Loyal and Bonnie headed down the one-way dirt road from our “hilltop” campsite first – to waylay anyone attempting to head up the hill as we came down. A challenge with Contessa and The Toad being hitched (64’ long) is – you can’t back up and you can’t maneuver out of other people’s way too much! We arrived at the base without incident, only to discover they only had one ferry running again, so it took us about 45 minutes to get both motorhomes across the St. John River and on our way to Prince Edward Island (PEI).
Entry onto PEI can be accomplished by bridge or by ferry – we would arrive via bridge and depart via ferry five days later. The Confederation Bridge is an amazing feat of engineering – longer and much higher than our infamous Seven Mile Bridge, this one is 8.3 miles. Begun in October, 1993, it was completed May 31, 1997 and PEI was officially “connected” to the mainland for the first time. The majority of the bridge is 120’ above the often icy sea level; however, at its highest point, the Navigation Span, the bridge reaches almost 200’, allowing large sea vessels, including cruise ships, to navigate under the bridge between its piers.
Having purchased a Truck GPS to purportedly assist in better routes for large vehicles, we were once again routed the long, narrow route rather than the direct, wider route to Pine Hills RV Park, but we got a great tour of the countryside. The sites are lovely, wide, clean and we are parked next to each other for our five night stay. An evening of settling in and dining at home would serve us well for the marathon of the coming days.
Having determined our chosen Charlottetown tour would not be available on Monday, we elected to head north that day to Cavendish and the Anne of Green Gables Museum. Author Lucy Maud Montgomery was born on October 30, 1874, Maud’s mother died when she was but 21 months old. In those days, a father did not rear his children without a mother, so she was left in the care of her maternal grandparents, Alexander and Lucy Macneill. Living as an only child of an elderly couple, she spent much of her youth developing a wild imagination. “Anne of Green Gables” is the fictional story of Anne Shirley, an orphan sent “by mistake” to an elderly brother and sister who were seeking a boy to help with the farm chores. The book is loosely based in the home that is now the museum, owned by cousins of LM Montgomery’s grandparents and a place she loved to visit. She wrote this, her first book, in 1905, but after receiving many rejection letters, she stored it away in a hatbox. Two years later, she re-read the story and decided to submit it again for consideration – this time it was accepted by Page Publications of Boston and upon its publication in 1908, became an immediate best seller. Maud went on to write 20 novels, 19 of them based on Prince Edward Island.
Along the north shore of PEI and close to Cavenish is the Prince Edward Island National Park – a lovely site for our picnic lunch and views of the red dunes. In several of the inlets were “fields” of oyster farms.
Tuesday morning dawned cold and damp, but it did not dampen our spirits or our plans. First stop – a horse drawn wagon tour of Charlottetown by owner, Sarah. It was a unique and colorful way to be introduced to the city and to this delightful province. Sarah, originally from Calgary, came to PEI fifteen years ago to start her business, having fallen in love with the idea and horses when she was 19 and “ran away” to Victoria to “find herself”. She and her husband now own eight Percheron horses, which are gorgeous draft work horses. We gained a real appreciation of both the city and the province, which remains approximately 49% Protestant and 48% Roman Catholic. Back in the day, the segregation was by personal choice – not by legislature. People chose to live, study, work and marry within their faith – even to having two universities in Charlottetown, St. Dunstan was Catholic and is now the University of PEI while the College of Prince Edward being Protestant is now Holland College. Today the segregation is much less evident
The small boat & snowshoes on the right are made and used by the first priest to deal with the challenges of reaching his large parish!
St. Dunstan’s Basilia (where the University got its name) is the fourth cathedral in Charlottetown. Named for St. Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury, the first church was built on this site in 1816. A second, larger wooden cathedral was built in 1843. With fire being such a risk to structures, the first stone cathedral was built in 1896. But, alas, just six years after the Cathedral’s dedication, on March 7, 1913, the Cathedral was destroyed by fire! Inspired by St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, the reconstruction of the interior and repair of the walls was done with the finest materials and craftsmanship to fashion an elegant English Gothic interior that far surpassed the original cathedral in magnificence, completed in 1919.
Confederation Centre located beside Province Hall, celebrates the conference held here in 1864 where John A. Macdonald, George Brown and George-Étienne Cartier representing Ontario and Quebec gained agreement from representatives of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and PEI to join together to create the Confederation of Canada. There were two driving forces behind this decision – the fear that the United States would continue to gain strength and potentially invade the British territories as well as the British Government pushing the territories to become a “Super Colony” that could self-govern and coincidentally cease to require funding from the Mother Country. Macdonald went on to become the first Prime Minister of the New Dominion of Canada. PEI, while originally committing to become part of the Confederation, did not find the terms of union favorable and balked at joining in 1867, choosing to remain a colony of the United Kingdom. In the late 1860s, the colony examined various options, including the possibility of becoming a discrete dominion unto itself, as well as entertaining delegations from the United States, who were interested in Prince Edward Island joining the United States.
By 1873, the financial tides had turned on PEI and Prime Minister Macdonald, anxious to thwart American expansionism, negotiated for Prince Edward Island to join Canada. The Dominion Government of Canada assumed the colony’s extensive railway debts and agreed to finance a buy-out of the last of the colony’s absentee landlords to free the island of leasehold tenure. Prince Edward Island entered Confederation on July 1, 1873
1885 photo of Robert Harris‘ 1884 painting, Conference at Quebec in 1864, to settle the basics of a union of the British North American Provinces, also known as The Fathers of Confederation. The original painting was destroyed in the 1916 Parliament Buildings Centre Block fire. The scene is an amalgamation of the Charlottetown and Quebec City conference sites and attendees.
Robert Harris, artist, and his brother William C Harris, architect, had a strong and lasting impact on Charlottetown. We toured Beaconfield, designed and built by W.C. Harris in 1877 for James and Edith Peake. Beaconsfield was one of Charlottetown’s most elegant homes and stands as an enduring symbol of Victorian elegance.
Featuring the finest in materials and craftsmanship, it was also equipped with all the latest conveniences of the day. The Peakes, unfortunately, were destined to enjoy Beaconsfield for a very short time – a time filled with triumphs and tragedies. James lost his fortune made in wooden sailing shipbuilding with the introduction of the steamship and was forced to surrender their home to the mortgage holder just five years after completion. James left PEI and spent the rest of his life in British Columbia, working as a butler in a gentleman’s club. His wife chose to remain in Charlottetown with their two surviving children (they originally had six) – she lived in a modest house provided by her wealthy father and outlived all of her children.
Just around the harbor from Beaconsfield is the Lieutenant Governor’s Mansion. As it is still used by the sitting leader, it is only open to the public in July & August. Although we were there during the “available hours”, we could not gain access, but thoroughly enjoyed both the view and the gardens.
Confederation Centre also houses one of only two National Art Galleries in Canada and hosts a delightful collection of Canadian artists in every imaginable medium. The docent was a hoot – and we enjoyed her expose’ on the obsession of many toward LM Montgomery, whose original manuscript of Anne of Green Gables is on display in the Gallery. She shared that just a few days ago, there was a “tea” held atop the grave of LM Montgomery – and she shook her head in amazement!
Connecting with friends is, as you can tell, a great part of this adventure we are on. None was more special than our pre-arranged dinner with Liz Fuller and her niece Melissa for dinner! Liz is an active member of our St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Brevard and it was so special to spend a few hours at the Olde Dublin Pub with her during her vacation with Melissa, who is from northwestern Iowa.
After much laughter and many hugs, we parted on the steps of Confederation Centre, as we all had tickets for the Musical “Anne of Green Gables”. This production has run continuously for 53 years! The production was exceedingly well done, the voices spectacular and yes, some of us did shed a tear – while others in the group expressed it was really a “girl’s show”!
Wednesday had us heading to North Cape and the northern most point of PEI and of the Canadian Maritimes for us. The lighthouse is a functioning Aid to Navigation and as such cannot be toured by visitors. The landscape is stunning, even with the Canadian Wind Energy explorations and plethora of wind turbines. We shared a delightful lunch at the Wind and Reef, which had been recommendations as a #1 restaurant by the young lady at the Visitors’ Centre in Charlottetown. Note to self – when the docent is from that area and she is rightfully proud of her hometown of Tignish, take her recommendation based on location, not on exceptional food! Regardless, we had a lovely time and visited with our server, Donna, who has spent her life on the northern coast of this beautiful far-away place.
On the way to North Cape, we visited the Acadian Museum in Miscouche. Acadian comes from the Indian word “acadie” (a-ka-dee’) meaning ‘peaceful place’. A few of the French immigrants, being deported following the British Conquest of Acadia in 1710, made their way to the western frontier of PEI, while most were sent back to France, fled to Quebec or found their way to Louisiana. Over time the word has been applied to the region also known as the Canadian Maritimes, but the French Acadian descendants protect their heritage, their language and their flag (adopted in 1884) with vigor.
After searching high and low for sea glass artisans, we finally found a lovely little shop on Thursday morning only a few kilometers from our campground and the four of us spent a hour with the proprietor and her husband – learning how to wrap the precious glass with 20 gauge silver wire. We each came away with a lovely little piece of jewelry and delightful memories.
We then made a quick run out to Orwell History Village, which has been lovingly maintained and is still worked as a producing farm since its construction in 1895. The General Store housed a family of 9, plus a dressmaker in rooms over the store. Until its purchase by the Historical Foundation in 1972, the building was inhabited by its second owner, a photographer, who used the store area for his studio, but all the furnishings, cash registers and cabinetry work is original. The one-room schoolhouse operated with a single teacher to cover grades 1-10 until 1966, when the province implemented a consolidated school system. During most of its operation, the school-teacher could only be a single lady – and she would have to give up teaching should she get married. If a student wished to continue their studies, they would need to be recommended to one of the two universities in distant Charlottetown, some 25 miles away.
Back to Pine Hills RV Park, so Loyal and Bonnie could pack up and head out. We were both taking the Northumberland Ferry from Wood Island PEI to Caribou, Nova Scotia the next morning. Unfortunately, there was not room for both of us on the 9:30 crossing (recommended for Contessa & Toad due to size), so they were booked for the 8:00a crossing. With an hour plus trip and needing to be at the ferry at least 45 minutes before departure, they elected to move to the Provincial Park less than a mile from the ferry landing.
Off they went – with all of us anticipating a reunion at Bras d’Or Lakes the following afternoon!