Trips for Booklovers & Writers

P7180025-1024x768Close your eyes and imagine the perfect way to spend your summer holidays! Does it include beaches and a hammock? I bet it does includes books! Here are some of my favourite book places across North America to visit this summer.

1. Vancouver Kidsbooks is Canada’s largest bookstore entirely devoted to children’s books. I love to browse titles from the very latest award-winning books to the classics. Situated in trendy Kitsilano, not far from the University of British Columbia and owned by two local women, this is one of the rare children’s bookstores that has been expanding over the last few years. They have several locations in and around Vancouver, BC, Canada. Check the website for details:


2. The Sylvia Beach Hotel. Without TV, radio or telephone, this is truly a place for book lovers to spend the night. Situated on a 45 foot bluff above the white sand beaches of Newport, Oregon this rustic hotel is a great place for storm watching or fair weather beach walking. But staying inside to read is almost better. Rooms are divided into ‘classics’, ‘bestsellers’ and ‘novels’. You can spend the night in the Agatha Christie room or the Mark Twain room. The Dr. Seuss room includes Cat-in-the-Hat posters, a goldfish bowl on the table and, of course, volumes of his work. If you are not afraid of spiders, choose the E.B. White room or the ruffles of Jane Austin’s room. A library and gift shop add to the reading pleasure while The Tables of Content offers family style dining in an oceanfront dining room. Their website seems to not work but try this:


3. From humble storefront beginnings in 1971 on a derelict corner of northwest Portland, Oregon, Powells Books has grown into one of the world’s great bookstores, with seven locations in the Portland metropolitan area. To roam through its endless levels and rooms of floor-to-ceiling books is the ultimate book lovers’ treat.

Toll Free: (800) 291-9676,

2014-08-26 19.56.034. If you have any time to spend in Denver, Colorado be sure to head for one of 3 locations of the famed Tattered Cover Book Store. With lots of nooks and crannies offering the intimacy of a smaller bookshop, and an ample supply of sofas and chairs, readers are sure to feel at home.

6. If you are a fan of Little House on the Prairie, you can visit Independence, Kansas where an exact replica of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s parental cabin is surrounded by many original places and artifacts from her childhood. The rustic one-bedroom cabin has been furnished exactly as described in her books. The Sunnyside School still boasts desks that were originally used in the 1870’s.

7. Stepping into Once Upon A Time, in Decorah, Iowa is like stepping back in time. Owner Marlys Lien, dressed in ruffles and apron as Mother Goose, will read books to visitors in her rocking chair. At other times, she will greet her book browsing audience as a witch or other book character. Lien calls hers
lf a facilitator of books, helping grown-ups to choose the right titles and helping young customers to discover a love of reading.

8. Ken and Mary Lou Harris-Manske, owners of The Book Look in Stevens Point, Wisconsin followed their heart and opened a bookstore in 1992. Ken remodeled an old Cape Cod house and the couple had custom oak book shelves installed by a local craftsman. It has become a Wisconsin wide attraction with possibly the widest selection of children’s books in the state: about 10,000- 12,000 titles by an estimated 5 -6,000 different authors. 

2724 Post Road, Stevens Point Wisconsin,

9. Picture a reader’s as well as a writer’s paradise on earth: a village of picturesque, Victorian homes by a lake; home cooked meals that you didn’t have to prepare; lectures by the best writers and editors available; personalized editorial feedback and still time to attend an early evening concert or eat ice cream. All this happens at the annual Highlights Foundation Writer’s Workshop in Chautaugua, New York.

10. Another fairy tale writers’ workshop takes place each summer in Oceanside, Oregon. The Oregon Coast Children’s Book Writers’ Workshop draws participants from around the world and has a faculty of seaside authors of different genres, an agent and publishers. Five days of intense lectures as well as manuscript critiques leave you ready to write a bestseller. You can book a motel, shared home or cabin while staying in this gorgeous location.

11. The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is a must for all lovers of children’s books and art. The mission of museum is to inspire, especially in children and their families, an appreciation for and an understanding of the art of the picture book. The 40,000 square foot building is the first full-scale museum in this country devoted to national and international picture book art. This summer special exhibits include A Celebration of African American Illustrators and the art of Leo Leonni.

125 West Bay Road | Amherst, MA 01002 | (413) 658-1100,

12. The Kansas City Public Library is worth a visit for any booklover. No explanation needed:


And, last but not least, I want to tell you that you can always come and stay with us! We run BETWEEN THE COVERS, Booklovers’ B & B on Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada. We have the Fiction Room and the Poetry Room, each suite with a private entrance and private bathroom. The rooms are full of books, which you can take with you if you get into one. Our furniture is book shaped and the art is all from books. We are one of the most reasonable priced B & B’s on our scenic island: 110.- for one night or 95.- for more nights, including breakfast.  We really are a B & B & B: Bed, breakfast AND books!

Island Time:Vancouver Island N + Quadra

IMG_1249After cruising around Denman and Hornby Islands (see previous blog) we headed north. The road and the vegetation made me feel like we were headed for the Yukon. But this was north on the island. Right after Campbell River there were no more towns, no gas stations, not many side roads. Just a road north. The clouds settled in low and grey. The drizzle was steady. After a few hours we managed a quick picnic at a rest area. We had not seen any stores or restaurants since we left Campbell River so we were glad to have our own food with us. We drove into Port Hardy and I was surprised at what a small town it is. Gas was 15 cents per liter more than down south. We tried a few hotels/motels and all were well over 100.- for a simple room with a bed. After a stop to the local tourist information office, we walked over to a backpackers’ hostel. A private room was 50.-. Good deal. The place was interesting since it was in a converted movie theatre. A hallway, kitchen and rooms had been build in what was the theatre part. Bathrooms had been added and everything was neatly painted and decorated. It was clean and the managers exceptionally friendly. IMG_1239

With a cheap room, we decided we had earned a nice diner in the pub next door: fresh prawn and mango taco’s. IMG_1203

The following day we drove slightly south to the ferry in Port McNeill, a small seaside town. We stopped in a small hamlet on the way,
Fort Rupert, where old totem poles lined the water front. A beautiful First Nations gravesite was full of decaying totems, carved from cedar, with proud ravens and orcas.
Then continued to Port McNeill where we boarded the ferry for a 45 minute ride to Cormorant Island and the tiny town of Alert Bay. IMG_1216This First Nations village has many beautiful totems ranging from new to ancient. We walked along the wooden boardwalk, saw the run down buildings that were a cannery, fishery and net storage. A tiny library, cute shops, even a bannock place. It felt like Alaska or the Yukon. The best place to visit was the impressive Cultural Centre with many masks and other artifacts and films about potlatches. I highly recommend a visit to this remote, unique village.IMG_1209

Back on the main island we drove just minutes out of Port McNeill, down a dirt road, to a newly developed golf/disk golf resort with a small RV park and cabins. The one room cabin we had booked online turned out to be a nice, new and quite large room with a bathroom and sitting area. We enjoyed a glass of wine outside, looking out over the water, a cruise ship chugging by, and Cormorant Island in the distance. Bald eagles glided over and perched in trees around us.

Driving south, the clouds had lifted and the drizzle was replaced by blue sky and sunshine. It seemed a different world. We made our way down the coast to Telegraph Cove. IMG_1260

We had heard a lot about this picturesque village on the northern coast but were quite disappointed. A few buildings were indeed perched on stilts in the water. But not an entire town. The cove itself was chockfull of a marina. The few buildings there seemed to all be part of the same tourist resort. It was nice to see history preserved, with old buildings and wooden boardwalks, and plagues describing the history of the original town. But overall it felt like a tourist trap, not truly worth the drive in and out.
From here we drove south in one stretch, straight to the ferry terminal in Campbell River and from there to Quadra Island, the largest of thIMG_1270e Discovery Islands. We had found it difficult to find much concrete information about facilities and accommodations prior to visiting this island. Even at the ferry terminal we couldn’t find a map for the island. We had made a reservation at a campground. Turned out to be at the Heriot Bay Inn, an old pub and restaurant. The campsites lined the cove, with murky waters but a bustling marina. At $37.- per night this was not great since it felt like a parking lots, with our neighbours less than a foot away when sleeping in our tent. We didn’t use the sewer or power in the site but still had to pay extra for a shower. The pub was fairly noisy at night. If we go again, we would likely try to find a spot at Wewaikai Campground ( which had more attractive coast views and beach access. IMG_1224

We did enjoy driving every road on Quadra, from the lighthouse on the southern tip, through the First Nations village with a cultural centre, having coffee at Café Aroma, browsing at the fabulous bookstore, to exploring the rugged north end. The best part, I think, was hiking Rebecca Spit Marine Provincial Park, with the sheltered bay on one side and the open waters of the Strait of Georgia on the other. IMG_1237

Island Time: Northern Vancouver Island

IMG_1142IMG_1190We have a week and a half to explore close to home. Often our trips take us across the world. This time, we don’t need to content with carry-on luggage or airports. We simply load up the car and leave home.

Living in the Pacific Northwest, we are close to some of the world’s most beautiful natural areas. We have seen much of it but have never been to northern Vancouver Island.


Most visitors come to the large island, about the size of The Netherlands, to visit Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia. And while this is a gorgeous, friendly city with lots to do, the island has so much more to offer. On a previous trip we took our Westfalia camper through Victoria to Sooke and around the southern tip of the island to Port Renfrew and back to Cowichan. On this trip we saw stately rain forests, bears and isolated beaches.


Cable ferry

We’ve driven through Port Alberni across the island from east to west to visit the small, quaint towns of Ucuelet and Tofino on the breathtaking west coast where surfers roam white beaches and hippies inhabit the coffee shops in town.


Qualicum First Nations Campsite

But this time, we drive north through Nanaimo and Qualicum to our first camping spot on the shore of the Salish Sea: the Qualicum First Nations Campground. This beautiful piece of land along the east coast of Vancouver Island offers many RV sites right along the water. Each site had water and a picnic table, several had sewer service. There were no toilet buildings but a few very clean, odourless port-a-potties did the job. We enjoyed staring over the water and listening to the waves as we fell asleep in our tent.


Only on the islands…

The next morning we packed up and drove north to the ferry to Denman and Hornby Islands. I hadn’t, until then, realized that you need to go to Denman first to get to Hornby. The brand new cable ferry ride took about 20 minutes. The fee of around 40.- was for two people and a car and allows us to stay on either island for as long we like, return fare included.

We decided to work our way back and scooted straight across Denman to Hornby. There we were surprised to find much still closed, even on the last day of May. The pub/restaurant by the ferry landing was closed. The bookstore was closed. And several signs along the way said ‘closed’. We drove several of the few roads on the island and liked what we saw: pastoral farms, very green, forests of tall evergreens and ferns. We found an eclectic cluster of Coop store, coffee shop, craft and clothing shops.



The detailed (free) island map showed a B & B, which did not seem to exist in reality. But a resort which, according to its website, was closed turned out to be open. Moral: don’t believe it until you see it.


Sea Breeze

The resort where we ended up staying two nights because it was so wonderful, is called Sea Breeze:

It offers spacious cottages right along the coast line. We sit on our porch in adirondack chairs to sip our morning coffee. The cottages are very private. Ours has a kitchen and fireplace. At $145.- this was not cheap but the kitchen allowed us to make all of our own meals, which made it the same or less expensive than a B & B room plus having to eat out.

There’s even a very good hot tub to soak in. And on the blustery nights we spent here, we sure enjoyed the fireplace. IMG_1164

We managed to go for a wonderful hike during the only time it rained while we were on Hornby. We did the return Ford Cove to Shingle Spit Trail, about 2.5 KM one way. Gorgeous setting, relatively level and a well maintained trail along the coast, amid towering cedars, ferns and gleaming arbutus. Nice to spot lots of fossil rocks along the way. But no cafe, no patio, no pub on either side. Just a marina at Ford Cove with a little store.

From Horny we drove back to Denman, which is apparently nicknamed ‘Hornby’s speed bump’ since most visitors race across it to reach the ferry to Hornby. To us Denman did indeed seem less attractive. Many of its roads were unpaved and we saw a plethora of signs telling us to “keep out” and “no trespassing”. There were not many services on the island – we did’t find a patio on the water, nor a cute little pub. We did discover a very good coffee shop, well hidden inside the local hardware store! In the back, a secret garden with brand new adirondack chairs invited us to linger. The bookstore next door was open and well stocked with good titles.



A 15 minute ferry ride took us back to the main island and we drove north to Comox, where we had booked a perfect AirBnB: the ground floor of a brand new house. A small living room, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom offered luxurious bedding and towels and everything we needed in a kitchen including muffins, fruit and coffee. For 75.- this was a perfect find and highly recommended.

Next blog: Port Hardy, Alert Bay and Telegraph Cove



Welcome to Ferry Land: The Southern Gulf Islands

2014-08-26 19.20.40_2PigWar-boundariesMore and more people are discovering Canada’s best kept secret: the jewels that are the Gulf Islands.

If you look at a map of the Pacific Northwest, you will see lots of small islands off the coast of the mainland, both in the US and in Canada.

In the mid 1800’s, a pig caused the border between the two countries to become well defined because neighbors were tired of one farmer’s pigs rooting up their gardens. A clear boundary was drawn which established the San Juan and Gulf Islands. The San Juan’s are the American islands, including Orcas Island, San Juan Island and Lopez Island:

See also our earlier blog:

In Canada the island group is called the Gulf Islands and is separated into southern and northern Gulf Islands. They include islands such as Salt Spring, Pender, Mayne and many more.

IMG_8376Travel between the islands in Canada is made possible by BC Ferries. Even though the ferry is an extension of our highway system, you have to pay dearly to make use of the ferries to reach the islands. But it is worth it. The islands are a truly unique part of Canada, with a feeling more European than North American. There are no straight roads, not even any traffic lights. Patios and funky pubs line the picturesque harbours. You can buy produce from farm stands. Some islands have almost no facilities while others offer a wide range of services, so it pays to do your homework and book ahead.

A BC Experience Card is available to help reduce ferry costs, although many restrictions reply:

The card is only valid for ferry travel between small islands and Vancouver Island, not from or to the mainland, so it is mostly used by those living on the islands. It is used like a kind of debit card by uploading money. It may reduce your fare by some 15%.

You can make reservations on some routes but not on all. On busy summer weekends it pays to have a reservation instead of waiting for 1 or 2 sailings. You can even make reservations if you walk on, without a car.

IMG_8358From the mainland, you travel from Tsawwassen to the Gulf Islands or to Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island. If you travel via Swartz Bay to one of the smaller islands, you pay a through fare but you do need to tell them your destination. Returning, the same thing goes but it is tricky because you don’t pay for, or even buy, a ticket when you leave a smaller island (you paid a return fare when you came). This means that when you leave i.e. Salt Spring for the mainland via Swartz Bay, you have to buy a ticket from the machine on the boat to prove, once you get to Swartz Bay, that you came from Salt Spring. There you pay the remainder of your fare to the mainland, which is almost half the price of a ticket not originating on Salt Spring.


Trust me, it is very confusing and nowhere on the BC Ferries website is this explained.

But the Southern Gulf Islands are a wonderful place to spend a holiday, whether it is a long weekend, a week or more.

Pender, Galiano, Mayne and Saturna are the smaller, less developed islands where hiking and camping are great activities. There are wineries and coffee shops but not the many services offered as on Salt Spring, the largest Gulf island with wineries, a cidery, many restaurants, patios, and over 30 art studios.

You can learn details about Salt Spring Island’s favourite spots to visit here:

P7180025-1024x768We live on Salt Spring at the edge of Ganges, the main town. We actually run a booklovers’ B & B here called Between The Covers, so you can come and stay with us: or chose from many other B & B’s, 3 small hotels and several cottage resorts or campgrounds.

IMG_8048The islands are often promoted as ‘ideal for cyclists’. I beg to differ. The islands are very hilly with narrow, winding roads and do not offer much of a shoulder. I would rather hike than bike here. There are many good hiking trails all over the islands, with incredible views – close to towns or out in the bush. There is a public transit bus that meets each ferry and can get you around the island. Hitchhiking is also very common and generally safe, on the islands.

Another option to ferries is to come by floatplane. This is a fabulous way to see the Salish Sea. A plane ride from Vancouver Airport (South terminal) is 20 minutes – way too short and oh so gorgeous and convenient. Check out:


In our next blog, we’ll share our adventures on some of the northern Gulf Islands.