The Red Roads of P.E.I.
We entered Prince Edward Island at dusk. The ride over the bridge seemed endless, the day before was long. After getting lost on narrow roads in the evening for another hour, we arrived to a quiet place near the woods, a country craft store, and a little white church. When the car engine stopped, in the darkness we heard an acoustic guitar and a voice singing from a nearby restaurant. It sounded like a local musician's concert, and the music was very familiar. “The Sound of Silence”.
The morning that followed was bright, and a view from the window, with silvery trees shining against red sands, and a calm blue water, felt breathtaking. Later light was bathing the water and the bushes in deepening gold. P.E.I appeared to be distractedly beautiful. After a few hours I was ready to stay there forever.
This island is for slow driving – about 40 mph, up and down the hills. Red sandstone cliffs, white sand beaches, blue lakes, flowery meadows, and rolling farm fields stretch as far as the eye can see. First, we explored P.E.I. National Park which hugs the north shore. The soil here had this intriguing color due to the high percentage of iron. Blue sky hanging over the reddish sand created energizing influence, and of course, a picturesque background for photography.
This is the land of farmers. The most popular crops here are potatoes, grown industrially, privately, and in many varieties. They became the official symbol and gadget of the island, and yes, we have brought back home a bag of P.E.I. potatoes, and they were wholesome.
P.E.I.'s red rocks create a landscape that feels unusual and sharp. Strangely wavy and really old, they are as beautiful as Earth’s memory should be.
Anne of Green Gables, one of the cutest children in English literature, and successful creation of Lucy Maud Montgomery, brings hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world to P.E.I. each year. Cavendish, Avonlea, Green Gables Heritage Place, Lovers Lane, and Haunted Wood were our next destination.
The atmosphere that prevails on the Green Gables in Cavendish is quite magical. No surprise that after leaving the island for her husband, Montgomery have always been missing her homeland, and portrayed it so fondly in her books.
The Canadian publishers repeatedly rejected the first novel of Lucy Maud Montgomery. The publisher who found it promising was from Boston. Montgomery herself was very welcomed and well received in Boston, as “Anne…” immediately became a bestseller there. Soon after, the authors' destiny, not as happy as the reader of her books would think, took Montgomery to Ontario.
There are more than 50 lighthouses on P.E.I. Our favorite, on Panmure Island, seemingly most beautiful and photogenic, is the Island’s oldest wooden lighthouse, and it served boat traffic since 1853. Painted in colors, surrounded by postcard views, P.E.I. lighthouses look cheerful and serene. Like a smile to the sailors from the land. They are often converted into little museums, gift shops and alike. The most famous, for her stripes and the interior, is West Point. The beach that it overlooks has its own unique charm.
One of the P.E I. lighthouses, Cape Bear Lighthouse, hides a sad story: it was the first Canadian land station to receive and forward the Titanic’s signal.
The islanders that we've met and talked to, were friendly and relaxed. Most of them are descendants of Europeans, however the first residents of the island were the Mi’kmaq. These Native Americans' name for P.E.I, about 2000 years ago, was “Epekwitk”: “resting on the waves”.
P.E.I. is proud to be the smallest and least populous province of Canada with the biggest meaning, as a historical cradle. It was in Charlottetown that the Canadian union began (conference in 1864). Like every capital, Charlottetown offers popular shopping and dining areas, old temples, and a vibrant crowd, but for us, spoiled by the places that we've visited there first, it lacked the unique rural beauty of the rest of the island.
What is the best time to visit P.E.I.? Your favorite season. We’ve chosen late summer, mid-September. The temperatures were around 70, the days felt warm and crisp. Trips through the hills and red clay roads (yes, correct, some roads have no asphalt) were pleasant. Farm animals walking in vibrant green pastures were a common view.
During scenic drives we often stopped, would it be a sunset, a river, a fishing port, or a craft store. The meeting of the tides was a good reason, too. In the town of Cardigan we made unexpected discovery: the smallest library in the world. It was 3.5 by 3.5 meters big, held 1,800 books, overlooked a nice quiet lake, and had the Huck Finn book opened for us in the window. A destitute vagabond and banished romantic, was a good character to greet us in the little nostalgic town, populated by Scottish descendants. As I heard in the store, more and more young people have been migrating from there every year, looking for a job.
I can't recall any other place where I felt that being there was so right, healthy, natural, and wholesome. Our very natures were cared for, and deeply satisfied there.
At the end of our time on the island we took a slow walk to the coast, to look at the Confederation Bridge, 8 miles long engineering miracle, perhaps the longest bridge across the Atlantic. This wonder connects an island with New Brunswick, and when seen from there, it disappears somewhere in the mist above the ocean, like a bridge between two worlds.
As soon as we were on it, I missed P.E.I.
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