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Story and Photos by Jane Cassie

"Pinch on a monkey tree, can't pinch back," I chant, while gently tweaking my sister's arm. This kid-like prank immediately conjures up warm and fuzzy memories. It also reminds me of a saying that goes something like, 'when you have a sister, you always keep a piece of your childhood.' I smile, and realize how true it is.

We see the prickly puzzle tree when we're parked in the ferry line-up at Crofton, a quaint community nestled in Osborne Bay on Vancouver Island. And over the next two days, while on Salt Spring, we escape our citified pace, and rejuvenate our 'inner child.'

The Pajama Party package at Hastings House provides us with the perfect opportunity. Eiderdown duvets, deep soaker tubs, and posh accommodations, complete with pedigree service -what more could two ladies on the loose ask for? How about turn down treats at sunset, a wake up muffin bag at sunrise and an assortment of goodies in the afternoon? Top it off with a head to toe massage, infused with the essence of lemon-grass and you'll discover two silky-smooth sisters who smell better than Mom's meringue-topped pie.

The lush twenty-two acre getaway overlooks scenic Ganges Harbour and cobblestone pathways lead to eighteen getaway havens. Whether it's a contemporary hillside retreat or, like ours, one that's swathed in early 19th century décor, this property, rated as one of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World exemplifies the height of opulence.

Taking centre stage is a Sussex-style manor, built in 1939 by the founder, Warren Hastings. "It was fashioned after his family's 11th century home in England," the resident manager, Hazel, explains. We enter the living room, where burnished fir gleams beneath scattered Persian carpets, and an impressive Inglenook fireplace warms the setting. Beyond, is an upscale dining room where meal time magic happens twice a day. Our favourite votes go to the herb-crusted halibut, sensuously seared scallops and the famous Salt Spring Island Lamb. Hmm Yum!

These and other gastronomic delights are also specially delivered to our suite during our stay. After private consultation with the chef, a three course meal, accompanied by a bottle of bubbly, is presented with the same polished service. And while the fire crackles and casts a rich glow over wood beams and hand-trawled walls, we dine in decadence while clad in our flannels. It sure beats any pajama party that I recall!

Although we both qualify as true blue foodies, the last thing we need are extra Rubenesque pounds on our aging rumps. You'd think with so many activities at our fingertips, there'd be no need to worry. We could cycle sun-dappled roads that bisect pastoral meadows, paddle rugged shorelines to check out teary-eyed seals, or dive beneath the deep. As well as being BC's most southern Gulf Island, Salt Spring is a sprawling twenty-nine kilometers in length, and from its craggy bays to Mount Maxwell's summit, it's chock full of adventurous options. That's, of course, if you're adventurous.

We, on the other hand, choose to do none of the above. Instead of putting our well-padded duffs into action, we rev up our comfy sedan. We don't want to miss a moment. It's market day, and the heart of Centennial Park is pulsating!

Every Saturday morning from April to October over a hundred artisans and farmers congregate to sell their goods. Tables, shaded by colourful umbrellas, border the parkway and host everything from bead work to bokchoy. We sample sensuously sweet fudge, savor locally made goat cheese, and get personally pampered with a lavender scrub. "Just rub and rinse," we're told, by the Soap Works owner, as he massages the granules onto one of my sister's hands. "Voila - a new you." The instant transformation is quite miraculous and my sister quickly purchases the product -I'm sure, with the intention of scrubbing more than her other hand.

While later cruising the country roads, we chat and chuckle and discuss everything from people to politics. We stop to check out schooners that bob in Burgoyne Bay, retrace the steps of time at St. Paul's Church, and enjoy an awesome show from a park bench overlooking Swanson Channel. It's not one that's staged, but features a cast of first-rate performers. Sun-basking herons and cormorants poise stoically on the craggy shore. Excited gulls bomb-dive towards their ocean prey. And curious seals pop up to take a bow. But the height of excitement comes when a dorsal fin slices through sun-glinted waves. It's followed by another, then another. And directly within our view, the Orcas arch above the water's surface. The splendor activates my digital camera. It creates a sense of awe. And as we relax in silence side by side, another familiar saying comes to mind. 'Although we were born sisters, we grew up to be friends.'

Hastings House
160 Upper Ganges Road,
Salt Spring Island. B.C.
Tel: (250) 537-2362
Toll Free: 1-800-661-9255 (Canada and U.S.A.)

BC Ferries
1-888-BC FERRY (1-888-223-3779) from anywhere in North America
*BCF (*223) from your cell phone on Rogers or Telus Mobility Networks

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Photos 1. Sisters sail away from the quaint community of Crofton nestled in Osborne Bay
2. Sussex-style manor, built in 1939 by the founder, Warren Hastings
3. Artisans and farmers congregate to sell their goods on market day
4. Scaly limb turns satin after a quick lavender scrub


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