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Monday, 6 August 2012

- The Road to Middle Beach

A cloudy Chemainus morning found us scrambling along the deck and up the stairs to the main floor. Fran was making breakfast like the longstanding reputation of her B&B was at stake. Bananas and pineapples and strawberries on a skewer set in a long dish of yogurt. Cheese eggs and crispy bacon and toast and jam with orange juice, coffee and tea. Four yums out of four. In fact Fran's breakfasts were so good we started calling good meals "Frantastic"! On the down side both Fran and Robyn who run the business are starting to feel that they are going to wind down the B&B aspect of their lives so all wondered will we ever meet again.
  Packed, loaded, GPS engaged, Jan got behind the wheel and steered us through the rain that had clouds and fog that hung in the trees and almost touched the sea.
 We stopped at Coombs. Seventeen years ago it was small market with a grass roof and a few goats to keep the roof trim. 
Now it is more of a mini mall with a maxi crowd. The rain might have made it the only game in town but we felt jammed in and left in a hurry.

If you have an eye you just might spot the Whiskey River gas station. You have to look for the two big clowns embedded into the side of the building. At one point in time their big bellies would open up and someone would serve you some of the most delicious ice cream that you have ever had.
 At this point they are just memorabilia and are being restored. While we were there a worker bragged about having driven a good distance to repair the red nose on one of clowns( a painted piece of PVC end cap as I recall) I had to take a photo because one of our sons, Dan, hates clowns. As a child he had a huge clown marionette which  hung in the corner of his bedroom overlooking his crib. One morning  Dan awoke to find that the  the clown had fallen down and he couldn't see where it was. He thought it was alive and after him. He has never quite forgiven us.
   If you want to look like an old pro when checking into Middle Beach Lodge it's best to try on a yellow slicker and a pair of rubber boots from the lot on the porch so that you can have your gear slung over your arm as you approach the desk, thereby looking ever so much as someone who is in the know. 
And do it even if it is a sunny day - you're on the west coast where it can be four seasons in four hours. You just sign out your gear when you sign into your room. What could be "slicker"?   
  The lodge has its own private beach on the north side but as there as no real sun and a windy high of only 18 we squelched around looking for strange creatures in  the tide pools.
  The south side offered more in the way of adventure as it hosts the Bella Pacifica Campground. This place has a huge beach and as it was the long Canada Day weekend there was no shortage of campers. As we stumped around the campground in our gear gawking at the assemblages that went  from hillbilly throw togethers to rural palaces, the ladies managed to get a good deal ahead of the men. Perhaps it is a uniquely Canadian skill that lets a young man size up a fine young mate though she be covered head to toe in a yellow sou' wester and knee hugging galoshes, but by the time Bryon and I had caught up to Jan and Mary Lou they had already been chatted up considerably by a young male camper who was part of a large group. Perhaps the cosmetic companies could take note that it's more a good suit of rain gear that can erase 30 years a whole lot faster and cheaper than their products. There may have been more than just haute couture involved with this as the chatting up ended with one of the young man's buddies commenting to him, "Hey you'd better start taking it easy with the beer."
 Once back at our cabin - which was really half of a duplex, we broke out the munchies and vino and headed to the deck. 
One end was occupied by a hot tub but somehow no one ever got around to it. Instead we sucked in the panorama of the ocean and our private beach while savouring some of the Blue Grouse winery products.

The Blue Grouse winery is located in the Cowichan Valley near the town of Duncan which was an easy drive from our B&B in Chemainus. 
As we were the only customers we got to taste our way through all of their wares at a leisurely and informative pace.
 Maybe because it was a slow day we also got the low down on which years were the best and which the ones to avoid due to wet growing conditions. As we looked out on the soggy vines on this weather iffy day she sighed a "This year isn't going to be one of the good ones." The Muller Thurgau, the Ortega, the Pinot Gris and the Siegerrebe were all very good but my heart got stuck on the Black Muscat. It tasted like a mouth full of liquid black current jam. She said that they were the only vineyard in Canada to grow the muscat, a grape that is black, sweet tasting and smells like rose petals. She also said that it was $26 dollars a bottle. My hand reflectively covered my wallet. I was going to resist and had almost made it back to the car before giving in to some sort of internal mantra about life being too short to spend drinking bad wine. 
The Black Muscat paired well with some smoked salmon and our view from the cabin deck. 
  We left that view for a different view of the ocean from the main lodge. Over some local beers and wine we discreetly horded plates of crab cakes (the real kind) and offerings of warm phyllo wrapped brie.
 Supper itself was served buffet style.  Hand line caught salmon (they even supplied the fisherman's name) with tomato chutney and Yukon mashed potatoes along with various salads, breads and eventually desserts and coffee. Great quality and a fair price for what you get.
  Trouble broke out shortly after the log was lit in the fireplace. The downstairs bedroom that Jan and I took had a sort of ensuite attached via a thin wooden locking door. The upstairs bedroom people would have to navigate the stairs at night to get to our "ensuite". 
This made is some sort of community ensuite which I'm not sure really qualifies as an ensuite at all but then again I'm not a real estate expert. What I am sure of was this bathroom was built like a drum. Any sound made in it could be heard probably all the way to your house. Without trying you could hear the sound that a towel makes against a person's skin after a shower. Unfortunately we didn't discover this at the shower phase. It was more to the point that the crackling fire everyone else was seated around enjoying was no match for the bum symphony that I was putting on. It would have been less distracting sound wise to have had chamber pots in the living room. The sisters weren't impressed. Apparently women care more about this sort of thing than men do. The solution was that Bryon and I were banished as a team to the guest washrooms over at the main lodge. It was a bit of an inconvenient hike but we were told that it was worth it.
  The sound problem extended beyond the bathroom. While we were lying in the bed looking up I noticed two things. First of all this place was really well built. The wooden joists were hugely thick and the bare wooden planks they supported were tight. Second if someone above was reading a book you could hear the pages being turned.  For a moment I thought about launching into a thinly disguised pitch that included references to the day's romantic setting, long walks on the beach, good food and fine wine when I was cut off by the sound of another page turning above our heads.   Nothing so good for you after a lovely day than a very quiet night's sleep so they say.