Sitting on our Charlottetown Air BnB patio while finishing an early breakfast with my spouse, Nelle, on the first day of a 3-week Maritimes tour/visit, I am contemplating the many ways one can describe Prince Edward Island by the word “green.” Of course, you cannot mention PEI and not think of Anne of Green Gables.
Charlottetown is where the early Irish settled and signs of the green shamrock are still apparent in the form of street and citizens’ names or Irish pubs in this old town where Confederation was born.
We can refer to PEI’s green rolling hills although, after a relatively dry summer, some of that greenery has faded. The environmentally-friendly province recently made history in Canada by forming the first Green Party Opposition in their provincial Legislature.
In the end, I am green with envy at the ocean side life here—being a small province, you are never far from the sea—and pastoral setting enjoyed by the unpretentious Islanders and other maritimers who choose to vacation on the red sand beaches of the less-populated province.
On day four of our PEI visit, we take in the opening concert of the 2019 Congrès Mondial Acadien (CMA), an event that occurs every five years and the driving force that brought us to the Maritimes in the first place. The toe-tapping, lively evening spectacle takes place in Abram Village in the Evangeline area and its joie de vivre cajun-style music has Nelle declare the concert the best ever attended.
There are many talented Acadian musical bands at the opening concert but the crowd is waiting for the highlight of the evening - Barachois. The disbanded local musical group of some fame known for their traditional Acadian musical fare reformed for the Congress to the delight of their numerous fans in attendance.
The second day of the CMA introduced us to the proud old Acadian town of Tignish, PEI where we attend a dinner theatre play called “Quel Bout de Chemin” referring to the long way deported Acadians have come. These days, many Acadians come from the different parts of the globe to assemble every five years at the CMA event.
The play incorporates the abundant local talent and the Acadian dialect, infusing humour into the storyline to get its point across. Although charmed by the local performance, there are times when tears run down my cheeks as the adversity and tragedy our Acadian ancestors encountered during its history is brought to life in front of our eyes.
For the closing number, the audience stands in unison with the actors for the singing of “Ave Maris Stella” (Mary, Star of the Sea), a plainsong hymn to the Virgin Mary, adopted as the Acadian National Anthem at the first 1994 CMA held in PEI. It’s one of many moving moments I experience during the Acadian Congress.
After five filled days and nights on the Island, it’s time to take our memories with us as we take the high road that is the 8-mile Confederation Bridge which spans the Abegweit Passage of the Northumberland Strait linking PEI to mainland New Brunswick who is co-host of the 2019 CMA.
Built in 1830, our Cottage on Kent Air BnB located in Charlottetown’s downtown core is in itself a place to explore being such a cozy, historic little house fully adorned with tasteful art pieces and touches added by our host, Maxine.
Born in Alberta and living in PEI for the past decades, Maxine is known on the island as a prolific painter who has added beauty to her corner of the Island, adorning walls with her own paintings and those of other island artists she promotes.
One such promotion of local paintings and pottery is The Pearl Café, situated between Cavendish and North Rustico. It’s an old farmhouse transformed into a feast for the eyes, as well as the palate.
Maxine’s most recent restoration project is a 110-year old house in Rustico. Check it out on Instagram at maxreinvented #savingcliffordshouse.
The 119-year old Weeping Willow House BnB in Kensington was darn right modern compared to our previous accommodation. It is a beautifully restored house and the owners have plans for further changes and additions to the BnB lodging.
Both our hosts, Jocelyn and Jared are genial and helpful throughout our stay and, judging by the comments noted in our room guest book, the welcome and commitment to excellence is consistent.
Fun fact: Jared’s cousin is Ken Tobias, one of the ‘70s top songsters with such hits as “Little bit of Love” and “Lay me Down.” Ask Jared for the backstory behind the latter hit song.
Our last PEI accommodation, The Summerside Inn is actually a former residence to two Premiers (father & son) named Campbell, now a historic Inn. Artistic talent runs rampant on the Island, and like our previous PEI BnB owners, Mary Anne McNulty is the daughter of a prolific painter and is one herself.
After a scrumptious omelet breakfast seated in the dining room with three other couples, I sit down in the well-appointed antiques furnished living room with Mary Anne & chat about her mother whose paintings cover the walls that surround us. Set on the nearby piano is one of Mary Anne’s paintings depicting a red sand beach in PEI. It was a delightful visit to the inn and with its host.
Hopyard was our first taste of PEI, located a few walking minutes from our BnB, the popular eatery is LGBTQ-friendly and features 800 vinyl records you can choose from and have played during your meal.
On our visit, we handed the Bread LP (when was the last time you heard that!) to our waiter and we listened to the mellow hits bringing smiles to our faces at the memory of each song. When we asked our young waiter if he had heard of the band, he replied, “No, but I am enjoying the melodies.”
The Old Triangle Irish Alehouse located in four Maritime cities offer hearty pub fare, draft beer and nightly live music. “The triangle” refers to the three elements making for a memorable experience - Food for the Body, Drink for the Spirit and Music for the Soul and it was all three!
On our particular visit, the live music was performed by Jonny Ray Arsenault (son of Louise Arsenault, the well-known Barachois fiddle player & relative of Angèle Arsenault). Jonny Ray, although Acadian, entertained us with cover songs that were more of the popular genre than Celtic folk but his expressive singing style made for toe tapping and hand clapping.
Armande Martine is a freelance writer with three adult children, married to Nelle Oosterom since 2016. She spends part of her travels writing about her experiences.