An Island Primer...of sorts.
From time to time Easterners- who are tired of -30c temperatures and 20 or 30 cms of snow, e-mail me to ask how the Mister and I are fairing here on this Island. I try not to brag about 11c temperatures and warm January sunshine but at times I just can't help it.
Does it feel strange?
To be in CANADA and not freezing our collective asses off in January?
It does feel strange sitting in Muskoka chairs in front of our house- Palm Villa, in shorts with coffee in hand chatting to neighbours as they pass by walking their dogs or just out for a stroll.
It is different than an Ontario winter.
Very different, this "Island Winter".
We are adjusting well.
The winters are so easy although this past month has been wetter than last year. That being said, we are in a long run of mostly sunny days until the end of the month.
Daffodils are up 6 inches and Camelias and more are blooming or almost blooming.
Last winter we saw more sunshine but maybe Mother Nature will make up for it this month.
Duncan- in the Cowichan Valley, is the place to be for weather here on the Island. We have a Mediterranean climate much like you’d find around London in England. It’s why we have Palms and banana plants and Magnolia trees. Twenty minutes up island in Ladysmith and certainly Nanaimo- about 50 minutes away, the weather is somewhat different. There's a greater possibility of cooler temps, rain and some snow but even that doesn’t stay long.
Back in December we could see snow on Mount Prevost which is visible from our back yard and Lanai.
Victoria can be a few degrees warmer but it's usually windier too being on the southernmost tip of the Island. Just before Christmas we were down over the Malahat to Victoria to see the Egyptian exhibit at the Royal Victoria Museum when it was 14c and sunny.
Oddly enough that is the day the windstorm struck and we arrived home in the Cowichan powerless for 14 hours- we were lucky. There were fallen trees and branches everywhere. Locals say they have never seen a wind storm like it. Talking about storms, we don't have thunder and lightning here but I guess it balances out when we have an earthquake warning. Our earthquake kit is in the front hall closet, close to the front door. The big one is nigh, so we hear. Of course "nigh" could mean a few hundred years from now- or not!
|A house in Nanaimo. Bet you thought Florida!|
During these "winter months" many people are in shorts when it’s 8 to 10 c and sunny. Brave souls even sport flip flops! Even on wet days it’s mild enough to sport a pair.
Shorts- not flip flops.
We layer clothing with a tee shirt, a hoodie or sweatshirt and a light jacket on top. We have never worn our winter ski jackets or winter boots. Light gloves? Occasionally.
There was some wet snow mixed with rain a week ago in the morning but the day ended up at 10c.
So, if you want to get away from snow and below zero temps this IS the place to be. Never a -20c or -30 temperature to be found. Barely below zero on a couple of nights.
Now, if you still want to ski where can a winter enthusiast go?
Hell comes to mind but seriously, Whistler on the mainland is popular but driving two hours north to Courtney/Comax you'll find Mt. Washington. That’s where "winter bunnies" go- and multiply, here on the island.
Friends in Orillia, Owen Sound, Ottawa and Washago have told us Ontario is in a "cold snap". That means it's colder than a witch's tittie, whereas I am in shorts and planting bulbs in our south garden.
|An Island Neighbourhood on the Pacific Ocean|
Just on the fringes of the Cowichan sits Ladysmith, a pretty Victorian town. Google it.
Ladysmith is built on a steep grade up to the edges of a mountain. Real Estate is a bit cheaper there.
Look for the Ladysmith BC website.
Here in Downtown Duncan there is a profusion of small shops- no chain stores. Duncan and North Cowichan- where we actually live, is about the same population as Orillia and area back in Ontario with the population in the neighbourhood of 75,000- give or take a thousand.
There is a native Casino here with slots only- we believe. Maybe gaming tables. We haven’t been.
It can't hold a candle to Casino Rama, however.
Nanaimo- up island past Ladysmith on the Trans Canada One, has a much larger population of 135,000 plus- with all the national chain stores and malls to choose from plus a big Costco.
Travelling in the other direction down Island there's Cobble Hill, Arbutus Ridge and Mill Bay. All are smaller communities but quite nice and right on the Ocean. We are 10-15 minutes from the Ocean at Maple Bay and the Salt Spring Ferry at Crofton.
Comparing real estate prices between the Cowichan and Victoria, Sidney or Saanich, we would win the "cheaper" sweepstakes- if there were such a thing. We would have loved to bought a home in Sidney but we couldn't find the same amount of house we have here in the Cowichan in size- and price point, in Sidney that we could afford in our retirement. Saying that, our house has gone up over 100,000 dollars in value in just a year. That's a good return on the dollar, eh?
|Boats are in the water year round|
So how do we fill our days here on the Island?
Well, we exercise walk every day- rain or shine. We have coffee with neighbours and friends. We go out to dinner- nothing too fancy though. At Christmas we had an Open House with more than 50 people. Most of the people we had met on the Island over the past year and 5 months. Island people are very friendly and most helpful with many Ontario and Alberta folks in the mix.
We have a younger couple from Woodstock living next door. They arrived on the Island a month before us. Several other Ontarians live here in our neighbourhood and in neighbourhoods close by. Back around Hallowe'en we met a lady a few streets away who was born in Orillia at Soldier’s Memorial Hospital. That's hard to find even when you live in Orillia.
Over the years there I'd talk to people who would say- "Yup, lived here in Orillia my whole life!"
"Oh, and born at Soldier's?"- I would ask.
"No."- they'd say, "But I've been here since I was 5 years old."
"But not born here then..."
I'd insert quickly- "That's a shame."
To find out more about our Island just Google "North Cowichan" or "Duncan"
|Maple Bay with Salt Spring Island in the background|
To get a true feeling for the place we now call home on Vancouver Island- if you even have the slightest desire to move here, I'd advise you to come out in January/February to get a true feeling for an “Island Winter”. If you're driving over from the mainland make sure you make a reservation on the appropriate ferry sailing- especially in the summer months or you may never get here!
Finally- just so you know, Vancouver Island is an Island surrounded by Pacific waters and there is no bridge from the mainland. You have to drive here by ferry or fly in an airplane- or swim over.
It's just that simple.