Tag Archives: vacation

Making everyone happy is not possible

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I’ve been keeping a secret…

So, it’s been pretty quiet around here for the past few months, once again. And here’s why: My Darling and I got engaged!!! He popped the question all of FOUR days before we left on a two and a half week trip to Poland so he could introduce me to his family over there. The vacation was planned, the engagement was kind of expected, but we were getting so close to our departure date that I honestly was not expecting it anymore. It finally happened though and we are both so, so excited.

Our trip was lovely although quite busy, we changed hotels seven times in eighteen days and saw more pretty much every single family member of my Darling’s still living in Poland. That was a lot of people and a lot of travelling and while Poland is a beautiful country and the food was delicious and I mostly had a good time, I got homesick at one point. The episode, which lasted a few days, was mostly triggered by the fact that I had never traveled to a country where I did not speak the language with enough proficiency to have a conversation. The other part of the trouble I is that we were travelling with a couple we are friends with and being with other people day in and day out can be exhausting. I am not a person who can be around other people 24-7, I just end up going bananas and the male counterpart of the couple we were travelling with eventually got rather annoyed with my moodiness and even got upset with me for not wanting to tag along on an excursion at one point, mostly, I believe, because I darling opted to go back to our lodgings with me. Hence, the title of this post: you can’t make everyone happy all the time. Sometimes, you have to put your own comfort and happiness first, whether it is while traveling or in everyday life. I was tired, I had a headache, I needed some space and I was craving some time alone with my Darling. We got engaged four days before leaving on our vacation, for crying out loud and we had not had an entire day to ourselves since two days before we left! So home we went and to heck with the friend’s grumpiness.

It is also impossible to keep everyone happy while planning a wedding. I’ve been at this for about two months now and have already managed to disappoint one bridesmaid and long time friend by not including her in my first dress shopping expedition and a cousin’s husband by addressing their ‘Save the date’ card to Mrs. Jane David & family (as I do with her Christmas card every year) and not Mrs. Jane & Mr. John Doe & family. I have tried to soothe the friend by explaining that the shop I am going to for my first afternoon of dress hunting only allows a bride to bring three people along and that my mom and best friend (and maid of honor) were no-brainers and that my sister in-law said she wanted to come along too right in front of my brother. I have so many friends who have told me over the years that they absolutely HAVE to come with me the day I go shopping for my wedding dress that I will not possibly be able to bring them all along, so what I have told them is that I will be rotating them in and out while always trying to include my mother and my best friend. I have four bridesmaids and one maid of honor and at least one friend who is not in my bridal party who has insisted on being included in one of my excursions. God help me if I find my dress on my first day out, but what else can I do? I can’t keep everyone happy and if I bring everyone along I will have too many opinions in one go, which I absolutely do not want. I have to think of myself and my sanity.

As for the card, what can say? I did not know my cousin had changed her name after she married and did not know that it was legally allowed in the Province she lived in. Women have not been allowed to change their names upon marriage here in Quebec for years now because it was causing too much paper work. Honest to goodness, my cousin’s husband’s reaction didn’t bother me nearly as much as her telling my aunt about it and my aunt telling my mother about it and then my aunt asking my mom to write Mrs. Jane & Mr. John Doe & family on their wedding invitation. I would have much preferred my cousin to contact me directly, but I have not hear a word from her. I am therefore left wondering if my cousin was so very bothered by the incident or if it was just her husband who for some reason overreacted to the save the date card when he had never said a word about any of the other mail I sent. You can’t make everyone happy, you really can’t. I cannot imagine the scenes that will be caused by the eventual seating plans, but ultimately, the wedding is my Darling and I’s day and anyone who tries to rain on our parade is the one with the issue, not us. Someone will complain about the cake, someone else will complain about the music and my dress will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I just don’t care. What does matter is that my Darling and I’s wedding pleases us. Of course I want our guests to have an awesome time at our wedding and I will do everything in my power to ensure that they do, but I refuse to believe that a bridesmaid will have less fun at the wedding because she didn’t come dress shopping with me or that my cousin’s husband will spend the evening sulking because one day, about nine months before the wedding he got a card with his wife’s maiden name on it instead of his and he didn’t feel included in the word ‘family’.

The bottom line is, folks, being kind is important, being thoughtful and respectful towards others is important, but being kind, thoughtful and respectful to yourself is important as well.If you are making everyone except yourself happy, then you are ultimately doing yourself more harm than good.

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Taking Stock No.4

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Enjoying a walk through some of Old Quebec’s beautiful, narrow streets.

Hi folks,

As you have probably noticed, I’ve been out of the look since I last wrote to you about our woes with our new downstairs neighbors. They have not gone away and neither has the mental exhaustion caused by the situation. Many times over the pas few months I have found myself dreaming of packing up and moving to an isolated corner of anywhere but here. It would be quite easy to do and no one would ever find me. My name is so common that I wouldn’t even have to change it in order to never be found, even by the aforementioned pesky neighbors should they decide to attempt to hunt me down. That would be a cowardly thing to do though and highly inconvenient for My Darling who is quite attached to his job and his family (it’s not that I’m not attached to my folks, we’re just not even nearly as tight-knit as My Darling’s family is). He did, however, manage to whisk me away to Quebec City with him for a few days when he went there to attend a conference at the beginning of the month, which did me a great deal of good and allowed me to get my creative juices flowing. Then, when we got back, miracle of miracles, Spring appeared and I have been able to spend increasing amounts of time outside. The leaves are all out, the flowers are blooming, I planted my flowers and bought our strawberry plant and I am looking slightly less pasty. Phew…the work downstairs should finally be done next week, which is an excellent thing because I am becoming less and less tolerant of the group of loud, cigarette smoking, belching, cursing men who show up every morning at 7:00 and are present until the end of the afternoon. I want my quiet home back, I to not have to worry about parking in my own driveway for fear of puncturing my tires on a nail or being trapped in my parking space by a delivery of sheet rock or some worker’s pickup truck. For crying out loud, we found a worker’s discarded t-shirt in our parking space this morning! Ugh…Anyhow, I thought one of my ‘Taking Stock’ posts would be a good way for us to catch up and hopefully I will be able to get my creative juices flowing freely enough once things calm down to come back with another post soon. In the mean time though, you can head over to my photography blog Old Orchard Photography for more about my trip to Quebec and to see a few more of the photos I took there.

Enjoying: being able to walk out the door without having to pile on more layers than an onion.
Listening: to The Merry Widow on CBC Radio 2.
Wearing: my GAP striped sundress. I bought it at an outlet store in Las Vegas last Spring and it is my go-to dress as soon as the warm weather rolls around. It is just as comfy as a pair of pajamas, but completely appropriate to wear out around town as well!

Making: time for myself.

Cooking: Korean burgers for My Darling and his friend when they get back from their bike ride.
Drinking: Iced tea made with our Fortnum and Mason teas. We just emptied our jug of Irish Breakfast and I’m going to ice some Countess Grey next.
Feeling: relieved that the renovations downstairs are finally almost finished.
Reading: ‘Her Majesty: 60 Regal Years’ by Brian Hoey, the first biography of The Queen I have ever read and I am thoroughly enjoying it. I have also recently torn through Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Big Magic’ as I mentioned in my previous post and Camilla Gibb’s ‘This is Happy’ which I highly recommend.

Looking: forward to my vacation in Poland with My Darling next month.
Wishing: we still had a deaf lady in her 70s for a downstairs neighbor. Boy, do we ever miss Mrs. L.
Liking: eating breakfast with My Darling on the back terrace under our red parasol on weekends.
Waiting: for the next bunch of strawberries growing on our plant to ripen.

Snacking: on dark chocolate raspberry Lärabars
Coveting: some Prince Edward Island therapy. I would wish for August to come quickly, but I want Summer to drag on for ages!
Hearing: no construction noise, praise God.
Learning: to not let myself be intimidated by bullies.

Loving: how My Darling has been perking up since he has been able to take his bike out for long rides again.
Watching: not much, really! It’s been far too nice out to watch TV.
Admiring: nature, it’s amazing how quickly things start growing and blooming when the warm weather finally settles in!
Getting: ready to make my first batch of homemade ice cream of the season! It’s going to be matcha, made with this recipe

Wondering: when I’ll have time to go shopping before our vacation.
Playing: piano when I can, which is not often. Racket downstairs = not conducive to learning a new instrument.
Noticing: how badly I needed my week off two weeks ago to ground myself.
Giggling: over My Darling’s waddle when he walks around in his cycling shoes.

Bookmarking: by folding the corners of the pages of the books I read. I don’t spend enough time online to bookmark sites lol
Deciding: on where we’re going to stay in Warsaw.
Hoping: for less drama in my life
Contemplating: jogging with a group of our local Running Room store when we get back from vacation.

Wanting: a new pair of running capris, I noticed several holes in my favorite pair when I got in from my jog on Thursday…
Thinking: about my dad a lot recently and how happy I am that the lupins I planted in front of his grave three years ago are finally going to flower!
Knowing: that my father would be proud of how I’ve handled the difficult situation with our new neighbors so far.
Opening: my heart to as much kindness from others as I can in order to heal myself from the unkindness I have suffered recently.

Feeling: energized and positive for the first time in months.
Marveling: at how warm, sunny weather can help turn peoples moods around within a matter of days.

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Notre-Dame-des-Victoires (Our Lady of Victories) church in Old Quebec

What I’ve been reading lately

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.

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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.

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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.

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Taking Stock No.3

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A partial view of the Cloud Gate and downtown Chicago

Hello everyone!

As you know, I enjoy doing these taking stock posts four times per year, it is a practice I picked up from fellow blogger Ashley over at Sed Bona. This will be my third post of this kind and I really look forward to doing them! Fell free to do some taking stock of your own and if you do, please let me know!

Enjoying: going over and over all the photos I took during My Darling and I’s little four day trip to Chicago last week! I’ve included two of them in this post and if you want to see more of them, go check out my photography blog and feel free to give it a like and a follow!
Listening: to Schubert’s Symphony No.8 in B Minor.
Wearing: my incredibly comfy Wilfred Free top, it’s just like PJs without being PJs, you can see a selection of Wilfred Free tops here.
Making: another scarf for myself. It’s slow going, but I will have it done by next winter!
Cooking: a chocolate orange cake for dessert with some friends tomorrow, recipe here.
Drinking: protein packed smoothies for lunch.
Feeling: better than I have since January, finally!!!
Reading: The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker
Looking: for a blue clutch. I have nothing but black clutches and I would love to have a more cheerfully colored one.
Wishing: my IT band would stop acting up so I can get back to running.
Liking: how much stronger the sun is getting, it’s putting a bit of warmth into our Winter Days!
Waiting: for 19-2 to start up again, it’s one of our favorite TV shows and we miss it!
Snacking: on Chèbrie in other words Brie made with goat’s milk 🙂 Sorry, dear American readers, but you can’t have any! I’ll get arrested if I try to send you some, I kid you not!
Coveting: A Kitchenaid stand mixer and have been for ages!
Hearing: the soothing, bubbling sound of water spilling out of my aquarium’s filter into the tank.
Learning: to play the piano thanks to My Darling.
Loving: Google Play, all the music ever created is at my fingertips and the lion’s share of it is completely free!
Watching: David Starkey’s Music and Monarchy on YouTube, because I can’t get it anywhere else unfortunately.
Admiring: My Darling’s efforts to better balance his personal and work life.
Getting: nervous about all the renovations our neighbors want to do, noise and dust! Joy!
Wondering: when and where we are going to take our Summer vacation.
Playing: Piano Tiles 2, it is ridiculously addictive.
Noticing: that Quinn is getting cuddly in her old age!
Giggling: over Quinn chasing a bug.
Bookmarking: nothing lately.
Deciding: where to hang the painting My Darling got me for my birthday. He says bedroom, I say dining room.
Hoping: that my cake is going to taste as good as it smells!
Contemplating: ways to make a bit of extra money through my photography.
Wanting: the freezing rain to stop falling outside before the city ends up looking like this again:

Montreal during the ice storm of 1998, image credit: CBC news

Thinking: I’m ready for dinner.
Knowing: my dinner will not make itself and delivery is not an option in this weather!
Opening: a bottle of wine so I can enjoy a glass or two while waiting for My Darling to come home from his conference.
Feeling: very accomplished, it has been a productive day!
Marveling: at how much more in control and organized I have been feeling lately.

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The stunning Tiffany glass dome in the Chicago Cultural Center

St.Joseph’s Oratory

Sometimes, no matter how much you want to, you just can’t write and that’s what has been going on with me lately, largely because of the events in Paris last week. I had a pretty strong post coming along in my head, but after the attacks, it just seemed so trivial. I’m normally a very happy, positive, fun-loving person and I strive to reflect that here on my blog, so I suppose that’s why I got writers block. I just wasn’t feeling like myself, but I think I’ve started to work that out of my system. That and after a visit to St.Joseph’s Oratory on Monday, I knew that the Oratory was just what I needed to write about. I have always had a thing for churches and although I have visited many stunning churches in Europe, the United States and at home here in Canada, the Oratory is still my favorite. It may not be a jaw dropper in terms of its interior, but in my mind that only adds to its charm. Also, its impressive size and the number of steps there are from street level up to the Basilica on the top floor makes the competition look silly ”You’re flamboyant neo-gothic? Well, I have 283 steps up to my front porch, so there!”. And fear not, if stairs are not your thing, there’s a shuttle bus to replace the first 99 stairs. It gets you to the main entrance level and then there are escalators and elevators inside, or more staircases. They just want to make sure there’s something for everyone, you know?

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St. Joseph’s Oratory seen from street level in early Spring.

So, how did we end up with this beautiful shrine in Montreal? It all started with this fella, Brother André.

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This bronze statue of St. Brother André can be found beside what is left of the original Oratory.

He came to Montreal in 1870 to join the Catholic order of Holy Cross brothers, whose novitiate was housed in Notre-Dame-Du-Sacré-Coeur College (that’s a private high school, we call them colleges here in Québec), just across the street from where the Oratory is now.

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A partial view of Notre-Dame-Du-Sacré-Coeur college all decked out for Christmas. The school has existed on its present site since 1869.

The brothers almost didn’t keep Brother André past his novitiate because of his frail health, but the bishop of Montreal at the time, Mgr. Bourget, intervened on his behalf after being impressed by André’s piousness and his strong desire to remain with the order and he took his perpetual vows in 1874. Lucky for the Order that the Bishop intervened, because Brother André turned out to be more than just your average Brother! His health was delicate (he was born with an undiagnosed stomach ailment that stayed with him throughout his life and prevented him from eating normally) and he didn’t have the necesary education to teach like the other brothers, so he was made the porter of the school and its Jack-of-all-trades. His tasks included helping out in the infirmary and one day a rumor started going around that a seriously ill student had been inexplicably and suddenly cured after Brother André had sat with him and they had prayed to St. Joseph together. St.Joseph, that’s a statue of him in the picture below, is a Saint of the Catholic church who is known for curing the sick and infirm, among other things.

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The Statue of St-Joseph that stands in the Oratory’s Votive chapel. The chapel holds 10 000 votive lamps and this stand alone contains 3500. Each candle that is lit in the chapel represents the prayer of a pilgrim.

Now, St.Joseph is a pretty popular guy and yes, that’s the same Joseph as the one made famous for marrying the virgin Mary and raising Jesus, so when word started getting around that Brother André seemed to have some sort of a direct line to him, people started showing up at Notre-Dame College asking for him. When he was at his doorkeeper’s post that wasn’t too much of a problem, especially at first when there weren’t too many pilgrims (people who travel somewhere specifically for prayer), but French Canadians in the late 19th Century were a pretty pious lot and soon the parents of the boys living at the school began complaining to Brother André’s superiors about the pilgrims who were taking the liberty of wandering around the school in order to look for Brother André when he was not in his porter’s cell. The issue was that a lot of these people were suffering from, or had been in close contact with people who were suffering from infectious diseases which were very difficult to treat at the time, such as influenza, diphtheria, scarlet fever, polio and tuberculosis and there was legitimate fear of the boys who boarded at the school being contaminated by germs. The Holy Cross order and Brother André knew that turning Pilgrims away not an option, so the order eventually gave Brother André permission to build a small oratory in honor of St.Joseph on a piece of land they owned across the street from Notre-Dame College. And voilà! we have the beginning of what was one day to become the largest shrine in the world dedicated to St.Joseph!

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The 1904 (behind the steeple) and 1910 (from the steeple frontwards) sections of the original oratory.

Cute, isn’t it? There was a problem though, Brother André only had 200$, which us equivalent to about 5o00$ nowadays, with which to build his Oratory. He put every last penny he had saved giving 5 cent haircuts at the College over a 34 year period to get the chapel built and it was too small. The oratory opened its doors for the first time on October 19th of 1904 and by Winter the pilgrims were showing up to see Brother at Notre-Dame again because there was only room for 8 people at a time in the chapel and even if they could get inside the building, it was unheated. Brother André and a few of his most loyal friends began collecting donations and in under six years they were able to not only install a wood burning stove but also to enlarge the Oratory twice, first to seat 50 people and then 200. The building was still prone to chronic overcrowding however, so Brother André and his friends continued to raise funds and in 1914, work began on the Crypt-Church, which opened in 1917 and could seat 750 people. To this day, it is the busiest church on the site and the busiest Catholic church I know of anywhere in Canada. There are 7 to 8 masses a day said at the Oratory and all of them except for two on Sundays are said in the Crypt-Church.

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The choir section of the Crypt-Church seen during a concert. The Crypt-Church gets its name from the fact that the Basilica was originally planned to be built directly on top of it, so it has a low ceiling supported by flattened steel arches.

Brother André knew that the Crypt-Church wouldn’t be able to hold all the masses of Pilgrims flocking to the shrine to pray St-Joseph for long though, so in 1924 work began on the Basilica, a huge church that could originally, before seats were put in and crowd regulation laws were put into place, hold 10 000 pilgrims. The Basilica took 43 years to complete because, as with the rest of the enlargements to the original shrine, it was built with donations and it was first a victim of the Great Depression and then of shifting values. It was opened for its first service in 1955 and Brother André, who passed away in 1937 at the age of 91, never got to see it completed. The interior of the Basilica was completed in 1967 in a Medieval inspired Art Deco style.

Nowadays, the Basilica seats 1 750 pilgrims on a regular Sunday, or 1 870 when chairs are added in for special occasions. Mass is said in the Basilica on Sunday mornings at 11:00 A.M. with music provided by its impressive 5811 pipe, 78 stop Beckerath organ and its boys’ choir the Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal and again at 12:30 P.M. It is also used for major feast days such as Christmas, Easter and St-Joseph’s feast day on March 19th. Otherwise, seeing as regular weekday masses are attended by anywhere between 50 to 200 pilgrims at a time, the Crypt-Church is used.

All this talk of overflow may make the Oratory sound like a very busy place, it is actually very, very peaceful and there is a beautiful energy that surrounds it as soon as you set foot inside the grounds. I’m very, very fortunate to have such a beautiful place in my neighborhood and I have been to it many, many times when I was in need of comfort and peace. If ever you are in Montreal, I cannot encourage you strongly enough to visit the Oratory, even though it is a bit off the beaten tourist trail. It is quite easy to reach by public transit since two bus lines stop right in front of it (the 51 and 166) and a very major bus line stops just one corner away (the 165-435 line, the second number is the express number for rush hour). Don’t pass up a chance to visit this unique place, because believe me, you will be sorry! And yes, as with the rest of the city, it is beautiful year-round!

Now, a note about the photos in this post: you will have noticed that they are watermarked with my real name. The reason for this is that I have put some of my photos up for sale on a decorative print producer’s site that is local to Quebec photographers, but ships all over the world. When doing this, I was strongly encouraged to create a photography website, which I did. Please, feel free to visit it here and follow it! Having to watermark my photos twice was such a major hassle that I decided to bite the bullet and put my name on here. I refrained from doing this before because while I don’t care if my family knows that I have a photography blog, there are a very, very few members of my family who have been quite nasty to me on social media before, so nasty that I blocked them from my Facebook account. I don’t need that sort of grief on here when it comes to my writing and opinions. If it’s from some random reader I won’t ever have to meet face to face, I don’t care, but nastiness from family is a bitter pill to swallow, especially when you occasionally have to sit down at the same dinner table as them, hence the pseudonym. I’m keeping it on my Gravatar account and have a seperate Gravatar and e-mail address for the photography blog, so I should be good, but I just wanted to clarify the change with you folks!

 

Where to stay and what to do in PEI

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.

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107T Old Blooming Point School House cottage

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.

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St.Peter’s Bay

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.

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Lupines in bloom in front of a church near Souris.

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.

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Catamarans waiting to be taken out for a sail in Victoria-by-the-Sea.

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.

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Victoria-by-the-Sea lighthouse

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.

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The road to Cape Tryon lighthouse

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:

One of PEI's many charming red clay roads
One of PEI’s many charming red clay roads

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!

My Darling enjoying a walk along Greenwich Beach.
My Darling enjoying a walk along Greenwich Beach.

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.

Sunset on Blooming Point Beach

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.

Green Gables
Green Gables

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.

The Milky Way above our cottage.
The Milky Way above our cottage.

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.

The best places to eat in PEI

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.

My Darling's Beach Chair Lager.
My Darling’s Beach Chair Lager.
Fish and Chips from Rick's  in St-Peter's.
Fish and Chips from Rick’s in St-Peter’s.
The Churchill Arms pub in Charlottetown.
The Churchill Arms pub in Charlottetown.

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!

The John Brown Grille in Charlottetown with the Fish Bones in the background.
The John Brown Grille in Charlottetown with the Fish Bones in the background.
Our bottles of raspberry cordial.
Our bottles of raspberry cordial.

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.

Dalvay-By-The-Sea hotel.
Dalvay By The Sea hotel.

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 4 o'clock tea at Dalvay-By-The-Sea.
Our sumptuous afternoon tea at Dalvay By The Sea.

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.