Tag Archives: Prince Edward Island

August 21-22: Goodbye, PEI, and hello, rain

I knew I wasn’t going to leave PEI until late yesterday afternoon, and I was lucky that my last day on the island was such beautiful weather – bright sunshine and low 70s, like a perfect summer day at home.

I spent my morning driving along the north coast through the rest of PEI National Park, admiring more rust-colored beaches.

I've seen a lot of hawkweed in my time, but never in this bright an orange.
I’ve seen a lot of hawkweed in my time, but never in this bright an orange.
Dunes covered in grass at PEI National Park.
Dunes covered in grass at PEI National Park.
People actually swim in the Gulf of St. Lawrence at these beaches.  The water, according to a signboard I saw, was supposed to be around 16-18C today (upper 60sF).  Brrr...
People actually swim in the Gulf of St. Lawrence at these beaches. The water, according to a signboard I saw, was supposed to be around 16-18C today (upper 60sF). Brrr…
I love PEI's sand. Just look at the colors!
I love PEI’s sand. Just look at the colors!

I gradually made my way to Charlottetown. I’d planned on going to Province House, where representatives from Upper Canada (Ontario), Lower Canada (Quebec), Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick (but ironically enough, not PEI) got together and decided to confederate themselves into Canada, back in the 1860s. Unfortunately, though, the building was closed for conservation work, so I basically walked around town for a bit, then drove out to Victoria Park, which is on a stubby peninsula sticking out into Charlottetown Harbor.

Charlottetown (which had the only stoplights I saw on the island) has some really odd-looking (to my eyes, anyway) traffic signals.  Yes, the red lights are square and the yellow lights are diamond-shaped.
Charlottetown (which had the only stoplights I saw on the island) has some really odd-looking (to my eyes, anyway) traffic signals. Yes, the red lights are square and the yellow lights are diamond-shaped.
Looking out across Charlottetown Harbor from Victoria Park.
Looking out across Charlottetown Harbor from Victoria Park.
The Charlottetown (pop. 35,000, and the biggest city on the island) skyline from Victoria Park.
The Charlottetown (pop. 35,000, and the biggest city on the island) skyline from Victoria Park.

Victoria Park sort of reminded me of a miniature Stanley Park, with a waterfront promenade and lots of flowers and trees. But considering that I haven’t seen Stanley Park since I was a kid (in spite of the fact that Vancouver is only about four hours north of Tacoma), I could be wrong [g]. Anyway, it was lovely.

And so I started wending my way back towards the Confederation Bridge, with a detour to Fort Amherst/Fort LaJoye National Historic Site, across the harbor from Charlottetown. The double name is because the French settled it first, then the Brits took it over after the Treaty of Utrecht and renamed it. This was another site where the poor Acadians got booted out.

The Charlottetown skyline from Fort Amherst/Fort la Joye.
The Charlottetown skyline from Fort Amherst/Fort la Joye.
A monument to the Grand Derangement (the expulsion of the Acadians) at Fort Amherst/Fort la Joye.
A monument to the Grand Derangement (the expulsion of the Acadians) at Fort Amherst/Fort la Joye.
The remains of Fort Amherst.
The remains of Fort Amherst.

I was admiring the view when I got to talking with an older local couple, who I got to ask about the climate. I was astonished to learn that Charlottetown Harbor freezes over almost every year, just like Lake Erie does. I’m not sure why that astonished me, except that I guess it seems too far south for salt water to freeze over. Anyway, I find it very difficult to imagine this part of the world in the wintertime for some reason.

Field of what I think is rapeseed (the plant they make canola oil from) on PEI.
Field of what I think is rapeseed (the plant they make canola oil from) on PEI.

I drove on along the south coast of PEI, past fields and ocean and views, until I reached the bridge, where I paid my $46 Canadian to cross back to New Brunswick, and then turned west, looking for a provincial park that said it had campsites. It took me a while to reach Murray Beach Provincial Park, but it was well worth it, right on the water with a nice sandy beach and an incredible view, especially at sunset.

Sunset at Murray Beach, New Brunswick.
Sunset at Murray Beach, New Brunswick.
Doesn't it look almost tropical?
Doesn’t it look almost tropical?
One last sunset shot.
One last sunset shot.

This morning I woke up to clouds, which, since I’d figured on a driving day across New Brunswick, didn’t seem like a bad deal. It was when I stopped for lunch and groceries about noon, and came back outside to a driving rain at least as heavy as the one on Cape Breton Island the other day that I thought maybe this wasn’t so great. I did make it to Woodstock, NB, about an hour west of Fredericton, this afternoon, but there was no way I was camping in this, so I found a motel, and I am taking full advantage of Real WiFI [tm] tonight.

Tomorrow I shall cross the border into Quebec. Here’s hoping it won’t be in a downpour.

August 20: Cavendish, er, Avonlea, and beautiful red beaches

Okay. Is everyone familiar with Anne of Green Gables? The story of an orphan adopted by mistake (she was supposed to be a boy) who won everyone’s hearts over, anyway? The source of one of my favorite quotes? “Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it… Yet.” Well, today I visited Green Gables, or at least the house L.M. Montgomery based Green Gables on (it belonged to some of her cousins). I also saw what’s left (just the foundations, alas) of the house where she wrote the book, and the house where she was born.

The path through the woods that I took to Green Gables, named after a landmark in the books.
The path through the woods that I took to Green Gables, named after a landmark in the books.
The Haunted Wood, which is actually quite lovely and not haunted at all [g].
The Haunted Wood, which is actually quite lovely and not haunted at all [g].
I did not expect to see jewelweed here, for some reason, but here it was.
I did not expect to see jewelweed here, for some reason, but here it was.
Hollyhocks in the garden at Green Gables.
Hollyhocks in the garden at Green Gables.
Green Gables itself.
Green Gables itself.
I thought this was clever.  This is the bedroom done up to look like the room Anne slept in the night she arrived.
I thought this was clever. This is the bedroom done up to look like the room Anne slept in the night she arrived.
And this room next to it was done up to look like her room as described near the end of the book.
And this room next to it was done up to look like her room as described near the end of the book.
I was walking back up the Haunted Wood trail to Merlin, when I spotted a little boy and his grandmother peering at something on the edge of the trail.   This caterpillar turned out to be what they were looking at [g].
I was walking back up the Haunted Wood trail to Merlin, when I spotted a little boy and his grandmother peering at something on the edge of the trail. This caterpillar turned out to be what they were looking at [g].
The view from the path to the remains of the house where L.M. Montgomery wrote Anne of Green Gables.
The view from the path to the remains of the house where L.M. Montgomery wrote Anne of Green Gables.
And another classic PEI bucolic farmland view.  The whole island looks like this.  It's so charming.
And another classic PEI bucolic farmland view. The whole island looks like this. It’s so charming.
This little dude was on the porch of the bookstore near where Montgomery wrote Anne of Green Gables.
This little dude was on the porch of the bookstore near where Montgomery wrote Anne of Green Gables.
The cellar hole of the house where Anne of Green Gables was written.
The cellar hole of the house where Anne of Green Gables was written.

Yeah, Cavendish, PEI, is to L.M. Montgomery and Anne Shirley what Hannibal, Missouri, is to Mark Twain and Tom Sawyer. There is one big difference, though. Most of the Anne sites are part of PEI National Park, so they’re not quite so commercial and in your face about it. OTOH, outside of the national park, there are amusement parks and wax museums and omigosh all kinds of silly stuff.

Touring Green Gables, and walking through the Haunted Wood was a lot of fun this morning, though. I took Lonely Planet’s advice, and parked Merlin at a little town park at the other end of the 1km long Haunted Wood trail, and approached Green Gables that way instead of from the huge parking lot and modern visitor center. They were right. It was much nicer. I had my parks pass in my pocket, so it wasn’t like I hadn’t paid or anything.

The Haunted Wood is just your basic spruce and birch woodland, but it’s a special spruce and birch woodland, because it’s the one where Anne got her wits scared right out of her because of her own imagination. Anyway, it was fun to make the pilgrimage, which is something I’d always wanted to do.

After a picnic lunch, I drove along the shoreline part of PEI National Park and admired the broad Gulf of St. Lawrence and the bright blue sky and the rusty red sands and cliffs. I’ve never seen an oceanscape quite like that one, and I enjoyed it very much. Then I drove around the island for a bit, and went back to my cabin, and chilled out for a while before I went out for dinner.

The northern shore of Prince Edward Island is gorgeous, isn't it?
The northern shore of Prince Edward Island is gorgeous, isn’t it?
Another view of the shore.
Another view of the shore.
This is the hamlet of French River, which apparently has been voted one of the prettiest towns in Canada for years.
This is the hamlet of French River, which apparently has been voted one of the prettiest towns in Canada for years.

I had a lobster supper tonight [g]. I ate soup and a half bucket of mussels (that’s how they serve them, by the bucket) and salad and a whole lobster, the mussels and lobster accompanied by melted butter, and the best dinner rolls I’ve had in a very long time. I finished the whole thing off with lemon meringue pie, and they basically had to roll me out of there when it was over. That’s more food I’ve eaten at one time since before I left home, I think. And every bit of it was delicious.

Lobster suppers are a staple of New England and the Maritimes, and especially of PEI, so this was a splurge I’d been thinking about making for a while now. Since I’m headed off of PEI and across New Brunswick towards Quebec tomorrow afternoon (I want to spend the morning in Charlottetown), I knew this would be my last chance. The supper place was just a mile or so down the road, and it came highly recommended by Lonely Planet, so I thought why not? And I’m glad I did!

August 19: A long, long drive, and another enormous bridge

The result of my decision last night is that I drove a long way today. Oh, I suppose I could have broken the drive up with another night in Nova Scotia, but that’s not what I wanted to do.

I got up and out early and headed for the Canso Causeway. The main road from Louisbourg to the mainland goes north almost to Sydney (a distance of about forty miles, so not that big a deal), and then southwest along the western shore of Lake Bras d’Or back to St. Peters, where I spent my first night on the island, and then down to the causeway by the same route I came onto the island.

Lake Bras d'Or on a sunny morning (of course the weather got better as soon as I decided to leave).
Lake Bras d’Or on a sunny morning (of course the weather got better as soon as I decided to leave).
A lot of the signs in certain parts of Cape Breton Island are in Gaelic as well as English.  So a different kind of bilingual than what I was getting used to.
A lot of the signs in certain parts of Cape Breton Island are in Gaelic as well as English. So a different kind of bilingual than what I was getting used to.
There's actually a hamlet called Local Inhabitants, which I found vastly amusing.
There’s actually a hamlet called Lower River Inhabitants, which I found vastly amusing.

The drive along the lakeshore was lovely, and I enjoyed the views. When I got to Port Hastings (the tiny town at the island end of the causeway, I stopped twice, once at a McDonalds (I’ve finally figured out the tea issue – I order a small hot tea and a large cup of ice, then I let the tea brew for a few minutes and pour it over the ice – then I go out to my cooler and add lemon juice and I’m in business [wry g] – hey, it works), and once at a museum at the end of the causeway that told about how it was built back in the 1940s, which was fascinating. I’d wondered about that big scar on the waterfront on the mainland side. Apparently that’s where most of the rock to build the causeway was blasted from. Next door (and the main reason I’d stopped) was a small shop selling quilts. The lady was very friendly, and she had some nice (albeit machine-quilted) quilts for sale.

Looking at the Canso Causeway from the parking lot of the museum about it.
Looking at the Canso Causeway from the parking lot of the museum about it.

And then it was over the causeway and back to the mainland, where I hit the main highway and headed west, thinking I’d catch the ferry to Prince Edward Island (PEI), because it was a bit shorter coming from the east than driving around to the bridge. Well, I got to the ferry landing and discovered you have to have reservations. They were full up for today. So much for that. So I stopped to call and make a reservation for a campground near Cavendish (more about that tomorrow) on PEI. A campsite for tonight, and a cabin for tomorrow night.

I know this is local First Nations.  What I don't know is how to pronounce it.
I know this is local First Nations. What I don’t know is how to pronounce it.

And then I got back on the highway and booked. All the rest of the way across northern Nova Scotia and over the border into New Brunswick, where I turned north almost immediately, heading for the Confederation Bridge, which opened in 1997.

The beginning of the Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Island.
The beginning of the Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Island.
A quick snap of the view over the Jersey barriers on one side of the bridge.
A quick snap of the view over the Jersey barriers on one side of the bridge.

It’s another bridge on the scale of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, only without any tunnels. It’s 13km long, which is apparently the longest bridge of its type in North America. It’s seriously impressive (it darned well better be – when I cross it again on my way west, it will cost me $46 – you only pay leaving the island, not arriving).

I stopped at a welcome center on the PEI side of the bridge to get a provincial road map. The CAA map of the Maritimes isn’t all that good, but the provincial maps cover everything.

Welcome to Prince Edward Island!
Welcome to Prince Edward Island!

The campground was less than forty miles away at this point, but the road was – and this still sort of makes me giggle – winding and up and over and around, and it reminded me of nothing so much as the little backroads I drove in northwest New Jersey a few weeks ago. Weird, huh?

The campground is very nice, heavily wooded and private, and quiet. And close to both Charlottetown and Cavendish. If only the wifi actually worked…

oh, wifi [shakes head dolefully]

So.  I was sorta counting on catching up online, doing blog posts, etc., while I was staying here on Prince Edward Island, but the place I’m staying has The World’s Crappiest WiFi [tm] (as in it was barely working last night, and not at all this morning), so it looks like I’m going to be out of touch until I leave.

I’m sitting in the parking lot of a fishing charter place that had a “free wifi” sign, which is how I’m online, but it’s not the greatest arrangement.

Anyway, I’ll catch up to you all later!