Prince Edward Island (PEI) September 25-29, 2018
The bridge connecting New Brunswick (NB) and PEI is the longest intercontinental bridge in the world spanning ice covered water. Gephrophobiacs best avid the bridge. Large neon signs make it very clear that cell phone use of any type is not allowed and a large fine awaits those that disobey the law.
Prince Edward Island is named for the fourth unremarkable son of King George III, the monarch known for losing the war for Independence with America. His one claim to fame was having an heir, who became Queen Victoria. PEI is the smallest of the Atlantic provinces, and the most densely populated. There is little game to hunt as it was hunted to oblivion hundreds of years ago. It is a vibrant farming and fishing province with the farms in the hands of families. 98% of the farms are 5th and 6th generation family farms.The lack of commercial farms shows in the important hedgerows between fields hosting the important bees and other creatures so important for successful farming.
Housing and other buildings take on new designs as we leave Quebec. The crocheted lace curtains, much like my French grandmother Mimi and my aunts made, and different roof lines change as we travel to PEI. There are many grand old houses and the generations of homeowners remodeled around the original homesites still keeping the traditional lines of the buildings.
It was love at first sight as we passed beautiful fields, old farm houses and headed to the capitol, Charlottestown. Canada was formed here by the “Fathers of the Confederation” in 1867….discussions started in 1864. The town, the biggest in the province with a population of 34,500 is a friendly community with many historic buildings and a beautiful art center.
I found a renovated Governor’s mansion, now a BandB, just 1/2 mile from the town center across from a park.
Unfortunately, it is a relatively new BandB and a language difference (Chinese) made it difficult to convey our needs to our enthusiastic host. He showed us our room, lacking a bathtub, and I finally pulled up a google photo of one after he tried to understand. He conferred with his sister and brought us to a suite on the second floor at the front of the house with huge windows, a wrap around porch …..and a bathtub. A full kitchen (without tools and dishes) and washing machine/dryer to share with others was also available. The room is beautiful, light and airy with trees outside. I watched huge trees blowing in the wind just outside the window, then realized they were oak trees, unfamiliar to me living in Alaska. It’s perfect for us, a needed rest after a long trip and we are ready to explore. And there are fascinating mushrooms in a tree in the yard.
It’s good to have sidewalks everywhere! We walked downtown, pausing to look at flowers and buildings. Three bookstores in one block!! Practical community projects like sponsoring a corner garden as well as a special “meter” that you could drop coins in to support homeless projects instead of panhandlers.
Then there is this post to lean on which is actually a canon dug into the ground.
I wonder what they are doing there, said Builder Jim, as he stopped to look at a large hole dug in the ground with busy men and women construction workers. Upon his return he noted it was the foundation for a house, described the tasks….As a kid, I always stopped at looked at building sites to see how they did things.
We walked to the harbour on a wooden boardwalk and then around into town. The compactness of Charlottestown makes walking a pleasure. We also enjoyed these “poems” found around town.
We stopped for a lunch at a cafe, enjoying fresh tomato/red pepper soup and a chicken/pear panini. There was plenty of interesting articles in the local newspaper. Jim decided he was done walking and headed home. This gave me more shopping time, balancing the fact I must carry everything rather than having “the mule” along.
I stopped a small store “Kuriosities” and purchased a few things for gifts and chatted with the young clerk. An outdoor enthusiast we talked about hiking and then she mentioned her brother is an opera singer who recently sang with a Polaris prize winner. She wrote the CBC link down for me and she urged me to come to the “FarmintheCity event that ends the summer farmer’s markets.
Next came a highly recommended knitwear shop, “Northern Watters Knitwear.” I admit I spent a considerable amount of money and time in this store. It is known for the high quality of hand knit products, all made with sturdy sheep yarn, naturally lanolin coated from Britain and knit by PEI knitters. It also has beautiful pottery and other craft items. I indulged.
As Jim’s roving sweater is taking awhile (5 yarn shops and 30 knitters across the US and Canada) I selected a wool vest with the recommendation of a colourful salesman. It was a great shopping time!! Unfortunately, the “mule” was gone and I had to tote my heavy bag.
On the way back to the B&B I found a bookstore I missed and spent a happy hour in the store. More presents and a handful of books for me.
Now, quite laden down, I walked slowly, oh so slowly home, not being able to use my cane. I dropped the heaviest bag at the bottom of the stairs and asked “the mule” to retrieve it for me. A great day. Indeed, as Jim posed in his new vest, striking various poses, from academic to farmhand, we laughed.
Of course, one of the main attractions of PEI is Anne of Green Gables , the beloved heroine of generations of young readers in nearby Cavendish. Jim is reading the book, completely immersed in it and anxious visit the site. It is our only rainy day which matters not. We grab my big umbrella that I’ve been waiting to use and join other hardy visitors. We watch the introductory video in the barn. Visitors are few and I can imagine what it’s like on a sunny summer’s day. We go into the famed white house with green shutters furnished with items revenant in the late 1800’s. I am struck at how small the chairs are. In the kitchen, the ranger shows us the wood stove, the first convection oven. They are only made in Newfoundland and only used in the Maritime provinces. We take a minute for a photo in the barn buggy and Jim comments on the structure of the barn as well as the large addition that is rising. We enjoyed the visit.
Sunny again, the next day we walked downtown to buy more socks for Jim, and a yarn bowl for me. The sox, made from kid mohair by a woman in Ontario are non clinging and good for people with neuropathy like Jim and me. They are unusual and work much better than others I’ve tried. We walk more each day, still hard for both of us but the incentive of seeing the town and countryside override the discomfort. Charlottetown was founded by the French and English, but is now a delightful mixture of all nationalities as demonstrated by the variety of restaurants and the “welcome to all” mosque. We stop at Linda’s cafe for a cup of tea and a snack, hoping to have the kebbe. Alas they were out but offered delicious meat pies with a good mix of Lebanese spices. The proprietor questioned Jim about Alaska as often happens. He was friendly and we enjoyed our conversation. It brings me great joy to have proper tea everywhere!!
On Sunday we checked out of the B&B and walked downtown to the last big summer event FarmintheCity. I love this park that asks you to walk on the grass so that you can sit on a bench in the middle of the flowers.
The fire department’s trucks were out and kids got to ride in a miniature firetruck with a full-size horn sounding! The main street, Queens street, is shut off from vehicles and people crowd into the street to sample treats, learn more about farming and buy farm products including fresh vegetables and blueberry purree. PEI gathers millions of pounds of wild blueberries each year. Jim eyes the ice cream store, but that must wait until we leave.
There can be no more beautiful day for the FarmintheCity event. The warm, sunny day with colorful flowers still growing as well as leaves turning and the normal cheerfulness of the population create a memorable event. I found a delicious kombucha made by beet farm employees The wonderful Quebec kombucha is not available in other provinces nor will this one be. Somehow I didn’t expect these delicious finds. We leave with fresh eggs and vegetables for our coming meals
We drive north on the island hoping to visit the lighthouses, but get confused and decide to head back towards the bridge that will take us to Nova Scotia.
We hiked on a beautiful flat trail and boardwalk in the Greenwich PEI National Park along the water and into the woods. We took the trail to the boardwalk and contemplated walking all the way through the dunes to the water’s edge. Unfortunately we exercised caution, not sure if I would be able to walk all the way back and turned around. It is a remarkable trail that accommodates everyone including those in wheel chairs.
We drove to “Rick’s fish and chips and seafoods” on the last night they are open for the season. In spite of the plainness of the simple building, it has a stellar reputation. The haddock fish and chips was outstanding. We could have easily skipped the chips and just ate the battered fish.
We looked for a campsite and turned into a provincial park, but it was closed for the season. It was right on the water and would have been beautiful. Instead we left PEI crossing the bridge into New Brunswick and then into Nova Scotia. We decided to head to our rendezvous campground and have a leisure day before connecting with friends. Just as it was hard to leave the Gaspe Peninsula, it was equally as hard to leave beautiful PEI.