We entered Prince Edward Island via the saltwater road. The 14-mile, 75 minute trip across the Northumberland Strait from Caribou, NS to Wood Island PEI by ferry was the perfect choice. The breeze was brisk and the sea air cool and the scenery was spectacular. This is the holy grail of our trip. The ultimate destination. The destination that beats all other destinations.
The Confederation Trail is a gentle, meandering, rehabilitated rail line. It is living a new life as a multi use, crushed gravel cycling path connecting wetlands, bays and charming communities. The beauty of a converted train track is that the grade is never more than two per cent. We chose the section between St Peter’s and Morell. It is a picturesque, peaceful stretch, showing off the red dirt dunes covered with swaying grasses, buoys marking string after string of mussel socks, (mussel farming) and glimpses of the bay. We finished the ride in true Canadian style — poutine and really cold Cokes at a picnic table, visiting with other riders.
PEI National Park, near North Rustico, a small fishing village that specializes in seafood dinners and deep sea charters also has a paved two-way cycle trail. A nine km route lets you wind past the amazing, iconic red sandstone cliffs of Cavendish. You could not help but stop at the secluded coves and red-sand beaches. We finished the ride in true PEI fashion — Richards Seafood Shack. Fresh scallops and a cold brew (PEI’s Beach Chair Lager) overlooking the bay.
We prepared to ride the North Rustico Trail; even stopped at a deep sea fishing provider to clarify trail directions. We were on a charter boat heading into the ocean within the hour. He convinced us that spending all our time on the shore would be to miss half the story. Spontaneity is good. We caught mackerel and cod off the coast of PEI and it was really fun, a great way to see the island, plus we got to keep the fish! We also caught lots bottom feeders that we could not bring home, but were interesting to look at. Staff filleted our catch and fed the seagulls with the waste. They were magical. We finished this day with dinner at the Blue Mussel Cafe. Where the seafood is fresh, and the owners are fantastic. (They are also my cousins.)
Anne (with an E), as everyone knows, is my friend with a feverish imagination and unchecked enthusiasms who is perpetually seeking “kindred spirits”. Anne is peculiar and intelligent; she speaks in exclamations marks!!!! But the primary reason I love the movies and TV shows is they are filmed in my beloved PEI. And when I am in Denver or Florida or wherever, it is my way of introducing (or remembering) landscapes and cliff-scapes of this place I hold dear. PEI in a box, or PEI on demand. We did go to the musical Anne and Gilbert to enjoy the characters and story of this small, freckled and indefatigable girl who is perfectly imperfect. Then enjoyed the pedestrian mall and cafes of downtown Charlottetown.
It was sad to leave, the view of French River, the fishing villages, the rural roads and the red dunes, I think they beckon us back.
There is a phrase you hear in Canada’s Atlantic provinces “Come From Away”, it means you are welcomed as a visitor. When I phoned my cousins to invite them to dinner, they would ask “how long are you home for”, we were welcomed as family.
I cannot understate the emotional up side of visiting with family on PEI. From relearning about the acreage of my grandfather’s farm (150 acres) understanding the history of the homesteads, (there were 2) seeing how they have been lovingly restored by my cousins, to reminiscing, gathering for home cooked dinners, with family and their children and lots more storytelling, looking through old photo albums; finding pictures of my mother in her 20’s (she would be 99 this year) and me (I was 14) and connecting to the sights, names and vistas bring back happy times as a kid.