Canada – Prince Edward Island & Nova Scotia

I’m so glad I finally got the opportunity to explore the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta, two places that completely deserve the recognition both locally and abroad for their beauty. I was blown away by the majestic mountains, sparkling lakes, and abundance of Canadian wildlife. Having been there though, I can now confirm that my heart still belongs to Canada’s smallest province – Prince Edward Island.

PEI, along with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick make up Canada’s “Maritime Provinces.” “Maritime” means of the sea, which is a pretty good way to describe these provinces. If you like seafood, The Maritimes should be on your list. I’ve yet to have better mussels anywhere than what I’ve had on PEI.

It’s not the food that you’ll notice first when you arrive in PEI, it’s the dirt. Thanks to the high amount of rust in the soil, PEI is red. That’s right, even the colour of the dirt is a reason to visit PEI.

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My mother was born here, and for years took my sister and me to visit every summer. We still try to visit every summer, though it has become harder since we’ve started pretending to be adults with “busy lives.” Madeleine and I made it work this year though, and spent the month of June on the island at our cottage. One of the many reasons I love PEI is how consistently spectacular the sunsets are. I don’t quite have a camera to do them justice, but I like to try.

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If you can imagine standing on a deck with the ocean at your back and those sunsets in front of you, you can probably understand why I love it here so much.

PEI is the place we go to relax, read books, spend time with family playing games, and just enjoy life. I spent most of my mornings with a book, a french press, and a view of the water and red cliffs out the window.

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And did I mention the sunsets?

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It takes about 14 hours to drive from our house in Ontario to PEI. 14 hours is a very long time, but it always seems worth it when we’re greeted by these red cliffs.

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Madeleine and I don’t often venture away from the cottage when it’s just us, because what more could we ask for in a place like this? When we have guests, however, there’s more of the island to see.

Our friends Spencer and Stephanie visited this summer for an awesome week of board games and island exploration. We started by bringing them into Charlottetown to experience our favourite island company: Cow’s Ice Cream. If you’re looking for world-class ice cream and world-class cow based puns, this is the place for you.

We began our tour at the Cow’s on Peake’s Quay, a wharf in downtown Charlottetown. Here’s Madeleine doing an Islander rendition of Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam.”

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We spent the evening playing cards and relaxing.

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The next day the four of us journeyed up to Greenwich National Park, a place of boardwalks, white sand beaches, and the island’s largest sand dunes.

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Piggy-back rides are not included with the beach, you must bring your own Spencer.

When we returned home, we took a walk on our own beach and enjoyed another fantastic sunset.

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The next day brought us to Green Gables in Cavendish, where Madeleine and I had never been despite our many years of opportunities. PEI’s tourism industry is largely based on the story of Anne of Green Gables, a novel written in 1908 by PEI native Lucy Maud Montgomery that has become widely successful both in Canada and internationally. It’s about Anne Shirley, an orphan girl who was mistakenly adopted by two siblings who were looking for a boy to help on their farm.

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The rest of the day was for scenic beach walks and checking out the Point Prim lighthouse.

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One of the many reasons Madeleine and I don’t feel the need to stray far from our cottage is that in addition to the beautiful red beaches, we have a resident seal colony that we can walk out to. Many kayakers around us have had the experience of a seal escort on their way back to their cottages. It’s not a great picture, but here are three of them just lying on their rocks.

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What we do invariably venture into town for however is Anne of Green Gables the Musical. Anne of Green Gables has been playing at PEI’s Confederation Centre of the Arts ever since 1965, the first year of the Charlottetown Festival. The Charlottetown Festival is a musical theatre festival which features talent from across Canada. The festival is usually headlined by Anne, as well as another musical, which this year happened to be Jesus Christ Superstar. We saw both, and as usual were blown away by the quality of the shows. There are some incredible talents in Canada.

Anne of Green Gables is not only Canada’s longest running musical, but it recently gained the distinction of being the longest running annual musical theatre production in the world. Seeing it is a fantastic experience if you ever get the chance.

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For me and my sister, as much as we love the art, culture, and food in PEI, family is what really ties us to the island. PEI is our happy place. Here, I can start my day with coffee and a book, walk next door to my aunt’s for cards and games (and cocktails), play frisbee on the beach with my sister, and have dinner with my aunt and grandma. What could be better?

The island is our family’s meeting point. We have started spending more time away from home, but we can still see each other on the island. When my cousin Christian was there, he and my aunt Donna treated us to homemade pasta. I enjoyed watching the process.

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When my cousin Leandra was there, she made homemade truffles. They are a talented family; Madeleine and I have been treated to many delicious things over the years.

It was now the end of June and I would soon be travelling again, but something exciting happened first – I got a job! I had been taking interviews throughout June and found a position that seemed to be a good fit, teaching English in South Korea! The only complication was that I wouldn’t be in Canada long enough before my start date in August to get a work visa in my passport. It turns out that as long as you have all of your paperwork in order you can get that done in another country, so I pinned my hopes on getting my visa in Budapest and hoped for the best.

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Before South Korea though, or even Budapest, I had other places to see! The cheapest way across the Atlantic I could find was a flight from Halifax to London, which was perfect as I was able to spend a weekend there and see my friend Dalip. I spent my birthday wandering around London and seeing The Book of Mormon at the Prince of Wales Theatre. The rest of the weekend was spent catching up with friends, then on the Monday I flew onward to Serbia, but that’ll be the next post.

My aunt Donna turned my issue of how to get to the Halifax airport into a fun family day that I’ve been looking back on fondly ever since. She didn’t just offer to bring me to the airport, but she suggested that Christian also join us for a day of exploring in Nova Scotia. I had only ever reached PEI by the Confederation Bridge linking it with New Brunswick, so it was already a day of new things when we boarded the Wood Islands Ferry to Nova Scotia.

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Nova Scotia is the second smallest province after PEI, and one of the original 4 provinces to join confederation with New Brunswick, Ontario, and Quebec. Like everywhere else I have been in Canada, Nova Scotia boasts great natural beauty.

We visited a tiny fishing village called Peggy’s Cove that is a popular tourist destination due to its lighthouse and geology. The town is picturesque, but I’d argue that the expanse of granite along the coast is more impressive. I’d never seen anything like this before, and it was so fun to explore because the granite was very easy to walk on, it wasn’t slippery at all. (Of course we avoided the black rocks by the water, because those are incredibly slippery).

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I thought we were just going to check out a lighthouse, I really didn’t expect how much fun it would be running around on the granite. We finished up this first stop of the day at the restaurant there, where I went for a bowl of mussels. I knew I wouldn’t be back on the East Coast again for a while, so I had to get them in while I could.

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Gazing at the ocean from their hill of granite.

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Our next stop was the provincial capital, Halifax. Halifax is a cool city, we spent the rest of the day walking along the waterfront boardwalk watching street performers, doing some shopping, and enjoying just being near the water. The boardwalk is also home to Pier 21 (now the Canadian Museum of Immigration) where over one million immigrants came to Canada between 1928 and 1971. You can also find an art exhibit that I like to think of as the drunk lampposts.

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Soon it was time to head to the airport and say goodbye. I’m already dreaming of when I’ll be back in the Maritimes.

During my travels in Europe, I heard a girl from Calgary telling fellow travellers that as far as Canada goes, there’s nothing east of Alberta. I chose not to give my opinion, because I don’t know how I would’ve responded without outright laughter. BC and Alberta are certainly beautiful, amazing places, but they are not everything Canada has to offer. The east coast is often overlooked, but it has much to offer with its food, culture, and beauty. Just spend a week here breathing the ocean air and you’ll soon be planning your return.