I was lured to visit Prince Edward Island for its famous mussels and an interest to see the place that captured the imagination of L. M. Montgomery the author of Anne of Green Gables. I wanted to rekindle fond childhood memories of vacationing with my parents and sister in the New England region of the United States, Nova Scotia and Quebec. I fondly recall traveling in this simpler era when one relied on a map, travel signs, and perhaps a couple of hitchhikers whom we gave rides to find our way.
On our way to Prince Edward Island, my husband, son and I spent a couple of days exploring Halifax. I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, which provides an excellent opportunity to delve into Canadian art and culture. The museum has an impressive art collection that includes notables such as one of Canada’s renowned folk artists Maud Lewis. Lewis was prolific despite enduring rheumatoid arthritis and living in poverty. In addition to Lewis’s art the museum has Lewis’s Lilliputian-scaled home of only 4.1 x 3.8 meters. A personal favorite were two pairs of shutters thoughtfully depicting flowers and birds that she was commissioned to paint by an American family who summered in Queens County, Nova Scotia. Granted it was the 1940’s when she was commissioned to paint them but at seventy Canadian cents per shutter it appears she considerably undercharged her clients. The museum has an eclectic mix of exhibitions, including: On the Edge of Modernism in which I was particularly drawn to the work of Elizabeth Styring Nutt as she beautifully and thoughtfully captured the beauty of Nova Scotia in her paintings, such as Autumn on the Northwest Arm; Transatlantique -The Art of Fashion and Costume Design in Paris and Halifax which features beautiful theatre designs of Marjorie Tozer and others; and The Light Fantastic - whose name was drawn from John Milton’s 1645 poem. In this exhibition artists, delve into political issues and influence social change through their mixed media art work of neon, video, print, paint and photography. Jacques Hurtubise’s mixed media and neon work - Ingrid, 1969 has stayed a buzz in my mind’s eye.
Prince Edward Island
“It has always seemed to me that, amid all the commonplaces of life, I was very near to a kingdom of ideal beauty. Between it and me hung only a thin veil. I could never quite draw it aside, but sometimes a wind fluttered it and I caught a glimpse of the enchanting world beyond — only a glimpse, but those glimpses have always made life worthwhile.” The Alpine Path, L. M. Montgomery
There are many ways to explore and enjoy Prince Edward Island. One of the complimentary visitors guides breaks down the island into different and enjoyable the coastal drives: North Cape, Central Coast Drive, Red Shores Drive, Green Gables Shore, and Points East. Every outing, is a colorful delight to the eyes. Purple, blue, and white lupines dot the edges of lush green farmland, complemented by red soil, whose color is derived from its high iron oxide content. There are sixty-three lighthouses - thirty-five are still functioning - and others you can visit. The West Point Light House was repurposed into a museum and a bed and breakfast. In Point’s East, we spent the day kayaking, paddle boarding, and horseback riding, and enjoyed a wonderful lobster supper in Cardigan, before continuing on to discover the environs and the East Point Lighthouse, where we observed a flock of chirping and wailing seagulls circling close to coast near a low cliff and where other seagulls rested on a landing below.
Bicycling is a perfect way to explore. We rented bicycles at the beautiful historic Dalvay by the Sea Hotel and biked along the Gulf Shore Parkway and taking in pleasing scenery, Covehead Harbour light house, pristine beaches and at Covehead Wharf, shanty fisheries, stacked lobster crates and a line of hungry vacationers building in front of Richard’s Fresh Seafood. For a good reason, as their simple cooking is delicious and their lobster roll is made with copious chunks of cold lobster. After our bike ride back, we kicked off our twenty-first wedding anniversary celebration with a drink back at the Dalvay by the Sea Hotel. We lucked out with good weather and chased the sunset at Greenwich Beach. The walk on a floating boardwalk is as lovely as the sunset itself, as I found myself swept up in auditory delight of chirping birds, insects and the wind. I followed the mellowing sun through to picturesque dunes before arriving at the unspoiled beach, sinking my bare feet into very soft sand, and to catching the sun’s grand finale of brilliant yellows and oranges melting into pink and fading out of sight.
The mussel may have lured me to Prince Edward Island but my heart has fallen for the raw Malpeque oyster, and perhaps the freshest I’ve ever tasted was at the Malpeque Oyster Barn, washing them down with glass of white wine from Benjamin Bridge Winery in Nova Scotia. We usually rounded out our action-packed days with a handmade ice cream from the award winning Cow’s Creamery. I think it’s so good because its 16% butterfat.
We loved the small-town charm of our base in Charlottetown with its beautiful harbor, quaint shops, and restaurant scene. If you haven’t read of Anne of Green Gables - the joyful musical presented at the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown is a happy crash course, featuring beautiful sets and an exceptional cast. The performance showcased Tara Jackson’s beautiful and memorable voice in the role of Miss Stacy. Before flying back we visited Halifax’s postcard perfect Peggy’s Cove with its massive rocky coast line, light house, fine dining and local ice cream. Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island surpassed my expectations. With their inherent dazzling beauty, excellent hospitality, and distinctive character I returned home with happy memories, restored and energized.