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Nanaimo & Cowichan Valley, BC: With People, Anything is Possible

Nanaimo & Cowichan Valley, BC: With People, Anything is Possible

I’m sitting on my couch, listening to Barbra Streisand’s People.

 

 

No more hunger and thirst
But first be a person who needs people
People who need people
Are the luckiest people in the world

I embarked on another solo adventure over the Easter long weekend. I didn’t have that many days, but still wanted a short getaway. I wanted to experience that rush of adventure and excitement that I get every time I conquered a new destination on my won.

I was independent and free. At least that’s how I wanted to feel. 

The trip didn’t turn out as expected, however. First, my Greyhound tickets actually didn’t take me on to the BC Ferries, and the Fishing Tour and Winery Tour I booked for Cowichan Valley wine tasting had been cancelled in the morning, as I was the only person who had signed up.

When I got to Departure Bay, the ferry’s connecting point between Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver, I was met with another piece of bad news: the public buses were not running that day.

I was extremely disappointed, but I still forged ahead because I was determined to make my weekend a wonderful experience, regardless of the circumstance.

That’s how Barbara Streisand’s song lyrics tied into this trip.  

I needed people. I am open to people. Being independent didn’t mean being closed off, you still had to be open to new experiences and people around you.

View from Coast Bastion

I asked around and wondered how I was going to get myself into Downtown Nanaimo where my Airbnb was located. While making calls at the bus stop, I bumped into a kind man, Wayne, who had offered to drop me off.

Kind Encounter #1

Wayne’s son-in-law had offered to pick him up at the terminal and was going to be headed downtown. We looked at his map (not Google maps), and determined where my Airbnb was located. Then, as we sat on a bench overlooking the beautiful Pacific Ocean in the sunshine, he told me his story. He shared with me how he lived on the east coast, then moved all the way here to Port Alberni. I shared with him how I traveled Europe last year, and he then confided in me his drive down the west coast, all the way to the Mexican border in his younger years with his wife and children.

For those 30 minutes, we shared our lives with each other, freely and willingly. It was one of the most purest connections I’ve made in a while.

Then his son-in-law arrived, and they both made sure I got dropped off right at the door.

Those were the kindest strangers, I’ve ever met.

I think Netflix’s The Kindess Diaries is really onto something. There are really kind people, everywhere you go.

I made it to my Airbnb, and I met with my host Mary. I had grabbed a map from her and was set on wandering the city before dusk. I had heard about Nanaimo Bar Trail, which is a scavenger hunt that takes you on a search for the different types of Nanaimo Bars that the city had to offer. After all, that was what the city is known for.

If you’re ever in the city, their most popular spots are the seawall, Bastion, and Old Quarters, where I stayed. They have a tiny section of streets that had some hipster boutiques and shops. But, spending a weekend in the city is overkill. Make sure you book your excursions to make your time worth it.

Deep-fried Nanaimo Bar

My first stop was Pirate Chips which makes a really delicious Deep-fried Nanaimo Bar. The fish and chips were so-so, but it comes in huge portions.

Nanaimo Bar Cheesecake

By then, I was already tired and bored from the shops being closed, so I made one last attempt to revitalize my day by visiting Coast Bastion’s Minnoz Restaurant. They had a Nanaimo Bar Cheesecake Dessert, that was delicious…especially with a Malbec wine pairing.

Kind Encounter #2

While at the restaurant, I was seated next to a table with a couple, their child, and their cousin from Los Angeles. I had offered to take a photo for them, and to my surprise, we had struck up a conversation.

They had also come to Nanaimo on a whim and had nothing planned. I had emailed them my itinerary and options and mentioned to them about my winery tour and excursion plans that failed because there weren’t enough people.

Jay, out of the blue, had offered to have her family join me. Over that conversation, we had become friends. That evening, my new Los Angeles friend (Pete) joined me for a night of bar hopping and clubbing.

Despite the lack of people at the club (there were only 10 people), we still had a wonderful time. The drinks are cheap and local artists brought in a lively club at the bars.

Pete and I got a few drinks at The Nanaimo Bar which served up an amazing Nanaimo Bar Martini which was my last and final Nanaimo Bar stop for the trip.

The next day, the winery tour company Cheers Cowichan had gotten back to me. Pete drove us to Cowichan which was around 40kms away in the Cowichan Valley region, and we went on a mini road trip. The Cowichan Valley is ranked second to Okanagan in terms of BC’s wine producing regions.

Hudson’s On First

Along the way, we stumbled upon Hudson’s on First in Duncan, a restaurant we had randomly Google searched which turned out to be the best dining experience I’ve had on the trip. The restaurant is award winning, the chef was a Top Chef Canada contestant, and the restaurant made it’s own sausages, pasta, and served the most delicious omelettes made with locally grown produce.

We then hopped on the bus to try local wines produced by three different wineries. Averill Creek Vineyard, Blue Grouse, and Venturi Schulze were our stops. By the way, Susan did a wonderful job, explaining how all the wines were produced and taking us to the wineries of her choice.

Averill Creek

I loved Venturi Schulze, and ended up buying a bottle of Brandeburg No. 3 which is a sweet fortified wine and Island’s version of Champagne, called Charme De L’ile, from Averill Creek… a light body, sparking wine that was perfect for a summer day. Venturi Schulze also does Balsamic Vinegar tastings and the vintner, was very knowledgeable, funny, and explained wine in such a unique way. According to him, grape varietals has personalities.

Grilled Calamari

At the end of the day, we made our way back to Nanaimo Old Quarters, and tried the top-rated restaurant in the area, called Asteras, a Greek restaurant, where we got tasty Grilled Calamari and Roasted Lamb. That evening, I was invited to have dinner with the family and we made a pact that we will meet over coffee one day.

And of course, Pete had also offered to show me around the city when I am in LA and Orange County.

It turned out to be a wonderful experience, because of the people I encountered. Though I traveled alone, I was not alone. Unexpectedly, I had gained a family and more friends from around the world. Because of their kindness and our openness, what was once cancelled and seemed impossible became possible.

It turns out, “Anything is Possible” mentality doesn’t just live in New York City. It is a mentality that is carried with the person.

Sometimes, just go with the flow, and see where life takes you. Things have a way of working out.

It’s magical, isn’t it?

Be open to people, need people. You’ll be one of the luckiest person in the world. 

 



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