The ferry ride from Nova Scotia to Prince Edward Island was very nice--bright day with lots of sunshine, and we were so happy we got on. This is amazing, as it's a free service if you're just going one way, but it's first come first served, and we had talked to some folks in Cheticamp who had come from PEI and they told us about having to wait for a couple of trips before they could get on. So we left early, to make sure we would be near the front of the line and it worked out fine. Met a nice couple from Lexington, KY, where the woman teaches mountain dulcimer classes. They have a place in Nova Scotia where they spend part of each year, and we enjoyed talking with them while we waited to board. They're going to be down near us in early November for a dulcimer festival, so we may connect with them there. They were coming to PEI for a few days before heading back to Kentucky, and it was so funny, we kept running into them in different places on PEI over the weekend, at a restaurant in Stanley Bridge Friday night and then at a farmers market on Saturday in Charlottetown--how random is that?? On the ferry ride we sat with a couple and the man's sister who grew up on PEI--in a family of 11 kids! They said that anytime they wanted to go anywhere as a family, they had to call a taxi/mini bus. Hard to imagine a family that large. They were very nice and we enjoyed talking with them on the ride.
Got to a wonderful RV park, Marco Polo Land in Cavendish Thursday afternoon, a place that was recommended to us by a couple we had met in Baddeck earlier. It's a huge place, very family oriented, with lots of play areas for kids, a petting farm with several miniature ponies, sheep and goats, and it's just a short distance to the Anne of Green Gables historical site. Interestingly, as of Labour Day it became off season for them, so the site was at a pretty good discount, but in just a couple of weeks it returns to high season through October. I guess they get a lot of folks coming then for the fall leaf colors, but it's nice now, since the section where we're parked has only a couple other RVs there. Every time I take Sophie out to walk, though, she sees the little miniature ponies across the way and just strains on the leash to go play with them--she thinks they're just big dogs!
Thursday night we went to a ceilidh in Stanley Bridge, not too far away. It was at the Stanley Bridge Women's Institute Hall, an organization started in the early 1900's to support and encourage local women to develop skills and be a focal point for activities. It was interesting, as this was a little different from the ceilidh we had attended in Baddeck. This was a group that had a couple of accordion players, one of whom also played the piano, a guitar and fiddle player who also played electric bass on some numbers. The accordion player who also played piano was sort of the leader of the group, his son was on the guitar and his uncle was the other accordion player and the joke teller. He was born in Ireland, so there was a bit more Irish influence in this one than the ceilidh in Baddeck, which was more Scottish. There's a lot of similarity, of course, but some differences in the style of music and the step dancing. They also had a 16 year old girl who did some dancing on some of the songs, but it was a thoroughly entertaining evening.
Friday we explored some of the potteries and craft shops around PEI, as well as a woolen mill, and then took a wonderful bike ride on a paved trail running along the northern shoreline of the island, looking out over the Gulf of St. Lawrence--just a spectacular ride with gorgeous views of the Gulf. Just a really great ride!
Saturday was a remarkable day for a couple of reasons, sort of a good news/bad news day. Started out okay, as we went to Charlottetown, the capitol of PEI, to their big farmers market. It was a great market, with lots of crafts as well as wonderful produce. Then, after we returned to the RV later in the morning, the wind started picking up and blew some ferocious speeds for the rest of the day, apparently the outer edge of a huge storm system at sea along the eastern seaboard. The winds were so high that we pulled in the slide outs on the RV, to guard against potential damage to the slide topper canopies that run out on top of the slides when they're out. It was a good thing we did, as we saw an RV near us get damage to his slide topper before the owner pulled in the slide.
Saturday afternoon I stayed in the RV to take a nap while Trisha went to the Anne of Green Gables House. Coming to the place where Lucy Maud Montgomery lived and wrote the wonderful book that had been such a favorite of Trisha's childhood was one of the things she'd been looking forward to for some time, and she really enjoyed the time there. She'll tell you about her experience there: As I drove into the Green Gables property I felt sure I was going to see Anne there. It is just as described in the book all green and peaceful with white birch trees and gorgeous hemlock and spruce trees enveloping the house. This farm was the home of David Jr. and his sister Margaret, cousins of Montgomery's grandfather. She came to know this special place on visits with her grandparents, who raised her after her parents died when she was a baby. The buggy, like the one Matthew had in the book, was parked out front of the house. The grounds and house have been restored and decorated as Montgomery described in her novel like a typical Prince Edward Island farm in the late 1800's. Having loved this book as a kid, it was quite exciting to actually walk through the house and see Anne's bedroom, the sewing room, Marilla's bedroom also upstairs and Matthew's and the hired hand's bedrooms down. There were quotes from the book throughout the property reminding me of the many reasons I loved this story so much. Lucy Maud Montgomery, though she doesn't admit it, wrote about her own story with such thorough descriptions of the land and the house, I would have recognized it even without all the signs. Never in my wildest dreams as a kid did I think I would ever get to walk down Lover's Lane and through the Haunted Woods or stroll through the house with all the memories! I always had a deep love of nature, rolling farmlands like my grandparents' farms in Tennessee and the sparkling waters of the rivers and the ocean. For Anne Shirley Green Gables was a dream come true, where she found "kindred spirits" and "a bosom friend" and enough space to let her incredible imagination run wild. For me visiting Green Gables was a dream come true for which I am very grateful.
But, for all the "ban news" with the wind, the "good news" came in the form of Trisha's visit to the Anne of Green Gables site, and an amazing treat on Saturday night. Trisha had been reading the local paper and saw that Ashley MacIsaac, Canada's premier fiddler, was going to be appearing at a music festival not too far from where we're staying, so we called and were able to get tickets. We had heard about him when we were on Cape Breton, where he's from, and had bought one of his CD's after hearing it playing in a shop. He plays a unique style of Cape Breton fiddle music, of course the old traditional style, but also adding his own unique technique and style to it, with some modern, funk and rock-inspired variations. Anyway, he's a real icon in Canada and when Trisha saw this chance to see him, we were so excited. And, believe me, we were not disappointed. The venue was St. Mary's Church in Indian River, an architectural and acoustical marvel, built in 1902, but decommissioned as a church about 4 years ago. It was slated to be torn down, but a nonprofit group that had been producing an annual music festival in the area for years bought the church, renovated it and it's now the home of this festival. It is a beautiful building, outside and inside, and they've done a wonderful job of restoring it, keeping so much of the intricate carvings and altar structure, rather than just gutting the inside to turn it into a generic music hall. They still use the original pews for seating, and it's just charming. The high vaulted ceiling, completely wood paneled, contributes to the wonderful acoustics, just a gorgeous place.
But the highlight, of course, was MacIssac's fiddle playing. He was accompanied by a guitarist and sometimes by a pianist, but the most unique touch was the percussionist who played with him. He sometimes played an electronic drum set, but mostly he played a cajon--an instrument I had never seen before, and did amazing beat box sounds just with his mouth in the microphone. Some of you readers may be familiar with the cajon, but I was not--it's basically a wooden box, about the size of a good sized stereo speaker, sort of rectangular shaped, with the percussionist sitting on top and using his hands on the front face of the box. I googled it and learned that it's of African/Peruvian slave origin in the 1800's, by the slaves taken to Peru by the Spanish. The Spanish slave masters banned all forms of musical instruments among the slaves, so they used old boxes to make drums. Anyway, this guy sat on the box, leaned over it and used his hands in the most incredible high energy performance, making incredible sounds, but working himself into such a sweat, you could see the color rising in his face, and he was drenched after each number. Of course, he had to keep up with MacIsaac, who is the most amazing fiddler I've ever seen. The Cape Breton style can often be very high energy, as we saw with Marc Boudreau, but MacIsaac takes high energy to an unbelievable. Reminded me a bit of Bobby Jones' statement about Jack Nicklaus, when he was at his prime--Nicklaus, said the golfing legend, "plays a game with which I am not familiar." I've seen some remarkable fiddlers from American country music perform, but I've never seen anyone work a bow like this guy. He went through two bows in the evening, playing so hard he kept wearing away so much of the horsehairs he had to change bows twice. And sometimes you would swear there were two different fiddles playing--how he could get these different sounds going at the same time on a single fiddle is way beyond my comprehension. While most of his songs were from Cape Breton he did a rendition of the Orange Blossom Special that just blew us away. We were so glad we got to see him, just a marvelous show. And when we went outside afterwards, the wind had finally died down! Hooray!
Sunday was an easy day, doing some laundry--and the RV park provides clotheslines, so we could hang the wash out to dry on the line, like we've seen everywhere in Nova Scotia and here. Nothing like the smell of clean sheets dried in this wonderful air!! Trisha made a wonderful beet soup we enjoyed for lunch, and then we drove a bit further up the coastline to a different bike trail and had another great ride! A wonderful time here in PEI, though there is way too much to see and do in just a few days--like we say about so many places we've been, we sure hope to come back here again and explore more of the island!
Scenes along the way from Cape Breton to the ferry