Thursday, September 18, 2014

Spirit of a Place: Anne's Land

Prince Edward Island is a spiritual place for me. I've felt connected to it for as long as I can remember so it's probably no wonder that when my husband and I wanted to take a road trip this summer we decided to go back to Anne's Land. Our first visit was in 2007 when our kids were 7 and 4. Back then I marvelled at how affordable the island attractions were, and how many sites existed relating to Lucy Maud Montgomery as well as historic places in general. This summer I was thankful for the quiet of the island, the rush of the waves, the feeling of the wind. It was exactly the type of vacation I need.

The island maybe small but it's quite diverse with lots to take in and enjoy.

 Plaque along Lover's Lane trail at Green Gables

Despite a fair amount of rain during our week there, we enjoyed visiting many of our favourite haunts. Naturally we wanted to revisit Green Gables, and L M. Montgomery's childhood home. These two sites are connected via the Haunted Wood trail, and with a slight detour you can visit Maud's eternal resting place as well.

We tend to ignore the numerous 'side show attractions' along the Cavendish strip (think Las Vegas on Valium, not as many lights and buildings but certainly out of place for the location). To me there's no reason to have so many mini-golf and carnival-like venues, even if there are thousands of tourists who visit each summer. It doesn't matter that they all have catchy Anne related names like "Lake of Shining Waters waterpark" or Avonlea Village (yes I consider this pumped up pioneer village a sideshow attraction because other than the name, it has NOTHING to do with Montgomery's books or even Kevin Sullivan's films.) It's a cash grab, and nothing else.

Footbridge on Lovers' Lane trail

View of Green Gables looking north-east

The real places any Anne fan should see are these:

Green Gables (Cavendish)
- owned by Montgomery's cousins, she did base Green Gables off of this site though she admitted not exactly.
"Anne's Room" at Green Gables, recreated to match the books, not the films. You can see her puffed-sleeves dress is brown, as described in the books. The film had her wearing a blue dress. 

Lucy Maud Montgomery's Cavendish Home (Cavendish)
- When her mother died 21-month-old Maud was sent to live with her grandparents in Cavendish. This is where she wrote Anne of Green Gables and a few other books before she married and moved to Ontario. All that is left is the stone foundation but the site is owned and operated by her family who keep up the property and are on hand to give insight into how the property looked while Maud lived there with her grandparents.

Everything Anne... It seemed everywhere we went each store had these to sell, Raspberry Cordial. It's actually quite good. I told the kids next trip we will have a pact, each time we enter a store with these for sale we will have to buy some, if only to see how much cordial we end up drinking by the end of our trip. They are all for the idea! 

L. M. Montgomery's Birthplace (New London)
This site has her wedding dress and many scrapbooks kept by the author as well as a plethora of mementos.

Anne of Green Gables Museum at Silver Bush (Park Corner)
This site was owned by her cousins, the Campbell's (mentioned in her diaries). This is where she was married and is also the actual site were the Lake of Shining Waters is located. They have many items belonging to the author and also offers carriage rides in "Matthew's Carriage".

There are other venues claiming connection to the world famous  author but not so direct as the ones I listed above.

Red Cliffs and Farm on the North Shore. 

View of Green Gables from Haunted Wood trail. This would have been the way Maud saw her cousin's farm when walking from her grandparents house to the east. 

Here's a list of places to visit while on the island:

Cabot Beach is a provincial park that offers camping and day-use beach access. The sand is red, red, red and offers stunning views of the famous PEI  cliffs and dunes. The price is FREE and dog-friendly. Not far from Cavendish this beach was our family's favourite. Where else can you swim with jelly fish and not be afraid of getting stung?

The Acadian Museum (Miscouche, outside Summerside) This is a great museum that relays the story of a community of people who first came to Canada from France in search of a better, agricultural life. Displaced by numerous conflicts between the French and English, the Acadians were forced to re-establish communities all over the Maritimes and Quebec, even as far away as New Orleans before being allowed to return to the island.

Founder's Hall (Charlottetown) relays the story of confederation, how Canada changed from a handful of English and French colonies to the nation we are today. An audio tour guides you through the museum taking you step by step through the process of idea to reality.

Sir John A. Macdonald, father of Confederation and our first Prime Minister

Anne of Green Gables- The Musical is a delight! With 50 seasons under their belts it's no wonder they have perfected the stage portrayal of Canada's beloved red-head, Anne with an 'e'. My family finally had the opportunity to see the show this past summer and I fell in love with the tale all over again. It is simply excellent.

Cavendish Beach, part of Prince Edward Island National Park is nice but a bit hyped-up. We brought our bikes this summer and cycled the 9 km paved trail (one way) that runs along the north coast. The boardwalk is nice but we still prefer Cabot Beach. Be aware your pass into Green Gables also provides admittance to the National Park since they are both national sites. Otherwise the price is $17 per vehicle.

The Bottle Houses in Cap-Egmont are incredible. Admission is very inexpensive and the coastal drive to get there is one of a kind. We didn't make it there this past summer but in 2007 we ranked it as one of our favourite sites on the island.