one way to do pei ‘up west’

*Fly.

When you land in Charlottetown, notice the children playing with a puppy on the grass right outside the airport doors. Unless said children are paid to do this… realize you have come to an enchanted isle.
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Drive directly to the Oyster Barn in Malpeque [with a stop for chips en route to take the edge off near starvation from not being offered so much as a pretzel on the flight.]IMG_2400
At Malpeque, get a table by the window, order at least a dozen briny beauties to eat there [and a dozen to take with you]. Watch the fishermen coming in from a day’s work, unloading their haul, swabbing decks. If you have the chance, tell them thank you.

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Arrive at your ‘up west’ lodgings. Run fast, the mosquitoes are hungry. Hug friends who greet you with a key and a jar of homemade, wild strawberry jam. Later, after a thunderstorm, walk to the beach where a rainbow will be waiting.IMG_2409
Take your shoes off.IMG_2411 - CopyIMG_2850
Wake to a sun-flooded yellow room. Eat bread and jam and drink peach infused tea with pink rosebuds. Drive to North Cape to see where the Northumberland Straight and the Gulf of St. Lawrence meet and where sometimes there are seals or farmers gathering Irish moss. Take pictures of Queen Anne’s Lace and things that are purple and then stop at Charley’s Cookhouse — sit outside and breathe salt air. Order fried clams.
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Go to any beach, any beach at all, with a picnic of chicken legs, potato salad, watermelon and a sketch pad. Do not go for the crowds.
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Wonder about the number of orphan gloves you will find.
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Take those oysters you bought in Malpeque and shuck them on the rocks at Kildaire Cape at sunset and discover a replacement for North Cape’s now-extinct Elephant Rock.
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See a starfish.
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Be a starfish.
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Visit McAusland’s Mill where wool has been spun by rows of whizzing machines for close to a hundred and fifty years and penny ante games of cards are played at break time. There are no tours and no one tells you to keep your hands away from the whizzing machinery. Beautiful things are made here. Kick yourself for not bringing an extra suitcase. Afterwards, stop at a little craft place in an old schoolhouse and discover that the woman working there has a son in Ottawa who is doing an animated film with Donald Sutherland. Stop also at the long abandoned Lewis Motel and discover that the pay phone still works.
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Buy potatoes by tossing coins into a wooden box at the end of a farmer’s driveway then watch the water turn rust when you wash them.

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They say the mud is strong enough to permanently dye clothing. Try it.

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At least once, get up early enough to see the sun rise.

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Find a fiddle festival to attend and become certain that in some small way all’s right with the world.

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Uncover island mysteries such as what makes the biggest tree on PEI grow so tall…

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Find once-mythical lanes at the end of which friends will appear and take you to what is quite possibly the best restaurant on the whole of the island.

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Find almost-buried treasure.

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And in a churchyard, find the grave of Sharon Jean who died at 6 months in 1954. Someone has left fresh flowers there.

On Thursday, buy halibut from the back of the fish guy’s truck. Have it for dinner on Friday with a salad made of garlic and chives and local green beans.

Take pictures of lighthouses, impossible views and of yourself in your clam-digging best.

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Take time to sit at the town pond—after lunch at The Pier where the herons are great little posers and the clouds are shaped like teddy bears; after being lucky enough to get the last baguette at the French place; after a browse through the second-hand clothing store where you will find a pair of black pin-striped pants for $1.00; after visiting the gallery of local art (which includes an inspiring button ‘collage’) and the museum, which used to be a jail and where you can look up your family’s history in the area to see if any of them were ever a guest of Her Majesty— Just sit there a while and consider that life really could not be sweeter and if you’re still in doubt, ask a group of people in the gazebo right there on the edge of the pond… ask them where is the local book shop and marvel as they each offer their own animated version of how to get to it… around the corner.

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* If driving, take pretzels.

—More travel notes…

Stratford
Montreal
Miami
Niagara Region
Peterborough
Chile
Vancouver

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63 thoughts on “one way to do pei ‘up west’

  1. Oh my. You are having a wonderful vacation. I haven’t been to PEI for 35 years, but I remember the red soil and the jelly fish. Your travels are delightful. We also went to St. Anne’s Church dinners for lobster. Maybe the churches don’t do that any more. We stayed at Brudnell Resort and another time at Rustico Beach.

    1. Mary, we ate lobster, but not at a church supper. Though, funnily, we were chatting with friends on our return who remembered a lobster supper as being a highlight from their own trip to PEI some years before. Next time!

      Having said that, the lobster we cooked up in our own kitchen was darned wonderful.
      I’m not sure the lobster would be as effusive about the event…

  2. Carin — hope that you can visit the Maroon Pig. Richard Toms runs it with his wife Stacey. They used to be Director/board member at the VAC in Bowmanville Trip looks fantastic.

    1. Barbara, I couldn’t agree more! Both my parents were born and raised in Charlottetown and I’ve been to the Island too many times to count. But this is the first time I’ve “really” seen it. Thanks to you, Carin, for such wonderful photos and heartfelt words. You really captured PEI’s spirit.

  3. Thank you for loving our Island and telling about it…and come back…..we love having new friends here that appreciate our “way of life” :)

  4. I love the way you blend story and images here, Carin, and your use of second person to take us along on this trip with you. Your post is like a big hug for PEI. :) I’m fond of it myself! I’ll forward this to my cousin, who lives in Halifax but has a cottage in PEI — her parents and sister often go too, and they’ll all enjoy it!

    1. “A big hug for PEI”… that’s just it, Allyson. To give back even just a sliver of pleasure…
      I’m thrilled that you’ve passed it along to people who love it too. I’m honoured. (:

  5. Allyson’s cousin here, the one with the cottage in PEI…it’s on the other side of the sland from your holiday. You’ve inspired me to explore the rockier shorelines (:

    1. Why hello there! How lovely to ‘meet’ you. I’m delighted to know this has inspired you to head for the rocks! You won’t be disappointed. We’d hoped to make it to the eastern side this trip, but not enough time. Looking forward to exploring further next visit. All the best!

  6. I really love this, Carin. Just a perfect perfect juxtaposition of word and image and sense of place. A lot of it is very like where I grew up, on the other side of the Northumberland Strait, but it’s as if I’ve just seen it with new eyes and am filled with huge nostalgia.
    By the way, we had red mud too, and, yes, it does dye clothes. When I was fifteen I went on an exchange trip to Quebec City and returned home with my Quebec partner, Louise. She wore her tennis whites to go mud sliding with us and despite my mother’s enormous efforts with soap and bleach and sunshine, the tennis whites went home to Ste. Foy rust red.

  7. Thanks for a perfect account of a visit to my island! I’ve been transplanted to Toronto, but PEI is still home. North shore is always a great choice and judging by your words and photos, you had a true island experience, not the touristy version. On a side note – I can see the oyster barn and Malpeque harbour from my cottage (which in true island fashion, is a ten minute drive from our winter residence).

    1. Yes, is that an east coast thing… the cottage and the house not being a million miles apart? But I can see how it would work. Every part of the island has just that slight difference, so that wherever you go, even just a few kilometres away, ‘feels’ different. It’s magic, I tell you! (:

  8. My two girls and I came for vacation to PEI from Peterborough, Ontario in 1982…it made such an impression on us, the next year we moved here, and have been here for 30 years now. When here, I call Ontario up home, when in Ontario, I call PEI down home! We now have 3 generations living here, me, my children and my grandson. Love it.

    1. Three generations… how lovely. What a gift you’ve given your family; such a beautiful place to grow up. You can’t go wrong following your instincts. Fortunately, mine shout at me to come back often…

  9. I am so happy that you enjoyed our “up west area”. I am so proud to say that I was born, raised and still live here. Please come back and when you are here, drop into the West Point area and ask our wonderful park staff to direct you to many more treasures.

    1. Pam, I will certainly come back! So much more to discover, and favourite places to see again. Aren’t you lucky to call ‘up west’ home… Such a special place. I loved every single minute of my time there. Still revelling in the memories. All the best!

  10. I have lived up west in PEI as we call it and I got very emotional when I seen it from your eyes and words.We who live here take our piece of heaven for granted.Thank-you for sharing this!!

    1. And now you’ve got me all sniffly knowing how it affected you… oh geez, can somebody pass the Kleenex?? (:
      So happy to hear this, Anne. Thank you for letting me know. I truly just posted what I felt and saw and didn’t think it would touch people as it has. I’m beyond delighted to be a small part of sharing the magic of your beautiful island and its oh-so-wonderful people.

      Now go outside and take a deep breath in your slice of heaven!

  11. I grew up in Summerside P.E.I. My Father was in the military, but both him & my Mother are from “up west”. They would go every weekend while he was posted there. My husband is “from away” so every time they were going up west , he thought they were going out west for the weekend! We moved away in 1987 but just bought a home there this summer, can’t wait to move there and take lots of Island pictures…

    1. Ha! I can understand your husband’s confusion. It took me a bit to start saying ‘up west’ without stumbling. But it makes perfect sense now…

      Happy move back home! Lucky you…
      Send me some pictures! (:

      All the best!

  12. May I share this with my Dallas friends who will be arriving on the weekend for their fourth trip to “the Island”? Their family don’t really understand their attraction to PEI and I’m sure I am sure their family think they are a tad bit insane for making the pilgrimage so many times! You captured the essence of “my” Island perfectly (shhh–I’m actually a CFA–come from away, but I won’t tell, if you don’t!)

    1. Oh, share away! Especially if you think it will help those folk back in Texas understand what all the fuss is about! I’m flattered beyond all measure to know I’ve captured the essence of ‘your’ island… and don’t worry, I won’t tell a soul it’s not entirely yours… mum’s the word. (:

  13. It was great to see all those pictures of our beautiful island. Next trip make a stop at the Tignish Heritage Inn and you will get a little bit of history. Old convent done over and its beautiful.Come back soon.

    1. Oh, thank you! “Come back soon” has a beautiful ring to it! And you don’t have to ask me twice.
      I will absolutely make a note to visit the Tignish Heritage Inn. An old convent? Sounds wonderful… right up my street.

      Thanks so very much!

  14. Thank you so much for sharing your joy in our ‘Up West” My Mom and Dad were both from the Western end of the Island and every summer of my life has had a small portion of time spent in West Point. I now have a summer home there and with my pending retirement, I’m looking forward to spending more and more of my summers there. If you land in West Point again, look me up.

    1. I’m trying to curb my jealousy about lives spent on these magnificent shores, or the thought of summer homes. I’ll just have to enjoy it all vicariously until I can go back!
      The truth is I LOVE hearing how devoted islanders are to their bit of heaven. I think it would do the world some good to take a lesson from the island way of life.

      Next time at West Point I shall stand on a cliff and shout your name! (:
      All the very best to you…

  15. Thank you so much for the wonderful article you wrote about my home. I guess having lived here for so long, you take it for granted. Makes you love it anew to look at it through another’s eyes.

  16. Proud to be an islander all my life! …. And an ‘up west’ islander for the past 42 years! You invited me to see my home through new eyes. Thank you! Our beaches are all so different, yet all are inspirational! A few weeks ago, I tried recording the ocean sounds to listen to, in the depths of winter, but it needs some work…..a reason for more trips to the beach, before the snow flies. :-) ….I also shared your fascinating blog on my FB.

    1. Oh, you lucky thing! I envy you all those trips to the beach “before the snow flies”! I guess it’s no secret I ADORED my time ‘up west’. I’m so glad my holiday snaps and ‘story’ pleased you. It’s such a compliment, and a thrill, to hear that from an islander. Good luck on the recordings… what a great idea!! I would love the sound of PEI at any time of the year…

      All the best!

  17. Some of us are born ‘lucky’. We’re “Islanders” forever and wherever we are! Others have the ‘soul’ of an Islander. They’re lucky too, You captured it in “Up West”.

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