Getting around Salt Spring is a breeze - it's not that big geographically - but huge in its detactment from the crazy real world. It's the kind of place you can actually meet the people who made/caught/grew your food. Talk about grounding....
Following a leisure wake-up, it was time to explore. We headed into the Ganges for a breakfast at a Jill recommended spot: Salt Spring Inn. How right she was. The local produce, etc. was exceptional meaning we had a delicious meal in a lovely setting. The server was slammed and yet was genuine in her smile and manner. This place is great.
We hit the fishery as soon as it opened and procured some killer mussels and halibut - fresh from the morning catch. The cooler packed with goodness from the sea, we hit some of the more memorably shops including the Salt Spring Soap Works (located downtown Ganges - look for the bubble machine). This place is full of the smells and colors of fun. The proprietress proved to be far too good at what she does (from the size of our bags upon leaving) but further engrained what Jill had started - the people of this place are special. She showed us a secret parking spot for the Market the following day (more on that later) and suggested a great place for beachcombing - Beddis Beach.
Salt Spring Island features a Studio Tour of the island. It consists of a map to dozens of working artist studios and food artisan kitchens. We plotted a trip around the southern part of the island to time our beachcombing with the low tide (Click here for tide estimates).
Our first stop was at the Moonstruck Organic Cheese Shop. Let's just say its rustic appearance belies a sublime cheese experience. Having been told these folks have taken second place in a worldwide cheese competition in the UK, we expected a fairly polished experience. Instead, we found a very utilitarian farmstead full of cows, chickens, at least one duck and even an eagle flying overhead.
The tasting room proved to be the epitome of the Salt Spring experience: people operate on the honor system here. There wasn't anyone in the tasting room to supervise - who would want to when there is so many better things to do? You just write in a notebook what you took and add your money to the box. The money box was stuffed with cash with no lock on it. Ahh, this island is indeed a special place on this Earth.
We followed the road, backtracked and generally got lost a couple times; all the while loving the sights and smells of agrarian Canada. We passed through verdant forests, well tended fields and visited with sheep, cows and more eagles.
Laughing Daughters Bakery was the only disappointment we experienced on the island. Despite the best effort to chat, the owner seemed disengaged and a bit irritated. However, I likely interrupted her tasks and she gave me the impression that she was relatively new to the island laid-back lifestyle. The gingerbread cookies with crystallized ginger were very good so all was well in the end.
On the other hand, one of the highlights of the trip was next: a visit to Salt Spring Island Bread.
Set on top of one of the pinnacles on the southern edge of the island, the grounds were lovingly planted. Greeting us was Ozzy, a huge, friendly golden retriever with a perchance for rear leg spasms when getting a head scratch. Who could resist such a show?
Entering the bakery was a religious experience. The smells of bread, smoke and yeast wafted through the air as we entered. The wood burning oven was hot and ready as the "bread lady" and her helper gave love to the loaves awaiting their turn.
We bought a fresh (still warm) olive artichoke tomato asiago focaccia and were invited to enjoy the garden and the view before leaving. Ozzy laid in the sun as we explored the koi pond and took pictures of the amazing view.
As it was low tide time we headed to Beddis Beach backtracking willfully through this beautiful place. The beach was deserted while we sat on some driftwood and devoured the just purchased bread - so good we couldn't stop until it was gone. Beachcombing ensued with it's accompanying slips and slides on seaweed.
Brilliant purple and coral colored starfish clung to their (mostly) shaded crooks and crannies. Tiny crabs flitted in the tide pools. More shells than either of us have seen were scattered everywhere. The sun shone brightly. The sea was calm. Perfection.
The tide began to come in so it was time to go taste some wine. Of course we'll look for any excuse to do that. We located the Salt Springs Winery soon after and were greeted by Happy: another friendly lab willing and able to make strangers laugh. The wine tasting began and was lovely. The Pinot Gris and Rose were especially appreciated (though the winemaker seemed far friendlier when we made our orders known than during the tasting period). This winery is known for their Blackberry Port which we of course had to get - despite neither of us being thoroughly convinced we liked it.
Happy was indeed a happy dog - begging strangers to throw rocks in the pond so she could jump in and dive for it. We never saw her get a single rock but she was sure fun watching.
As we were leaving a pair of peacocks strolled by. Not exactly something you see everyday.
We hit the market to finish pulling together our dinner; taking another of Jill's suggestions for the locally owned and operated Village Market. I've never seen so much organic produce in my life - anywhere. The variety and reasonable pricing indeed makes me understand the island is home to a community of folks concerned about the earth and willing to support what it takes to make it healthier.
By now it was time to take our goods and head "home." We realized after it was done that we had met almost all of the people who provided us with our food: the fisherman who caught our seafood, the woman who made our lunch, another who made our dessert and yet another who made the wine we were enjoying. We were lucky to have the ability to take this fantastically fresh produce and create the meal on our own - by virtue of access to a full kitchen in our cabin. Steamed mussels with wine, shallots and parsley were followed by grilled asparagus and halibut. It doesn't get much better than this. Or grounding.
Another mineral bath and fast, deep sleep rounded out this perfect day.