Last week I took a much needed holiday and flew across the country to Prince Edward Island.
Now, I have a confession to make. I’m a big traveler; there is very little I love to do as much as to hop on a plane to somewhere I’ve never been, or return to a place that has captured my heart. Despite this, I have traveled very little in my own country. When faced with time off and some extra money, I’m more likely to go to Europe or the United States. Although I was born and raised in Canada, the number of Canadian Provinces I’ve been to can be counted on two fingers. Well, actually now three.
A couple of years ago, my brother and his wife bought a cottage clear across the country on Prince Edward Island. I thought it was high time for a visit. Actually, PEI was one of the provinces I’d been to in the past, on an exchange trip in junior high. Except for a couple of the keg parties, it was so long ago that I fail to remember much about the trip.
Prince Edward Island is the smallest province in Canada and is known for its pastoral scenery and lush agriculture. The rolling green hills, white sand beaches and famous red soil have made the island known for spectacular natural beauty. The land served as inspiration for Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, a late Victorian tale beloved the world over. The book was published in 1908 and was intended for readers of all ages, although in recent decades it has been considered a children’s book. It has been translated into thirty-six languages and is especially popular in Japan, where it has been on the school curriculum since 1952. Thousands make the pilgrimage to Green Gables farmhouse every year, and many Japanese couples get married on the grounds. Many tourist attractions are based on the book and the musicals Anne of Green Gables and Anne & Gilbert are performed at theaters on PEI.
When you are on PEI you definitely know you are in the Maritimes. It has a Maine/New England vibe to it. It seems as though there is a church or cemetery on every corner, and a lighthouse on every horizon.
Though the weather was unusually cool for late June/early July, with several periods of rain and overcast skies, we still managed to see a lot of the sights. I loved Charlottetown with its quaint shops and beautiful marinas.
Even though I’m from Vancouver, where a lot of Hollywood films are made, it’s been a while since I’ve experienced a celebrity sighting. I wasn’t expecting to see anyone remotely famous on PEI, but on my first afternoon in Charlottetown, my dad held a restaurant door open for Chef Michael Smith from Canada’s Food Network. Michael is Canada’s best-known chef and is the host of four Food Network shows. He has received a James Beard Award for Cooking Show Excellence. His Chef at Home series is filmed at his home on PEI and inspires home cooks to improvise and move beyond recipes by teaching viewers fundamental techniques in the kitchen.
By West Coast standards, a lot of the buildings in Charlottetown are old, possessing the sort of graceful beauty that age brings. I have always adored history and its remnants, which is why I’m always drawn to European cities. My favourite building in PEI’s capital was definitely the Citadel, a Catholic church in the town’s center. Built in the 1920s, it seemed much older, its porticoes and arches bringing the Sacre Coeur in Paris to mind.
Life is funny. When I first visited PEI years ago, I never thought I’d be back. Now I’m so thoroughly charmed by its lush scenery and friendliness of the people, I’m sure this little island province has not seen the last of me.