Adventure, Art, Food

Qualicum Bay, BC, Canada

Qualicum Bay
Illustration by Aileen Torres-Bennett

I haven’t drawn in a while, so I happily got pen and paper out and created the drawing above as a memento of our recent trip to Qualicum Bay, about a half-hour drive from the Nanaimo ferry terminal on Vancouver Island. Qualicum Beach is where most travelers stay, but we found a better cottage rental deal right on the beach in Qualicum Bay, a more residential area.

The cottage was underwhelming from the outside, but opening the door revealed a very tasteful, modern, cozy interior with an open floor plan and walls of windows framing stunning views of the ocean, coastline and mountains across the water. We made ourselves right at home.

There are barely any restaurants in the vicinity, which we didn’t really mind because we brought groceries from home and picked up some more from The Old Country Market, a small complex of shops that houses goats that feed on grass on the roof; very entertaining when you look up and happen to see them.

Our main activities were kayaking along the coast and picking up gigantic oysters during low tide. The weather was perfect almost daily, which made paddling highly enjoyable. It’s such a pleasure to breathe the cool fall air while getting a workout and seeing the the ocean and mountains illuminated in the sun. Denman Island, Hornby Island, Texada Island and Lasqueti Island were in view as we kayaked through the Georgia Strait in the Salish Sea. The water visibility was amazingly clear, so we were able to look down and see the seabed, which is lined with river type rocks. This is coho salmon territory, but we didn’t get to see any swim by. We were, however, successful in catching a few crabs by leaving out crab traps tied to buoys while we kayaked.

The fresh beach oysters were amazing, first for the experience of gathering them ourselves straight from the source, and second for the fresh flavor. I loved that the oysters were massive. We shucked them with an oyster knife and a mallet and had them: fresh with a bit of lime and hot sauce; grilled; scrambled in an omelette with spinach and cheese; and tossed with fresh pasta. The pasta, fettuccine, came from a neighborhood guy who runs a home-based business called Serafina’s Fine Foods. The oyster pasta dish was the culinary culmination of the trip. I stuffed myself silly with it, then retired to the couch, knowing digestion and exercise would take care of the meal’s after-effects in due time, while the memories of the trip would endure.