Sunday, April 3, 2011

Our Fabulous Island Getaway!

When spring break arrived last week, we desperately needed a change of scenery.  So we took a cruise to a foreign island, full of lush foliage and breathtaking views.  We stayed in an all-inclusive cottage in a waterfront resort with exhilarating recreational opportunities.  We sampled local cuisine, served by smiling island girls.

Does this sound too good to be true?

Perhaps I should clarify.

On Wednesday we arrived on the good ship MV Coho. 
It is a spacious vessel, with room for many passengers,
and their vehicles. 

De plane!  De plane!

The cottage was all-inclusive because it had beds for all six of us, in one unit, for a decent price.  Such can be difficult to find, you know.  And it was comfortable.

The Riverside Resort (Motel and Campground) perches on the banks of the Little Qualicum River.

It boasts a water slide and a miniature golf course, which looked pretty fun.  Naturally, they were closed for the season.  But the boys had a surprisingly good time on this playground.

The foliage was lush, but not exactly tropical.
And the island girls who served us pizza and fish and chips were blond.

That's right.  In our search for spring, we traveled to
Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
We did need our passports!

Our first stop was the town museum in Sidney-by-the-Sea.  It was no Legoland, but the special Lego displays inspired awe and covetousness.  The local history was also interesting.  D2 paid special attention to the model train that was being repaired, and there was a great Buster Keaton movie playing continuously.

Then we drove further north.  Here we look over the Saanich Inlet toward Sidney and the eastern Gulf Islands, from the beautiful Malahat Drive.

We stayed in a town called Qualicum Beach, which seems to be mostly populated by seagulls at this time of year.  Brant geese were supposed to be passing through, but we didn't see any.  Which is just as well.

Scoot would have considered them to be good targets. 
The boys spent a happy hour or two on the beach, throwing rocks. 
(Yes, this is the real beach.  The paradisiacal scene at the top of this post was a picture hanging on the wall of our luxury cottage.)

On Thursday, the sun came out, and we set off to explore.  We found our way to Petroglyph Park, encircled by the suburbs of Nanaimo.  The park preserves carvings left by First Nation artists, or shamans, or bored teenagers--it's hard to tell what they intended.  First, well, after you climb some rocks, you find some concrete casts, copies of the petroglyphs for those who like to touch things.  I think they have been touched, a lot, since I really couldn't see much shape in them.  I began to doubt that the actual petroglyphs would be much to look at.

I was wrong.  Enhanced by the native moss, the collection was easy to see, and quite impressive.  The signs identified many of these figures as mystic sea-wolves.

But even I can tell this is a flounder. 
Something for the sea-wolves to eat, I guess.

We went into Nanaimo for a picnic (and more running around)
in this harbor park.

Just up the hill was the Bastion, the oldest surviving building from Nanaimo's coal-mining days.  It is not large, but apparently provided refuge for up to fifty people from time to time.

The Bastion never participated in a pitched battle,
but it is important to be prepared.

We headed inland, where we found that the Little Qualicum River, which flows so placidly next to our resort, is a bit more turbulent upstream.

The water falls in a minty-fresh froth of white and green,
tumbles around a bend,

pauses for reflection, then tumbles down again.
The easy trail follows the fenced cliff closely, crosses a bridge, and heads up the other side for another view.

My treasure at the end of the rainbow.

The river was just gorgeous.

Friday dawned rainily, and it was time to head home again. 
On the way we stopped at Milner Gardens to enjoy more springlike foliage,

and review our identification of native plants.

We also visited the farmyard and sampled the dairy delights of the Little Qualicum Cheeseworks.
And then we hurried back to Victoria to catch the ferry home.

So, the island was neither very distant nor very exotic, but it was beautiful.  And our brief spring break there was refreshing.

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