookies and a couple of ‘emergency’ granola bars) Never a good idea when on certain medication. As I neared the gate I saw that the passengers were lined up next to a Starbucks. In my head I was calculating if I had enough time to grab something to eat and make it to the plane before the doors shut. Of course I had one lady hemming and hawing over her selection of food, and then her coffee. Fortunately I was able to have my yogurt scanned, tapped my bank card and dash off. I forgot I had Starbucks money on my phone. There were still passengers behind me when I had my boarding pass swiped. Phew! I made a mental note to prepare a proper lunch for my flight home.

As if my day had not already been riddled with inconveniences, upon arriving in Toronto, the plane ended up sitting on the tarmac for 1 1/4 hours plus another 15 minutes just metres from the gate. So many flights had been cancelled due to the frigid weather and snow storms on the East Coast that the gate had another plane where we were to deboard. (Later in the evening I heard about the planes at the same airport that were clipped resulting in an emergency evacuation due to fire – my problems became minuscule) While waiting to taxi in I sent some messages to my daughter who was to meet me at the train station – no response. I sent messages to her sister – strange responses. Seems the latter had already started to party with her friends and one of them was responding for her. I was not amused. While typing a message to my missing daughter’s husband her sister called me while I was still on the tarmac – technology is grand – to let me know her sister had been robbed! That explained why I could not reach her. I was beginning to worry about this trip.

The view from the condo. We could also see the CBC building, and I gather there is a baseball field next to the CN Tower that I had a vague memory of seeing in 2014.

Eventually it was agreed the three already in Toronto would meet me at Union Station (trains) with coffee and food. I was greeted with lots of cheers, they may have been only three but they made up for that with their somewhat inebriated enthusiasm. It was bloody freezing outside at -25c. (Chill factor made it a frostbite -32c) I was convinced I had temporarily lost my sanity. A quick update about my other daughter, she would not join us that evening although she did seriously consider it, but would in the morning. (Her phone had been snatched right out of her hand at the bus station. She did the one thing police say not to do, she ran after the guy yelling at the top of her lungs.) We made run to an Uber car ( fantastic idea) and we were off to the condo we had booked for the weekend before going out for a night on the town. I was ready to sleep. This was only day one! I was feeling a little like it was One Night In Bangkok.

My daughter on the right and her friends out of the cold.

We did go out dancing. One place had a 90s theme – not really anything I could really rock to. We then went to a club called the Rocking Horse (I think that is correct) which had me worried it would be too country. The saddles and cowboy hat decorations, plus several people wearing cowboy boots, jeans and plaid shirts did not convince me otherwise. The music proved to be a good mix though, I danced up a storm – some young women seemed quite taken that I was on the dance floor keeping pace – until my foot turned but my knee did not. My daughter even tried out the bucking bull and made it over 40 seconds! She beat out every other person we saw over the course of about 20 minutes. I have that on video.

It is difficult to catch a bucking bull in a still shot! This was from the video I took – just under 5 seconds

We were all ready to call it a night, arriving back at the condo around 1:00am. Plans were made to go dress shopping the next day once my daughter arrived from Kitchener. Did I mention the weather had not been that cold since 1959?