Chemainus: small town; big charm

It’s easy to see why this open-air art gallery draws visitors from all over the world. 

This is only a splattering of photos taken with my Samsung phone camera a few days ago.  See story below.

Like many others right now during this pandemic craze, I’m tending to stick closer to home.  Well maybe not always too too close; but close enough.  At the very least I’ve been discovering places in the province where I live that I have either never been to and wanted to visit, or haven’t visited in such a long time, that I can’t even remember when I was there last.

Such was the case a few days ago when I took the ferry from Vancouver to Vancouver Island with my boyfriend Paul and Layla, my sheltie.  The reason I decided to go in the first place was to look at the possibility of getting a companion dog for Layla.  I was very interested in getting another male sheltie who lives on the island. However, without going into detail it sadly was not meant to be, at least for now…so we decided to make a little holiday out of the situation.

We took the ferry boat one way going there and another way coming back with stopovers in some quaint little towns…Ladysmith, Chemainus, Duncan and finally ending up in Victoria to take the ferry back to Vancouver.  The weather for November was excellent and the scenery very picturesque.

And speaking of picturesque…I was aware of an abundance of story-telling murals in Chemainus as I had been there once before, but I had no idea that it is known as Canada’s Mural Capital. And I don’t remember seeing nearly as many as I did this time around.

I was blown away by how this proud seaside community shares its heritage and celebrates its history through art on the sides of stores, restaurants and private homes. The creation of one mural and sculpture after another which began in 1982, has turned this tiny town into Canada’s largest permanent outdoor art gallery.  And might I add… when was the last time you stood in front of a “Subway” sandwich shop or “Canada Post Office” in admiration?.

You can follow the yellow footsteps (like the yellow brick road) on the sidewalks to locate all the murals.  Although we did it by chance and decided to spend the night in a hotel there so we could enjoy the town the next day.

Town History:

When Chemainus was established in 1858, forestry was the principal industry, and it is still central to its life.  The townspeople were concerned about the future of their one-industry town so looked to economic diversification as a way to thrive.  As it has a natural beauty setting to begin with, it made sense to expand as a tourist spot so The Chemainus Murals Program was born. 

The subject from the beginning has been the community’s heritage, reflecting the history of the First Nations people and their life here, and the unfolding story of settlement by the families and individuals who built the community. 

World renowned Vancouver Island artist Emily Carr’s legacy is depicted in a special Emily Carr Mural Series.  It’s really beautiful.

The name Chemainus is believed to have come from a legendary First Nations shaman and prophet who survived a massive wound in his chest to become a powerful chief.  Tsa-meeun-is (Broken Chest).

If you’re looking for The Mural of the Story…

Going by the official mural guide I can look through and tell you by number what each mural means, however I think it best you go there and discover for yourself… if only because it really is worthwhile.

Destination: Galiano

I can now cross Galiano Island off my places to go to list.  It was the only remaining one of all the gulf islands in British Columbia left for me to visit, and luckily the dogs and I were recently and happily invited to spend three nights at a beautiful ocean front home belonging to friends Joanne & Geoff who also happen to be our neighbours. They’ve been going for a number of years and now I understand why.  Their location is unrivaled but Galiano in general has such natural rocky beauty and there’s even a white sandy beach. It is referred to as the untamed Gulf Island and the wildest due to its mountainous geography, rare plant population and generous forest reserves. Plenty of wildlife too. It’s the closest to Vancouver of the southern group of Gulf Islands. Much of it is protected from development thanks to community initiatives from a tight knit group of concerned property owners.

Lunch and Dinner served outdoors with a view you can never tire of.

Galiano is also the driest in the gulf, getting more sunshine than the mainland and most of coastal B.C.  It comes with peaceful beaches, wooded trails, a nine-hole golf course, artists’ studios & galleries, marina and a world class restaurant in the forest. Oh the restaurant by the way deserves a separate mention. It was that good.  But unfortunately I cannot give you the secret recipe for Geoff’s special gin martinis on the rocks…..literally. We were sipping them on the rocks.

I had to take a photo of my bedroom. A little too hazy because of the wildfires to see the water, but the ocean is right outside the window.

And I will soon tell you about an upcoming workshop offered by Joanne, a life coach and our hostess with the mostest who makes a mean everything salad with goddess dressing.  With a background in the arts, Joanne is a founder of The Gulf Islands Film and Television School.  Her upcoming workshop along with co-facilitator Wendy Sidwell is not only very interesting but will prove to be very helpful to most individuals so stay tuned…