The Other Side of Prince Edward Island

You know you're in Prince Edward Island when you see the Anne of Green Gables house. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

You know you’re in Prince Edward Island when you see the Anne of Green Gables house. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Adventure Canada’s Ocean Endeavour arrived off the coast of Prince Edward Island this morning. It’s one Canadian province that I have always wanted to visit, yet one that has always alluded me. And – in keeping with Adventure Canada’s “off-the-beaten-path” mentality, we’re not docking in the capital, Charlottetown, like the big ships do. No. We’re pulling alongside in smaller Summerside instead.

Arriving into Summerside, PEI on a blustery day. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Arriving into Summerside, PEI on a blustery day. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

We're the first of only two cruise ships to call here this year...Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

We’re the first of only two cruise ships to call here this year…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

...and high winds would make docking a real challenge. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

…and high winds would make docking a real challenge. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Eventually, our Captain used the side of our ship to safely pivot around the pier and into our berth. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Eventually, our Captain used the side of our ship to safely pivot around the pier and into our berth. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Although Ocean Endeavour arrived pierside just before 0700 this morning, the act of docking would take another hour, as our Captain battled high winds gusting past 34 kilometres per hour. Compounding that problem is the narrow channel – indicated by a series of red and green buoys –  that leads into the Summerside cruise terminal. Even at our modest length of 450 feet, we’re almost too big to make the turn to come alongside. Outside temperatures barely break the 10°C mark, and a light rain began to fall as we tied up.

Situated to the northwest of Charlottetown, Summerside sits on the south-western side of Prince Edward Island, or P.E.I for short. It’s not far from the Confederation Bridge that, when built in 1999, became the first link to the mainland in the island’s history. Today, it’s one of the longest bridges in the Western Hemisphere at 12.9 kilometres and the longest bridge in the world to traverse ice-covered salt water.

The Confederation Bridge, as seen upon our departure from Summerside. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

The Confederation Bridge, as seen upon our departure from Summerside. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Prince Edward Island is also the smallest province in Canada. At best, it is 224 kilometres long and between six and 64 kilometres wide. That means that even if you got in your car and drove at a sedate 60 kilometres per hour, it would take less than four hours to cover the entire length of the Province.

The Island is also an hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time, on Atlantic Time. That means we had to ratchet our clocks ahead last night – something many people onboard Ocean Endeavour discovered yesterday afternoon when their iPhones prematurely switched over as we sailed towards P.E.I. It’s a good thing, too. Unlike other expedition cruise lines, Adventure Canada doesn’t leave a little placard on your bed during turndown advising you of the time change. Staff verbally tell you at the briefing, and you have to remember to do it.

A rainy welcome this morning, as seen from my stateroom. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

A rainy welcome this morning, as seen from my stateroom. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Despite the rain, our tour started off with a magnificent view...Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Despite the rain, our tour started off with a magnificent view…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

...of the rugged North Atlantic. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

…of the rugged eastern shoreline of Prince Edward Island. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Despite the lashing wind and rains, our welcome into Summerside was a warm one. It has been said that Islanders are some of the most welcoming in the country, but that could be applied to much of the Canadian Maritimes. Still, the local residents of Summerside, P.E.I were welcoming and gracious to us, from the port agents to the tour guides, bus drivers, and even the town Mayor.

Adventure Canada offered two complimentary tours today, and I chose to take part in the one that went to the famous homestead setting of author Lucy Maud Montgomery’s novel, Anne of Green Gables. Practically a Canadian institution, nearly every Canadian is familiar with this classic 1908 tale. My generation, in particular, knows P.E.I best for its role as the setting for the 1990 CBC mini-series, The Road to Avonlea, which is set in a very Anne of Green Gables timeframe.

My visit didn’t disappoint. Although the weather was, put bluntly, horrifying, visiting this cozy house near Cavendish, P.E.I was like stepping back in time.

Anne of Green Gables' house near Cavendish, PEI. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Anne of Green Gables’ house near Cavendish, PEI. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

I went ahead of my fellow guests and was one of the first to arrive. I opened the door to the home – a typical 1800’s P.E.I farmhouse – to find a young, red-haired girl of twenty staring back at me. The effect was rather disconcerting; no, this wasn’t Anne, but a Parks Canada interpreter, there to answer questions if I had them. I thought of asking if she was employed because of her remarkable resemblance to Anne (or, at least, actress Megan Follows, who played Anne in the 1985 mini-series), but decided against it.

Inside, you can step back in time over a century. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Inside, you can step back in time over a century. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

It looks as if the house's occupants have just stepped out. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

It looks as if the house’s occupants have just stepped out. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Unlike the wintery scene outdoors, the house was warm and inviting. Cozy, even. The kind of place you could just sit down with a book and read or – perhaps – bang out the great Canadian novel on the typewriter. It’s the kind of place I’d like to retire to someday, if ‘retirement’ is still around when I get to be of that age.

It’s a one-way street through the two-story Green Gables House, with a roped path winding its way through the Parlour, Dining Room, Matthew’s Room, and the kitchen before heading upstairs to Anne’s room, immediately on the left after ascending the staircase. It looks exactly like the kind of room Lucy Maud Montgomery probably pondered the trivial pursuits of turn-of-the-century life in rural P.E.I.

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

I wonder if she (Montgomery) was ever aware of what she was creating. When she was pressing those keys on that Empire-brand typewriter, did she know she was sewing the fabric of Canadian literary history? How did she write? Was it in a bright room, or a darkened one lit by gas lamp or candle? I’m using Microsoft Word to write this – something very functional, but with none of the romance of a typewriter. Given a century, though, maybe someone will say that about Word – but I doubt it.

Born in 1874, Montgomery was my age – 34 – when Anne of Green Gables was published in 1908. She would go on to publish 20 novels and 530 short stories over her lifetime, most of which were set in her beloved Prince Edward Island.

Back on the ship, I catch up with my local reading (the local newspapers in PEI are a fantastic window into daily life on the Island). Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Back on the ship, I catch up with my local reading (the local newspapers in PEI are a fantastic window into daily life on the Island). Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

The fact remains that, 108 years after her book debuted, Anne of Green Gables is indelibly etched into the minds of Canadians, and interwoven into the fabric of Prince Edward Island. I’m glad I came here – and I’m glad for my brief (30-minute) stop at the Green Gables House.

Time was also made today to stop at a lookout on the northern shores of P.E.I, and in nearby Malpeque, where we had the chance to have hot tea, coffee and pastries courtesy of Scott O’Neil Fine Art – a local P.E.I artist and gallery who’s works are sublime. I wished I could have bough the whole place out but, alas, a Freelance writer’s salary doesn’t stretch far.

After some presentations in the lounge with the Mayor of Summerside (left) and the Port Authority manager (right)...Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

After some presentations in the lounge with the Mayor of Summerside (left) and the Port Authority manager (right)…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

...a local marching band arrived pierside to play us off...Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

…a local marching band arrived pierside to play us off…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

...as we sailed away from Prince Edward Island. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

…as we sailed away from Prince Edward Island. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

After lunch back onboard the ship, I did go patronize two local shops for both of P.E.I’s daily newspapers, and spent a great deal of time in the fabulous Avonlea Books – where, sadly, I could not find a book that interested me to buy. I felt compelled to contribute to the local economy, so I stocked up on sparkling water and ginger-ale instead.

Ocean Endeavour is the first ship to call on Summerside since 2013, when the 150-guest Yorktown arrived on several calls. It is also one of only two ships that will call here this year, the other being ultra-luxury line Silversea’s 382-guest Silver Whisper, which arrives on Monday, October 17. The port is hoping to attract smaller, expedition-and-luxury cruise ships to come here instead of nearby Charlottetown.

Until then, the good folks of Summerside gave us a wonderful send-off this evening, as we sailed into the blustery night. And as we sailed under the massive (and – today – closed due to high winds) Confederation Bridge, I thought of my favorite Lucy Maud Montgomery quote:

People laugh at me because I use big words. But if you have big ideas you have to use big words to express them, now haven’t you?”

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Our Live Voyage Report aboard Adventure Canada’s Ocean Endeavor continues tomorrow from Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia! Be sure to follow along with our adventures on Twitter @deckchairblog.

 

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