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.
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.]
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.
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.
Take your shoes off.
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.
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.
Wonder about the number of orphan gloves you will find.
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.
See a starfish.
Be a starfish.
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.
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.
They say the mud is strong enough to permanently dye clothing. Try it.
At least once, get up early enough to see the sun rise.
Find a fiddle festival to attend and become certain that in some small way all’s right with the world.
Uncover island mysteries such as what makes the biggest tree on PEI grow so tall…
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.
Find almost-buried treasure.
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.
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.
* If driving, take pretzels.
—More travel notes…