The vibe’s good in Cowichan Valley

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      The following article is sponsored by Mitsubishi Motors Canada.

      By Samy Azab

      The heavy morning fog has almost completely lifted as we approach our go-to coffee shop for one last breakfast before the ferry home. Our feelings are bittersweet on this late Sunday morning drive to the heart of Duncan, BC, since my partner, Saffron and I have just reluctantly checked out of our new favourite spot—a lovely two-bedroom guest house at Emandare Vineyards in North Cowichan—complete with a vineyard view and a hot tub.

      While I drive, Saffron looks up Emandare’s availability on Airbnb so we can book our next visit. We’re coming back real soon.

      A blanket of clouds drifts to the east as we travel west, revealing a crisp blue horizon that will likely adorn the skies for the rest of the day. Looks like the automatic wipers and seat heaters on our rented Outlander PHEV will be getting a well-deserved break. I honestly wouldn’t have thought of Mitsubishi as my first choice, but I’m going to miss this car. It made our getaway extra luxurious with its smooth, zippy feel and high-tech features. With the SUV’s futuristic vibe, the classic two-tone leather interior is a perfect setting for cruising around the island. Not to mention we managed the entire long weekend without recharging the battery or refueling the gas tank.

      By the time we arrive at Coffee On The Moon, the hot sun pierces through our window seat as we sip our cappuccinos from unpretentious white mugs and look back on the highlights of our very short, but abundantly sweet weekend trip to the island.

      One of our first stops? Dog House diner, a classic 1950s family restaurant. When (not if) you go here, go hungry. The dishes are as giant as the menu, and nearly as rich as this town’s ancient Quw’utsun culture.

      As we waited in the Dog House lobby for our table to be set, Saffron bumped into a long-lost cousin. She hadn’t seen this cousin in years, but they spoke as if they’d never spent a day apart (while I ogled the glorious display that is the pie fridge).

      Somehow, that moment reminds me of Mike from Emandare Vineyards. He said, “if you write about one thing in Cowichan, just write about the vibe.” I imagine what I felt in Dog House is precisely what he meant. There we were, listening to the sounds of a bustling kitchen serving tourists from around the world, new and old residents from throughout the country, and Indigenous folks whose ancestors have known this land since long before anyone else arrived—all dining in perfect harmony.

      We heard Cowichan is known for its antique shops, but to say we didn’t know what to expect as we pulled up to Alley Kats Deal Den would be an understatement. Long story short: I stepped foot inside, Saffron followed, and we didn’t see each other again for the next 47 minutes. At some point during our mystical journeys, our paths crossed, and we explored the upstairs section together, ducking and weaving so as not to break stuff. Did we want to buy everything? Yes. Did we leave with an embarrassingly large haul? Absolutely.

      We could have spent all day in Alley Kats, but we had to get ready for a dinner reservation at Unsworth Winery, which came highly recommended by just about everyone. The service and setting are perfect: friendly, but not fake. Fancy, but not stuffy. With a beautiful view of the winery and artistic plating to boot. You could say we’ve officially joined this restaurant’s loyal fan club.

      Being afraid of heights and averse to cold, wet weather, I can’t believe how much I enjoyed the Malahat Skywalk on that rainy Saturday morning. As we walked 105 feet up the mesmerizing spiral structure, a thick cloud of fog passed through the entire island. The smog surrounded us completely, albeit for a few passing windows of clear visibility, which revealed expansive views of the ocean and neighbouring lands from 820 feet above sea level.

      Sure, it may have been clearer on a sunny day. But then I wouldn’t have had the false protection of the fog to help supress my fears and step onto the Adventure Net, which is exactly what it sounds like. When we come back in the summertime, maybe I’ll build up the courage to go down the 165-foot-long slide.

      Maybe. But for now, we have a ferry to catch.