With all the work going on at our downstairs neighbors and all the time I’ve been spending outside the house and trying to unwind at the end of the day, I’ve been doing more reading than usual lately. The book I finished most recently in Jan-Philipp Sendker’s ‘The Art of Hearing Heartbeats’. It is part love story, part mystery and a thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyable read. It is also a great way to be transported into a part of the World that is completely different from my corner of the planet since most of the events take place in Burma. A trip outside my town is just what the doctor ordered these days and the book is so well written that I could nearly feel the thick, muggy Burmese air and smell the spices from the food described in the book while I was reading it.
Since finishing Sendker’s book, I have moved on to Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear’. I didn’t know that Elizabeth Gilbert had a new book out until I came across a Tweet about it on the feed of a food blogger I follow and it immediately went onto my list of books to purchase. I will admit to having trouble letting my guard down when writing and so far Gilbert’s book has been slowly helping me to let go of that, which is a good thing because I don’t get nearly as much content onto my two blogs as I could, plagued as I am by self-doubt and dogged by a fear of what anyone who knows me will think of both my writing and photographic abilities. As a child and teenager I was nothing but one big ball of creativity. I sang and danced every day like no one was watching me, I drew and painted and sculpted without inhibition, I even made jewelry for my mom and as a teenager I would churn our pages and pages of short stories every single day. Then I had a few setbacks in my creative endeavors and I stopped creating until I got my first blog going back in 2009. I blogged and snapped photos steadily until my father got sick and passed away. His death really knocked the stuffing out of me and I turned out almost nothing for two years until I started writing here. I am hoping that ‘Big Magic’ will continue to help me trust my creative abilities a bit more every day and I recommend it to all of you, my fellow bloggers, whether you have trouble embracing your creativity or not, because it is worth the read just to soak up Elizabeth Gilbert’s wonderful, unguarded writing style.
On another note, the work at our downstairs neighbors place continues, as does the noise and the discovery of hidden faults with our own house (hello, shoddily braced up rotten joists under our bathtub that if not found might have resulted in an embarrassing, costly situation where our tub might have ended up on top of the downstairs tub, hopefully when both were unoccupied). Oh and the slip-ups by the workers downstairs that generally involve the cutting or removal of wires presumed dead which are actually live and connected to our entryway lights or alarm system *sigh*. I told my Darling last night that if I could have, I would have bought a plane ticket right that moment and flown the heck out of here today and not come back until I was well and properly unwound, but I can’t do that. I can’t leave him here to deal with all of this mess by himself, it just wouldn’t be fair, no matter how sick of all this and exhausted I am. I just have to keep telling myself that each day of work that gets done downstairs brings us one day closer to the end of this whole noisy fiasco and keep mentally transporting myself to my happy place, Prince Edward Island. Sometimes my memories of our time there last Summer are the only things that keep me sane.
Hello and welcome to my third and final post about our Prince Edward Island vacation! This time I’ll be addressing two other important points, what there is to do in PEI, since it can vary by season, as well as where to stay, since your options will also vary depending on when you visit the Island.
Most people visit Prince Edward Island between late Spring and early Fall and there is a reason for this: The weather. Winters in PEI can be very, very rough and getting around can be difficult. I’m not saying you should not visit PEI at this time of year because Winter on the Island can be absolutely gorgeous, but be warned that if there is a snow storm while you are there, you will not be able to get around until all the snow is cleared away and this can take a few days because the Island shuts down during storms and they wait until the snow has stopped falling before clearing it away.
Your options for where to stay on the Island from October to June will also be greatly diminished since the vast majority of the cottages for rent in PEI are not winterized and are closed up by their owners once it gets too chilly and remain closed until the clay roads they are often on are well set late into Spring. Believe me when I tell you that you do not want to get your car stuck in the muck that the clay roads of PEI turn into in the Spring or after some very heavy rain. Cottages are amazing places to stay in Prince Edward Island though, I’ve stayed in one during three out of my four vacations there and have never had a bad experience. The one my Darling and I rented during our two-week vacation in July was by far the best-equipped cottage I have ever stayed in and its location in the center of the Island was ideal. I have a few pictures of it below and you can find out more about it from its VRBO listing here.
So, while I prefer to stay in cottages or apartments when I travel because I love the freedom of not having to worry about where I am going to find my next meal, especially in the morning, I know that a lot of people love to be pampered in hotels and resorts. I am not exactly a well of information when it comes to hotels in PEI and I can say with 100% certainty that there is nary a resort to be had, nor a private beach unless you rent a very, very expensive cottage, I can recommend the two hotels I have stayed in on the island in the past. The Super 8 hotel in Charlottetown is where I stayed during my four-day trip to the Island in May of 2012 and it is a great mid-range hotel with a pool and free breakfast in the morning delivered by Tim Horton’s. It doesn’t get much more Canadian than that! The location of the hotel is awesome, it is right across the causeway from Downtown Charlottetown and not even a five-minute drive from the Cow’s ice cream factory and a nice little strip mall with a great burger joint. The other hotel I can recommend is the Dundee Arms, a lovely hotel in a beautiful heritage building in old Charlottetown. My Darling and I stayed there for two nights during our July vacation and loved it, although the one downside to it is the exhaust outlet for the hotel’s kitchen which is quite loud and makes it difficult to sleep with the window open in about 80% of the rooms…sleeping is no issue with the windows closed however since the beds are very comfortable, or at least they are in the annex section of the hotel we stayed in. The food in the hotel restaurant is delicious as well and eating out on their terrace when the weather is nice is delightful.
Now, just in case anyone was going to ask about camping on Prince Edward Island, yes, it is an option. Campsites are plentiful for both RVs and tents, but do not forget your bug spray!!! Mosquitoes are a force to be reckoned with in PEI from June onward and not in a small way. They will not bother you during the day or on the beach whether it is night or day, but as soon as you are away from the beach in the evening, watch out! The reasons that mosquitoes are so prevalent in Prince Edward Island are the abundance of stagnant water in farmers’ fields and the equal abundance of evergreens, which mosquitoes adore. I enjoy camping as much as the next girl, but I would not attempt it in PEI. You have been warned.
As for what there is to do in Prince Edward Island, as with places to stay, you options will vary greatly depending on when you visit the Island. A lot of places turn into ghost towns as of October, but the island’s greatest selling point, its scenery, is beautiful year round.
One of my favorite times of year to visit the Island, however, is from mid-June to early July, when the lupines are in bloom. Lupines have long been my favorite wild flowers and my Darling got a kick out of me squealing with delight when we started coming across them in New Brunswick. As you can see from the picture below, most lupines are purple, but they can also be white or pink and sometimes even yellow.
The road between St.Peter’s and Souris is a wonderful place for lupine spotting and is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful on the Island and I make sure to drive it every time I am there.
Another of my favorite places to visit is in PEI is Victoria-by-the-Sea, a beautiful, quaint little town halfway between Charlottetown and Borden-Carleton. Its bay is a wonderful place to go for a dip or set off in a kayak, canoe or catamaran and it has some wonderful food and entertainment options. Its theater, shops and restaurants are open from mid-June to the first week of September, but they begin closing for the Fall and Winter after that. You can visit the town’s website here for specific opening and closing dates.
One feature of Victoria that I particularly love is its lighthouse, which you can see below. I have loved lighthouses ever since seeing my first one in Cape Cod when I was about twelve years old. My father loved them too and I remember how he made a point of our visiting all the lighthouses we could when we went on our family vacation to PEI in 1998. The Victoria lighthouse is owned and maintained by the villagers of Victoria and as you can see, they keep it in pristine condition.
I encourage you to visit as many lighthouses as possible in PEI, but don’t limit yourselves to the easy to reach ones, because if you do, you will miss out on some magical places, like the Cape Tryon light. I will admit that the road to this lighthouse is not for the faint of heart. It is a deeply carved and narrow red clay road and if you car is low to the ground, you will have to park it on the side of the main road and walk to the light. This place is worth the trek though, especially in July when the fields of barley on either side of the road are a beautiful, fresh green bordered by wildflowers. The lighthouse itself is just what you would expect a light on a solitary, out-of-the-way cape to be, weather-beaten and showing its age, but it gives off an aura of steadfastness that I love.
I know that I have been giving you quite a few warnings about the clay roads in Prince Edward Island, but really, they are not to be missed. You just have to be logical about how and when you use them. They are actually one of the best ways to get from one place to another quickly in many situations, since most of the main roads of the Island follow the coast. Sometimes it is downright silly to follow the main roads when you can get to where you’re going much more quickly by cutting across the Island by a side road. If this opportunity presents itself to you and it has not been pouring for two days straight and you’re not driving a fancy, low-riding sports car, take it. You will more than likely be delighted by some of the scenery you will come across, such as this:
As you can see, the road is well driven and well maintained and it was raining pretty steadily when we were on it. Just about 30% of the roads in PEI are unpaved, so they’re pretty hard to avoid and as I said, you just have to be smart about how you use them. Don’t drive down them at 100 km an hour and keep off them if it has been pouring rain for more than 24 hours or if it is any earlier than about mid-may and if you think the road might be too deeply carved for your car, leave it on the side of the road and take a walk. If you do get stuck in the mud on a dirt road, don’t worry. Walk for help and don’t be shy about knocking at the door of a house you just drove by or flagging down the farmer who is mowing down his field of hay, they will be happy to help, they are used to tourists getting stuck in the muck. The bottom line is, the pros of using Prince Edward Island’s dirt roads and what they lead you to far outweigh the cons, such as beaches!
Prince Edward Island is famous for its beaches, with good reason. There are at least thirty beaches on the Island, if not more and many of them are not listed, such as beautiful Blooming Point beach where our cottage was. Some of the beaches are supervised, some are not, but each one is unique, so do not ever make the mistake of going to PEI and sticking to just one beach. My Darling and I went to the beach ten out of the fourteen days we were on vacation and visited nine different beaches. One of our favorites was Argyle Shore for its warm water, proliferation of hermit crabs and lack of jellyfish. It is very rocky though, so bring your beach shoes and don’t be surprised by the lack of sand! Now, getting back to those jellyfish! The jellyfish in the waters off PEI are essentially harmless. They do sting, but they are not poisonous and all that is needed to soothe a jellyfish sting is plaster of damp sand. Try and avoid them, naturally, but don’t let them stop you from getting in the water! For a partial list of the beaches in Prince Edward Island, click here.
Now, because no visit to Prince Edward Island is complete without it, yes, you should visit Green Gables. I have been three out of four of the times I have been to the Island and I do not get tired of it. The house is open from May to October with possibilities to visit outside those months by appointment. For more details about the opening dates and times at which Green Gables is open, you can visit this page. Now, why is Green Gables worth the visit? Because it is more than just a house! You can also visit the old barn to learn about life on Prince Edward Island during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, walk two beautiful trails and visit the gift shop and the snack bar. Green Gables is a fun, vibrant place and naturally a great place to go if you have children. A word of advice though: if you see a bus of tourists arriving at the same time as you do, either hurry to visit the house before they make it there, or walk the trails while they go through. Green Gables may look like a good-sized house on the outside, but it is full of small rooms and narrow hallways that make it difficult to visit when there is a crowd around.
And last, but most definitely not least, go stargazing. Prince Edward Island is beyond a doubt the best place I know of to take in the stars. The Island is almost exclusively rural, so there are very, very few street lamps and houses are usually set very far apart so any light from them will not hinder your view of the night sky whether you stop out by a farmer’s field or, like us, step out into your back yard.
So that’s it for this trip! If you ever have any questions about the Island, please do not hesitate to ask them, I’ll be more than happy to answer as best as I can.
Here I am, back with my second PEI vacation post! Being the foodie that I am and since the first thing most people wonder about a place they visit is where they can get some great food, I will be focusing on my favorite places to eat in PEI. I hope you like seafood, because that is what most of these places feature, but fear not! Even though Islanders are big on eating local and seasonal and a big part of their income comes from the sea, all the restaurants I will be writing about here also offer burgers, steak and sometimes pasta and they all offer salad. Because hey, not everyone enjoys fish and lobster, right?
First off, if you are looking for the best lobster rolls in Prince Edward Island, do like me and make your first stop on the Island the Water Prince Corner Shop in Charlottetown! I have made it an ongoing mission to try as many lobster rolls as I can in PEI and have yet to find better ones. The Water Prince’s potato salad is to die for as well! And yes, the shop really is on the corner of Water and Prince, it is blue with white trim around the windows, you can’t miss it!
The second place I took my Darling to eat in PEI was Rick’s Fish ‘n’ Chips in St-Peter’s. This place was featured on Canada’s The Food Network’s ‘You Gotta Eat Here’ for a reason: their fish and chips are amazing! Rick’s batter is light and not greasy and the fish always stays nice and tender. Another plus about this place is its location. The town of St-Peter’s is built around St-Peter’s Bay and Rick’s is right in the bend of the road that curves around it, which makes for some lovely views!
Now, before I continue on to the next restaurant, a small note about beer on the Island. As I mentioned earlier, the inhabitants of PEI take great pride in eating local. This applies to their beer drinking habits as well. Unless you go to a large British or Irish pub in Charlottetown such as the Churchill Arms (also featured on ‘You Gotta Eat Here’, do not expect to be served anything other than PEI ale, usually either Beach Chair Lager or Gahan when it is in season. I am not a big beer drinker, but my Darling knows his way around it quite well and he preferred Gahan. So this is fair warning if you love your Guiness, Labatt, Molson or whatever: bring it with you.
Now, back to Charlottetown! We ended up staying in town for two nights for our anniversary. The first evening was our actual anniversary and my Darling treated me to dinner at Fishbones Oyster Bar & Grill. Fishbones was my choice because I was dying for oysters and Fishbones did not disappoint, presenting us with a platter of four oysters, two Raspberry Points and two Malpeques. Malpeques are my all-time favourite oysters and I would gladly have shoveled away a dozen, but I decided to wait until we were actually in Malpeque to binge on them!
Our most pleasant surprise during our time in PEI was the raspberry cordial we decided to try when we visited Green Gables. This was my Darling’s idea. During all my visits to PEI I avoided this stuff like the Plague, because it look like it would more than likely be far too sweet for my sensitive Canadian taste-buds, but I was very pleasantly surprised. The drink was just sweet enough and pleasantly refreshing, so if you like carbonated water with a twist, don’t be afraid to try this fun little drink! It can be found all over the Island.
Next, my Darling and I indulged in a little treat: afternoon at Dalvay By The Sea! I’m a bit of an Anglophile and am a stickler for afternoon tea done right and Dalvay absolutely lived up to my expectations. They serve up tea every day as of 2:00 P.M. and you get everything you see on our tea tier plus all the tea you can drink for 55$ for two! Do make sure you call and book ahead though, especially on the weekend as they can fill up fast! Also, please note that Dalvay By The Sea is inside the Brackley-Dalvay section of PEI National Park, so you will have to pay the Park’s entrance fee to get there. You can find more information about the Park and its fees here.
Our last memorable culinary stop was in Malpeque at the absolutely delightful Malpeque Oyster Barn. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take any pictures of beautiful Malpeque Harbour or the restaurant because it was pouring buckets the evening we were there, the only significant rain we saw during our entire two-week vacation. But trust when I say this: if you love oysters, this is the place for you. Malpeque oysters have a beautiful, sharp flavour to them that makes them instantly recognizable and this place serves them fresh, like 24-48 hours out of the water fresh, every single day. Absolute and total ecstasy if you love oysters like I do, even my Darling who was on the fence regarding oysters before our vacation was converted to the beginner level of oyster loving by these guys. Naturally, the Oyster Barn does not serve only oysters. My Darling enjoyed quite a nice lobster roll there and I loved their fish cakes, which were made with fresh fish and another PEI staple: mashed potatoes. Because if there is one thing you have to taste aside from the seafood in PEI, it is their potatoes!
Now, a few pointers about eating in PEI:
1- You are not in the big city. Planning on eating out anywhere on the Island any later than 8:00 P.M. is a big risk. This is because PEI is all rural. The biggest city there is Charlottetown and its population is approximately 35 000. The kitchen at the Fishbones is the latest closing one I know of and it closes at 10:00 P.M.
2- You will more than likely be staying at least a 20 minute drive away from the nearest grocery store if you are staying in a cottage, so plan your meals ahead so you won’t have to go to the grocery store more than once a week. Keep an eye out for the nearest gas station with a Needs convenience store attached to it, they have all the essentials in a pinch, but keep in mind that it might be at least 10 kms away from your place.
3- Keep it casual. PEI is a very laid back place, so you will not be needing any super fancy clothes to eat out, not even for afternoon tea at Dalvay. The only dress code on PEI is that you must be wearing a shirt, pants and shoes for service, meaning you will not be served if you show up abrefoot in your bathing suit. Yup, they really post this on the entrance to shops and restaurants, because most people who eat out or go shopping in the Summer are tourists who are either coming from, or heading out to the beach.
4- If you’re in a hurry, don’t be. Island restaurants pride themselves on serving their food fresh, so if you’re in a rush, head to the Water Prince for a lobster roll. That’s the only place where I have consistently been able to order and eat in under a half-hour because they keep their lobster salad so handy. Otherwise, plan on being in any eatery for at least an hour.
So, when a girl who loves to read goes on a two-week beach holiday, she is most definitely going to use all of her free time to enjoy some books! She is also more than likely going to end up with a rather uneven tan, because it is for more comfortable to read lying on ones stomach than on ones back when on the beach!
Now,what did I read while enjoying such lovely beaches as Dalvay, pictured above? I finished Jacqueline Park’s ‘The Secret Book of Grazia Dei Rossi’, which, as I mentioned in an earlier post, was delightful, and I then went on to read M. L. Stedman’s ‘The Light Between Oceans’, which was also excellent. I very rarely cry over books, but I cried near the end of this one and it brought out many other emotions as well. I highly recommend it, but be ready to do some serious thinking on the issues it brings up!
As far as cooking and baking go, I’ve been pretty busy since I got back and have been thoroughly enjoying have a full-sized kitchen again! Our cottage on PEI was marvelously well-equipped as far as cottages go, but I was working with about one-third of the counter space I have at home! Suffice it to say that I wasn’t able to make anything too elaborate while we were away, so as so when we got home I was more than ready for a challenge and started off by making these sausage and ricotta stuffed shells, which are baked on a bed of pureed butternut squash. They were oh, so delicious and my Darling had some jealous colleagues when he brought some leftovers for his lunch at work! One thing though: you do not need one pound of shells, or at least I sure didn’t! Half a pound would have been fine with the size of the jumbo shells I had on hand, I made the stuffed shells last week and we just polished off the leftover pasta that I wasn’t able to stuff. Also, it is very easy to shake up this recipe just by varying the types of sausages you us. I stuffed them with mil Italian sausages this time, but next time I will use another type. Make sure they are the uncooked variety though, because you have to be able to split open the sausage casings and remove the meat in order to brown it and add it to the stuffing! Recipe credit goes to Rachel Schultz over at A Household Almanac for the recipe, which I found on Pinterest.
Another recipe I have enjoyed since coming home is Ashley’s matcha power smoothie bowl, a delightful green smoothie with an almond milk base! I love Ashley’s blog, Sed Bona, which is a lifestyle blog. She mostly blogs about fashion and Chicago restaurants which are a foodie’s dreams, but she also occasionally posts delicious recipes and this is one of them! This matcha smoothie comes out very thick, which is why Ashley specifies it is meant to be enjoyed in a bowl, but it is very easy to thin it out a bit by adding a bit more almond milk. A few other tweaks I gave the recipe included the use sunflower seed butter instead of peanut butter, since that is what we had on hand and instead of using plain almond milk, I used vanilla almond milk since, once again, that is what we had on hand. I think it would be best to use flavored almond milk in this recipe regardless though, since it adds a bit of sweetness.
There you have it! I’ll be back soon with more pictures and posts about our Prince Edward Island vacation!
So, you’ve probably noticed that it’s been rather quiet around here for the past few weeks! That’s because my Darling and I were off on vacation in beautiful, peaceful, good-for-the-soul Prince Edward Island for two weeks! It was my fourth visit to the Island and my Darling’s first and I am pleased to announce that he fell in love with charming, gentle PEI. I was pretty sure he would, but I was so pleased when he started saying how much he loved the place on Day 1!
For any of you not familiar with Prince Edward Island, it is Canada’s smallest province. It is bordered by the Northumberland Strait on one side and the Gulf of St-Lawrence on the other. It is also cradled by land on three sides by New Brunswick to the Southwest, to which it is connected by the Confederation Bridge, and Nova Scotia to the Southeast.
I first visited PEI as a girl with my family in July of 1998. My father and I both fell immediately in love with the Island and I was left with a hankering to go back, but didn’t manage to until May of 2012. My father unfortunately never made it back to Prince Edward Island, but I went back in June of 2013 for a week to avoid spending my Father’s Day without him in Montreal and then again this July. The Island always affects me in the same way: I am filled with peace as soon as I get there and I am always struck by its gentle beauty and the kindness of the people who live there. Everyone is so much more laid back than anywhere else I have ever been and the entire Island feels like one big, tight-knit family. I cry every single time I leave there.
The pictures in this post are from our recent vacation, so they give you a glimpse of the Island in the height of Summer, when it is a symphony of bright colors. In my next posts, I will be showing what the Island looks like in May and June as well as giving you little pointers about what to visit and the pros and cons of visiting the Island at different times in the Spring and Summer.
I can guarantee one thing though: The Island never disappoints, whether it is sunny or cloudy, warm or chilly, you will always be able to find beauty there, it is never far away.
You will also always leave there feeling relaxed, refreshed and oh, so happy and you will more than likely want to turn around and go back as soon as you get off the bridge or your plane has taken off. I, for one, never want to leave once I get there.