This is our last full day on the island, as tomorrow morning we’ll head out, probably via ferry to Nova Scotia. We realized we haven’t even been over to the west side of PEI, and hear that it’s very different from the east side. When pressed, people have said, it is craggier. We know that it’s less populated. Think of PEI in 3 sections, with the middle section the most touristy one. At the bottom of that section is Charlottetown (where the cruise ships dock) and at the top is Cavendish where the Green Gables house is, and the golf courses.
Heading west now, we stopped at a yard sale and bought some CDs which we are listening to with some hilarity. Roger Whittaker singing When Irish Eyes Are Smiling. Try the next one. Blazing Fiddles,? we can’t make it through a tune. One more to go, a Michael Bolton CD, and his hair is so delightfully 80s on the cover.
In Charlottetown we got lost in a construction detour and had a great flurry of maps and turnings around. So glad to get out of there! I realize the things I haven’t missed, like traffic and listening to other people’s bass lines rumbling from behind us. BTW there are many Presbyterian churches on the west side of the island. I wonder if you can supply them for a summer? Do a trade?
Back from that excursion, and here is my report: The other side of the island isn’t as pretty. If you’re reading this and you’re from the western side of PEI, I apologize. But it’s NOT craggier, at least the part we saw, it’s flatter, and the flatness goes right down to the water. The shore is red clay rather than sand or rock. Caveat: we did not make it up to Tignish, and did not get to see the Wind Turbines, I hear there are dozens. Maybe next time.
We did see a surprisingly enormous Catholic church at Mt. Carmel. It was so beautifully situated on a slope that led right down to the sea, with a cemetery of white crosses beside it. Inside the sanctuary was all darkness and gloom. It could be Exhibit #1 in How to build a church with absolute disregard for setting.? You’re better off dead than alive in that church, when it comes to getting a nice view.
Returning to the B&B, we stopped for an ice cream and I chatted with a man who has lived on the island all his life. He was buying his grandson some lunch while he ate fries with the works? which includes chopped up hamburger, onion, peas and gravy over a huge plate of PEI fries. I wished I was hungry enough to order some. Anyway, the man looked like many islanders: lanky, with light eyes and hair, probably that Scottish blood. He used to work for the car ferry service before the bridge was built in 1996. Now he drives a school bus. I tried living on the mainland, he said, but you can’t breathe.?
We returned to the B&B for a little rest before the evening feast. We stopped at another yard sale because there were 3 huge motorcycles on the front lawn, which just seemed fun. We didn’t buy them, although it was tempting. Wouldn’t it be fun to trade in the car and return to the states in a surprising fashion? The woman running the sale, who was a freckled redhead with a very friendly face, was eager to ask us why we were on PEI. She had raised 4 sons and told us what they were doing (two in the RCMP). She herself worked in Special Ed, so she and Doug discussed education.
We had the good fortune of holding tickets for The Village Feast of Souris? with Chef Michael and his crew cooking up local foods to support Farmers Helping Farmers? build a school in Kenya. The tickets were $35 and the money went to help support this worthy cause. This was the third year they’ve done this fundraiser, and it was well-orchestrated. ?There were 3 lines of food. First you got a cup of seafood chowder, chock-full of PEI mussels and PEI potatoes. Next you chose which line to stand in: medium rare, medium, medium well, or burnt.? You also got mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy, local greens and tomatoes, and hearty bread. Third was dessert: strawberry-rhubarb shortcake. Also available were oysters on the half shell for $1 each, and beer and wine. The local distillery was giving away shots of potato vodka with blueberry juice. The blueberries grow wild here. I have never been a vodka drinker, but I’m tempted to buy a bottle, even at the steep price of $55. Doug bought some oysters for dessert and made friends by giving some of them away. Interesting to know that oysters are a delicacy even for islanders.
In a word, the feast was Yummy.
We sat at long tables on the grass and listened to people play music (folk, Celtic) or auction off baskets to support the cause. We talked for an hour with a family from Charlottetown. They are 3rd generation beef farmers, but the fella Doug sat next to was a teacher, 7th grade math and science, so they talked about technology in education. We also talked extensively about beef farming. He said they haven’t recovered from BSE (mad cow disease) from 7 years ago, and only now are seeing their prices return to that level. Meanwhile all the costs have risen. His son is going into the business, but he did not seem hopeful that it would survive another generation. They were very congenial folk, happy to chat about everything from the health of farmed mussels (his wife works in a fisheries lab) to the state of youth today (ah, always the hopelessness about the next generation), to the rise of Tim Hortons in the land (can you believe it? he said, shaking his head) to the fact that we are all Presbyterians. They attend Burnside Presbyterian, should I write to the minister and propose a pulpit exchange?
Fun fact: he is a Baltimore Orioles fan although he’s never been to Maryland.
Teachers are everywhere. And honestly, teachers are good people. They value education, they value their particular subject, and they value the kids they teach. They are usually underpaid, but they knew that when they began so what’s to talk about? I like teachers.
Now we’re looking out at the bay and waiting for a local music venue to open. On the slate are for the same people who were briefly on stage at the Feast.
Here’s a thought: going to PEI is exactly like going to the Outer Banks. Minus the heat, the humidity, the crowds. Plus local people, local food, local music. And yes, 1300 miles of driving.