Day 4 – Prince Edward Island
A bus to Montreal Airport, and a surprisingly quite large plane to Charlottetown, the capital of PEI. Charlottetown Airport is, not surprisingly, very small. The rental car companies are right there in the tiny arrivals lounge. We got the keys from Hertz for a Toyota Camry. You pay a lot for a car hire in PEI because they have a monopoly; there is no public transport on the island. So it was over $900, but the Camry would be with us for the rest of the trip, including Nova Scotia.
Marie drove us the half hour to the motel, and from the off it set the tone for extremely peaceful, blissful driving. It was almost solely endless farms, serenely simple and unspoiled countryside and the long, straight roads were mostly free of other cars. You could often see half a mile ahead and there might be one, two or no other vehicles at all! So unlike NYC. The route to our motel was undulating but one mostly straight path.
The Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables) Motel is typically cosy and no-nonsense, and we felt quite at home. We had to ask the young receptionist – who was helpful throughout our days there (she was a student from Ottawa just working for the summer, and her family had often taken her to PEI as a child, so she’d always loved it) – about our tv which wouldn’t work no matter what we tried. As it happens, you have to flip on the switch by the bed lamp to get the tv on! Useful to know if you ever stay at number 19, Anne Shirley Motel! There were a family or three around the small motel pool, by the way, and it was apparent over the next few days that some people come here only to spend most of their time at the pool.
Directly opposite the motel is the graveyard where the author of Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery, is buried. And the Anne Of Green Gables House is close by. Marie had always loved the books growing up, and still does, and it was one of our reasons for coming to PEI.
We drove out to one of the rustic style, activity centres off a road. These are made up of gift shops and eateries and we entertained ourselves looking around several shops. Some good bargains, but we held back. Then to our chosen restaurant for the evening, on the same complex, The Ship. It was very friendly with indoor and outdoor seating, and the best fish and chips we’ve ever had in North America! The fish served on the island are mainly the two h’s, haddock and halibut. Cod has been over-fished. But the haddock was superb, and the chips always from PEI potatoes…we ate 143 of the 157 chips (at a guess). And a pint of a local Gahan beer, an IPA. “Get ship-faced”, the sign on the wall says, and we don’t mind if we do. Night time now, and the surrounding country looked perfect. We stayed amongst the small crowds though, and queued at Cow’s Creamery for crackin’ ice creams, Marie Mooey Gooey and I moochiano.
It’s always been all-day to late night thing in North America to get ice cream, but later at night it seems to be even more of a craving for many. It’s not something I ever saw in Britain, where you typically get your ice cream in the day time. Most Brits go out at night for alcohol and a curry (and perhaps a pub fight!).
We sat on a bench facing the road, and watched an idyllic sunset set against silhouetted pine trees.
Day 5 –
A humble breakfast at the motel, we made the short drive to the Anne of Green Gables House. From the tourism website it says:
“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”
– L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
When the novel Anne of Green Gables was first published in 1908, most people could only dream of visiting its magical setting. As the book became popular around the world, it’s likely that many readers had no idea where Prince Edward Island was. They may have even wondered, “Is it a real place?”
Today, millions of the book’s fans have made the trip to PEI and discovered the land that captivated Anne in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s stories. And for those who just can’t get enough of their favourite red-headed girl, or the woman who created her, there are Anne-related attractions all over the Island.
This was the setting for the books, and is the farmhouse that inspired Lucy Montgomery. It was also her cousin’s home as she was growing up. Next to it is the small wooded trail that is featured as the “haunted woods” in the first novel. There is a museum and shop, you can of course tour the house and walk through the woods, which will in turn lead you to the real house where Montgomery grew up, the MacNeil homestead.
We went around the house first, then latched onto a group being addressed by one of the official guides in the garden. I wondered why he had an Irish accent, seeing even his great grandparents came from PEI and knew Montgomery. But all of the PE Islanders had a slight Irish lilt that becomes quite strong in certain words, and we later found out that there had been many immigrants from Ireland in the distant past (as well as Scots and Germans). Marie and I then walked through the woods and were amazed that when we emerged through the other side we were right back at out our motel!! The homestead, in which LMM grew up with her grandparents, has long been knocked down. Only the foundations remain, and some plaques have been put up with Montgomery’s ruminations, and also treasured memories on plaques. So from the back of our motel bathroom window you can almost see the homestead, something which Marie was excited about.
In the museum, Marie tried on the Anne red-haired, pig tails wig! We also walked through “Lovers Lane”, as featured in the books. An elderly couple asked us to take a photo of them by the stream, at the very point they’d last stood for a photo in 1968.
An aside: a Canadian dollar coin is called a looney, and a two dollar coin a tooney. We got quite used to it quickly!
Then to another shop/eatery complex, Avon Lea, where we had a lobster roll (our first of several!).
Driving back, Marie chose to take a red dirt road tapering off to the left instead. It takes you one of the island’s lighthouses but a more remote one. There was a middle-aged couple ahead, in a fancy MG convertible. They stopped, strangely, with no room for us to pass. There was a young boy shyly hiding behind a mail box, and it seemed that he was lost. The couple had stopped to call the police to report finding the missing kid. The man came over to our car and Marie helped explain to him our exact location through our sat nav. The boy clearly had some mental difficulties too, but the police soon arrived in droves and Marie and I drove on. A nice deed from the middle-aged couple.
When we got to the lighthouse it was just us and two other people around, and it was a very peaceful spot, with amazing redrock cliffs and numerous blackbirds, and a stunning view of the sea and other cliffs going into the distance. All blue skies too, and we took a lot of snaps.
Before getting back, we stopped at a large convenience shop to get a bottle of Spanish wine for the motel fridge. We got chocolate too, including a cherry, dark aero.
Back at the motel, we discovered the mosquito bites! Marie was panicking because she wondered if it could be bed bug bites. We’d had that experience before in London in around 2012, and that time it had been bed bugs, but I was sceptical because Marie had virtually no bites at all. To make sure though, we stripped the beds (we’d been given a room with two double beds, but simply put all our stuff and luggage on one) of all sheets and we checked everything thoroughly. We were also to use the small laundry room to put all of our clothes through the wash just in case, which took two or three hours. Without saying much more, it was eventually evident it was just mosquitoes. I also got one or two more bites, but outside in the sunshine, and we never found bites in the morning on waking up that we didn’t have the night before.
The washing machine wasn’t the best, and required several small batches to get everything almost dry. We came out of the laundry room when it was almost dark (and the light in there didn’t work). But we felt better.
We also drove about fifteen minutes to the nearest chemist to buy insect repellent spray. You can tell insect bites are a normal affliction in Canada, and they even have tick removal kits!
Spraying ourselves all over (except the face) every morning became the thing for the rest of the holiday, and there was much coughing as the hotel rooms were momentarily filled with unpleasant fumes
Off out for our evening meal, the Lost Anchor restaurant was literally about 193 squirrel lengths from the motel. It was magic too, as all the food had been so far! We had crab cakes and haddock tacos – large ones – with stellar chips/fries as always.
A shower, a bit of the best tv we could find on the weird channels and bed.
Day 6 –
Breakfast at Tim Hortons, which you find everywhere! Better than Dunkin Doughnuts or Duffin Dagels really. Then Marie drove us the 40 minutes ish to Charlottetown. What was this though?! Even as we approached the outskirts of Charlottetown, it was like we were back in workaday Long Island with wide avenues, comparatively heavy traffic and a lot of people. This is PEI’s big city and we’d become used to the peace and quiet of the rest of the island, so we weren’t ready for this!
We parked the car by a beautiful square though, in green and pleasant surrounds with lots of Victorian houses. We were going to the Beaconsfield House and Museum; which Lisa and Neal had also been to on their cruise stop in 2015. It’s a grand old, very elegant house built in 1877 (below), lived in by two well-off families for a short while and later used for various purposes including as a home for student nurses after 1916. In short, just a very beautiful Victorian house.
We joined a small group and a young guide, and had a relaxing time viewing the interior (the most immaculate of Victorian homes we’d ever toured) and then we sat outside in the garden. The coast is right there, so it backs on to the water and was really a gorgeous place. We even found the tiny caterpillar crawling on Marie’s hand quite adorable. Still no foxes though!!! PEI is not only famous for them; pictures of foxes are even featured on car license plates here. We asked the guide about foxes and she said if we stuck around we’d certainly see one, and added that they’re tame and you can feed them out of your hand!
Next to explore the town. Some of it was very nice, though overrun with tourists. We couldn’t even deal with the stilt walkers! On the main street we had a great lunch at British (or British style) Churchills Pub. The Balti curry could give The Vine’s claypot chicken a run for its money! And a delicious flake 99 ice cream in a glass bowl, which we could easily have eaten but deliberately stopped short so as not to fill ourselves up too much. And also a fine hour at Gahan’s brewhouse where I had a flight of beers. Marie usually has a water (with driving) but she tries a small sip of all of my ales if I have a flight.
We very much enjoyed a walk along the boardwalk that hugs the water and back to near the car.
But we were still glad to return from Charlottetown to the rest of the much calmer, gentler island. The part of the day in Charlottetown that stayed closest to the real character of PEI is Beaconsfield House.
Back at our motel in Cavendish, we plotted dinner. We tried Chez Yvonne, which was more of a diner style place. Great chowder, and quite a nice lobster roll though by the sky high standards of the food on the whole trip, it was an 8/10. Most meals were a ten!
Back in our room we drank some of the wine from the fridge, and researched our plans for tomorrow.
Day 7 –
Another dazzling and extremely peaceful drive, this time to Summerside (which we’d been recommended by a waitress from Chez Yvonne). And the girl on the Motel desk had suggested to us the most scenic drive to get there. Marie parked the car for a few minutes at a scenic lookout on the way, here we took photos of coloured farmhouses and the river, a scene which is often on PEI postcards. And then we continued the drive via a village called Kensington. In PEI there used a to be a railway that was unsustainable for economic reasons but many of the old train stations have been kept, and turned into museums, restaurants and other things. Kensington had one of these that is now a restaurant. A charming, every day village about the size of Barton-Under-Needwood.
It was midmorning as we looked around the old station (it closed in 1989, by the way) complex of restaurant, shops and art gallery when a large, scary flying green insect making a loud clack-clacking buzzing noise passed us. It was like a futuristic insect, and who knows what it was.
As we rounded a corner, we got talking to a couple of women running a food truck and one, on hearing my accent, talked very enthusiastically about her love for London, that it was the best holiday she and friends had ever had, that they’d met the Royal Family on the visit and they were raising funds for a flock of 21 women from the village to go again in 2021. They weren’t in any way asking for a donation, just very enthusiastic. Marie suggested visiting Stratford-upon-Avon too, and the woman was, like, “Paula, write that down!”.
Summerside was strange! When we got there, the high street was like the land that time forgot, with shops that had seen better times and with faded sun-bleached items in the window, and two or three Chinese restaurants that still looked 1970s. But it had a nice marina, absolutely stunning big old Victorian houses away from the high street, and it also had a great coffee house, Samuel’s, a former old bank. And a brewery called Evermoore, which we thought we’d try and was a brilliant place. Large, airy and wonderfully done-out, it also had a great range of drinks and possibly the best food on the entire trip! And that’s saying a lot. It was quiet in there, and the very friendly barmaid chatted away to us. Marie and I shared a bowl of chowder, with chorizo, halibut and clams, and some mini Jamaican beef patties. I had a bayberry infused ale, 6% but tasted lighter and very tasty, and afterwards a pineapple coconut lager. What a great find, and we already talked about maybe having lunch here before we’d have to leave PEI tomorrow.
We thought of other things to do, too. Close by in Summerside is a Fox Museum, but we didn’t really want to see stuffed foxes. There is also a Potato Museum in PEI we’d thought about, a reasonable length drive, and a house part made from blue glass bottles in another direction.
We carried on our drive and weren’t done yet. Marie read that Victoria-by-the-sea is very nice, so we continued to there. It was very sleepy, hippy-rustic and really nice. It had a lighthouse, which we paid about tuppence to a young chap and went up. And it has long, red sandy beaches and some tourists’ shops and warm, quiet streets with more shops and cafes and brightly painted houses.
A candid photo I took at Summerside…
Back in Cavendish later on, we relaxed in the room and had fish and chips at the Ship again in the evening, and shared a Cow’s maple walnut ice cream. A shame to be leaving PEI very soon but we still had Nova Scotia to look forward to tomorrow…