So we will be visiting the Iles de la Madeleine this week which are part of the Province of Québec. We drive from Charlottetown, east to Souris (mouse), yes that is the name of the town. Where we will catch the ferry which will take us to the Iles, a 5 hour journey. The Islands are 2 sandbanks in the middle of the Gulf of St-Lawrence. There are no close land mass near them, Newfoundland is North East with the French Islands of St-Pierre Miquelon, North is the large Anticosti Island, over populated with deer and nothing else. The Gaspé Peninsula, PEI and Cape Breton are West and South.
The ferry which carries all motor vehicles makes 2 trips per day to the Mags as they are called in English. It also brings everything else to islands. Surprisingly beef is renown on the islands, who knew. They do have tons of seafood, this is a fishing community and has been for 500 years. There is not much to see there, beaches and fresh air, great restaurants and bars, opened only part of the year usually from late May to mid-September. In Winter Air Canada flies there but I can just imagine how the winds are wicked.
We recently saw a film about a wealthy family from Montréal who would come to the Mags every Summer and had a huge house, a beautiful movie entitled Au Revoir Le Bonheur, in French with English subtitles. Yes knowing French while visiting is important.
Here are photos of where we will be staying.
The weather is suppose to be around 9C and 10C windy with some sun. As long as it does not rain, who cares.
Here are some pictures of the Lobster boats leaving yesterday morning to set their lobster traps, it was a beautiful day, really nice weather and low winds. Returning home with the first catch of the new year. Now the price today at the start of the Season is $8.50 per pound for 2021 and I read that restaurants charge $35 per pound for a lobster dinner which can include mussels and or a chowder, usually by the end of the Season the price tends to be lower. Of course you can always buy direct from the fishers at the dock and you will get a good deal. This means you will cook them at home which requires a big pot of boiling Sea Water, NOT tap water.
Personally I prefer the broiling or bar-b-q method in terms of flavour. By the way, the wood cages stacked on the boats are heavy and the fisher has to haul them overboard and then haul them out, this is really hard work and on a moving boat can be tricky.
I got this message from the Royal Canadian Mint, which makes the Canadian Currency we use everyday, for those who still use cash. All coins and paper money is made in Canada under the authority of the Crown in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Mint also makes commemorative coins and medals.
They have a shop and you can buy special coins minted for an Anniversary, like the Queen’s Jubilee or a National Anniversary or Commemoration.
This year 2021 marks the Centennial of the Canadian Coat of Arms given to Canada by the King Emperor George V, the grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II. This coat of Arms appears on all Official documents and Federal Government Buildings.
So the mint is making 3000 coins, which is a low mintage for this anniversary. This solid gold coin sells for $500. CDN. The Coat of Arms was modified again about 30 years ago by adding another Motto reflecting the beliefs of the Order of Canada. So we have the one Motto that appears on this coin A Mari usque ad Mare, the other motto which is not shown here is desiderantes meliorem patriam.
And Cinco de Mayo, which is the Birthday of the invention of Mayonnaise in Mexico, I really don’t know why they made it into a holiday. Ok I am kidding.
It is also the bicentennial anniversary of the death of Napoleon Bonaparte who died on this day in 1821 on the Island of St-Helena. The Bonaparte Family and the Bourbon Family with the President of France and the Head of the French Army were present at the tomb of the Emperor and the Requiem Mass at the Invalides in Paris. It’s a big deal in France but in our Woke World, Napoleon’s stock has taken a big hit and he is seen more now as a tyrant, misogynist, he overturned the 1794 decree abolishing slavery in French colonies, but don’t tell the French.
Napoleon’s red porphyry sarcophagus in the chapel of Les Invalides in Paris on May 5, 2021 during the commemoration ceremonies.
Tomorrow at 11:45 am I am getting my first jab of the vaccine. Can’t believe the day has come finally. I will be asking also for proof of vaccination, there appears to be some confusion on how you get it, I will certainly enquire.
The weather here is definitely Spring now, which is encouraging. As of Friday many restaurants will be re-opening including the one across our street the Water Prince Corner Shop Restaurant whose specialty is lobster and mussels, with other seafood of course. We think of it as our very own restaurant. The year 2021 is there 30 Anniversary of Water Prince.
With the Merry Month of May, more promise of good weather and trips out to the beach and the countryside.
Well one of our favourite restaurants in town closed last night. Usually it stays open until mid-december but this year with the lack of tourists and the pandemic, the owner Shane C. decided to close a month early. He will be back in mid-April. Hopefully 2021 will be a better year tourism wise on PEI. Another quiet year like 2020 will spell bankruptcy for many in that sector.
We always make a point of going on the last night to close the restaurant with a dinner amongst friends. This year we went twice before closing, once on Tuesday night and again on Thursday night. The Water Price Corner Shop is an institution. Regis Philbin who died recently loved the place, in fact he is one of the many celebrities who love this place and drop in during the Summer, a small restaurant with that Maritime souvenir decor with a solid quality seafood and Lobster, no pretensions.
Thank you to the staff, Maureen, Fiona, Theresa, Doug, Coady and Shane for many good meals and looking forward to seeing you again in April 2021.
On this beautiful Sunday, took a drive to Point Prim to see the 1845 Lighthouse still in operation as it marks for ships the entrance to the bay of Hillsborough into Port Charlottetown. We usually go to Point Prim every Summer but we did not this year instead going to New London/French river where another lighthouse is located.
This old map shows Point Prim that long extended point of ground at the tip of if since 1845 is the Lighthouse built by private interests and the Colonial Government of the Ile Saint Jean (John) as PEI was then known. The channel for ships sailing in is very narrow though it appears as a wide bay of water the reality is it quite shallow and full of rocks and sand bars. More lighthouses at the narrow entrance again to direct ships. Interesting to watch lakers and barges including cruise ships follow carefully that path.
A beautiful area with lots of trees and farmland all around. Many beautiful farm homes with vast gardens. Point Prim is about 30 minutes from Charlottetown on Hwy 1.
All the lighthouses are now automated and all maintained by the Canadian Coast Guard. In Winter the Ice breakers of the Canadian Coast Guard will open the way for the fuel ships coming to PEI, all fuel is imported since the Island being a sand bar has no natural ressources.
It stands 60 feet (18 metres) tall and is built of brick covered with wood cladding and painted white.
There is also a nice restaurant only open in the Summer time and very rustic. The seafood is great and it is worth going but you need a reservation, they have about 25 seats. The Chowder House sign is also fun, it is made of sliced US licence plates, apparently American tourists are happy to give up their car plates, you can see NY plates, Michigan, Mississipi,
In the distance is the entrance into the Hillsborough river and the port of Charlottetown.
PEI Red sandstone not very good against sea storms. To protect the lighthouse from the waves the Government of Canada imported shipments of granite rock from the Mainland and built a barrier all around the area.
Lots of pine trees everywhere along the coast. They seem to do well as a species.
Looking towards the coast of Nova Scotia around 2:30pm, very quiet, deserted area. Just nice to sit quietly by the sea. The silver colour of the water is blinding.
I also love to drive by this house on the way to the Point, the tree is always decorated with these colourful buoys. This is the road on Mount Buchanan leading to Point Prim. Note there is NO Mount, it is just a fanciful figure of speech in PEI.
This is the view from the road across the street from the Buoy Tree. The land belongs to this family and they have cottages for rent on the coast facing the Strait of Northumberland and the view across the water is Nova Scotia in the general area of Seafoam and Cape John.
and back at home with our Fall flowers and pumpkins.
Well yesterday we were at Greenwich National Park on the Atlantic side (North side) of the Island at Havre Saint Pierre known to the english as St-Peter’s Bay. A spectacular park, rich in fauna and very quiet where the only noise is the birds and small animals in the forest and the surf just beyond the giant sand dunes.
Greenwich was established as a National Park on PEI, one of many, in 1970 with the purchase of the Sanderson Family Farm. The Sandersons sold their land as the sand dunes were moving and encroaching unto their farm land, it was unstoppable and this also created other changes to the farm land they owned.
In this picture you can clearly see the land mass surrounded by sea water, the dunes forming a high barrier with a beach and the interior is more sand with Marran grass and fresh water pond, spruce and birch forests on sandy soil. Lots of wild flowers and small mammals, like red squirrels, voles, meadow mice, minks, foxes, Northern Harriers, Eagles, snowshoe Hare, Sparrows, warblers, American red start, short tailed weasels. Many beautiful flowers growing in large numbers everywhere.
The most fascinating part is the floating walkway across the Bowley Pond. This year the water level was low due to the very dry summer we had, only 30 cm of water when you can easily have upwards of 1 meter.
Finally after a 4 km walk you arrive at the foot of the sand dunes and a built wooden staircase take you up and over to the beach. It is strictly forbidden to walk on the dunes. Vast swath of Lichen and Marram grass stabilizes the dunes.
This photo is taken from the top of the dunes looking down to the beach and the sea.
Clean and quiet, so pleasant.
Going back to the park area this is the view of the serpentine floating dock.
To think that this beautiful park and beach is just 35 minutes from our home in Charlottetown.
We also met during our visit a Mik Maq elder, his people have inhabited the area for 10,000 years. He was very interesting to talk to. His name Junior Peter-Paul. The Mik Maq live all over the Maritime Provinces and were closely allied and inter-married with the French Acadians until 1755 when the deportation (ethnic cleansing) took place.
He and Michael Sark a fellow Mik Maq had built using traditional knowledge a Birch Bark Wigwam and explained how it was done and all the symbolism that goes into such a construction. The 7 internal rings to give it rigidity are made of birch, cherry, maple saplings and symbolize the 7 sacred teachings on Respect, Courage, Humility, Love, Truth, Wisdom and Honesty. Spruce roots are use to tie it all together. The birch bark is cut in a specific manner and dried also following a specific custom. Upon inspection it looked like leather skins. The door always faces East for the rising Sun. I had never thought much about it and so it was interesting to hear about the techniques used from an Elder who had the knowledge.
Here in Charlottetown a new Mik Maq cultural centre is opening a stone throw from our house, an impressive building on the water’s edge.
After our walk we decided to go to Cardigan a small settlement in the vicinity of Georgetown and Montague. The restaurant Clam Diggers offers a very good menu of fish and fresh seafood. The portions are good and the seafood come directly from the wharf off the boats. Can’t ask for better really. The good thing is that Clam Diggers will remain open this Winter. As their name indicates Clams the big ones are featured on several dishes.
Today was another adventure, our Nicky went to the Dentist for his annual teeth cleaning. The appointment was at 8 o’clock, he had no breakfast and no water since the night before. We went out for our walk and then directly to the car. He gave me a funny look like, What? Where is my breakfast? When we got to the Vet he was not happy and could sense it was not a good thing, other dogs looked nervous and Nicky gave me the look, don’t leave me here. It all went well and I picked him up at 2:30pm. Next week it’s Nora’s turn. Our Vet is very good and has a nice gentle touch with them.
Well this is truly the end of Summer and the weather has turned cooler at night dropping to 12 C. which is 53 F. and with the wind it is cold, you need a sweater or a jacket. Last night we organized a dinner party in the garden of a friend just one block away. We are allowed to have a gathering of 20 people outside in a garden. Our friend organized her garden with tables and chairs and handled all the logistic, it was very nice of her to do so much.
The people we invited are all long time friends. Will made his gazpacho which required 5 Kg of tomatoes and other ingredients. It is very good and was a big success. We asked another dear friend to bake a Paella for us with all manner of seafood, crab, lobster, mussels and shrimps, also chicken thighs and chorizo sausage. It was very good and a big hit.
The making of the Gazpacho.
The dish is 30 inches wide and can feed 30 people.
We had planned to do this around mid May to celebrate four years on PEI, but with the pandemic we could not then. So now that the regulations have been relaxed and we have no more cases, we could have an outside gathering.
Another friend prepared beautiful shortbread and strawberries in chocolate. It was great fun and a good chance to see people we had only spoken to on the phone since March or seen en passant on the street.
School starts on PEI on Tuesday and we hope that all goes well. The Federal Government has given upwards of $22 Billion dollars to help all our Provinces with re-opening schools. This came about in a negotiation with all Provincial Premiers and is being respectful of their jurisdiction on Education which is solely theirs. What is funny with this pandemic is how the Provinces who are jealous of their jurisdictions are getting the Federal Government to pay for what is essentially their responsibility but are not shy to critic if it is not done the way they want.
It has been a beautiful summer, lots of sunshine and hot days, I remember 2019 was cold and rainy, what a pleasant change. Now we arrive at the Ides of August without the usual Gold Saucer and Cup Week however given the nice weather many are at the beach and we had the opportunity to go to French River in the New London area and what fun that was.
So Ferragosto, the August Feast is upon us and many of my friends in Italy are at the seaside or in the mountains. Everyone is deserting the city and enjoying between 2 to 4 weeks of vacation. Here in PEI we will see friends and have quite a few social engagement within our bubble, Covid19 oblige!
Tonight we went across the street for dinner, today was a scorcher of a day, so hot and so humid. I remember 40C in Jordan and in Egypt but it was dry desert heat and you do not perspire, so the heat is tolerable. The hot humid air is difficult to tolerate. So it was easier to go to the restaurant, we had some halibut and potato salad, sitting outside with a nice breeze talking with the owner. Afterwards we went to see the sail boats on the river returning to the Charlottetown Marina. Lots of nice sails and we recognized some friends as they enter the marina.
The breeze on the river tonight was very refreshing. The view from the Federal Dock of the river as it stretches towards the entrance to the Strait of Northumberland is quite nice, at dusk you see the various lighthouse blinking in the distance.
The French River area of PEI is on the North Coast of the Island and faces Cavendish the area made famous by author Lucy Maud Montgomery who was born in the area and her modest family home is now a small museum, she wrote extensively, novels and poems and other works the most famous being Anne of Green Gables. Her last novel was with her publisher in 1942, it arrived on his desk the day she committed suicide. Only published in 2018, rediscovered and it is anti-war.
French River refers to a French colony in the area as of 1710. French speaking Acadians settled in the area as fishers and farmers. Some evaded the mass ethnic cleansing of 1758 by the British army. The area is lovely, peaceful and scenic.
You have quiet sandy beaches, a few houses in an agricultural setting and dirt roads. There is also a famous cemetery called Yankee Hill. We visited it two years ago and it is the resting place of some 25 American sailors who perished during one of the most spectacular storm of the North Coast around 1850, the storm immortalized in painting is called The Yankee Gale. In total 250 sailors where caught in that storm and with their ships disappeared. Unfortunately last year hurricane Dorian came up the coast and destroyed this ancient cemetery and left behind many dead trees which are still scattered around and block the approach to the resting ground. Hopefully the PEI Government will do the necessary to clean up the mess. I have also learned that a volunteer group has worked for many years at maintaining the site, but this clean up job will require machinery and know how.
Too dangerous to go in as the ground is unstable and too many broken half fallen trees around.
We decided to rent a cottage in the area this Summer for a week to get away from the hubbub of Charlottetown. Despite Covid 19 the city has returned to normal and that is not necessarily a good thing. Self-discipline is not a virtue here and given that we have no cases and no trace of the virus, people have relaxed though it is in the back of people’s minds.
The view of the lighthouse and a portion view of the beach from our cottage. Few people come here, the narrow dirt road is semi-private and is a dead end with no parking. Lots of birds and a few fishing boats here and there.
For lunch we stopped at SOU’WEST a restaurant in the harbour of French River serving the freshest of seafood. It was delicious and so relaxing, looking over the water a boat was harvesting oysters just 200 metres from shore. Locals and businesses buy direct from the fishers as they come into port, cannot get any fresher than that and prices are pretty low this year for seafood.
I ordered the Bruschetta with seafood in a white wine cream sauce with balsamic drizzle. It was wonderful and so nice. There is nothing nicer than fresh seafood off the boat.
A very nice sunny day. Can’t wait for our time at the cottage.
Today Saturday 16 May was the first day live lobsters were available on the market place. Yesterday was setting day and the fishers went out to sea to harvest lobsters. So today long line ups of Islanders in 45F weather, respecting the 2 metres or 6 feet apart rule of social distancing could be seen outside shops selling seafood. It is a tradition to have your first feed of lobster, it is like Beaujolais Nouveau.
Until about 1960 eating lobster was not popular, lobster was poor people food, in schools the poor kid ate lobster sandwiches while the rich kids ate baloney on white bread. I know it is laughable but that was the way back then, how things have changed.
In the maritimes lobster is fished everywhere but they do not all taste the same. Also lobster trapped in one region does not travel or is not exported to another region, this is done to protect markets and the fishers. So in Caraquet in New Brunswick the fishers will sell their lobsters in N.B. In PEI it is sold only in PEI and exported to foreign markets. We do not get lobsters from Nova Scotia though their season starts earlier than ours in PEI. No we do not have Maine lobster, considered foreign. Though on international markets PEI competes with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and the US market. Usually Canada wins because of our dollar being 0.25 to 0.30 cents cheaper than the US dollar.
Lobster is a rich meat and usually a one pound beast is enough for a satisfying meal. Many tourist will try the 2 pound lobster and some brave soul may go for a 3 pound lobster, but I cannot imagine how you do that, it is sooo rich tasting. Also the price in a restaurant can start at $30 for a one pound lobster and will go up with weight. At the fish store today the little canner sold for $6.99 and the one pound lobster sold for $9.99. You will pay more if you want only the meat. You can buy it cooked or live. What you should look for when buying a live lobster is the long antennae, if they are intact this means that the beast is not stressed and was not involved in fights with other lobsters, it’s a sign of quality.
Cooking your lobster at home, remember only fresh Sea water never tap water. Do follow carefully cooking time, over cook it and it’s uneatable and chewy. The meat should be like butter. Lobster is good served with lemon wedge or if you prefer with hot melted butter but that is not necessary since the meat is rich tasting.
The claws are powerful and be careful not to put you hand or fingers near them, it can be painful and very unpleasant and they don’t let go. In 1990, The U.S. National Institutes of Health tested lobster for cholesterol content and found that it was just as low in cholesterol, fat and calories as chicken and turkey. (Just watch out for the butter!)
So tomorrow Sunday we will go get some lobsters across the street at the Water Prince restaurant for our dinner.
Telling the stories of the history of the port of Charlottetown and the marine heritage of Northumberland Strait on Canada's East Coast. Winner of the Heritage Award from the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation and a Heritage Preservation Award from the City of Charlottetown