Sunday, July 15, 2012

The NEST in NS: Prince Edward Island Hijinx


Wednesday morning found us heading out crackin' early to hit Prince Edward Island. My mom had spent her summers there as a child and wanted us to see the island. My brother-in-law, Jed, was hopeful to see some nautical tourist sites, and I wanted a white sand beach so I could pretend we'd actually gone somewhere tropical for vacation. Luckily, PEI promised both things. Funny how things can look so optimistic at the start...

The ferry over to the island was pretty neat; this large white ship pulled up to the pier, and the nose of the ship lifted open like the mouth of a shark. We drove in, parked, and headed above deck to see the sea. Brian had a full farmer's breakfast in the on-board cafeteria while I whale watched with my brother--and we actually saw a whale! 


We got off the ferry and began our drive; our first stop was supposed to be a small town renown for its artisans. When we couldn't find the town, we pulled over and asked for directions, only to discover we were in the small town. Unable to figure out where these artisans were supposed to be hiding (unless they were in the gas station where we'd asked for directions), we gave up and headed instead for PEI's oldest lighthouse.


The Prim Point lighthouse was really very cool. For those of us who watched Road to Avonlea and remember Gus Pike, hotty that he was, living in the lighthouse, this was quite a thrill. I enjoyed the tour and everything about the stop, but I've learned a valuable lesson: never wear a tight skirt to a lighthouse. The entire four storeys were only reachable via a steep ladder-like staircase, and I basically had to give up all propriety and just hike my skirt up to my groin so I could manage the steps. 

We then drove to Cavendish Beach, on the north side of the island. Seeing as we entered from the south, this was a very, very long drive for a day trip. PEI is beautiful, but I must admit: after the first half-hour of well-manicured potato farms, everyone in the car except Brian fell asleep--because he was driving. But hey, if you are into long drives through vast beautiful expanses of farmland, PEI is THE place to go. For us, it was with a giant sigh of relief that we finally reached Cavendish.


There was a bit of a ruckus when we first arrived and were sent to the wrong entrance of the national park where the beach is. Empty stomachs and low blood sugar meant that everyone was snippy, so as we stopped for better directions I fed everyone handfuls of trail mix until they all calmed down. A good thing, too, as we managed to get lost a second time--this time, by accidentally driving down a bike path in the middle of the woods--but everyone was able to laugh it off. Thank heavens we had the GPS on the Focus, because I'm certain we would have run out of gas in the middle of nowhere and been forced to eat each other. We arrived at Cavendish Beach at last, with nobody cannibalized, ready for a swim in the Atlantic ocean.

Brian got this shot of a jellyfish.
Several times on our way across PEI, I thought that some of the little glitches happening were almost too coincidental; I had started to wonder if perhaps Fate was trying to keep us away from the beach this day, though I couldn't imagine why. But it was as we stood on the white sandy beach, staring out at a sea literally teeming with red stinging jellyfish, that I knew we were not meant to swim today. The waves were spotted with the personal-pizza-sized devils. Kids were picking up the dead ones and rapidly dropping the occasional live one as it stung their hands. Bravely, my brother attempted a quick swim and ended up with a sting across his foot for the effort.

Brian and I lay on the beach rather than plunge in with the jellyfish. I found myself wondering if this was my new 'thing'; you see, when we were last in the Caribbean, a school of white jellyfish had ambushed my snorkeling group. Perhaps these are my oceanic foe, as the crocodile was to Captain Hook. I shook my head in frustration, but nothing was going to entice me into those waters. 


We had plans to travel to several other places around the island, including a number of craft shops; but with all the long-distance driving and getting lost, we pretty much ran out of time. We'd book ourselves for a return ferry trip at 6pm, and at 4pm we realized we had a long drive back to the pier. The next two hours were like The Amazing Race, complete with detours, speeding, and a total breakdown of previously healthy relationships. It's a blur of driving, yelling, and sweating; and as the family borke down into savage chaos, with yelling and cursing over the walkie talkies, Frank Sinatra came onto the radio and sang a dissonant tune about the joys of travelling.It was a surreal moment.

We would have made it back to the ferry in time, had it not been for the car accident just off the bridge by Charlottetown. A 45 minute traffic jam meant that, according to our GPS, we were going to miss the ferry by 20 minutes. Eager to get back to Nova Scotia, I confess to you now: we all drove at high speed to get there. The once-quaint fields of perfect potato crops were now a nightmare of endless green, mocking us as we raced to beat the clock. 

Dad, with his babies.
About 5:50pm, my mother radioed us from the other car and said she was changing the ferry reservation to 8pm. We all sighed in resignation; this solution meant no lobster from the pound tonight. Most of us thought we'd slow down our pace at this point, and maybe find a dinner stop on the way, but Brian continued to take us on a high-speed race back to the pier. With clever driving and a great deal of alacrity, we drove the width of PEI...and managed to miss the ferry by 7 minutes. 


Dejectedly, frustrated now with our entire PEI adventure, we headed over to an information centre, where we were informed that the closest restaurant would have us too far away to catch the next ferry; but, the girl said, there was a lovely little diner right here on the info centre's property. Fancy that. We walked over to the diner, afraid of what we'd find, but we were utterly surprised and delighted in the end. The staff were incredibly friendly, the food was homemade and delicious, and even the mayo in my chicken salad sandwich was from scratch. In fact, the next day while eating at a restaurant three times as pricey, we found ourselves wistfully reminiscing about the diner at the info centre. I have no idea what this place was called, but if you find yourself near the ferry pier at Woods Islands on the PEI side, go and get yourself a bowl of homemade soup, a lobster roll, or a chicken sandwich. You won't regret it.


Sunset on the ferry.
So our trip to PEI involved a panicked drive, way too many miles of nothingness, a lack of crafty towns, and a jellyfish invasion. But it also contained one whale sighting, one cool lighthouse, and one kick-ass diner. Oh, and just before getting stuck in the traffic jam by Charlottetown, we did indeed stop at a potter's shop, where we bought some pottery and, at her urging, pet her angora rabbits. My only real regret: I didn't get a Cows waffle cone on the morning ferry, and there was none available on the evening ferry. I made up for it with butterscotch pie, but it just wasn't quite the same.

PEI: a beautiful place, and highly recommended for people who like to drive through farmland. Maybe I'll appreciate it more when I'm older.

1 comment:

  1. Hehe. I have such fond memories of pei, but the slow pace may have been just what I needed after a crazy night in Moncton the previous night with a friend from my time in Korea :)

    My friend and I stayed in a cottage that ended up being a wee house in a cow field, we saw a quaint concert in a barn and we spent the next day leisurely visiting lighthouses.

    Oh and we had lobster, of course :). You guys did a lot in one day ;)