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By Jane Cassie
For Travel Writers' Tales

My stories have always unfolded in privacy-plunked on my duff in front of a computer, and usually sporting my red housecoat (a.k.a. Santa suit to family members). So when the TV show, Senior Living On Location, asks if they can film a few segments of this Salt Spring women's retreat, I think about the uncertain variables-facing that omnipresent lens, camouflaging those ten extra camera-loving pounds, having enough time to include all the things that there are to do. Yet surprisingly, once poised and wired for sound, my two gal pals and I take on the challenge and leap into the spotlight.

"Just walk towards the camera," instructs the Director, Daniela Cousin, "and tell us about this Gulf Island gem." Strolling, three abreast along the boardwalk, we instantly go into chatter mode and rattle off the offerings. It's not a tricky task-artisan studios, wine tasting venues, adventure options. Asphalt roads that loop over the island's hilly terrain tie these tourist treasures together like a big gift basket. And over the past two days we've been enjoying a few of the presents.

Our adventure had begun soon after embarking the BC Ferry, Queen of Nanaimo. Under cloudless skies we sailed effortlessly through Active Pass and while island-hopping from Galiano, Mayne, and Pender to Salt Spring all agreed that "this journey is part of the destination" -especially for golden-age passengers who cruise mid-week for free.

BC Ferries also arranges the whole meal deal. Their vacation packages include everything from ferry fare to staying there. And as well as ferry-accessed destinations, they offer excursions further afield-whether it be a guest ranch at Williams Lake or one of Whistler's spectacular spas. Hmm-something to consider for our next gal getaway.

For this trip though, Frog Hollow Guest Cottage filled our accommodation bill. The two-story, self-contained abode, ten minutes from Ganges, is surrounded by quiet pastures and filled with diva-pleasing amenities: movies for late-night viewing, a deck for snacking and yakking, the soothing nearby hot tub and a full course breakfast to fuel three show-boat boomers.

Salt Spring is a haven for diverse artisans, thirty-four of who are listed on the self-guided Studio Tour and with time to spare before stardom, we glimpsed into a few of their lives: Sunset Farm, where shelves were well-stocked with cozy slippers and socks, Salt Spring Island Cheese that tantalized us with everything from mouthwatering feta to their specialty Chèvre, and potter Pat Webber who showed us how to mold whimsical creatures our of clay.

"I get my inspiration from plants, animals and rocks," she explained, during our visit, "and try to express playfulness, laughter and joy in all of my work." A frog clings to an urn, a gecko clambers over the rim of a pot, a dog and rabbit enjoy tea time. The intriguing subjects lined the gallery shelves and while chatting about her passion Webber went into action by throwing clay onto her potter's wheel-as did a group of students in the adjacent room. Webber offers workshops throughout the year and after four days of molding, creating and glazing every novice potter takes away their honed craft. Before heading out we gathered the information to store away-possibly a future women's retreat?

"Okay, everyone," the director commands. "Let's keep shooting." I immediately snap back into reality-leaving my memories of the past two days behind. Once again we're face to face with the crew and that all-pervading camera. "It's time to shop, ladies!" Ahhh…this segment will be a piece of cake!

The hub of Ganges brims over with tourist treasures and for the next fifteen minutes, while being followed by the lens, we browse through galleries, check out local apparel and admire handmade crafts. Every Saturday morning from April to October over a hundred artisans and farmers congregate nearby at the renowned island market to sell their goods. Too bad it's mid week during this visit!

Our final shoot is at Mistaken Identity, a certified organic vineyard where award-winning west coast wines have been mistaken for European's finest. Owners, Ian and Wendy Baker, provide a complete overview of the production process from barrel to bottle and after pairing our own picnic lunch with a few delicious wine tastings we soak in the setting. The camera rolls on.

We make a toast to long-lasting friendships. Rows of prolific vines that stretch beyond our patio perch are backed by Salt Spring's lush island hills. If TV viewers didn't know, they might mistake this scene for a vineyard in Tuscany or Southern France. Who knows, maybe it will be on a future travel segment of Senior Living On Location!


How to get there:
BC Ferries

Where to stay:
Frog Hollow Guest Cottage B&B

Things to do:
Salt Spring Studio Tour

Pat Webber Potter

Salt Spring Island tourism

PHOTOS by Jane Cassie

Suggested photo captions:

1 Wind blown on deck
2 Relaxing on our private patio at Frog Hollow Guest Cottage
3 cozy slippers, socks and sheepskin rugs line the shelves at Sunset Farm
4 cheese is prepared and packaged at Salt Spring Island Cheese
5 We watch potter Pat Webber at work
6 While shopping in Ganges we're followed by the camera
7 We follow the DP while he films the vineyard
8 Mistaken Identity Vineyard is the perfect place to toast our long-lasting friendships

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