Thursday, July 17, 2008
PARKSVILLE, VANCOUVER ISLAND — Tonight we’re stationed at our third site at the same campground! They’ve had lots of customers here and it’s no wonder – it is a beautiful spot with tall fir trees and cabins placed in a ring around a nice grassy area where the kids can romp and play. Tomorrow we head south toward Victoria.
It was a slower-paced day today. We had a leisurely start, and then headed first for the grocery store in Parksville for a few items. Then we explored the town a bit. Parksville and neighbouring Qualicum Beach have the most temperate climate year round in all of Canada, and that reputation has drawn retired folks here like a magnet. There are resort hotels under construction, as well as some very chic housing developments. In one we drove through, there were houses that overlooked the beach and the Georgia Strait on one side, and if that got too boring, the people could go to the back of the house and gaze on the snow-topped mountains in the other direction! Not hard to take!
There are some gardens that have real palm trees in them, which is almost unbelievable. Most peoples’ lawns are very dry and yellow, but the flowers and shrubs are lush and green – and there are lots of varieties of plants I’ve never seen before.
We backed our camper into a parking area in one neighbourhood so that we could look at the beach and the waves while we ate our lunch. The breeze was pretty cool, but that didn’t deter some people from wading in the water. It didn’t tempt me!
The camper is turning out to be quite comfortable for the two of us. After the luxury of the fifth wheel, with its two slides, easy chairs, sofa and microwave, we weren’t sure what it would be like squeezing into this tiny environment, but we have everything we need, more space than we expected (for storage), and we find the mobility and convenience to be an added bonus. Val still marvels at the compact turning circle of this truck compared to the one at home! And it has power mirrors that extend and retract and even fold in electronically when we need to fit into a tighter space.
In the afternoon we visited the Milner Gardens, a combination of natural forest and cultivated areas that are informal enough to seem equally natural. The homestead was built in the late 1920s and purchased by the Milners in the thirties. Mrs. Milner had connections with British aristocracy and imported plants and ideas from English gardens to apply here. The literature says Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip stayed here during their 1987 royal visit, and Charles and Diana did on another occasion.
The place had a work-in-progress kind of feel during our visit, because there were workmen hammering and banging on a new roof for the main house, and folding tables were scattered about the grounds as if a wedding had just taken place, or was about to.
The garden was clearly a community resource; one section was a children’s food garden where the beds were edged with rocks on which kids had painted faces and designs, and the plants were growing from old rubber boots and shoes! There was lettuce and orange flowers on pumpkin vines, and nasturtiums and tall dill plants.
Visitors could enjoy a cup of tea in the tea room of the main house, so we decided this might be nice. There were lovely flowered teacups and saucers, and fat pots of tea wearing quilted floral cozies, and we each were served a plate with a warm scone and three squares. There was butter, and jam made from Milner Garden fruits to spread on the scones. Our window table overlooked the lawn and garden, and beyond that were the beach and distant mountains. We watched a bunch of squirmy day-camp kids who were sitting on the grass, supposedly drawing the flowers around them, but more often than not turning cartwheels on the grass instead!
We headed back to the campground early and enjoyed some down time, reading in our lawn chairs and enjoying the day. I got a load of laundry done at the same time, so we are ready to travel tomorrow.