Hello again and wecome back to the 30th instalment of this series about my 2014 trip to the Maritime provinces of Canada, I can barely believe my own productivity!
Regular readers will know that I was with my dear friend Lynne in a very old campervan / RV which we had named Betsy and in the last episode I had left you with us in a lovely rural campsite just outside Wheatley River which sits at the head of a large inlet on the Northern coast of the beautiful Prince Edward Island.
If you are not a regular and would like to read the entire story from the beginning then you can do so here. Whether you decide to read back, have already done so or don’t want to, if you wish to see what we get up to this day then please read on.
24th July, 2014.
I should explain at this point that the next few paragraphs are done from memory and not my original notes as most of this series are. This is because of the manner of the destruction of Virtual Tourist, the wonderful website that both Lynne and I belonged to which had been bought over by the criminal TripAdvisor group with the intention of harvesting out content and then destroying us. All my original notes were first published there.
I personally stood to lose 12 years of extremely hard work on the site and others even more. My friend Sarah had 15 years invested in the site. TA had refused all requests to leave the content as an archive which would have cost them nothing just as they refused an attempt at a buyback by members.
Although we were no threat to them whatsoever in terms of traffic they wanted rid of us in their quest for total domination of travel resources on the web which they have effectively achieved now. Having claimed our content as their own they were quite content to destroy years of work by many dedicated travel writers.
Thankfully , two of the founders of the site managed to cobble together a system whereby we could save our own content in a slightly cumbersome format but it was so much better than just losing everything. As the system had been constructed in about ten days with the guys literally working day and night, even though they did not stand to benefit from it in any way, it was not perfect and some information did not transfer successfully, such is the case here.
I can only tell you about the Hilltop Haven campsite by trying to use my increasingly failing memory, assisted by my images. When I tried to find a website for this campground I could not do so . There are plenty of historic business listings but that is all and I fear the worst for this lovely, peaceful site.
We stayed at plenty of beautiful campsites on this trip but I think this was probably the quietest and most rural, even though it is only a few hundred yards from the road junction that effectively is Wheatley River.
I don’t suppose by this stage of the tale that I need even bother telling you that the welcome was warm, the facilities spotless and there was even a small swimming pool but despite it being July it was still a bit chilly for me.
I am not one for this cold-water swimming nonsense, I always associated cold baths with punishment and I really do not understand people plunging into icy water. The only time I have ever done such mad things are when I had been boiled like a lobster in various Scandinavian saunas, it is quite refreshing then! Remind me to tell you some time about when I nearly died in a sauna, that is some story but one for another time so back to the campground.
The day began in usual fashion with me waking before Lynne and going for a walk where I met a new friend. There is nothing unusual in that but the conversation was a little one-sided as you can imagine when you look at my little friend in the image. I am not sure if I had ever seen a chipmunk in the wild before as, apart from a three day layover in Los Angeles over twenty years prior, I had never been to North America. You don’t tend to get many chipmunks on Hollywood Boulevard.
Everything was going fine until I asked him / her (how would I know?) where they stored their nuts in winter and my new friend scampered off. I really should brush up on my conversational skills.
We got ready and were on the road very early for us as our first stop was just after 1100 and which you can see in the images.
Again I have no details of where exactly this wonderful find was, due to data loss. I have mentioned the number of home producers in the Maritimes, mostly advertised by a roadside sign where you can purchase fruit, veg, flowers, meat, eggs, just about anything. In this case the offering was bread and I could not believe it when I knocked on the door of what appeared to be a family home (it was) and a lady’s voice shouted, “Come in”.
I found myself in the kitchen of the house, even if it was bigger than my flat (apartment) and the smell of baking bread was divine. The lady was running what was literally a home bakery in her own kitchen with a wide selection of bread, cakes and pastries displayed on the kitchen table and a few racks. Needless to say I loaded up and we headed on our way.
What happened next is a bit of a mystery to me and I have been puzzling over it for a couple of days but cannot fathom it. We had left a campsite about five miles away from Charlottetown the day before to drive 20 mile in the opposite direction to the site we had spent the previous night in. This suggests to me that we were intending heading away from the capital but the next images I have show that we went back there. Very strange.
I must be honest, it was no hardship returning to Charlottetown as there was still so much we had not seen and perhaps that was our thinking. The first such attraction was the rather splendid Beaconsfield Historic House, so let’s have a look round now. Thankfully I have my notes for this one!
What an absolute joy.
“I have mentioned in many of my other pages here that Canada is a country relatively short on history. Obviously, I do not include the indigenous people in this who had been there for millennia, I refer to “European history” for want of a better term.
I have also noted that the history that there is seems to be presented in consistently interesting and educational ways and I seemed to spend about half of my six week tour round the Maritime Provinces wandering about Museums or being guided round them by friendly and knowledgeable staff. I do hope my posts here reflect that.
I have to say that the Beaconsfield Historic House in central Charlottetown was just another wonderful example of the type and I thoroughly enjoyed myself there.
As with a lot of things, my Canadian travelling companion Lynne and I, in my preferred mode of exploring, had no plans at all for the day when we more or less stumbled on this place and decided to have a look. What an excellent decision that turned out to be.
To be perfectly honest if had we never set foot over the door it would still have been worth visiting as the building itself is a wonderful example of Victorian era Maritime architecture and obviously wonderfully maintained, I do hope my image does it justice.
We did however set foot over the door and found the little office (just on the left in the hallway) where we were greeted by two delightful young ladies. I am not sure if this is right but I visited a lot of historic sites of all sizes in the Maritimes and I formed the impression that, apart from the really major ones like the Citadel in Halifax and Louisburg Fort, there really is not a lot of visitor traffic in many of these sites. I think this is a shame as there really is so much on offer and I reckoned the ladies were just glad to have visitors at all.
We paid our very reasonable admission and one of the ladies took us on a most interesting tour of this magnificent building. It is impressive on the outside but the inside really is something to behold and has been either retained or restored to how it was perhaps 130 years ago. This is truly a time capsule, beautifully preserved and presented.
So what is Beaconsfield House then? Well, it is an obviously grand house built in 1877 for the Peake family who did not manage to stay there long and it was taken over by the Cundall family five years later. Mr. Cundall died in 1916 upon which the building became a “young ladies residence” (whatever that may be) and subsequently a nurses home.
As the title of the piece suggests, this place is a joy and, should you wish to visit, which I strongly suggest you do, the logistics are on the attached website.
When we had gone into Beaconsfield the weather was pretty grim and there had been light showers all morning but when we emerged again it had turned properly foul. I do not know if I was just unlucky or if so-called summers in the Maritimes are generally like this and the wesather certainly did not ruin a fantastic trip but a bit of sun would have been nice.
In this weather a stroll along the charming waterfront wasn’t really an option so we set about looking for something to do indoors and the answer was fairly obvious. When we had walked past Province House on the evening we had first arrived in Charlottetown it was closed but it was open now so that was the next port of call and again I am glad to have my notes to call upon.
Truly the birthplace of a nation.
“I know the title of this piece may seem a touch overblown and also that I am prone to writing passionately about places that I have visited but, in this case, it really is no exaggeration as this magnificent building genuinely is where the nation we now know as Canada started.
I have mentioned above how relatively short the history of Canada is and to think that my late maternal Grandmother was born less than 30 years after the events that happened in this place really set it all in place for me. I do love medieaval history, ancient history and so on but this somehow felt a little more real. So what do I refer to?
In 1864 the portion of North America that was not the United States was still a series of territories, Provinces and effectively ungoverned land, all independent of each other. It was decided that it might be an idea to join up or “confederate” and, in my humble opinion, that was a very good move as it led to the quite wonderful country I was now visiting.
Although it eventually led to the formation of a nation, it was not an immediate process and did not really take effect until 1867 at which point nowhere like all the Canadian territories were “signed up”. I was quite amazed to find on my travels that Newfoundland was still independent until after the Second World War where they had lost so many sons and the most recent administrative entity in Canada, namely Nunavut (which is bigger than the Ukraine), did not come into existence until 1999. All well and good but I digress as always so back to the beginning.
Province House itself almost defines for me the pioneer spirit. It was designed by one Issac Smith who had actually no formal architectural training. I hope my pretty poor image (on an equally poor July day) reflects that he did a rather good job. The very reason it was built was that the parliament of the Province used to meet in local taverns which isa principle I have no problem with but probably not the best for good governance. A grant of £5000 towards the building was approved with a further £5000 granted a few years later. Not a bad structure for ten grand!
The first legislative assembly was held here in 1874 and it continues on the site until this day. As I suspect most visitors will do, we visited in summer when the legislature was in recess and so had access to the building.
Obviously, when it is in session, and in view of the appalling terrorist murders in Canada since I was there, things may have changed. Once through security (which may have been understandably upgraded now) you are effectively free to wander round at will, even into the room that serves as the Legislative Assembly for the Province and the hugely historic room that was where the original Conference was held. There is also an interesting video presentation about the Conference of 1864.
For the traveller on a budget, it is free to enter although donations are obviously most welcome.
The staff were friendly in that particular Maritime Provinces way and the whole experience was wonderful. I thouroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone. Should the reader wish to visit, and I recommend they do, the logistics are on the attached website.
Leaving Province House we did not have to go far before we stopped for a war memorial where we always pause.
Yet another sad remembrance.
“The memorial stands just to the rear of Province House on Grafton Street andis a depiction in bronze set on a granite plinth of three First World War Canadian soldiers trotting forward with rifles at the ready to who knows what horror.
It was designed by George W. Hill and unveiled in 1925 with the cost being borne by the city and public subscription.
Notwithstanding the obviously emotional subject matter I think Mr. Hill managed to create a very fine sculpture and the detail on it is stunning from the facial expressions right down to the small detail of the military equipment.
Tragically, the “War to end all wars” was nothing of the sort and so subsequent inscriptions had to be added for the Second World War and the Korean War of 1950 – 1953 where the Canadians lost a large number of service personnel. I can find no information if there are plans to add further inscriptions for more recent conflicts although I think it would be appropriate.
As always with these memorials I do not suggest that the traveller will spend a lot of time there except perhaps to take an image or two but I do think it is worth taking a moment to pause and remember the sacrifice of so many young men who gave everything.”
Not far away was another memorial, where we paused again.
Reminder of an older war.
“This piece concerns one of several war memorials in the city of Charlottetown, this one of an older conflict than the two World Wars and the Korean War generally remembered on such memorials in Canada.
It refers to a memorial at the front of Province House, smaller than the main one to the rear and which commemorates those killed in the Boer War at the latter end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th. To be perfectly honest, until I visited Canada, I had no idea they had been involved in that conflict and had thought it to be a purely British affair. Whilst in Canada I saw quite a number of memorials to the dead there, specifically the Battle of Paaderburg where the Canadians took heavy casualties.
Despite my best efforts I can find very little historical data about this memorial save that it is obviously a bronze set on a granite plinth and depicts a lone infantryman of the period standing astride a broken / spiked artillery piece.
The dedication on the rear reads, “To the men of the Royal Canadian Regiment who by their valour and efficiency have made manifest to the world Canada’s ability and willingness to share with the motherland the duties and responsibilities of Empire. This monument is dedicated by their grateful fellow countrymen.”
With Canada less than 30 years old and not yet even fully formed it is interesting to note the use of the word “motherland” and the mention of Empire. Evidently at that stage there was still a great affection for the country where so many Canadian familes had originated. I know there is a body of opinion in Canada now for bsaically severing all ties with UK but this was obviously not a thought in Canadians minds 120 years ago.
That was a good day’s sightseeing so now you know what time it is, it’s beer o’clock and where better to go for a beer than a brewery so quick march (OK, slow drive in Betsy) to the PEI Brewing Company.
Great beer, great place.
“It is no secret here that I like a drink and, whilst I am not normally a beer drinker (I am a dyed in the wool cider man), I had sampled some excellent brews whilst in the Maritime Provinces. Not least of the many smallish breweries providing these was the PEI Brewing Co. and so when I had the chance to visit I obviously jumped at it.
There were guided tours of the brewery offered but unfortunately on that particular day they were waiting for a coach party and so could not fit us in which was a shame and so I suggest booking ahead if you wish to do this.
Lynne decided she fancied a nap and so left me all alone to explore a brewery which may or may not have been a sensible move but at least she knew where I was!
Despite not being able to go on the tour all was not lost as there is a very comfortable bar available and so I decided to settle myself in there for a while. Of course I immediately ran into a problem.
With every single beer the brewery produces on offer (there are plenty) which one to choose? Fortunately one of the delightfully friendly young ladies behind the bar came up with the ideal solution, why not try eight of them? Well, I am a bit of a drinker all right but I was thinking that even for me eight quick pints in the late afternoon might be a stretch especially as we had to get back on the road reasonably soon.
Fortunately the sampling tray (as pictured) is pretty small glasses so I ordered that, found a delightfully comfy sofa to sit on and started about the serious business of beer sampling. I decided that some form of order was called for and so I decided to work from light to dark which is what I did. The drip mat on the tray was very helpfully printed with tasting notes which was useful.
The slideshow shows the progress of the process, which was a bit like the song “Ten green bottles” but I just didn’t have the heart to take an image of them all empty!
The bar is quite modern as it is really an industrial unit but it is spotless and pleasant. There are not too many seats and I was sitting alone at quite a large table so various people came and went and I got chatting to some interesting folk, it certainly was friendly enough there but what do you expect in the Maritimes?
I decided to have a bit of a look round and was amazed to see that Billy Bragg was playing there a couple of months hence. I had enjoyed the privilege of sharing a stage with Billy some years previously but I certainly did not expect to see the “Bard of Barking” playing in Charlottetown.
I also found a selection of old wooden barrels containing T-shirts including many with very minor printing imperfections that they sell off for a fraction of the normal price. There were posters advertising various events and I got the impression this is quite a social centre in the city. It certainly would be a decent place for a function.
I eventually finished my drinks and was tempted to have another sampler tray but time was against me and so I picked my favourite and had a quick pint of that before rejoining Lynne to get travelling again.
Although I regret I didn’t get to do the tour it was certainly a most pleasant place for sampling some absolutely excellent beers. Highly recommended and if you want to visit then the logistics are on the attached website.”
After that we headed back to where we had left the day before, the KOA campground, so I don’t need to tell you about that again.
Another evening in Betsy drinking and relaxing with possibly a little travel writing on the side (the wi-fi was good) was rounded off with a typically late supper. The starter comprising the last of the sm,oked mackarel on a pretty chaotic looking salad was served at about 2330 and by 0100 I had managed to cobble together pork steak, apple sauce kidney beans and roast sweet potato.
OK, it is not my finest offering but I blame the brewery and Betsy’s still well-stocked wardrobe / cargo hold / bonded warehouse. Frankly I am sure I was half-canned by the time I got into the galley and if I wasn’t it was not for lack of trying! And so to bed, as they say.
In the next post we shall get up close and personal with the Acadians, see some oyster shucking and I shall even tell you about Lynne’s secret addiction so if you want to know all about that then stay tuned and spread the word.