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Chan Cham Perou

Prince Edward Island —  Tranquility and fullness. Colors, smells and flavors. Friendliness and tidiness. These summarize all of the enjoyments of a stay on Prince Edward Island, the smallest maritime province in Canada, which proudly upholds its Acadian and Canadian personalities and bilingualism. Prince Edward Island is - until the end of October, while the temperature is still mild - a destination that has much to offer. No wonder it’s called “the gentle island”!

During our flight’s final minutes, we get a glimpse of and marvel what is waiting for us: deep red sandy coasts and rocky cliffs, multicolored fields, busy fishing boats and trees - lots of trees, which will be illuminated by bright yellow, red and orange later in the fall. And as soon as we get out of the plane, a flowery smell comes from the huge pots of flowers scattered on the tarmac and at the door of the airport. A rarity!

Sweet Charlottetown

After settling at the Heritage Harbour House Inn and after a quick tour by the owner to appreciate the qualities of the Inn (see other article), we head outdoors to see the lovely streets with their Victorian houses of all dimensions and colors that we got a glimpse of earlier on. We are literally wrapped up in the soft and quiet ambiance and we can’t help thinking that the criminal rate must be low in a place like this, even close to zero… No trace of any trash on the streets, no chipped paint on the balconies and lacy cornices, grass that seems to be immune to weeds, old collector’s cars, impeccably well-kept, parked here and there…

We can’t help but smile when we see an insurance company office occupying a wealthy two-story house lost in the middle of hundreds of flower bushes and small trees that adorn the intersection. This is so far from the impersonal skyscrapers of large cities. And drivers are so polite with pedestrians as well as among themselves.

Sophisticated cuisine 

It is close to dinnertime and we are already salivating with the thought of the delicious fresh seafood we will soon be enjoying. We quickly head to the two main streets of the city, Queen Street and Victoria Row, where many restaurants are housed in lovely historical stone and red brick buildings. The buildings, illuminated by the sunset, are quite a sight with their umbrellas, like exclamation points, and the stands where excellent musicians are performing!

Which restaurant? They are all so attractive: many customers are already sitting inside and on terraces, the menus compete with variety and originality, the wine lists highlight Niagara and British Columbia products, the jazz, soul and blues music adds a special note to the atmosphere without bothering conversations. All of this bodes well.

What surprises us most at first? We were expecting restaurants to accentuate the freshness of the catches of the day and not the décor. We discover that care is taken not only on the food - local products are offered in generous portions using ingredients of choice - but that the décor is elegant and the service very professional.

We particularly enjoyed Terre Rouge’s mussels with their salty sea taste, the white wine and garlic served with beet chips, cantaloupe, artisan rosemary bread, a crab sriracha mayonnaise sandwich with a blue potato salad, mizuna topped with fried onions. And we tasted an assortment of oysters with different sauces on the beautiful terrace of its neighbor, Sim’s Corner, Steak House & Oyster Bar.

The best Fish & Chips on the island can be found at Water Prince Corner Shop, provided you made a reservation the day before or very early in the morning. Otherwise, you might have to wait in line for one or two hours.

On another evening, we were floored by the lobster stew, served with a fried oyster, blue cheese and a crisp potato at the modern Lot 30. Our plates were quite clean at the end of the meal, not a drop of sauce was left …

After such a copious meal, it is quite nice to walk or cycle on the lovely seaside promenade.

Now that we have tasted the fruits of the sea and the land, let’s go and see where they come from.

Rich soil in red, green and yellow

Prince Edward Island lives by the rhythm of its two main economies: tourism and agriculture. And it makes every effort to ensure that visitors can enjoy both in many ways.

First, driving through the island is quite easy with your own car or a shuttle for tourists. Even though the island can be visited in one day, we recommend taking at least one day to tour each one of the three coastal drives: the North Cape, the Central and the Points East and discover the natural beauties of the island and meet the locals in their daily life.

Of course it is easy to take the highway, but the small, red clay side roads and coastal roads that wind between forests, hills and valleys should be taken advantage of!

Looking at the fields is not boring at all: the wide variety of produce creates different forms and colors in the red clay. Some farms even have the luxury of having the sea at the foot of their fields. And the yellow of the canola is quite flamboyant under the sun!

The world-renowned potato of PEI even has the honor of having its own museum: The Potato Museum. Photos and artifacts from different eras are displayed for the pleasure of kids and adults. And the museum’s bistro offers all you can do with potatoes: lobster chips, cookies, candies, fudge, pancakes and even… vodka.

Local markets, kiosks on the side of the road and the famous Bottle House in Cap-Egmont offer local products transformed into jams, jellies, mustards, pies, cookies and cakes.

And you won’t be able to resist a stop at one of the Cows shops, with the reputation of offering the best ice cream in Canada filled with fresh berries from the island: strawberries and blueberries.

Lavender: everywhere and for everything 

The purple fields of the Five Sisters of Lavender Lane, at Kelly’s Cross, with its Fairies’ Path, enchanted us. The Cook sisters have an unconditional love for lavender and you will soon share their passion after an hour spent at their farm.

They grow and take care of 3,000 plants, pick them by hand and transform them in a pure artisanal way into everything you can imagine… or not: soap, essential oil, sachets, as well as in honey, lemonade, and insect repellent, which smells much nicer than citronella.

Their love of nature and people goes even further: they laid out a path in the forest where people can simply wander and dream, while coming across lovely fairies tied to the branches of the trees, or contribute to building small magical altars here and there on the path to allow for meditation.

All this is done without forgetting the farm environment: small valleys are as far as you can see. At night, a show is sometimes organized by lantern light to add even more magic to the place.

Horses and lamas

Between the always so tidy vegetable and dairy farms we pass on the island, other types of spaces are nestled, such as lama pastures and horse carousels.

We met Brian Andrew at his farm Meridian. A passionate breeder, Brian breeds and trains with his two daughters no fewer than 110 classic race horses in a lovely and immaculate indoor as well as outdoor red and white farm!

Museums and churches

Among the many historical museums on the island, a must-see is the Acadian one at Miscouche. It is very rich with artifacts reconstituting different life scenes, different trades and settlements before the deportation. It offers Canadian and Americans an exceptional opportunity to retrace their origins through family trees on display. Most francophone Acadians live in that region of Egmont.

Lovely churches beautify PEI’s landscapes. Very narrow but deep, most of them are white with lovely pointy bell towers. It is worth visiting at least one of them, as well as the lovely white cemetery by the sea at Mont-Carmel.

Outdoor sports fans will be thrilled to learn that in the central part of the island, in the north, a small ski centre operates in the winter and that during the three other seasons walking paths winding through valleys welcome mountain bikers as well as trekkers.

In Brudenell, a pleasant ranch welcomes experienced riders as well as beginners who would like a few lessons.

Artists and artisans 

In the numerous art galleries and artist’s studios, as well as craft boutiques and markets found everywhere on the island, we paused between lovely furniture, decorative wood-carved objects, bowls, ceramics and pottery, traditional and modern blankets, wood baskets, blue and green polished glass jewelry, watercolours, wood engravings and paintings incorporating stones, twigs and grains, etc

Follow the lama and lamb wool trail to get all that is needed to do your own own knitting or buy local, handmade creations.
One three-hour stop has to be made at the Dunes Gallery at Brackley Beach with its art gallery, craft boutique, restaurant and garden, where flowers and vegetables compete in a colorful and enchanting space.

Surrounded by the sea  

With the sea come the beaches and the fine red sand dunes with cliffs that are as red. Visiting lighthouses of all shapes, round or square made out of wood or brick - and almost all are icons in PEI - are fascinating for all ages. They are in good shape even though they ceased to operate in 1969.

It is possible to climb the narrow stairways to reach the top and watch the sea from the glass structure where the light sent its signal. Most often on the second floor, the small room of the keeper can be seen. At the West Point Lighthouse, it is even possible to spend the night in one of these rooms.

At Victoria by the Sea, at the Landmark Café, we enjoyed scallops and peppers sautéed on curried rice while we were getting acquainted with the owner and globe trotter, Eugène Sauvé, his son and daughter who are at the stove as well as in the dining room, spreading their cheer.

Then, on board The Tranquility Cove Adventures, we were with a happy trio: the young Hayden and his father and grandfather. We caught, cooked and ate mackerel, got to know a 2 kilo lobster, swarming crabs and blue mussels, all while Captain Perry Gotell was sharing stories of the fishermen’s lives, their catches and their culture. The Captain also hosts private events on his boat and on an island.

Let's jump in Souris!

The small town of Souris is well-known for its warm-water beaches and is quite lovely. Teens and young adults really enjoy jumping in the water from the Basin Head Bridge. Small kiosks of food and souvenirs are scattered around charming houses. The lobster eaten at the Blue Fin Restaurant will be one of our nicest memories.

A sad name for a happy detour 

Another small town bears a rather sad name: Naufrage, meaning “shipwreck.” But it turns out to be a happy stop since the seafood chowder eaten at the Shipwreck Point Café was really one of the best we ever tasted!

Precious guides

Visitors’ guides are easy to get as soon as you reach PEI. Explore the landscapes, taste the food, meet the artists, there is a self-discovery guide for each type of experience.

Coming events

The Fall Flavors Culinary Festival is in September, with world-renowned chefs such as Michael Smith and Anna Olson.

Marathon: October 18 – 20 in Charlottetown.

Sunday Night Shenanigans: until October 27, in York at Côte des Pignons verts.

In summary

If you can’t make it this fall, make sure Prince Edward Island is on your list for next summer!

Sylvie Berthiaume

Translation: Christiane Théberge

Our thanks to Tourism Prince Edward Island and to Heritage Harbour House/Sonata Inn for their generous welcome and contribution to this reportage.

www.parcscanada.gc.ca
www.peistudios.ca
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www.tourismpei.com

 

 

 

 

 

Red cliffs

Victoria Row

Mussels at Lot 30

Typical house

The Dunes Gallery

Red sandy beach

West Point Lighthouse

On board the Tranquility Cove Adventures

Basin Head

In Naufrage

Confederation Bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


  

 

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