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A Visit to THE Island Where "Anne of Green Gables" was Created

by:
Christine Roberts

Prince Edward Island is one of four Atlantic Provinces located on Canada's East Coast. Crescent-shaped, it resembles a cradle, hence the native Mi'kmaq name, Abegweit, "land cradled on the waves".

When the French arrived, they named the island Saint-Jean. Then, in 1758, the British took occupation and anglized the name to St. John's Island. A year later, it was changed to Prince Edward Island which name it is still called today, in honor of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, the fourth son of King George 111.

The much-publicized and read book, "Anne of Green Gables" was written by Lucy Maud Montgomery, who grew up on PEI and became one of Canada's most famous, prolific authors. Her book was one of the factors which put PEI well and truly on the tourist map. 

Readers of her classic tale of fiction could hardly wait to experience the island for themselves. And they hoped to recapture the imaginative characters who lived in the rural community where she had spent her own childhood years.

They found the soft, red sandstone rock, typical green gables, picturesque landscape and tranquil nature every bit as enchanting as the author had described.

Montgomery continued to write several Anne books, among a host of others and fortunately lived to witness the inception of Prince Edward Island's National Park, along 40 km of the north shore. While the Park is Canada's smallest, it is also its most visited with over 800 000 visitors a year.

Montgomery's heritage sites, such as her birthplace, her home in Cavendish and the Anne of Green Gables museum have become just as popular as the Green Gables homestead where Montgomery's elderly cousins resided - the inspiration for the setting of her famous book.

In 1943, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada recognized L.M. Montgomery as a person of national historic significance and erected a monument in her honor at Green Gables.

PEI is known, too, as the birthplace of Canada following the historic Charlottetown Conference which took place there in 1864. A series of events initiated at this Conference lead to Confederation. However, the island only joined this Canadian union nine years later.

I would like to share some of the highlights of PEI with you! At least a three-night stay is recommended! Hiring a car is essential to explore the best of the island at your leisure, driving along the paved highways, and off the beaten track some of the red clay roads, too.

Highlights

* Being a bird lover, I soon noticed and heard the calls of the island's provincial bird, the Blue Jay, wherever I went. It is easily identified by its sky-blue hood wings and tail feathers. The island's provincial flower blooms from mid-May through June and is aptly named Lady's Slipper, for its petals are shaped like a pouch-like slipper.

* Seventy per cent of the island's population are descendants from the UK and Ireland, those of Scottish descent making up the largest ethnic group. In recognition of the latter's important contribution, a special provincial tartan was designed in colors of reddish-brown to depict the redness of the soil, green for the grass and trees, white for the whitecaps on the waves and yellow for the sun.

* Not to be missed is the superb Dunes Gallery, located just 18 km north of the island's historic capital, Charlottetown, at Brackly Beach. On display is a plethora of Canadian art, crafts and pottery, delightful gifts, a crafts museum, gardens and a cozy licensed cafe to enjoy light meals and occasional jazz evenings.

* A priority for most visitors is the nature experience on PEI - a chance to marvel at the splendor of Canada's rare plants, wild animals - several in danger of extinction - and the amazing bird life. You could be lucky to both hear and see the Belted Kingfisher, Red-winged blackbird, American Bittern and the Savannah Sparrows from an extended new boardwalk which has recently been erected at a new extension to the PEI National Park at 
Greenwich. 

The most spectacular natural characteristics protected at Greenwich are the high, mobile parabolic dunes and associated concentric, low dune ridges or counter ridges. The area has an extensive and fragile coastal dune system, wetlands and natural habitats where rare plant 
species and the endangered piping plover and rare pleated woodpecker can be found.

As only a mere 2 500 piping plovers still survive, it was good news indeed to learn that some 14 pairs had nested at Greenwich last year. This area also is of historical significance, showing traces of major cultures existence thousands of years ago.

* One of Charlottetown's grandest homes, built in 1897 in a Georgian Revival style, is where high society were hosted on gala evenings a century ago. Converted in to a charming heritage inn, the Hillhurst Inn is now owned and managed by Scot and Jayne Stewart. They offer nine superb suites, individually decorated, with period furnishings. Use of lavish wood paneling creates a warm, majestic ambience. There is oak in the front 
entrance, golden beech in the parlor/lounge and sycamore in the back rooms. See
http://www.hillhurst.com. Email: http://www.innkeeper@hillhurst.com.

Guests can take a short walk to restaurants, the library, the Confederation Centre of Arts, the harbor, Victoria Row and historic Great George Street. Overnight stays in summer range between Canadian $99 to $205, and include breakfast.

*The College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts of Canada was established in 1990 and is the only year-round institution of its kind in North America. Affiliated to the College of Piping in Glasgow, Scotland, summer schools, workshops, piping internship and Highland bag piping tuition are provided. Also, Gaelic singing, Scottish-style snare drumming, fiddle and tin whistle are developed for both adults as well as youth, at all levels of ability. See www.collegeofpiping.com - Email: college@piping.pe.ca.

*Fabulous scenic trails abound along the northern shore where PEI's National Park is located, varying from under a kilometer to 12 km. But as erosion does occur here at an average of one meter a year, hikers need to take special care.

As sand dunes are fragile and easily damaged by foot traffic, visitors are encouraged to refrain from walking on the protective marram grass to save the dune eco-system, the Park's priority project.

A wide range of interpretive activities are organized by Parks Canada in summer. Most of these are free but a small admission fee is charged. Guided tours of the forest, exploring a salt marsh or earning about the formation of beaches and dunes are a few of he interesting activities arranged. Access to the beaches is possible at various interpretive stops along the north coast.

At the Park's eastern end is a National Historic Building of Dalvey-by-the-Sea. Built by a wealthy American industrialist in 1896 it was converted in to an outstanding Heritage Inn and is privately operated under a lease agreement with Parks Canada.

* Camping enthusiasts have a choice of three excellent camping grounds. Facilities include provision of ice, laundry facilities, showers and a fire-pit. Reservations are recommended from mid-May to late September. 

* A local winery containing a quaint gift shop is situated at Little Sands, in the south east corner of the island. About 9 km from the Wood Islands Ferry Terminal, it stocks a remarkable selection of fruit wines such as Strawberry Rhubarb, Blueberry and Apple Cider wines as well as Chardonnay and Pinot Cabernet http://www.RossignolWinery.com. Open June- October. 

* For cycle enthusiasts, Anne of Red Doors at St Peter's Bay is right on the Confederation Trail and is the place to hire quality bicycles. Trail maps, packed lunches and the option of a shuttle service is included in the hire package.

When the island's railway was abandoned in 1989, the idea was born for a shared-use walking and cycling trail, from Tignish to Elmira - a distance of 350 kilometers. Branch trails extend into Charlottetown, various waterside communities such as Souris and Georgetown and to villages along the route who can provide accommodations, food and other services.

* Recommended Inns and Restaurants:

The Inn at St Peter's - on the Greenwich peninsula in PEI National Park.

The Inn at Bay Fortune - the best restaurant and exceptional place to stay on the island http://www.inn@bayfortune.com.

Piece of Cake - an elegant, extraordinary restaurant with unusual dishes, particularly ideal for lunch and evening light dining. Fresh delicious cuisine, in the center of Charlottetown.

Catherine McKinnon's Spot O'Tea restaurant overlooks Stanley River in the village of Stanley Bridge, 5 miles from Green Gables. Specialties are cod fish cakes, homemade beans and exceptional desserts. Says Catherine, "Life is uncertain... Eat the dessert first!"

Useful web sites: Tourism PEI http://www.peiplay.com 
Fax (091) 902 566 4336
http:// www.gov.pe.ca
http://www.parkscanada.gc.ca/pe 
http://www.inn@stpeters.pe.ca 
Bed and Breakfasts and Country Inns http://www.bbcanada.com/countryinnspei
Canadian Association of Retired persons http://www.fifty-plus.net.  

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Email:  Christine Roberts

 

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