introductions…

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So, my daughter and I have been travelling since she was itty bitty, to use an expression that she thinks makes her feel too small for the grown-up 10 that she is now. But we have. I come from a long line of kin with what is commonly known amongst us as “wanderlust”. We get yearnings to be other than where we are – see the world. Enjoy another culture, explore another part of this amazing world.

I’ll start by back tracking and sharing thoughts from early adventures before posting about the tastes up-coming travel.

Hopefully this will be fun for all!

 

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working backwards to go forwards

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I could start this all off with the first plane trip the girl ever took – heading off to the UK when she was no bigger than a minute. I could start somewhere in the middle and get completely muddled. So, to keep things straight in my head I’ll work backwards to go forwards.

Clear as mud?

Good!

Last summer found our wandering feet heading to London. 2015 was my 25th anniversary of studying abroad during my university days – ah, time, how you do torment one!

Five years before (that’s 2010 if you’re keeping track) the group of us that had studied together had an impromptu reunion in Alabama where our college is located. It was good to see most, great to see a few, and some were hard to ignore – though not for a lack of trying. We talked about how great it would be to have the 25th reunion in London – stay at the house where we had lived and studied and just enjoy going down amnesia lane. So I started planning, emailing the university to set a date, send in a deposit, etc. The years came and went and more people dropped out, which was disappointing, but the hearty few were determined to go and have a great time.

Memories from July 2015…

Currently, we’re back in one of my favourite cities, London. 25 years ago I was a student here enjoying studies, theatre – lots of theatre on the cheap, museums, and there day weekend outings. It was wonderful. Now I’m back with my daughter and we’re just taking things as they come. Oh, there will be things that I want to share and show her and there are things that she wants to see and do as well – she’s been reading up and she knows some of the sights from movies and telly. This trip is slow and easy because we know we’ll be back. But also because jet lag is tough and AEB takes change in a way I never did. She loves to explore and be new places, but she’s also a homebody. She likes her home and her routine there, so it’s important to try and help her balance the feelings of wanting to be home with the joy of exploring places away from that.

The day we arrived we checked in and took a short nap, (and a much needed shower!), and then “hit the ground running” because it helps with jet lag recovery time. We got out and walked, and walked, and walked. We explored Kensington Gardens to find the statue of Peter Pan and enjoy the Italian fountains. We walked up to Albert Hall oo-ing and awing over the gilded statue of Victoria’s beloved Albert. I told AEB that if she wanted to grieve for me upon my death with a gilded statue that would be fine, but I would much prefer something a little more understated. She agreed.

Day two she requested an outing to see the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, something I had never gone out to see before. As we walked up to the gates we burst out singing, “they’re changing guard at Buckingham Palace“. I suppose it was too touristy a thing for my all too grownup university self to do. But then, it’s also one of those things that, if you live in a place, you forget to do. Like if you grow up in NYC and you never go to the Statue of Liberty, you live there. You figure you’ll get there sometime, but then you never do until some out-of-town friend comes and wants to go, so you go. So, we watched the pomp and circumstance of it all. We weren’t on the roundabout/Victoria memorial in front of the palace, but at the side gating so we saw quite a bit, but missed the parade down the Mall to the palace. It didn’t really matter because we saw a lot with an unobstructed view so there’s nothing to complain about. Our girl kept asking if the band was playing “God Save the Queen”. “No dear, they’re playing ‘Let It Be Me’ (the Everly Bothers if you didn’t know)”.

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And we rounded off the day with a trip to Paddington Station to visit the bronze statue of Paddington. They’ve moved the statue from where it had been to under the large clock on platform 1 where the film of “Paddington” had the Browns seeing and meeting Paddington. It took a while to find it, but find it we did. The last time AEB was next to the statue she was about half the size she is now. But it’s always good to see an old friend once again, even if he is made of bronze.

…continued in the next post…

Next train ride

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Now that mum’s first book is up and out in the world for others to enjoy it’s time to turn our attention to the next two books and summer travel plans.

Last summer we drove across the United States. It was awe inspiring and brutal. I only had two weeks vacation time and that’s what we did – across and back in two weeks and a couple days (we had couple of sick days on the road). As the girls said, “I want to do this again, but next time…NEXT time, we are renting a caravan and taking a month!” I agree. Whole heartedly I agree!

It was a a feast for the eyes. The United States just about has every sort of landscape you could want to explore, expect for rain forest or fire swamp with R.O.U.S.s. Our route started in Maryland and had us follow along I-70  mostly because of this sign:

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just an image I found on the internet. i don’t own the rights to it.

Which makes me want to just keep driving until the bitter end. We took I-70 into Colorado and then veered off. From Maryland I-70 takes you through a sliver of West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, and into Colorado. It’s a lot of ground to cover, but beautiful. Once in Colorado we started moving up and into Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Oregon and then into Washington. On the way back across the United States we followed the coastal route into Oregon and California before starting back across and going through Arizona, New Mexico, a bit of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas,  Tennessee, a corner of Kentucky, Virginia, and back into Maryland once again. Whew!

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both are from Rocky Mt. State Park near the continental divide

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Wyoming 

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how many of you know about the Stonehenge of North America? look it up! It was the first memorial built to commemorate WWI in the US

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Puget Sound, WA

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Oklahoma

This summer we decided to let someone else do the driving. We’re doing another train trip. This time we’re taking the Southwest Chief across. It’s something we’ve talked about doing after our first train adventure on the Empire Builder several years ago.  While the United States put their money into an interstate road system and not the rail system it’s still a great way to see the landscape. If you’ve travelled Europe it’s no Eurorail. It’s not always easy to get from a train station to a town you think might be worth exploring. I used to work at a Bed and Breakfast in an American Civil War town and I always felt bad for Europeans that were trying to backpack and rail their way across. It’s not like doing it throughout European countries and towns. But it is worth doing it you can deal with the quirks of the US rail system as it is.

We haven’t planned much further than getting things booked. And once in California there will be time to explore Disneyland, but the girl is more interested in the possibilities of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. She’s never been overly enthusiastic about the Disney princesses, but I think there will be plenty of things she’ll like once we get to actually explore the Magic Kingdom of Disney.

 

let’s not make this a habit…

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what? two posts in a row? how’s this happening?

I suppose the shameless plugging of my mum’s new work of fiction has me figuring out every possible angle of getting the word out. Yes, she’s my mum, but it’s also a work that’s  a good read. She’s a story-teller by nature. I am not, so I know a good story when I hear it and I’ve been hearing them all my growing up and all of my own girl’s growing up.

This particular tale, this story started even before I was thought of as being in existence. The germ of a story, which is now the seed for the last book of the trilogy. The first two books came out of as my mum shared the story with her granddaughter who had questions, lots of questions and wanted to hear more and so the story grew, as good stories do. Think Tolkein, or C.S. Lewis. Stories that weren’t quite finished with one telling of a particular tale.

It’s been a fun process to watch and be part of as a bystander and somewhat reluctant participant. I got roped into taking the photo for the cover. Since the story takes place along the Santa Fe trail heading to California with a wagon train we wanted to get as near the landscape as possible. We have family in Kansas and Missouri so off we went for Thanksgiving to get our trail shots. We thought it would be a photograph with title, etc. on it, but it morphed into something quite wonderful instead – if I’m allowed to toot my own horn, which I will.

Here’s what happened…

 

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author staging the cover’s look

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trying to get an uncooperative dog to sit still. what’s the saying in show business,                    “never work with animals or children”?

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first photograph chosen for first cover ideas

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I used the Waterlogue App I had on my smartphone. It’s a pretty nifty app that allows you to do what the title says, turn a photo into a watercolor. Mum didn’t want the characters recognizable as actual people so that no one would have a specific idea of what the characters should look like. It’s important for each reader to picture the characters as their imaginations will. However, this ended up bleeding too much and didn’t feel like an image that would convince anyone to pick it up and read the contents.

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this photo was settled on next as the cover layout was continuing to take shape (the photo below)

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cover trial 1

I flipped the image from above for the first full version of the book cover with title, author’s name, and back information… still not quite right.

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the photo finally settled upon was the one used above, but the author didn’t want the characters to be clearly seen. She wanted them to be blurred enough so anyone reading the book could imagine them as he/she pleased rather than having a specific image in mind already. I used an App by Alien Skin called Snap Art and the Colorful Oil Paint preset was settled upon. 

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the painting setting for this one was Vignette Oil Paint by Alien Skin which we used for the back cover images as well. I used an App called Art Text to create the title image. The cover still wasn’t quite right but it was getting there!

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The copy editor sent his own idea which shifted our ideas about what the cover could look like. So, working with the author, aka Mum, we finally settled on what became the final cover. The font for the title is called Professor Minty which the publisher’s copy editor used in his creation. 

It was a journey to get it right, but I think it looks pretty good. Now we know what we’ll be aiming for when the second and third books of the trilogy come out. Mum’s working on editing the next book at the moment even as she plans her launch for later next month.

Mum’s own story of things can be found here

Long time no posts

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It seems like it’s been forever and a day since I did anything over here. Life has been moving – sometimes at a snail’s pace and sometimes going at warp speed through the galaxy.

But I wanted to share some news that’s pretty exciting for the bolin girls. The grammy that is often on our adventures with us, if not plotting and planning them for us, has been published! She’s been working a trilogy that is for middle grades, but it’s enjoyable for anyone.

We’re please to announce that it’s available in ebook format as well as paperback and hardback. She has a website where you can check out the first book in The Last Crystal trilogy, The Black Alabaster Box, book 1 and where you can find one to add to your bookshelf – actual or virtual.

Here’s the cover to get you even more interested and intrigued in the story…

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my trouble with blogging on the road

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So, I have found that on this particular trip it has been almost impossible to stop and write down the chronicles of this particular adventure. It has just been all get up, drive for 7 hours, stop to sleep, get up, drive for 7 hours, etc. with very few pauses to collect thoughts and put them down within the annals of this blog. I feel a bit like we’re running a race to see where we can get to fastest only to pause and start the race again. I know my daughter feels this way – “we’re not getting to SEE anything or DO anything interesting!” is the main complaint. And, quite frankly, I agree. We aren’t really stopping to enjoy any one place or another. But mostly that’s the time constraint of a two week vacation time frame for getting across and back so that I am back to my job in time. Having been a teacher for many years being in a job that has a two week vacation package is tough going. So this trip’s journal is mainly going to be a collection of pieces that recounts and reflects with other goodies thrown in for good measure.

Let’s see, we last left you as we were heading out of Indianapolis, Indiana having spent the night in the Pullman car and continuing our journey west…

We first met a relative for breakfast before continuing on I-70 to head towards St. Louis and the Gateway Arch. We ended up stumbling upon the home of the world’s largest Wind Chime, Golf Tee, Rocking Chair, Pencil, curbside Mailbox, and Pitchfork in the small town of Casey, Illinois.

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We spent the night catching up with friends and then it was on to St. Louis, Missouri – home of the Gateway Arch, which we could hardly miss going by. We didn’t consider going up in the arch since tickets during the height of the summer months are sold out pretty quickly and it’s hot up there! But we did go into the visitor’s center and we did wader around the base and then took a stroll down along the river, which cut the heat of the day.

 

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After exploring the arch and the water we met up with a former student of mine who lives in St. Louis. She gave us a driving tour of Forest Hill Park which was expansive and has an amazing history as well as present. We then decided on lunch and enjoyed conversation and great food at The Fountain on Locust. They make most everything they serve, are vegetarian friendly, and have the smallest ice-cream cone in the world as well as sundae. We celebrated mum’s birthday and then moved on to visit the Louis and Clark Boathouse and Museum.

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The Louis and Clark Boathouse and Museum is a bit further down the road from St. Louis, but worth the time and effort to get out there. It’s traditionally where the pair took off on their journey to map out a route west, much unlike our own trek out west! We go there with less than an hour before closing time, but made the most of the museum before getting shooed out by staff – not really. In the boathouse is a replica of the boat Lewis and Clark set off in. You can read more about it, but it was built for the bicentennial four year expedition that recreated the historic journey. They were lovely about letting us wander around and made sure we got the most out of our time before heading out for Kansas City, MO for the night.

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the road much travelled

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So, we’ve been on the road for a few days now, but this is the first stop that has given me even a moment to write of our adventures so far.

We left on Thursday from Baltimore, Md – home of the National aquarium, home of the Walters Art Museum, and last resting place of Edgar Allen Poe.  We started where I-70 stared and began our adventure westward. This was going to be the big push to get the trip started and we went farther than we had originally intended. We started in overcast skies and moved into driving rain which made the trip longer and feeling a bit treacherous at times – not being able to see the marked lines on the road made driving a little more exciting that I would have liked it to be! We made stops for a stretch and a rest about every 2.5 – 3 hours of driving to get the wiggles out. Our first big stop was to see a friend from university just outside of Columbus, OH. We only had an hour, but it was good to see him in person and to know that there are just some friendships where you can pick up and keep going without lots of drama or guilt for not being the best as keeping up. We then pushed onward to our over night stay in downtown Indianapolis, IN at the Crowne Plaza Hotel at Union Station where they have Pullman cars that have been fitted up as hotel rooms. They were very comfortable, clean, and lots of fun! The hotel is filled with paster statues of various folk from past days of rail travel. The cars each have two rooms in them so they are spacious even if they don’t look much like it. BUT having ridden on Amtrak in one of the more modern sleeper cars, these are glorious! The staff was attentive, but not overly so. It was worth the push forward. The night’s rest was good and we’d all stop over again if given the chance.

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One of the nice things about this trip is that it is giving us a chance to see folk we haven’t seen in some time. It may not be for long, but it’s nice all the same.

States driven through on day 1: Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, and into Indiana!

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itchy feet

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Yes, it’s been awhile since the wanderlust grab hold of us girls, but it’s summer and school’s out so…

So, it’s time to put on the hiking shoes and get traveling again!

This year we’ve decided to check out the scenes around the United States. We’ll be driving, okay not all of us will be driving – some of us can’t peek out over the steering wheel! Oh, sorry, I’ve been informed that it’s not the peeping over the steering wheel, but a matter of not being able to reach the peddles or knowing what they do! At any rate,  we’ll be driving from sea to shining sea!

The plan, so far, is to start in Maryland and work our way along the interstate. Having family and friends along the way is helpful in breaking up the driving and getting us out to see a few of the sights along the way. So far, the first big stop will take us into Columbus, Ohio. I have a good friend from uni days that lives there and it will be great to see his face in person again. Then it will be onward into Indianapolis, Indiana to stop and say hi to distant cousins – my mum’s family is scattered but keep the ties open for lots of love to be shared. From there we’ll stop in St. Louis, Missouri (that’s Miz-ur-ē or Miz-ur-uh depending on which side of the river you grew up on!) to hopefully catch up with a former student and a former secondary school classmate! Finally, on this bit of the trip we’ll stop off in Lawrence, Kansas to pick up my mum’s older brother who will join us for the rest of the trip which will take us up and into Seattle, Washington where my mum’s younger brother lives. We will be heading into Colorado and then up, but we haven’t worked out which route we’ll take just yet.

We are getting excited and tired just thinking about all the driving, but an adventure we will have!

We love suggestions of what to see along the way, and possible routes to take, so please fell free to share!

Next post will be when we make our first stop for the night on July 6th – if I’m not too knackered from the driving!

Prince Edward Island, Day 5 to King’s County and good-bye

 

 

It was my last full day on the Island. We headed out for Kings County going East along the Coastal Drive part of the way (if I recall correctly), stopping at the Sir Andrew Macphail Homestead in Orwell for lunch in the tearoom. It was a wonderful lunch, featuring vegetables from the organic garden on the property. Andrew Macphail was a teacher, medical doctor, scholar and author. Though he did not want to remain on the family farm, he spent summers on the Island and provided jobs for Islanders in expanding the house, planting experimental crops on the land, and care for his mother, who continued to live there.

Today the grounds are enhanced by woods and by a large organic garden and there are workshops and guided tours that introduce visitors to ecological concerns of today and ways the Andrew Macphail Homestead Foundation is attempting to address them in the spirit of Sir Andrew Macphail.

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Macphail house is inviting from first view.

Macphail taught the first course on history of medicine at McGill University. When World War I broke out, he wanted to do his part. At fifty years of age and partially blind, he was an unlikely candidate for the army. When his application was refused, he appealed to the Canadian Prime Minister. Sent to France, Macphail became commander of a Field Ambulance Unit. Soon he was directing medical operations. Following the war, he was knighted for his contribution to enhanced field medicine.

This was another site where we could have spent the day exploring the house and the surrounding 140 acres.

Another stop was at St. John’s Presbyterian Church near Belfast. The church dates to 1803 when Thomas Douglas, the fifth Earl of Selkirk brought settlers from Scotland, largely from the Isle of Skye.

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Dr. Angus MacAulay, a medical doctor and British Army Chaplain headed the group from the Isle and conducted worship in a log chapel on his own property. The Lord Selkirk donated land and the present building began construction in 1822 under supervision of Robert Jones who had lived in London and was influenced by Sir Christopher Wren.

Services were held in Scottish Gaelic and English until 1910. It is still an active congregation. The building and grounds are well worth a visit. After a tour of the building I wandered through the graveyard that surrounds the church looking at tombstones, many of which read “born in Skye.” Standing there with the wind whispering through the trees around the churchyard, I wondered what the lives of these people who survived the journey from the Isle of Skye were like, how they dealt with the hard life they must have found once they reached PEI.

We stopped at the Woods Island Lighthouse. where we had a breathtaking view toward the faintest outline of Nova Scotia in the distance. Built to assist traffic between Nova Scotia and PEI, it was one of the last two lighthouses on the Island to house the Keeper and family. Today it houses a museum and gift shop. Attached is the Captain Angus Brown Gift Shop, filled with local crafts. Captain Brown, a ferry boat operator had the distinction of spotting the mythical phantom ship of the Northumberland Strait.

 

I found a hand knit pull-over sweater and matching hat just the right size for Patches, my granddaughter’s well worn and well loved bear. (Patches could write his own travel blog as he has accompanied her on most trips. Perhaps a future guest blogger?) I think Patches looks very smart in his new matching set. Fortunately his friends don’t seem to resent his new outfit.

I didn’t get a good picture of the lighthouse, but borrowed this one from Lighthouse Friends . To the best of my knowledge, it is in the public domain.

We made a spontaneous stop at the Rossignol Winery  one of several wineries on PEI. They weren’t expecting us and were apologetic for not offering us full hospitality, but I don’t think we had any reason to complain. We sampled several wines, including their signature blackberry mead. It did make me feel a bit of regret at having carry-on luggage! With a designated driver to hand and more time, one could sample a number of wines as well as take a tour of the vineyard. I think that would be a great day’s experience. And one could always console the designated driver by taking wine for dinner later.

Our companion on the Road Scholar PEI tour, Karen, took this picture of the interior of the store and welcome center. Notice the art. One of the impressive things about the winery was its attention to the aesthetic. The sandstone sculptures along the drive, art and sculpture on the grounds, and a display of local art in the store made it an altogether pleasant experience.

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We arrived at Rudd Brundenell River Park where we checked into our hotel.  with just enough time to freshen for dinner overlooking Cardigan Bay.

Then we were off to a Ceilidh in St. Peter’s. I understand that every Ceilidh has its own personality. This one featured fiddlin’ and dancin’ with plenty of back up on the guitar and a few soloists thrown in.

Many of the tunes were familiar as fiddle players and singers drew on old gospel and country music sources, some handed down for generations. The themes were certainly universal—love, perseverance, hope, grief and loss. It was hard to sit still and observe when there was such music being played and my toes longed to dance. I was reminded of the exchange between Mary and Elizabeth in the 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice production. They were sitting out the dance:

ELIZABETH: I would take more pleasure in this one if there were enough partners as agreeable as Jane’s.

MARY: I believe the rewards of observation and reflection are much greater.

ELIZABETH: And so they are when there are none others to be had. We shall have to be philosophers, Mary.

The next morning I said good-bye to the group and had an early start back to Charlottetown. The Road Scholar tour included another day featuring more time with Boyde Beck examining history of music on the island. A visit to the Greenwich Dunes  was in store for them as well.   Maybe I’ll get to do that on another trip. Lucy Maud Montgomery puts it nicely when she has Anne saying, “Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me glad to be alive—it’s such an interesting world.”

I was given leave to visit PEI by my girls (thebolingirls) on condition that I consider it a reconnaissance mission. So who knows, perhaps there will be more on PEI in the future. I’d visit again in a heartbeat.

going back: P.E.I. day three+ of a guest blogger

I know. I jumped right into day four and potato farms. Green Gables day was so full that I left off too soon. The last stop of that very full day was at Confederation Bridge.

The longest bridge over ice covered waters in the world, Confederation Bridge links PEI and the province of New Brunswick. It opened in May of 1977 after four years of construction, completely changing the way of life on PEI. You can still get to PEI by ferry from Nova Scotia. It operates from May through December. With the bridge, Islanders have year-round access to the outside world through New Brunswick. It is an impressive structure and well worth a visit. The views are breathtaking.

I enjoyed the lighthouses on PEI. There is a great view of the Strait from the Port Borden Range Rear Lighthouse that occupies a central place in the windswept park around the bridge. It flies the flags of Canada, the three Maritime Provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island). The PEI flag is the one with the heraldic lion of King Edward, Duke of Kent’s coat of arms and the three trees under a great oak tree. The great oak represents Great Britain with the saplings standing for the three counties of the Island (Prince, Queens and Kings). It reflects the provincial motto, Parva sub ingenti (the small under the protection of the great).

A railroad car and a  bit of track from the old rail line that once connected all of the island stand near the shore. At one time it would have been possible to travel the Island on the Prince Edward Island Railway without a car or horse and buggy. The railway made it possible for farmers to get their produce to Charlottetown as well as to visit other parts of the island. By 1875 it extended the length of the island from Tignish in the west to Souris in the east. Georgetown and Charlottetown were connected by branches. Like the Confederation Bridge, it changed a way of life on the Island. People who lived in virtual isolation were now connected to the whole island. Not only could they travel by rail, they now had postal delivery by train.

When the first ice-breaking ferry was introduced in 1917, the railroad was connected to the mainland. The new ferry could carry railway cars. The old narrow-gauge railroad tracks that covered the island were gradually replaced with standard rails like those used across Canada. By 1948, PEI boasted all diesel engines, the first province in Canada to do so. But the automobile began to replace the train for most passengers and a new highway system made the rails redundant. By 1989 all of the trains had been removed from the Island.

In 1994, the province bought the rail routes from Canadian National Railways. They were turned into a provincial bicycle and hiking trail, completed in 2000. You can visit the Elmira Railway Museum and the Kensington Station where you can view artifacts and get a feeling for an era gone by. An old post card shows people waiting at the station in Georgetown as the train has pulled in to the station.

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Unencumbered by facts or experience in the matter, I was sorry to learn that the railway no longer exists. To get around the island you can bicycle or hike along Confederation Trail from Tigerish to Elmira. Otherwise, you’re limited to tours or renting a car. So I get all kinds of nostalgic feelings when I imagine what it must have been like to ride across the Island by rail, possibly even sitting in a seat behind Anne Shirley. As  Edna St. Vincent Millay put it:

My heart is warm with friends I make,

And better friends I’ll not be knowing;

Yet there isn’t a train I wouldn’t take,

No matter where it’s going.*

Day five coming soon and no more back-tracking!  Hope it was worth it to you.

*See Schoonmaker, F. (1999). Edna St. Vincent Millay. New York : Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.,

 

 

[1] See Schoonmaker, F. (1999). Edna St. Vincent Millay. New York : Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., http://www.worldcat.org/title/edna-st-vincent-millay/oclc/42413339

P.E.I. day 4 – guest blogger

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Having explored the central part of the Prince Edward Island from the Northumbrland Strait to Dalvay-by-the-Sea on the Gulf, we headed out across the narrowest part of the island along the North Coastal Drive.
On the drive to O’Leary, our destination, Susan Dalziel showed us sites, some of which will never make the top-ten tourist attractions, but were enormously interesting. For example, we learned that there is an ice rink in almost every town and she has been in many of them. Curling is another national sport, also played on ice. It may be the world’s oldest team sport.
Another example was a very colorful farmstead with buildings reminding one of the Union Jack. In 1965 when the maple leaf became the flag of Canada, the farmer said he’d always lived under the Union Jack and painted the farm buildings red, white and blue so he could continue to do so. We also saw race tracks—Susan explained that harness racing is popular across the Island.  One of the farmers we met later told us that he and farmer friends don’t put money on the races, but they race for “bragging rights.” He saw it as a great way to relax in the off season.

Before we knew it we were at the Potato Museum in O’Leary.  You couldn’t miss it—there is a potato bigger than Godzilla standing in the front! O’Leary isn’t quite at the north-most tip of PEI, but it is only 42 km to North Cape (26+ miles), so we were close.

At the Museum we were met by a retired dairy farmer who started out growing potatoes. He talked with us about farming on PEI. Potatoes have been grown on the Island since the 1700s. Most of the potato farms are a multi-generational family business. It is the largest potato-producing province in Canada, bringing in half of the farm income on the Island.

We were introduced to environmentally sustainable farming practices on the Island,
learning that potato farmers rotate crops, alternating potatoes and green cover crops. Among the issues facing farmers are how to balance the need to control pests and disease with the necessity of protecting the Island’s water resources and whether and how much ground water should be allocated for growers. It isn’t an easy issue. There is also an organization of organic farmers that produces has a cooperative and produces its own newsletter.
Another issue has to do with the relationship between corporations that hold contracts for growing potatoes and sell fertilizer and crop protection products to the farmers.  To the outsider, it sounded a bit like owing one’s soul to the company store, to borrow from the Merle Travis song made popular by Tennessee Ernie Ford

We saw potatoes being dug, cleaned and sorted for shipping and a lot of impressive, expensive equipment. We visited a climate controlled storage facility where the potatoes are kept. One farm sends its potatoes to a large potato chip company in the US. Other PEI potatoes find their way into French fries eaten in Canada and the US. Different potatoes are grown for different potato products. We were told that table potatoes may be the hardest of all to grow because they need to be picture perfect for the market.

After having a failed potato crop in the raised beds in my backyard this summer, I was pretty impressed by the magnitude of the business. The work was not only in the fields, but in the farm office where detailed records are kept. The farmers can track any load of potatoes from the time they are dug, locating specific parts of a field, until they are processed.

Back at the Potato Museum we had a potato-based lunch and sampled potato fudge. It was seriously, dangerously good, too!

The afternoon took us to another family business, Leslie Hardy and Sons  on the shores of Malpeque Bay. The Malpeque oyster is still fished from dories with long handled rakes. We had a thorough induction to production and harvesting of clams, quahaugs (the large, hard-shell clam), mussels and oysters. We saw quahaugs being sorted into three sizes and those in our group who were inclined sampled them.
Mussels and oysters were on offer, too.

The day ended for some of us with dinner at the Confederation Center of Arts in Charlottetown. We had wonderful food and were conveniently located to the theater where some of our group were to see the musical Anne and Gilbert

Next: Eastern Coastal Region