Monthly Archives: June 2015

An American Visits Canada, Pt 4

Prince Edward Island – Our first impressions.

My very first impression of Prince Edward Island was actually in my early childhood years when I was first introduced to the Anne of Green Gables books (written by L.M. Montgomery) and movies (produced by Sullivan Entertainment in Canada). I’m going to save my observations about the significance of Anne of Green Gables on the island for a later post, however.

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Our first recent impression of the island itself consisted of online research of its size, population, crime rate (yes, my husband and I do check on these things prior to planning a visit to a place we’ve never visited before!), weather, roadways, etc. We discovered that the island was a bit larger than we would have first expected (more to come on that later, since it ended up being even bigger in person!).

Our first impression of the islanders themselves happened when we called the front desk at the Holiday Inn Express to book our reservation. (We were originally thinking bed & breakfast for our lodging, but discovered it was a bit out of our budget for this particular trip, though if you have a bit more with which to splurge, I would suggest that you might really enjoy the B&B experience on the island.) One of the night clerks, Sharon, answered and was very pleasant towards us as we asked questions about the accommodations there at the hotel. Later on in the conversation, we revealed that this was actually our first time visiting Canada and asked her a few questions about what parts of the island would be opened for tourists during our visit in early June (she had told us that their main tourist season is July-Sept). She couldn’t hardly believe that we planned to make the drive up all the way from South Carolina and stay for only one week! She was very helpful and honest about the cooler weather they were experiencing. This was a huge blessing, as we made sure to pack a few sweaters, jackets, etc. and left our shorts at home!

Our next impression of the islanders themselves was from a very kind woman, Catherine, who went out of her way to give me detailed information about the Anne of Green Gables related sites on the island, along with when they planned to open this season. I had posted a question about it on the Anne of Green Gables Facebook page run by Sullivan Entertainment, in the hopes that someone from Canada would respond with the information I desired. I was not at all disappointed! In fact, I messaged her back thanking her for her feedback and letting her know that, if it worked out, it would be fun to meet her during our visit. She let me know that she works at the North Shore Surf Company, right near Cavendish beach and the Anne of Green Gables sites, and told me we were welcome to drop in.

So far, we had an excellent impression of the island and the people living on it before we even drove across the 7-mile bridge onto the island. Yes, you read that correctly. 7-mile bridge. It’s basically a causeway, like some of you may have driven across on a recent beach trip….but a good deal more expansive! I was a bit apprehensive about the bridge at first, having a fear of heights, but once I discovered that you could actually see the island shoreline from the beginning of the bridge, I felt much better. Looking straight ahead during the drive across can also help those of you who may struggle with car sickness or a fear of heights. The bridge is very safe – the only time it’s not advised to cross it is during winter storms or when ice and/or snow are piled up, but you probably wouldn’t want to visit the island during that season anyways!

About 45 minutes after we crossed the bridge, we made it to our hotel, after enjoying some lovely scenery (albeit it wasn’t that easy to see much of it since we arrived after dark) along the way. Once again, the hotel staff at the Holiday Inn Express was friendly and helpful. We quickly headed to bed, with an already positive view of the island on our minds.

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An American Visits Canada, Pt 3

St. Andrews

On our way to Prince Edward Island, we stopped at an Information Centre, where it was highly suggested that we make a brief lunch stop in St. Andrews. Now that we had passed through the border and weren’t on a particular time crunch, we welcomed the break from driving (and sitting – that stuff gets exhausting!). This quaint, nautical town is one that I would definitely suggest you add to your list of places to visit in Canada. The neatly laid out streets offered a welcoming, hometown feel.

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We wanted a nice lunch for our first meal in Canada, yet didn’t want to break the bank either! With many more meals to eat and souvenirs to be bought, we wanted to be sparing in our use of money, yet we didn’t want to settle for the nearest McDonald’s just yet. We parked curbside (free parking on the main street!) and walked down the sidewalk a bit to look at the various restaurant options.

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With our stomachs complaining a bit after the long drive, we quickly made our decision and walked up to The Kennedy Inn to see what they had to offer on their lunch menu. We were immediately met by our friendly host, Moe (if you haven’t yet read my blog post about our delicious poutine lunch there, please head over to the next post down – An American Visits Canada, Pt 2). We thoroughly enjoyed our meal and the quiet, vintage home atmosphere of the dining room. One of the first things we noticed was the absolutely beautiful vintage painting of Queen Elizabeth II over the mantlepiece. We were now in the Queen’s domain for sure!

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While we realized it would be another several hours of driving before our arrival on Prince Edward Island, we did explore around St. Andrews a bit. While that day was a bit overcast with minor misting rain off and on, the beauty of the town made the cold afternoon seem cheery! Near the wharf, there was a very well-crafted, solemn memorial to Canadian troops who had passed in several of the most recent, famous conflicts (WWI, WWII, Korea, etc.). It was a somber place to pause for reflection and to remember the part that Canadian soldiers played as our allies in several important worldwide conflicts.

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An American Visits Canada, Pt 2

Poutine

When we entered Canada, we still had a good bit of driving to do before we reached our hotel on Prince Edward Island! We dropped into an information center in New Brunswick, and were given the suggestion to head into St. Andrews for our lunch stop.

Having a little time to kill now that we were actually into Canada, we ended up deciding on The Kennedy Inn in St. Andrews as our lunch stop of choice. Our server, Moe (who doubles as innkeeper and actually lives in an apartment in part of the building), was very friendly and readily answered any of our questions about the area, the inn, the menu, etc. My husband decided to try the infamous Canadian dish poutine, and since our server told us that is was a rather large serving, I ordered a salad for my main course and sampled some of the poutine from my husband’s plate.

What is poutine? Well, I am actually shocked that this dish hasn’t made it to the USA yet (especially in the southern states!) since it is so incredibly fattening! It’s comprised of fries smothered in brown gravy and melted cheese (or cheese curds). Some varieties may also include the option to add bacon, and poutine is served in both fine dining restaurants and fast food restaurants, usually as a main dish. The server joked that he was looking for tongue marks on the bottom of the bowl, since my husband so quickly ate this amazing Canadian staple!


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An American Visits Canada, Pt 1

Driving Across the Border

Having never crossed a land border in my life (I’ve only gone through border control in European airports until now), I was a bit apprehensive about the drive to Canada, but research and others who had been there and back assured me that as long as we had our passports to prove our American citizenship and didn’t have any of the obvious items you should NOT bring across the border, we would be fine!

We drove all the way from South Carolina (USA) to Prince Edward Island (Canada) in 2 VERY long days of driving. (Did I mention the drive was VERY long?!?!) The first day, we made it to Vermont, and the second day we made it to our destination in PEI.

In order to leave our apartment by 5am, we got up at 4:30am the first day of the trip. The 2nd day might have been a bit more leisurely, if it weren’t for the fact that we had to get to a currency exchange place in Calais, Maine before they closed (closing time was at noon since it was a Sunday) so we would have a way to purchase gas, food, etc once we had crossed the border.

We had to get up at 3:30am and get on the road immediately in order to ensure that we would be there before the place closed. We couldn’t slow down for a leisurely breakfast, sight see, etc or we could miss the opportunity. We weren’t about to get this close to visiting Canada for the first time and have an issue without currency exchange! We were quite surprised by what a large state Maine really is as we felt we had been in Maine forever before we reached the currency exchange right near the Canadian border!

Thankfully, we didn’t realize that our GPS had not yet been changed with the latest Daylight Savings Time switch, so we actually got there over an hour before close instead of 20 minutes before, as our GPS had told us the entire drive!

The ladies at the exchange were very helpful and kind, even offering over the phone to stay until we arrived if we had ended up a few minutes behind schedule. I was very impressed by their willingness to help out complete strangers on a Sunday afternoon.

The border itself was actually not the headache we may have anticipated in the back of our minds. The guard was brief, courteous, and after showing our passports and answering a few very basic questions, we were officially driving into Canada for the very first time!

It only took us a split second to realize that the highway speed limit of 110 on the posted signs was in Kilometers, not miles! It’s easy enough to account for that minor difference in measurement though, since the car has a built in (albeit much smaller) dial on the speedometer for Kilometers right below the miles-per-hour.

Since Canada has two official languages – English & French – we immediately saw signs in both languages. We had an idea we might encounter a bit of French even outside of Quebec (which we’re not visiting on this particular trip), but that was confirmed when we were first greeted by the border control official, who said “Hello, Bonjour” as soon as we stopped at the booth (basically like a toll booth).

We were astounded, however to turn on the radio and tune into music that was not only French, but some that was in the style of the American South county music, with French lyrics! Some of these songs had a lead vocalist singing in French with a definite American country twang to it. This was both amusing and very neat. I appreciated the crossover of cultures. It was awesome to hear how someone who appreciates country music but better understands the French language creates a conglomeration of the two. On the same stations that played this, American country songs in English were also played intermittently.

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