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Irene's Adventures

Canada - Prince Edward Island

CANADA | Friday, 17 May 2019 | Views [126]

The countryside was very nice.  It was a combination of highway 63, with forest on both sides of the road, and the Rocky Mountain foothills, with its hiss and bends.  It was a bit rainy, but not so bad that I could not take in the beautiful views.  There was a $4 toll along this route.  The pavement was a sage green colour.  There were lots of dead raccoon along the road.  At first, I could not figure out what the animal was, but then I started noticing the ringed tails and a few little bandit faces.

I had to cross into New Brunswick a bit before coming to the Confederation Bridge taking me across to Prince Edward Island.  The New Brunswick roads were definitely worse and the pavement was a brown colour.  The soil was redder in colour as well.

I was so excited and somewhat nervous, to be crossing the 13 km bridge connecting New Brunswick with Prince Edward Island. The speed limit is a mere 80 km/hr. There were stop lights every so often, which I thought was very strange for a two-lane bridge. Why stop lights when there is only one way to go? It was explained to me later that there are cameras and sensors all along the bridge with someone monitoring the traffic speed and the wind speed all the time. If the winds pick up it can actually lift vehicles and potentially push them off the bridge deck. The traffic monitor then turns on the stop lights to force traffic to slow down. The cement railing along the bridge is really high, so I could not see the water I was crossing. The same fellow who explained the monitoring system also said although he would also like to see the water while crossing, he is very happy for the high sides when he can feel his car starting to lift – similar to hydroplaning on a wet road.

 Confederation Bridge

Immediately on the PEI side is the small town of Borden, with an information center. I pulled in and asked where the best spot was to get a picture of the bridge. The girl was super helpful. She pulled out a map, circled where we were and told me exactly how to get to an old church on a hill that had the best view. Then she recommended that I drive a certain route because that would take me through Kensington where there is an old train station (more on that later) as well as the best restaurant to have lunch. Perfect!

I drove to the old church and snapped a few pictures of the bridge. I then took the route she suggested. It was a good thing my navigation system was working now because there were dozens of turns. The roads were not very wide, like the typical country road, but they all had pavement. I drove past fields and fields of newly cultivated red soil. The fresh smell of the newly turned dirt was wonderful. The moist soil was the colour of brick. It was shockingly red. Some fields had small potato plants beginning to come up, which contrasted with the red soil. The potato plants looked greener and the soil looked even redder.

 red soil

Originally, this island was part of the Mi'kma'ki nation. In 1604, the French claimed all of the Maritimes. French colonist arrived in 1720. By conquest, the British claimed all of the lands, including PEI in 1763. It became the British colony of St. John Island in 1769. Even though the Canadian Confederation talks were held in Charlottetown in 1864, the Islanders opted out of being part of Canada in 1867.

The PEI terrain may be good farmland, but it makes for a poor foundation for train tracks. Millions of tones of gravel had to be imported to make a proper roadbed. Even so, every spring the thaw made the rails buckle and heave. Every small town wanted the train to pass through their community. This was not a problem for the contractors as they were paid by the mile and the province failed to set a limit on the amount of track laid. Some towns won rights to the train legitimately, whereas others were not so ethical. The original plan was to have 192 km of line built. It grew to 236 km. This may not have been a problem in a flat province, but the Island's terrain prevented an economical straight line track. There was an average of two curves for every mile of track. There were 65 stations, one every 4 km, where the engineer was required to stop if someone was waiting. By 1873, with the job half done, the colony was on the verge of bankruptcy. Canada offered to complete the railway. On July 1, 1873, Prince Edward Island became Canada's 6th province.

Five Lanes End was a small village where 5 roads met. With the railroad's plans to go through Five Lanes End, many train-less communities pulled up stake and moved to the newly named Kensington and turned it into a bit of a boom-town. In1873, the federal government found the original train station lacking a residence for the ticket agent and his family. 20 years later (the government didn't move fast then either) a new two-story depot was built. The current building is the third depot and was built out of field stones in 1904. The station was designated a National Historical site in 1978. The last train pulled into this station on 22 December 1989. It was used in the TV series Anne of Green Gables as the station where Marilla & Mathew Cuthbert met Anne Shirley.

 Kensington Train Station

I pulled into the quaint town Kensington and quickly found the old train station. It is a majestic building that looks solid enough to be a war bunker. I wandered up and down the old tracks reading about the history that I relayed above. The inside of the building had been converted into a charming little restaurant. This was where the girl at the information booth told me to eat. It was early for lunch so there were only a few people inside. The waitress let me sit where I wanted and recommended the lobster/crab burger. It was my first proper meal in the Atlantic Provinces, so I had to say Yes. She asked if I wanted fries with that. I asked if they were PEI potatoes. She said if they weren't they would be run out of town. I then asked why the entire town smells of french fries. She said it is because of the Cavendish Farms plant. They make french fries for all of the MacDonald's restaurants. She also said they were the largest factory on the island and the Island's largest employer. Well, that explained all of the potato farms I passed! The burger was more of a pulled lobster/crab, and not pressed like a hamburger. It was delicious! I was glad I came early because before I was finished eating the place filled up (including the back dining room) so that they were turning people away. I had to chuckle thinking that not so many years ago only the poor kids brought lobster sandwiches to school.- while I paid for my $23 lobster burger,

 Kensington Train Station restaurant

Lucy Maud Montgomery, the author of Anne of Green Gables, was raised by her maternal grandparents after the death of her mother when Lucy was not even 2 years old. Her grandparents ran the Cavendish Post Office and lived on site. She led a lonely life and was consoled by her imaginary friendsnature, reading books, and writing. She did not want the locals to know she had a dream of being a writer until she was a published author. While she worked as an assistant postmaster in her grandparent's post office, she secretly mailed her famous book to various publishers. After three years and my rejections, it was published in 1908.

Montgomery considered her own imaginary friends as “real folk”. This is probably why Anne Shirley is thought to be a real person by millions of people around the world. Montgomery even loaned some of her own imaginary friends to Anne. Katie Maurice was Montgomery's own reflection in the window of her Grandmother's china cabinet.

On my way to Cavendish, I came to Lucy Maud Montgomery's birthplace house. I pulled into a small parking lot of Montgomery's birthplace, but when I got to the house I found that it was closed for the season. I took some pictures of the exterior and carried on to Cavendish.

 Lucy Maud Montgomery birthplace

In Cavendish, I missed the turnoff into Green Gables and had to turn around in town. This worked out fine because I turned around at the Green Gables Post Office. I had wanted to stop here anyway. I had heard they have a special Green Gables cancellation stamp. I'm not sure how a Post Office can be closed for the season, but it was, so I never got to find out if the cancellation stamp story was true.

I made my way back to Green Gables. It was a rather cool day and early in the season, so there were not many people wandering about.

Green Gables

The main interpretive centre was, you guessed it, closed for the season. The iconic green gabled house was open for business, however. The house was furnished with period pieces of the late 1800s. The wallpaper in the entrance and main staircase had crazy bright flowers.

.wild wallpaper

There was a laundry room just off the kitchen with its own door to the outside. There was a pantry for preparing the food and storing the good dishes. The kitchen had a New Waterloo No.2 stove. It is a 3 tiered cast wood stove, with a peep-a-boo oven where the stovepipe meets the stove. This is the stove that was mentioned in the Anne of Green Gables books.

Waterloo #2 stove

Of course, there was a fancy dining room as well as a formal sitting room. Up the main staircase were three spacious bedrooms with soft coloured wallpaper. Each bedroom had a small dressing table with a pitcher and wash basin, a chair and a chamber pot under the bed. The knitting room had a spinning wheel and an umbrella swift, for balling the yarn. The maid's corner was at the top of the back stairs leading directly into the kitchen. You can't have the hired help using the main staircase! There was no wallpaper and only a bare window. It had a very lumpy looking bed. The back entrance had a fantastic old wooden screen door with decorative woodwork to hold the screen in place. It banged nicely when the spring pulled it shut and it reminded me of when I was a child. Montgomery's cousins lived in this house and she used it as the inspiration for the setting of Anne of Green Gables.

     Green Gables bedroom

I took a walk through the Haunted Lane. It was a 1.1 kilometre smooth gravel trail that looped through a spruce grove. There were slopes and steps leading to wooden bridges “in ferny dells with brooks slipping through them”. There were benches and rest stops along the way. Montgomery imagined these woods to be full of mystery. In Montgomery' words “a place with winding paths and treasure-trove of ferns and mosses and wood-flowers”. Montgomery believed in fairies. “You always just miss them.... but their laughter floats back to you in sudden whisper of the wind and the puckish rustle of the aspen.” It was a very peaceful and magical stroll.

 Haunted Lane   Haunted Lane

I then made my way to Avonlea Village. Only one gift shop was open. The rest of the Village was closed for the season. I found an open back gate and wandered around the deserted streets.

Avonlea Village

I then headed off to see the famous red Cavendish cliffs located in Prince Edward Island National Park. It was made into a park with thanks to Montgomery. After her book became world famous, people from all over began to flock to this area to see the place that inspired the story. The government was looking to create a National Park and this just lent itself to being the location. The park is 60 km long but only a few hundred metres wide, stretching along the coast. In places, it widens to a few kilometres wide. The park opened in 1937.

 Cavendish Cliffs

There was a huge parking area with a trail leading to an outlook stand. The cliffs were bright brick red and dropped about 4-5 metres to the crashing waves. There were signs cautioning visitors to stay off the cliff edges due to erosion. What looks like solid ground is actually an outcrop of land, held together by grassy roots, jutting precariously over the cliff. Many places had huge rocks that came loose from the edge of the cliffs and had tumbled down to the water. The entire island is made up of layered sandstone bedrock, which is rich in iron. As the bedrock crumbles and oxidizes it forms rust, which gives the rock and soil its distinctive reddish colour. Wind, waves, and ice are constantly shaping the soft sandstone, carving it into fascinating forms as it wears away at the coastline. The north shore of PEI erodes at an average of one metre per year. However, eventually, the eroded soil creates a sand bar, which slows the waves, which eventually causes a new beach. The grinding action removes the rust coating from the grains of sand, which reveals the white coloured sand, which forms the beaches and sand dunes. The contrast between the brick red cliffs and white sand is beautiful. Toss in a few bright green pine trees and it is an artist's delight.

Cavendish Cliffs  

There were signs near the sand dunes saying to stay off of them. Marram grass has vigorous roots but is fragile. Foot traffic can damage and kill the grass that binds the dunes together. The sand can then blow inland causing damage to property and crops. The pine trees that are the most exposed to the sea are bent at 45-degree angles. They stripped clean of any branches or needles on the seaward side of them, giving testament as to the power and force of the wind and sea spray. One farm was very close to the edge of the cliffs. I had to wonder if it was originally built further back, but years of erosion have moved the sea closer. The wind, sea spray, and sand must raise havoc with the buildings as well.

farm near cliffs

I headed to North Rustico a few short kilometres away to find my guesthouse. It was a beautiful old house that was built in 1840 by the original family now running the place. They added on to the house about four times as the family grew, with the newest addition of a sunroom only a few years ago.

While on the subject of houses, I find most the houses in the Maritime provinces to be very box-like with a distinct New England look. Most houses are two or even three storeys with either open or closed veranda.

boxy houses  houses  houses

Some houses are very grand while others are no bigger than a 2-storey holiday trailer. Some houses have dormers and some are just a box with absolutely no protrusions even over the front door. This harkens back to the original designs where tight compact houses could withstand the harsh winds and storms. The steep roofs with no overhang prevented snow build-up. However, most have contrasting trims around the windows and doors. There were huge wood piles beside the houses and I could smell the wood smoke coming out of the chimneys as I drove past. Most of the churches had very narrow and pointy steeples.

 pointy steeples

I ate at the recommended By the Bay restaurant where the portions were huge and the fish freshly caught that day. Then I headed to the old fishing village to get a picture of the old lighthouse.

North Rustico  violators will be towed to sea

Captain Emard Court used to be a living tourist attraction in North Rustico. He lived next to the old lighthouse. There were 5 Court brothers and a few Court sisters. The parents forbade the boys to get married. It was fine for the girls to get married and leave the family fishing business, but not the boys. I guess they never considered that a new wife could help expand the business. One brother ran off with a woman from the prairies, never to return. Another brother married after the parents died, but remained in North Rustico. The other 3 brothers remained bachelors. Emard became a tourist attraction when someone snapped his picture and entered it into a photography contest. The photo reached international acclaim and people started flocking to see this grizzled old seafarer. It helped that he was a treasure trove of stories. Although I can find nothing to substantiate this, I was told he was also the Old Spice man at one time.

 Emard Court

I stopped on a dock lined with lobster boats. It smelled of fish but did not reek. I talked with a local man who told me that there were 40 boats here, each with 300 traps. Each trap will catch 2-3 lobster. He went on to say that it takes 18-24 months for a seed mussel to be harvested. It takes 3 years for a proper oyster. I guess I won't complain about the prices anymore.

   lobster traps  lobster boats

Interesting notation: The traffic lights in PEI had the red one square, the yellow one diamond shape, and the green one a circle. No excuses even if you are colour blind.

I was in bed early so that I could be on the road at daybreak.  I had a long drive to Hopewell Rocks, New Brunswick to see the tide coming in on the Bay of Fundy.

 early night  


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