Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Prince Edward Island: We Saw Seals And They Were Cuuute

As I write this, it's raining outside.  Through the window I can see the tide rolling in and my freezing cold self is warming up by the giant wood stove in the middle of the cottage.  It's so darn cozy in here, I barely know what to do with myself.  Oh, and the sheets in our bedrooms are made of fleece!!!  They are by a company called Brunswick that only ships to Canada, but I will find these sheets somehow, or die trying.

Today was...interesting.  We are out in the middle of nowhere on gorgeous Point Prim and we decided to head up the Points East Coastal Route to see what else this side of the island has to offer.  We discovered that it is definitely more remote over here.  The largest town, Montague, has a couple of restaurants, but what we've discovered over the course of the past several days here is that when you ask a local for recommendations on where to go in other parts of the island, they have a hard time coming up with an answer.  It seems, from an outsider's perspective, that many people stay in the town where they live and don't venture out too much.  Just the other day we asked a shop owner for a recommendation of a place to get tea or coffee, and she was wracking her brain and had no idea what to tell us except for a Tim Horton's in a town pretty far away.  When we turned out of the road her shop was on, we ran into a TEA ROOM, a bloomin' tea room, not half a mile from her shop.  I mean...what?

So today the only actual suggestion we got was to head to Souris (pronounced sawree) where the singing sands beach is located.  Souris is actually a pretty cute town.  We stopped at the beach there and walked out into the sea while the tide was low.  The tides here are blowing our minds.  When the tide is low you can walk like half a mile out, but when they start coming in, you'd better be near the shore because it happens pretty quickly.

Turns out the singing sands at Basin Head Provincial Park just sound like squishing, squeaking sand when you step on it.  While the sand serenaded us, we found sea glass and got to pet a giant Newfoundland dog who was the softest, cuddliest big guy ever.  We were so excited to see him because we learned the other day that the rum runners always had Newfoundlands on their boats with them, obviously so they could have a good snuggle after a long day of illegal activity.

After that, we took our frozen bodies back down to Souris where we stopped at a bakery and cleaned the place out.  Cinnamon rolls have been a very important source of protein for us.  There is an embarrassing amount of baked goods on our kitchen counter right now.  I can't even take a picture because you would think it was a Y2K situation up in here with us hoarding sweets for when the world ends. 

We decided to eat dinner at the Point Prim Chowder House tonight which has a great reputation all over the island for having the best seafood.  Since I don't eat seafood, I've been encouraging Ashley to eat lots of lobster so all this goodness doesn't go to waste.  I had a pulled pork grilled cheese and it was ridiculously delish.  Only thing is that it's unusually cold for this time of year and the place has no heat.  Oh well, our hands were warmed by the food!

The lupines are in bloom all over the island.  The roads and fields are lined with purples and pinks and it looks like a dream.

When we got back to the cottage tonight, I walked out into the Northumberland Strait just because I could.  I mean, look at this!

The cottage owner helped us light the wood stove and we learned that he used to work on the ferry out of Wood Island for 39 years!  In fact, when he found out I was from Long Island, he said that PEI sold their old ferry to New London, CT because it was too small and that is now the ferry they operate out of Orient Point.  He'd been to that part of the island and said the people were very nice there.  What a small world!!!

He also gave us a local nugget, that just down the way you can take a dirt road down to the beach, walk to the left about 20 minutes until you hit a cove, and that's where the seals hang out.  (!!!!)  So as soon as he left we jumped in the car and headed down the road just as it was starting to drizzle.  We pressed on over the rocky shoreline, that looks like no other shore I've ever been on, keeping an eye on the tide.  As we got closer to the cove, it looked like there might be something and then we started to see movement and little heads popping out of the water.  It was magical.  We actually were able to get relatively close and hear them honking their heads off in the water.  These pics are a little grainy because I had my zoom all the way out and it was raining (look on the right side of the rock), but the experience was like something out of a dream, standing there in the misty rain on a red clay beach, watching these seals frolic in the gray ocean.

We've pretty much covered the east side of the island today and we have several more days here.  We absolutely loved the central coast and can't get Rustico out of our minds, so we're planning to head back there tomorrow and stop at all the little places we passed, but never went to.  We might even do the Green Gables Heritage Place again because we loved it so much.  Having this amount of time here has been really great because we don't feel rushed and it's nice to know we can drive for hours if we need to and still feel refreshed from the scenery.  I never want to leave. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Prince Edward Island: From Rustico To Point Prim

This morning I opened my shutters to the bright light of Rustico Bay for the last time and it was with a sad reluctance that we left our cottage at Seawinds to head for our second cottage on Point Prim.  The town of Rustico worked its way into our hearts, so leaving was bittersweet because we knew our new cottage would be pretty too.  Goodbye, Rustico Bay!  I hope we meet again...

Today's first stop was the Orwell Corner Historic Village on the far side past Charlottetown.  This was an interesting prospect because they have an agricultural heritage museum there, along with an 1895 farming village with all the original buildings, some of which were used in the filming of Anne of Green Gables.  There was a film with interviews from elderly folks who grew up in farming families on PEI and the stories were fascinating.  The museum also had farming machinery from the time period, along with carriages, sleighs, and tractors all the way up to present day. This is your obligatory nerd alert. 

When you leave the museum and walk down a red lane with the leaves of poplar trees whispering in the wind, you come upon a church with a cemetery that is still used today, along with a one room schoolhouse, a general store, blacksmith, and several barns.

In the schoolhouse someone had written "Anne Shirley has a very bad temper" on the blackboard, so we left our mark by adding "I must not tell lies" from Harry Potter because...nerds.

The barns!!!  We knew that these had been in the films, but it wasn't until tonight that we realized we were standing on the hallowed ground of the Green Gables farm! 

Obviously this is still a working farm with geese, chickens, rabbits, and other fun friends.

After our little dose of history, we headed along the coast for another stop on our epic lighthouse tour, the Wood Island Lighthouse right near the ferry terminal.  While we were there the ferry was pulling into the harbor, and this is a ferry to be reckoned with.  It's the largest one in the history of the island with the ability to carry 215 cars.  When we were leaving the area there were enormous semis full of timber and supplies, along with many cars already lined up, waiting for the second trip of the day. 

The amazing thing about every lighthouse we've visited so far is that all of them have their own stories to tell.  Each one has something special it wants to teach us when we walk in.  As we pulled up to Wood Island, there was loud folk music playing into the breeze.  This one was fascinating because there were rooms detailing shipwrecks, lighthouse keeper responsibilities, rum running history during the prohibition, and pictures of the old ice ships used in winter before any of the ferries came along.

One of my favorite things about the island is all the sea glass!  It's everywhere, and people here love to go looking for sea glass.  There is a whole room in the lighthouse devoted to it with collections of all different colors. 

I took the picture below for Rob.  He has always wanted to find a red piece, but we have a lot more searching to do before that happens!  There was a also information about the history of glass.  Depending on the color and shape, there are people who can tell the age of it, and there are still pieces from 1900 that make their way to the shore here today.  Not surprising when one considers all the shipwrecks that have happened off these shores.

At one point there was a family of lighthouse keepers with seven children living in this building!

 Naturally, we headed straight to the beach to look for sea glass...

And met a lobster along the way.

From the lighthouse we headed back to Point Prim to see our new cottage for the remainder of the trip here.  We pulled into this lane and drove between farm fields all the way to the water.  At the end of the road, the little one on the left is ours.

All the lilacs around the island are blooming, filling the air with fragrance, and a large vase greeted us when we arrived!

The view is quite grand, looking across the bay to the Nova Scotia coastline.  The tide was so far out when we got there and by the time we returned from dinner it was up the rocks by the grass.

One thing to note about Point Prim is that its loveliness comes from its remoteness, but this also means that options for food are far and few between.  There is a chowder house down the lane, but we wanted to save it for another night, which meant we had two options - drive a half hour up the coastline to a restaurant that may or may not be open, or head a half hour back to Charlottetown for a more promising option.  So drive back we did...

Following dinner, we raced to the Point Prim Lighthouse to see the sun going down.  We passed fields of dandelions, lupines in bloom on the side of the road, and of course, the lighthouse.

Rain threatens us tomorrow, but hopefully we'll be able to find some indoor things to do.  So far, the weather has smiled on us and we're grateful for every ray of sunshine that has made this place sparkle like the rare jewel it is.

Prince Edward Island: To The East!!! And Everywhere In Between...

We started off the day by heading in the wrong direction and then turning around to see our final Anne of Green Gables destination, the museum in Park Corner, PEI.  In several guidebooks we saw, not only was the town of this location listed differently, but so are the times that it's open, so I'd like to clarify for the general public that at this time of year, the Anne of Green Gables Museum is open from 10-4 and it is located in the town of Park Corner along Route 20, NOT in Kensington (we are very grateful to the folks in the pub there who turned us in the right direction). 

The museum is the home of Lucy Maud Montgomery's (LMM) aunt and uncle.  She was married in the living room there and vacationed there when she was younger.  Her Emily of New Moon books, and Pat of Silver Bush books are based on this location.  But perhaps my two favorite discoveries here were that the Lake of Shining Waters is a real lake (!!!)

And Katie, Anne's imaginary friend in the looking glass was actually LMM's real life imaginary friend, her reflection as seen in this bookshelf. 

 One of the most surprising things on this trip, especially for Ashley who's read all of her books (several times) is how much of LMM's real life, experience, and places were woven into her stories.  One might even go so far as to say they are fictional autobiographies and memoirs perhaps?!

After a chilly, windy, sort of rainy walk around the property of the museum, we headed to Dalvay By The Sea where the exterior shots of the White Sands Hotel were filmed, where Anne is writing and pages of her book go flying in the wind.  The inn is located just inside PEI National Park and as soon as we saw it we knew we had to come back for lunch.  We were the only ones in the dining room and were able to wander around the gorgeous rooms when we were done.  It was lovely!

Then we made a rash decision to just drive up the north coast all the way to the easternmost point of the island.  We stopped at the visitors center in St. Peters and met the most wonderful lady!  She and her husband have been farming potatoes for over 20 years and have 48 acres.  We learned that 70 percent of ALL the potatoes grown on this island go to Cavendish alone.  If you could see the scope of the fields here, this would blow your mind.  That means, all those crazy Anne of Green Gables tourists eat a TON of fries.  Holy cow.  She also told us that when they harvest the potatoes, they have to sort the golf balls from the crop. What?!  Apparently, when islanders get bored, they use the farm fields as their own personal driving ranges!  Not so fun for the farmers who get fined if a golf ball breaks the blades of a fry cutter.

As we headed up the coast, we saw more vistas and lighthouses.  This one was located at Shipwreck Point in Naufrage which sounds like it should be a cheese, but it means Shipwreck in French.

We made it to East Point Lighthouse just before they closed and ran up the lighthouse to see the waves rolling in.  There was a big pile of sea glass on the counter when we got there and I'm dying to hit the beaches to find some. 

On the way back we stopped in North Lake Harbor which is apparently the tuna capital of the world, where they catch record size fish and anglers from everywhere come to compete.  There was also a windsurfer there who was taking advantage of the epic waves.

Everything was closed when we got back so we went to the Blue Mussel Cafe in North Rustico Harbor again.  The food here is great and the people who own it are even better.  They treated us so kindly and welcomed us back! 

We talked to the owner for a while about the island and learned that 80% of the world's mussels come from PEI.  It's incredible.  We've seen the mussel "farms" all over the bays and it's incredible to think of the places those little shellfish will go.  The owners also run a restaurant in Honduras and split their time between here and there.  Most of the permanent residents on the island work in one of three industries, farming, fishing, or tourism.  In fact, those in the tourist industry are unemployed for months out of the year until the season begins again.

One thing we absolutely love about this place is how utterly kind and helpful everyone has been.  The locals have asked us where we're from, offered incredible suggestions on places to see, and have even helped us find our way when sitting at a stop sign.  This island has a very pristine coastline, in fact as we were driving the cost today, we passed dozens of farm fields will million dollar views, yet we learned that there are no land preservation laws here.  The desire is for most of the land to be used for farming and agriculture, and the farmers receive government subsidies.  It is beyond refreshing to see land revered in this way and kept so unspoiled not because it's mandated, but because there is an appreciation and a conscientious use of it.  We did look up some real estate on line, you know, just for kicks, and discovered we can buy a water view lot $25,000.  I'm not even kidding.  Some of the really large homes here with giant windows that look out on the water, run about $250,000.  Forget the Hamptons, let's move to PEI!!!