Prince Edward Island was a wonderful location to visit, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who’s traveling in the area of Canada’s eastern coast. We found the scenery to be beautiful, the pace to be highly relaxed and there was plenty to keep the kids busy.
I always thought of potatoes and Anne of Green Gables when it came to PEI, but I soon discovered several other symbols pushing their way to the forefront: pirates and cows.
Maybe someone from PEI can set me straight, but I’ve done a little poking around and I can’t seem to find a whole lot about piracy being a significant factor in PEI’s history. It seems as though pirates may have stopped by some of the ports on occasion, but that’s not unusual. The cynic in me says kids are more likely to demand pirate souvenirs than tee shirts and hats featuring potatoes, but I’m often accused of being overly suspicious. Anyway, every store we went in prominently featured pirate-themed merchandise. The boys bought pistols, swords, eye patches and hats. I picked up a skull and crossbones baseball cap, which I will proudly wear come Talk Like A Pirate day on September 19.
Cows is the name of an ice cream company that started in PEI and has been declared to serve Canada’s best ice cream (as voted by Reader’s Digest readers). The people at Cows are also clever marketers and sell all sorts of cow-themed merchandise, including a series of parody shirts like this “Dairy Potter” number. I’m guilty of having eaten way too much ice cream from Cows during our vacation and I also picked up a “Trailer Park Cows” shirt for myself. That one’s a takeoff on the hilarious (but horribly unsuitable for kids) Canadian TV show, Trailer Park Boys. If you’re not familiar with TPB, you’ll have to Google it yourself, ’cause I’m not taking the flak for linking to that kind of content. The Cows stores were always packed and we probably stopped in to various locations a half dozen times over the course of two weeks. I’ll be on the treadmill another month working off that part of the trip…
PEI is Canada’s smallest province, at 2,184 square miles. The capital, Charlottetown, is city rich in history with a population in the neighborhood of 33,000; that’s pretty small, even by Canadian standards. We visited on an overcast day and were wandering around the shops and restaurants, remarking on how pleasantly peaceful and uncrowded the city was. Then I overheard a few sales clerks in a store commenting on how crazy busy it was that day, since the weather had driven all the tourists into town. It’s all in your perspective, I guess. We took the kids on a Hippo Tour of the city (in a Vietnam war-era amphibious bus). The kids thought it was cool when the Hippo plunged into the water and started chugging through the harbor and even cooler when a seal popped its head up to get a closer look at the vehicle. Of course, we had to stop for ice cream at Cows afterward.
More on PEI after the jump.
One thing to get out of the way up front: red sand is not kind to clothing, especially the clothing of active children. The degree of red is truly shocking when you first see it. You hear red and imagine a reddish-brown -and there are many shades of red to be seen, including a reddish tinged brown- but when you see a true red sand beach, the color is almost exaggerated. The red comes from oxidized iron -in other words, rust. The soil and sandstone in PEI are iron rich, and when they are exposed to air, the iron oxidizes and assumes that red color. The kids were very fond of climbing the red sandstone cliffs on the beach just outside of our campsite and after just one round, anything they wore that had white or light colors in it was toast. The locals laughed and suggested we wear red or black swimsuits next time. One of the activities at the campground was making mud shirts, which involved dipping a white tee-shirt in red mud, throwing it in a plastic bag and letting it bake in the sun for a few days. Afterward, you throw it in the wash and ta-da! A red mud-dyed shirt.
Basin Head boasted a very nice beach, complete with the ubiquitous towering red sandstone cliffs topped with evergreens. The sand on this beach is very unique. It’s primarily composed of white silica that is just the right size and spherical in shape with the result that walking on it produces a surprisingly loud scrunching noise. It’s known as the “singing sands.” According to Wikipedia, singing sand requires silica sand grains between 0.1 and 0.5 mm in diameter with a specific humidity and generates sound through shear stress.
We spend a lot of time at beaches, whether it’s on Lake Erie, Lake Huron or Cape Cod and we’re pretty accustomed to creatures that are washed ashore. The beaches on the South shore of PEI were swimming with jellyfish. I mean literally swimming. They were in the water, in the tidal pools and fist-sized or larger purple jellyfish littered the beach when the tide went out. I believe the ones we saw were Arctic Red Jellyfish, but I’m not entirely certain. The boys got up the nerve to touch one (they feel like jelly), but we were always careful to avoid the tentacles.
Teapot Rock Formation:
The beach that was part of the campground we stayed in included this teapot rock formation. Composed mainly of red sandstone that’s been eroded by waves, this thing was a magnet for kids.