The cultural dimensions of our first day on Vancouver Island ranged from goats on the roof to afternoon tea. Why are goats grazing on the turf roof of a retail establishment, you ask? Well, probably for the same reason the store is located in a great big yurt. The Old Country Market in Coombs, B.C., otherwise known as Goats on Roof, is an everything-in-the-world store.
They used to be called general stores and were a fixture in every little country town, hence the original name of Old Country Market. Coombs may still look like a little country town, but the Nanaimo area of Vancouver Island tends to be cosmopolitan. Echoing the tastes of their patrons, the range of products in Goats on Roof is vast. In fact, the store is bursting its seams with about every possible import you can imagine. Very eclectic, a little exotic, and lots of fun.
In such a place I had supposed the prices would be sky-high. Not so. I was pleased to see that the produce was locally grown as much as possible, and priced at or below what other stores sell for. Meaning, that the other shoppers we saw weren’t simply tourists there to watch goats graze and buy imported chocolate like we were. They were actual residents.
Shops adjacent to Goats on Roof
We had to choose between an ice cream and a donut for a snack. Tough choice! Fingered the textiles in another shop, then imagined how our garden at home would look with a big pot or two in it.
Milner Gardens & Woodlands
On our way to Milner Gardens we visited The Old School House Arts Centre, both in Qualicum Beach. Several artists were at work and we enjoyed chatting with them about their jewelry, painting, and sculpture. Would love to come back with more time to choose a few items.
Afternoon tea at the mansion in Milner Gardens & Woodlands was very pleasant. The menu was brief, but everything we tried was delicious, from clam chowder and a cheddar cheese scone to a plain scone graced with clotted cream and jam. We finished lunch with a pot of herbal tea and spent a few leisurely minutes investigating the old Milner mansion, which is furnished in Victorian period style.
Vancouver Island University takes an active part in the upkeep and direction of the gardens, so we could see various plots of ground where young plants were being grown. It enhanced our experience to know the care that is being taken to preserve such a place of beauty.
As we strolled through the gardens, we found lovely views for a brief sit while enjoying the cool misting on our face and skin. I can’t call it rain, really. It was mostly a suggestion.
Milner Gardens is run by friendly volunteers, each of whom wanted us to know that Prince Charles and Princess Diana (of England) had visited the gardens and taken tea there, all well within their memory.
Englishman River Falls
Before returning to Nanoose for the night, we took a detour to Englishman River Falls Provincial Park. The hike to the Upper Falls was easy, with negligible elevation gain. The hike to the Lower Falls is longer and more rigorous, one we’ll have to save for another day.