Prince Edward Island Highlights – My Ford EcoSport Adventure
· 22 min. read
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My recent trip to Prince Edward Island was more-or-less a return trip to Canada's smallest province. Back in 2010, instead of going to Grade 12 Graduation, I asked my parents if we could go on a trip to the East Coast instead. While in PEI we visited Cavendish, Green Gables, Avonlea and West Point Lighthouse, along with a lot of other quirky spots along the way. It was a fantastic experience, and one we talk about to this day.
Fast forward eight years and I found myself in PEI again, but this time with my sister. When I visited the island in 2010, we took a ferry across from Nova Scotia, but this time we flew right into Charlottetown. We were picked up by Denis, our Ford Canada representative, and were shown our sparkling new Ford EcoSport.
(For those who want to read more about the Ford EcoSport, check out my earlier article.)
From Charlottetown we drove an hour to The Inn at Bay Fortune, which is on the east coast of the island. For those who have never been to PEI, the island is shaped like a rabbit, with The Inn at Bay Fortune near the tail, and Charlottetown near the stomach. Confederation Bridge, which we used to leave the island, is near the base of the neck.
We arrived at The Inn at Bay Fortune a little after 7PM, right when a crowd of people started forming in the courtyard. Every night the staff at the inn host The FireWorks Feast; a multi-part feast where guests experience oyster shucking, liquor tasting and salmon snacking. This begins at 6PM, so we arrived after the initial festivities had ended and just in time for the main course. After the shucking, drinking and snacking, there is a toast to the three flags on the property, and then a feast unlike any other. This is where we came in.
The FireWorks Feast is a six-part meal that showcases the wide variety of dishes that can be found on the island. The Feast ? and the inn ? is orchestrated by Chef Michael Smith, an award-winning chef who lives right next to the property. It began with a Bread "Tree", which is literally a loaf of bread sitting on top of a small tree branch. This bread is made with century old naturally fermented red fife heritage flour, nicknamed the "100-Year-OId-Bread". This bread is wood baked in the oven and presented with three spreads: whip maple brown butter, ham pate with Avonlea cheddar and lemon thyme fresh cheese.
As delicious as the bread sounds, because of the flour is so fermented, it was dense and packed full of gluten. I'm trying to live a gluten-free lifestyle, so I ate a little of the bread, but I left most back in the "tree". It was delicious, but I know the contents of the bread would set my stomach awry, and I didn't want to get sick before our adventure began.
After the bread tree came a bowl of clam chowder. Denis told us about the chowder on the drive up. Normally, chowder's base is a thick, creamy sauce, but at The Inn at Bay Fortune it was more like a light, thinned broth. It was fantastic by itself, but the mix of mussels, clams, crab, halibut, scallops, potato, vegetables and "really good bacon" in it made it mouth-watering. I've never tried chowder before, so I was completely blown away by the variety of tastes and textures. To add to the dish, they also some decorations to the plate, such as a rock from the bay, a lobster claw and a bread anchor.
The third course was titled "Today's Catch", and it was half a fresh she lobster, caught that morning. Our server said it was a "she lobster" because she lobsters are sweeter, easier to chew and are "prettier" than the males. The lobster was covered in a leek puree and a teriyaki sauce. On top of the lobster were also these strange little green vegetables called "fiddleheads". Fiddleheads are common on the coast, but not so much here in the prairies.
(Although, according to some of the comments I got on my last article, they can be picked in Northern Saskatchewan too. Who knew? Also, don't eat them raw. They'll make you sick.)
Our fourth dish was titled "Our Farm" and was a unique salad blended with everything under the sun. This included herbs, shoots, stalks, stems, leaves, buds, flowers, fruits, vegetables, grains and even popped popcorn. For a dressing, they had three sauces, one to symbolise the water, earth and sky. These sauces could be mixed with the greens or eaten individually. While I'm not much of a salad guy, my sister said she's never seen me eat a salad so quickly.
The fifth course was a wood grilled beef flat iron steak brisket, topped with roasted sunchokes, maple rutabaga, iron skilled kale, sautéed fiddleheads and glazed garlic. It was probably my favourite dish of the whole feast. The steak was perfectly prepared, was tender and juicy, and the side dishes fantastically complimented the flavours.
Our final course was a spiced carrot cake with cream cheese icing, sprinkled with strawberries and ginger. The cake was mixed with candied pecans and accented by two spoonfuls of Tarragon ice cream.
While we didn't have to pay for the feast ? thanks again, Ford Canada! ? the cost to go to the feast was $145 per guest. We stayed in the courtyard in the inn, with rooms that vary from $300 to $400 a night. Had we paid for this ourselves, it would have been between $590 - $690 for the two of us. It's perfect for a honeymoon or summer getaway, but it's something that would be completely out of my budget for any regular trip.
Our room was very nice too although a little small. Krystal slept on the bed and I slept on the pull away couch. It was cold that night and although there was a fire place, because of the pull away couch, the flames would have been a few feet away from my blankets. After bringing this to the attention of the staff, they brought us an electric heater to use instead.
The next morning's breakfast started with a bread table, followed by a trifecta of orange juice, raspberry juice and yogurt with a mix of nuts and seeds. Following that was their famous French toast, which was toast glazed in honey and strawberry sauce, and sprinkled with roasted seeds and cinnamon.
Halfway through breakfast we met Chef Michael Smith in person. He said the night before there was another group of Saskatchewan folks staying at the inn, so he wore a Roughrider jersey just for them.
After breakfast Denis gave us the keys to the Ford EcoSport and let us on our way. There were a million things for us to do on the island, but only about ten hours of daylight left to explore everything. We plotted our course to explore the east side of the island, but first we made a quick pitstop.
Denis told us that about 5 minutes down from the inn is the wharf where the island splits and opens into the bay. In the early morning boats float out into the harbour to cast their nets, and then slowly slink back to shore as the day goes on. We were too late to see the boats leave, and too early for them to come back, but we drove down to the coast to see the ocean anyway.
From there we drove north along the coast to East Point Lighthouse ? the most eastern point of the island. The lighthouse is one of the 65 that are in operation but is only one of seven open to the public. It is operated automatically by computers, so a lighthouse keeper is no longer needed.
While at East Point, we learned that each lighthouse uses a unique sequence of flashes, known as their "signature". Captains aboard ships can see their signature, check their logs and discover that not only are they near land, but where in the world they are.
It cost $6 per adult to climb the three floors of the lighthouse, but it was very much worth it. Each level had a display of different nautical relics, from former light bulbs to a display about the H.M.S Phoenix, one of the many vessels that shipwrecked in the area. For those who have never been to the coast, shipwrecks were once a frequent occurrence, with thousands happening all over the coastline of the island. Today they are less often, but their debris and remains are still often found washing up on shore.
This lighthouse also had a display focusing on the unique handwriting written on the walls of the building. The writing was discovered during renovations and were left for visitors to see. The salty air has caused the writing to vanish over time, but it is dated November 4, 1877. Below the date is a list of signatures. Who these people were is unknown, but it is speculated they were shipwrecked victims who were seeking shelter from a storm.
After climbing a very rickety ladder to the final floor, we accessed the room of the lighthouse bulb. This room offers an incredible view around you. Because it was daytime, the bulb wasn't very bright, but once the sun goes down, that room would have been blinding.
After finishing up at the lighthouse we drove along the coast towards Greenwich National Park. This national park is probably one of the smallest in the country but is famous for its unique walkways. We had an extra hour to spare so we went for a quick hike. On our way down the path we arrived at some cross-roads and took the nearest path, thinking it was the one with the famous walkways and sand dunes. Instead it was just a simple, 2-kilometer loop. Once finished, I was ready to go down a different path when my sister asked if we could head back to the vehicle instead. Krystal was a little over two months pregnant at the time, so I didn't want to push her to go hiking any more kilometers than we already had.
Our next destination was Green Gables, a make-believe town on the edge of Cavendish. Green Gables is a recreation from Lucy Maud Montgomery's classic novel Anne of Green Gables. The house in Green Gables is the one described in the novels, along with the nearby Haunted Woods and Lover's Lane. While Montgomery did not grow up in the house, she visited it often to see her family and fell in love with the property.
The nearby town of Avonlea was also based off the 1908 novels, and has shops copied right from the pages of the book. Unfortunately, we arrived five minutes to close and were unable to visit anything but the gift shop. Had we arrived earlier though, we would still be disappointed as the town was not yet open for the season.
Not to be defeated, once we left the gift shop, I snuck around the building and into the village anyway. I had been there back in 2010, but it was fully operational at the time. In 2010 the streets were full of children, actors and adults, all playing their role in a fictional turn of the century community. There was clanging bells, trotting horses, and a duet between Anne and Gilbert in the church. Today there was only silence, with the occasional hammer or drill in the distance as they build a new addition to the town.
While my return trip to Avonlea was a lot quieter than my 2010 visit, I still found myself running up and down the wooden walkways, posing with a statue of Anne and peering through shop windows to see what the daily special was. As I write this, two weeks later, I imagine Avonlea is opening for its first round of visitors.
From Cavendish we travelled south back to Charlottetown. My trip here in 2010 was mostly for the Canada Day firework, so we didn't venture far form the water. This time around we explored downtown, although only briefly. When we arrived in the city it was already after 7 PM, and there was still a three-hour drive for us before we got to New Brunswick.
We quickly visited a few sites around The Birthplace of Confederation and took a few haste pictures. One of the places we visited was the Beaconsfield Historic House. The sign outside the house says the family that built the house in 1877, the Beaconsfields, only lived there for a brief period, one that was filled with triumphs and tragedy. In 1883 it was taken over by a new owner, Henry Cundall, who held it until he died in 1916. It was then used as a ladies' residence, and later a resident for student nurses.
What happened to the Beaconsfields, the Cundalls and the history of the house today was not explained on the sign, but the building can be visited and explored during regular business hours, so I'm sure the answer is somewhere within its walls. For now though, it remains a mystery.
Next, we visited Charlottetown's City Hall. As boring as it sounds, I really wanted to see City Hall because it was built approximately the same time the one in Regina was built. However, unlike the one in Regina, this one wasn't destroyed by city council and was actually preserved! As I never got to see Regina's old City Hall, I'm glad I got a chance to see this one.
The final place we visited was St. Dunstan's Basilica. As I am an architecture advocate, I love seeing old churches, and St. Dunstan's Basilica fits the bill perfectly. It's spires spike 200 feet into the air; is compiled with brown stone and is complimented by green and purple copper trim. In front of it are a bed of beautiful yellow tulips, which set the stage for a perfect photo-op.
I had trouble finding somewhere to park near the basilica, so I parked downtown and walked back along Great George Street. This iconic street is full of local restaurants, pubs and shops, not to mention rows upon rows of beautiful red brick architecture. Walking these streets made me feel like I was back in Elfreth's Alley in Philadelphia.
After getting back into the car, over an hour had passed so we made one last stop before leaving the city. At the end of Great George Street is a small park that might easily be overlooked. It was here in 1864 that the Founding Fathers of Canada touched the shores of PEI to begin discussions of Confederation. It was this park ? aptly named today as Confederation Landing ? where modern Canadian history began.
From here we traveled west across the island to Confederation Bridge ? a 13-kilometer-long bridge that connects Prince Edward Island to the mainland. For anybody wondering, this bridge is the longest bridge over ice-covered waters in the world. There is no cost to come into PEI, but to leave is $75. When I visited this bridge in 2010 we drove a car, so I was unable to see over the towering walls. This time around I was inside the Ford EcoSport and I could see the sprawling Bay of St. Lawrence around us. In the middle of the bridge the land disappears from all sides of you, and the GPS turns completely blue. It was a really cool experience!
When we arrived in New Brunswick the sun was beginning to set, and we drove into the darkness on our way to our next adventure.
For those looking for places to go see in PEI, here is a list of places we saw, or wanted to see:
- The Inn at Bay Fortune
- East Point Lighthouse
- Greenwich National Park
- Green Gables and Avonlea
- The Bottle Houses
- Province House
- Beaconsfield Historic House
- St. Dunstan's Basilica
- Great George Street
- Confederation Landing
- Skmaqn?Port-la-Joye?Fort Amherst
- Confederation Bridge
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Categories: Canada, Ford Canada, PEI