To get to Prince Edward Island by car (or van) you take the Confederation Bridge from New Brunswick. The bridge was opened in May 1997 and is about 8 miles long, making it the world’s longest bridge over ice-covered water. The history of the bridge is pretty interesting and we enjoyed reading about it during our crossing here. In short – Canada is required to provide year-round access to the island, as part of a negotiation in PEI’s decision to join the Confederation back in 1873. Given that the Northumberland Strait ices in the winter, providing reliable ferry service proved difficult. Ideas of a railroad bridge to the island were floated, but improved ferry boats over the years kept this idea from gaining traction. It never fully went away though, and in the 1960s the Prime Minister at the time suggested funds would be dedicated towards a future causeway for trains and cars. Debate about the fixed connection went on for decades, with some PEI residents concerned about the environmental impacts of a bridge and resulting changes to island life. Ultimately the government of PEI approved the construction of the bridge, with some conditions to ensure economic benefits for the island. Construction started in 1993 and four years and 840 million (Canadian) dollars later the Confederation Bridge was complete!
Anne of Green Gables
I was shocked to learn that David hadn’t heard of Anne of Green Gables, written by PEI resident Lucy Maud Montgomery and inspired by time spent at her aunt and uncle’s house on the island. The island is very proud of the book series, and offers lots of ways to immerse yourself in Anne of Green Gables. I didn’t want to overwhelm David with too much Anne, so picked my top two activities: a visit to the home that inspired the book (Silver Bush, still owned by Montgomery’s family) and the musical. I was surprised to learn just how popular the book is internationally. One of the guides at the museum was from Japan and told us the book has been very influential there, especially after World War II, providing for young Japanese girls of an outspoken, caring, generous female role model.
As you would expect, the setting of Silver Bush was idyllic – green fields, large trees, a nearby pond. A plaque contained quotes from Lucy Maud Montgomery describing the place. In a letter to her cousin, she said “I love this old spot better than any place on earth.” I can see why she was so fond of the area. Much of the island looks very similar to Silver Bush, with lots of farms, ponds, rolling hills, and expansive views of the sky.
I didn’t need to worry about David enjoying the Anne of Green Gables musical. It is held in the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown, the largest city in PEI. It has been on stage since 1965, making it the longest running annual musical. Both our expectations were exceeded – we loved it.
To end my Anne of Green Gables promotion, here is one of my favorite quotes from the book, that I think is very applicable to our trip (and life in general).
“It’s been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.”L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
PEI has an amazing amount of bike trails, especially considering its size. The main trail is the Confederation Trail, which use the old railroad lines to cover the island tip-to-tip (and more), with 270 miles of trail. I risked the cloudy weather, which turned to heavy downpour, to experience the trail. The results included soggy shoes and socks and no photographs or regrets! Fortunately, we had much better weather for our bike ride in Cavendish, which followed a paved path along the coast. When I suggest a ride to David he has started asking if it is a ride for fitness or a ride for fun. I like to think every ride can be both. I think David prefers the “fun” rides which typically include a brewery stop and relaxed pace. This was a ride for fitness.
Another highlight of PEI was the seafood. I think photos can best describe the food:
If you find yourself in PEI, I highly recommend a stop at the Lobster Barn in Victoria (picture 1 and 3).
Charlottetown is the capital and largest City in PEI. For some reason I struggled throughout our visit to say Charlottetown, perhaps because I went to college in Charlottesville. We spent about a day here, and enjoyed a nice stay at the local Walmart! We enjoyed wandering around looking at the colorful houses, sculptures, and coastline.
Charlottetown was the site of the 1864 Charlottetown Conference in 1864. This was a grand social affair that set in motion the idea of Confederation. While the meeting included delegates from just New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, they ultimately worked for the union of all the British North American colonies. PEI ultimately joined the Confederation in 1873.