Saturday, August 25, 2012

Chemainus - "The Little Town That Did"

The vacation didn't end at my parents home.  In fact, it continued for another week beyond that.  I had another wedding to attend on Gambier Island and some time to kill in between so I spent several days with good friends on Vancouver Island.


I couldn't resist taking a touristy photo of this ferry despite having travelled
almost daily on BC Ferries for the better portion of my adult life.
We visited one of my favourite childhood haunts while I was there.  Coombs, British Columbia is known for its thriving market and to many children as the place with the 'goats on the roof'.  I was not disappointed, as we drove in the goats made their appearance chewing away at the green roof of the marketplace.




We also made time during my trip to visit Cowichan Lake, swimming in the cool water and playing with the kids.


But the place that really stood out for me was Chemainus.  My girlfriend lives in this little town and I had some time to wander around and enjoy its sights.


Notice the palm tree in front!  The west coast has a much warmer climate than the east.
Chemainus has an interesting history.  It was originally settled in the 1850's and its inhabitants made their living working in mining, fishing and forestry.  These industries began to falter one by one throughout the years and a lumber mill was the only remaining industry employer when in 1982 it announced it would be closing its doors.  The citizens of Chemainus were faced with an uncertain future but instead of despairing, they rallied and decided to make their town a destination with a new industry of tourism. 

Gorgeous old homes with lush gardens seemed to be everywhere
In order to do this they began to beautify their downtown streets and professional artists were employed to paint five large murals depicting the town's history on the walls of various buildings.  This outdoor art gallery has grown throughout the years and today there are 40 murals throughout the town that draw busloads of tourists for the Festival of Murals.

Mural depiction of the logging industry.
I was reminded of one of those classic National Film Board of Canada videos from years ago.



In addition to the murals there is also a thriving theatre company in town and a multitude of excellent restaurants and shops to keep you busy.  

Walking down the main street I noticed this mural to the left
but also the blooming Catalpa tree on the right
Chemainus is also the location of the Thetis and Penelakut (Kuper) Islands ferry for those looking to make a getaway to a more remote location.
Just past the ferry dock you can see a log boom floating in the channel
I found myself following the yellow footprints imprinted on the sidewalks through town taking in the Saltspring Island Soap Company, antiques shops and bakeries.  Along the way I oggled old homes and lush gardens.  The warm zone 8 climate in this part of the country is very conducive to gardening and there were numerous trees and flowers that caught my attention.

One spot that I couldn't resist was Askew Creek Park.  A couple of acres set just off the main road beckoned me and I ambled along in the deep shade cast by the towering firs and hemlock.

Look up, waaaayyy up
While wandering about I was reminded this was not my little island of PEI.  A great crashing in the underbrush scared me out of my wits only to come face to face with a deer.


I had completely forgotten what it was like to enter the forest on the west coast.  Deer are everywhere and so are animals like bears and cougars.  I kept my eyes and ears wide open for the rest of the walk.

Unfortunately my time in Chemainus was limited and I had to move to the next part of the trip but I greatly enjoyed visiting this little town and hope to visit again in the future.

41 comments:

  1. Miss the West Coast Island! We stayed at a lovely castle in Chemainus once; I can't recall the name. Just a mini-replica, but it was still pretty neat!

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    1. Kim, I miss it there too. It was so nice to see home again.

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  2. We loved seeing Coombs and the goats on the roof. That is such a lovely part of the island. Your photos brought back lots of memories of our trip there last November.

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    1. The goats have been my favourite as long as I can remember. Glad I got to share this with you.

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  3. that was rather fun! Especially the video clip which is in every way exotic to me.

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    1. Diana, I can't say I've ever seen anyone log driving myself so it's a bit exotic to me as well. I've only ever seen the tug boats pulling the booms.

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  4. I'd forgotten the goats! Oh such memories. Thank you M. It makes me miss B.C. so much. Chemainus is a very special place and I am glad you had time to visit your friend and enjoy that lovely town.

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    1. how could you forget the goats, for shame! LOL

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  5. Goats on a roof! funny. It looks like you had the best time. Love those old homes and the murals are great.

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    1. I was tempted to post even more pictures as some of the murals are really amazing but limited myself. It's such a great town.

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  6. Marguerite when ever you post about the west coast especially the islands you bring back happy memories of the wonderful trips I had there in the 1990's, I remember the murals at Chemainus and have photos, so glad you got to see so many friends and family while away and had such a lovely holiday, I must admit if I had lived in BC I would have found it hard to leave, thank you for sharing and bringing such lovely memories to the fore, Frances

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    1. Frances, I hadn't realized you have visited there. What a big trip that must have been for you as it's quite some distance.

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  7. I love that film board film on the loggers -- one of my favorites.

    RE: Vanilla pods (my recent post) - I found them at my local health food store and my bulk food store. And surprisingly, it was my health food store this week where I saw them for $1 less than I paid at the bigger bulk food store. It was a fun project.

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    1. Sandy, I used to love that video as a kid, still do actually. What a great find at the health food store, I'm amazed they carry those pods.

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  8. What an interesting place. Love those Victorian houses. I am a big fan of gingerbreading on these older homes. thanks for sharing this place, goats and all!! And yes, a deer will make a lot of noise in the woods, makes your heart beat a little faster.

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    1. There's something about the gingerbread isn't there? Hard to resist on those lovely old houses.

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  9. What a charming town! I love the Victorian homes, too, especially with the gingerbread trim. This reminded me of how ignorant I am of Canadian geography--I never would have thought this area would be so much warmer than my zone 5 garden, which is much further south of BC.

    Enjoyed the video, too--those loggers had to be pretty light on their feet!

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    1. Rose, it's a big country, even I am surprised sometimes at the various climates in different places. When we moved out east I thought it would be much much colder. I think what many people don't know (even people who live in the area) is that the west coast of British Columbia going south through Washington state, Oregon and northern California is temperate rainforest. It's a whole other ecosystem.

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  10. Thanks for this tour of a spot I knew nothing about. You make me want to visit, and I may just do so someday. What an interesting trip you've had!

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    1. Laurrie, it was certainly a long trip and varied. I had a day planner that I referred to constantly so I knew where I had to be each day and with whom.

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  11. Oh My Gosh ! Marguerite girl! ... I so remember seeing that log drivers clip on TV so often and having a great giggle over it : )
    We lived in Comox and shopped in Courteny on the island .. I wish I had seen more .. those goats on the roof ring a bell though .. and something naughty called gooy ducks? LOL .. those amazing clams ? oysters ? what ever they were they were WEIRD !
    That town is so sweet ... and yes .. the trees are amazing .. plus the wild life is so close .. you forget!
    Great post girl : )
    Joy

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    1. Joy, I haven't heard the term 'gooey duck' in years. It's a clam but rather unusual and yup, very naughty looking. I remember digging those things out of the sand, what a surprise!

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  12. What an incredible vacation! Chemainus looks like a beautiful town. Wish I could click my heels and transport myself there. :o)

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    1. oh me too! If only it were that easy to visit.

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  13. Such a beautiful area, and goats on a green roof too! I love it! I keep forgetting you are one of those that is blessed to live in a deer-free environ. Don't get me wrong, I love seeing them, I just wish they weren't so hungry all the time!

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    1. Clare, I don't miss deer at all. They're beautiful but the damage in the garden was terrible when I lived there.

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  14. It is amazing what people can accomplish when they all work together towards a common goal---wonderful.

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    1. Carolyn, it really is remarkable how they turned a town on the brink of disaster into a thriving community.

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  15. Glad you are having such a wonderful vacation. The goats on the roof top are amazing.The loggers clip is a real oldie but goodie. It will be strange to come back to P.E.I. after seeing all the wildlife and different flowers and trees which our zone just can't handle. The houses are well looked after from your pictures and really are a big part of the town's history. Thanks for sharing and have a great vacation.

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    1. It was funny looking at plants I knew I couldn't grow here. That palm tree stuck out like a sore thumb to me, you would never see that here!

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  16. What a fabulous place, anywhere with boats is going to be a winner with me, but to have such gorgeous forests (albeit complete with heart-stopping wildlife) and all those murals makes it very special. Love that shot of Cowichan Lake.

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    1. Janet, the lake was wonderful. Very picturesque and no one else around. We spent all day swimming and lounging. Just perfect.

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  17. You had a wonderful vacation, with so much to see and experience. I like the murals that they paint around town on the town's history. It is such a good idea and a bit of learning too.

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    1. Donna, I liked that the murals had a purpose. It's a constant reminder of where they came from and why the murals were painted. Not to mention they are lovely to look at.

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  18. One of my most fav spots on the Island...it's gorgeous. We considered living there, but I always have the earthquake threat in the back of my head.

    Gorgeous houses, and such history.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

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    1. Jen, glad I'm not the only one paranoid about earthquakes. I was always terrified working in downtown Vancouver, when those bridges go out of commission it's a mess and I worried I would get stuck in the city during an emergency.

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  19. You have a lovely blog Marguerite and your house looks so lovely, i used to keep cats a long time ago and yours looks so cute.

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    1. Thanks Karen and thanks for visiting.

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  20. We missed you too Marguerite! Goats on the roof? I am surprised they stay up there, but then I guess they have plenty to eat, so why would they want to go elsewhere! Your time in Chemainus sounds perfect.

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  21. hello, i don't know how i stumbled on your blog but here i am. i live in Victoria and am really thinking about moving to PEI - mainly because i cannot afford anything here. i am just worried i will miss this island, not the people so much, but the trees, the pacific, and especially the mountains - you know all about that. i am also a little worried about the winters although i get sick to death of the rain and gloom here, you are obviously still able to get out. is the snow not worse or is it cope-able?? how homesick did you ever get? or did you? you sound very happy, but would you on your own (as i am)? lots and lots of silly questions but i really dream of owning a little property with chickens and dogs. what about doctors etc. its easy to get good help here - what is it like there? thanks for your comments. mickey

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  22. Hi Michannah!!! thanks for writing. I can empathize with all the questions you have. It was a tough decision to move so far for us too. Moving is such a personal decision, it really depends on a lot of factors. Would you mind emailing me at canoecorner AT hotmail. There's so much to tell you and this little box just isn't big enough for me. Looking forward to hearing from you, Marguerite

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