Qualicum Beach, Canada
Today didn’t start well. At breakfast, Kirsty looks at Nanette and comments “Dad and David aren’t going to enjoy today.” This is ominous. “We’re going to the kids’ playground, and then to two different sets of markets.” Oh goodie, double fun, here we come.
Have you ever been to one of those places that’s just known for one thing? For example, mention Chinchilla and people immediately think of the world melon seed spitting championships.
We’re staying about five minutes away from Parksville. Last year we stumbled across a popular playground near the beach so our first mission is to find it again. Shouldn’t be too hard – the beach is that long stony thing beside the sea, and the sea is usually located at the bottom of hills. OK, this is the right road but, hey, what happened to the parking area? Parts of the street have been blocked. We see some signs proclaiming the famous annual Parksville beach festival will run from July 13 to August 18. Surprisingly, we have actually heard of this festival and its international sand sculpture competition. Today is the 12th, so preparations are underway for the crowds tomorrow. Nanette and I wander over to the fenced off enclosure where the sculptures will emerge.
I’m a bit surprised to see contestants already building pyramids with plywood formwork and packing them with sand. Contestant Peter Vogelaar stops his work to tell us that this is just the “packing phase”. “We start sculpting from the top and remove levels of formwork as we work down to the bottom.” A lady of advanced years, who introduces herself to us as “Judge Judy”, also stops to chat. She’s actually the festival director, and can’t resist explaining that the contestants have to pack tonnes of sand today, and then sculpt tomorrow and Sunday. We’ll have to come back tomorrow to check on progress.
Back into the Dodge and we’re off to nearby Coombs. You will no doubt know that Coombs would be no more than a whistle stop in the bush if it wasn’t for the world famous Goats on Roof Country Market. Yes, it’s a market and, yes, there are goats on the roof of the main building. The weather’s hot with a chilly arctic wind blowing so we do the coats on, coats off routine again.
Much to the disappointment of many of the eager visitors, the goats have a smarter strategy and just stay in their little roof level goat houses most of the time. Nobody’s too stressed because there’s an endless supply of trinkets, toys and novelty foods on sale inside to keep all the women and children content. The place is so interesting that two hours and fourteen minutes just flies by without us even noticing. Sadly, it’s time to leave at last.
Now we just need to get those other markets out of the way and we’re free! What? We need to go home for a while so everyone is rested before the next lot of fun. Great.
At last, it’s time to head to beautiful downtown Qualicum to visit the world famous artisan markets. This time, even the ladies agree that the markets are disappointing. We actually get through the ten stalls and the showroom of overpriced paintings in pretty quick time. What to do? I tentatively throw out the suggestion of a visit to the mini-golf course near the beach. The idea is “a hit” and in no time we’re trying to knock balls under stylised pirate ships and through rock slaloms. I’m a bit chuffed when I score a hole in one, but the ego comes back to earth when three-year-old Kai does the same thing two holes later. We don’t actually keep score, but I reckon I came a pretty close second overall.
Finally, it’s time to head home and try to catch the beautiful sunset. We troop down to the little beach behind the house. The wind has dropped, the sun is setting, and all is good. We even light a small fire in an improvised fire pit to make the picture complete. Kai looks into his mother’s eyes. “Can I go inside now? I want to watch Netflix.”