Nascar & troubadours

Tent camping in provincial, state or national parks tends to attract a certain demographic – nature-lovers whose idea of a perfect day is a long hike followed by an evening around a campfire under a full moon.  Tent camping in a private campground can also offer that perfect day, but it provides fertile ground for a wide range of behaviours and holiday expectations. In our second campground, our luck turned.  At first glance, our site seemed nice enough – treed and cozy.

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It all fell apart on our second night – coincidentally a full moon. We had been out for the day and arrived back around 7:30 to hear a strange sound – a high volume wind tunnel that turned out to be drag racing from a nearby track. That went on until 11:00 pm – Rrrrmmm, rrrrmmm – it could have been in the next campsite, except that campsite was filled with drummers and guitar players and singers who spent hours (loudly) mangling Tragically Hip songs. I went over to them at 11:00 and politely asked for a quieter version of the concert. They were our children – mature thirty-somethings who were excessively apologetic and instantly shut down the party. Now they’re the heroes and I’m the grumpy old crank. Lesson learned – be a little more careful when choosing campgrounds – avoid those with mini-golf and swimming pools.

But that is not to take away from the really wonderful week we spent on PEI – as with our other visits here in the Maritimes- it went by far too quickly.  Part of the fun for us was the chance to visit with friends. When we moved to Guelph, one of the first friends I made through our kids’ school was Maureen. We were fast friends for a number of years but our lives took different directions and then we moved and lost touch. After her kids were grown up, Maureen moved back to her native PEI. Last week, we saw each other for the first time in 20 years. Other than our matching heads of white hair, little has changed. She is still as profane and irreverent and funny as ever and as a bonus, her daughter Steph was visiting so we got to see them both.

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Our other friends on PEI were the MacDonald clan – Fred is an Islander, but we know them from Nanaimo and have been friends for years. Our time on PEI coincided and we were able to stop by their cabin and enjoy a visit and supper together. It was as fun and full of laughter and good food as back in B.C., only now transplanted to their island home.
Stephen, Larissa, Katya, Fred and Irene

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The beaches – temperatures range from bracing to balmy.  North Rustico beach was a few notches above bath water and we had the place to ourselves.

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Basin Head was a different story. The particular attraction here is the swift river that flows into the ocean and the bridge that crosses over it – a tantalizing prospect for young people who are drawn like lemmings. The game is this: climb onto the bridge or leap off the side of the wharf. Ignore the sign that prohibits you from doing so. Ignore the lifeguard who seems oblivious to the sign she should be enforcing and the potential for disaster. We watched for a while – it was hugely entertaining and mildly frightening as bodies hurtled to the water with little regard for others. It brought back memories of our own young sons who leaped from this bridge (although perhaps not while executing a backward flip).

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After leaping into the water, the current hauls you out and dumps you on the sand bar, where you swim back to shore and do it all over again.

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We sat to the left of this little boy with the pail. Like a border collie with a frisbee, this kid must have filled his pail 20 times – back and forth, back and forth.

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Our lifeguard, exhibiting the universal “bored lifeguard” pose.

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Further down the road we went – to East Point Lighthouse – complete with a still-active fog house and fog horns.

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On to Charlottetown – a photogenic, leafy and highly walkable small city. Our self-guided wanderings brought us to some beautiful sights. Brick is as common as clapboard in Charlottetown.

Part of the Heartz O’Halloran Row – one of the finest Victorian row houses in the province.

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A popular restaurant row downtown.

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St. Dunstan’s Basilica. This church had 18 bells manufactured in France and ran for 50 years.  After some structural damage, they were refurbished, reinstalled, and rang again for the first time on Canada’s 150th birthday – July 1, 2017.

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Stephen having a chat with the “Two Grays” – two delegates (strangely both named John Hamilton Gray) in the 1864 Charlottetown Conference.  They believed in confederation, both were pro-railway and both were active in the military. Interesting to ponder how their perspectives may have contributed to the shaping of our country.

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Right behind them, the lineup of homes and businesses that are now part of the Great George Hotel – most of them in the hotel business at one point or another since 1812.

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To end on a high note – Cows Ice Cream, an institution since 1983 – homemade ice cream   served up with groan-worthy puns – Wowie Cowie, Cownadian Maple – adds up to line-ups out the door. Worth the 15-minute wait.

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So long PEI – we’ll be back again before too long.