Tucked away on Vancouver Island, north of Nanaimo off the Island Highway is Coombs, a place that’s become known for its signature rooftop of grazing goats. Under that roof is The Old Country Market, a quirky grocery store that offers a huge selection of breads and sweets made in their bakery, a cheese shop and imported foods that run the gamut from English licorice to bacon-flavoured mayonnaise a.k.a. Baconnaise.
Before you head to the Market to shop, have lunch at Cuckoo in Coombs Trattoria & Pizzeria. The Italian restaurant offers pasta and wood-stove pizza in a large space with wooden tables and rustic tablecloths (which you can buy next door in Zolena). If the weather is nice, sit out back on the patio under the plum trees. Just outside the restaurant is the greenery area with large pots and Chinese statues, shrubbery and small cacti. Nestled in amongst the plants is Zolena, a shop with wool blankets from New Zealand, Chinese silk bags and bangles from India.
There’s also a row of shops that offer a mix of every kind of craft or souvenir you can imagine your kitschy aunt or goofball uncle enjoying: Wolf T-shirts and dream catchers, ceramics and stained glass, silver jewellery and funny signs for your kitchen. There’s also a produce market and surf shop under grass-covered roofs, and next door to the Market, there’s a collection of huge statues of lions, First Nations characters and more lions, and keeping with the strangely-unexpected, a Volkswagen museum.
After your browsing, head to the ice cream shop and indulge in a big scoop, it’s the most normal your day will be.