Ah, Prince Edward Island. I have been waiting to see you in real life rather than just my imagination since I was a young girl, sitting at my father’s knee, listening to him read aloud to my sister and me all eight of the “Anne of Green Gables” books. This rather idyllic memory might sound overly romanticized to you, but to me is precious. The island did not disappoint, and I found myself in raptures of bliss the entire time we were there. It is a place I would like to live—in the summer and autumn, anyway. The red cliffs, yellow dunes, blue ocean and rolling green hills made for a colourful landscape and I wanted to stop to take photos all the time. The wildflowers everywhere and all the birch trees made me think of L. M. Montgomery’s descriptions of this beloved place.
PEI is important historically as it is where meetings to decide about making Canada a country were held, in the provincial capital of Charlottetown. PEI didn’t join confederation until a few years later, in 1873. John A. Macdonald, the prime minister decided to rescue it from some hefty railway debts making joining the country more attractive than let’s say, joining America instead, who also wanted it, and Britain, who wanted to keep it. PEI also considered becoming its own nation. The acquisition of PEI is kind of like three guys fighting over a pretty girl. PEI is like “Should I just stay single, or choose one of these dudes? Hmmm….which boyfriend will buy me more jewellery? Canada will. I’ll go with him.”
It’s very proudly Canadian by now as there were 100’s of those beautiful red and white maple leaf flags flying everywhere as we drove through the province. There was a feeling of festivity as well while we were staying in New Glasgow, which is near Cavendish as there was a country music festival occurring the very weekend we were in town. I heard from locals that tourists are encouraged NOT to come at this time because of “all the traffic” and the craziness of this festival. Yeah, there were like 12 cars we had to wait for before making a turn on one of the four roads we frequented. Major traffic. This advice to stay away was duly listened to by most other tourists which consequentially meant that the very day we went to see alllll of the Anne of Green Gables stuff and allll the L. M. Montgomery stuff, there were—oh my goodness—hardly any tourists around. AMAZING.
I should explain to my non-Canadian readers that “Anne of Green Gables” is, by far, my MOST FAVOURITE BOOK OF ALL TIME and that it is a Canadian TREASURE and that I do not consider a person a true Canadian unless they have at the very least watched the 1985 film adaptation with Megan Follows at least once in their lives. They are a truer Canadian if they’ve read the book at least once, and they are at the height of Canadian-ness if they have read all SEVEN sequels as well. L. M. Montgomery wrote a lot in her time when she lived in PEI and Ontario. She wrote something like 20 novels, 500 poems, and 500 short stories. She loved PEI and 99% of her writing is set there. “Anne of Green Gables” was her very first novel and her most popular one. Even during her lifetime, it was so famous, that less than ten years after its initial publication, Cavendish was drawing tourists there who wanted to see where Anne grew up. People think Anne is real and Montgomery herself admits she always felt strange saying that Anne wasn’t real when asked, as if she was doing Anne a disservice.
Other countries have embraced this fictional tale of a red-headed orphan who is accidentally brought to Green Gables but eventually accepted by Matthew and Marilla, an older brother and sister who decide to raise her even though she isn’t the boy they wanted to get. Japan LOVES this story and it’s actually on their reading lists for school. Indeed, I did encounter many a tourist on the island who was of Asian descent. Americans even know this story! I am always impressed when Americans take note of anything Canadian other than our sexy prime minister.
I soaked in all of the “Anne” stuff. We went to the house which Montgomery based her book on, which is now a heritage site within the National Park (so admission was free!) We went to Montgomery’s grandparents’ place where she lived for 13 years. We went to another house where she lived. We went to her birthplace house. We went to her cousin’s house, “Silver Bush” where she based another two of her books. We went to Anne giftshops and chocolate shops and we saw TWO musicals: the first book, and a charming sequel. I gotta tell ya, we were fairly SATURATED in Anne of Green Gables. I think I’ve had my fill, at least for a couple of weeks. Callum bore it all valiantly. Oh! I forgot! We also listened to the audio book while driving through Nova Scotia, and finished it MINUTES before seeing the musical. I can never complain again about the boring history museums or the loud music that Callum enjoys, ever again.
Besides all that Anne and Montgomery, we saw foxes! I have started following a photographer from the Maritimes who specialises in photos of wildlife and in particular foxes, which she finds mostly in PEI. I love foxes. I think they are just the cutest. It was my hope that we’d see at least one while visiting the province. We were in luck! We saw three our first night, and I didn’t have my actual camera—only my phone! Drat! The next night we went fox hunting again, and found three more, though I’m pretty sure at least one of them was the same one from before. We got as close to them as we felt was necessary and safe and took photos and just observed them. A park ranger came up and asked us if we had got any good shots, and then shyly asked us if we knew we couldn’t feed them. Horror upon horrors! I replied “Of course not! We love wildlife and would never feed any. Except maybe a squirrel. I swear!” I think he believed me and we earned some bonus points for having visited and admired where he was originally from (Cape Breton) and we spent half an hour chatting to him about animals, his job, foxes, stupid people who feed the foxes and bears (!), and so on. Seriously, talk to park rangers, people. They are interesting folks. Plus you can get handy tips about which trails to walk, where to visit, etc. He recommended a beach to us which we went to the next day. It was beautiful!
Speaking of beaches, we wished we were on PEI a bit longer to fully enjoy them. The water was not very warm and there were large burgundy jellyfish swimming about but I did enjoy a quick wary-eyed splash to cool off from the surprisingly warm and humid air. Another day, I did a painting while on a beach and felt so inspired. We only spent a total of 3 hours on two different beaches but like I said, we wished we had more time. I could really see myself living in PEI. It was beautiful and peaceful and had so many different sea views. You can get a sea view virtually at any point on the island. Maybe one day we’ll have a holiday house there. One can dream.