In an effort to really get my hands dirty and actually write this year, I decided to take part in Writing 101, a 20 day class administered by the Daily Post designed for writers who want to develop their writing habit. Sign me up! Each day, a writing prompt is posted and we are to respond to it on our own blogs. Today’s assignment involves telling a story – the story of a view; a place that you either want to go back to, or maybe a place you wish you could be instead. If you could zoom through space at the speed of light, what place would you go to right now? For an added twist or challenge, there is an option to organize the post around the description of the setting.
If I could literally zoom through space this very second, I would be in Prince Edward Island, Canada. That place is made for September. The small Island located off the coasts of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia is first-off a visual delight. You immediately are drawn to the iconic rusty red sand that the island is made of. Not just the cliffs, but the fields, the roads and the pavement. In September, the canola and the potatoes are readying for harvest and have turned a bright yellow, amplified in the autumn sunshine. The island soil is fertile, and so the grass is lush, lush and green. If you’re lucky and have timed you’re visit properly, the leaves are turning, adding shades of yellow, orange and red to the vibrant landscape already in seemingly full fall color. The blue ocean and sky only makes everything stand out more. Every hilltop or bay is truly like a painting, or a picture.
The proximity of the ocean at all times means that there is a constant briny, salty smell on the air. On the island, this mingles with the smell of fresh cut grass and cattle. Everything positively reeks of freshness. The weather in September can be all over the place, so it is nothing for a storm to roll over and leave behind a damp chill or humidity in the air. After a day on the water on a cool day, the chill will be in your bones. And so for me, Prince Edward Island also smells like camp fire smoke. On my first visit to the island, the camp fire was my only method of cooking food and staying warm as we tent-camped.
Besides being a beautiful place to look at and take pictures of, Prince Edward Island is also a great place to get to get out and do things. This is truly the best way to experience the sights and sounds of the island. We rented bicycles from MacQueen’s Bike Shop in Charlottetown and spot-toured many of the well-maintained trails the Island has to offer. The Confederation Trail offers good options and there are many parks to choose from, but our favorite spot to cycle was St. Peter’s Bay. The route toured us down by the shore so we could relax, listening only to the sounds of the seabirds crying to one another, the waves and wind on the shoreline and the heat bugs. It can be really peaceful out there.
Besides listening to the natural sounds of the island, there are also Ceilidhs that you can attend to hear local island music and see local dance. These are often held in churches and are usually easy to find in local advertisements, and tourists are welcome. The lively music and dance is a forceful reminder that you are on the east coast, if the scenery and genuine friendliness of the provinces’ people don’t do the trick.
To top this experience off, Island cuisine is a fabulous assault on the nose and on the tongue. Food on the Island is simple, but it is done well. Featured ingredients often include new potatoes, squash, carrots and other rooty-type vegetables. Fresh seafood including but not limited to lobster, mussels, scallops, shrimp and oysters. Fresh corn. Often these ingredients are thrown together in a giant pot and left to stew, creating a briny steamed seafood stew. Bakeries are not hard to find on the Island, and it seems as though all of their dairy comes from the Island. Living the 100 Mile Diet would not be impossibly living there. The wonderful farm-fresh produce and other products are one of my favorite aspects about life on PEI.
One afternoon we were driving along on the highway east of Charlottetown. At the crest of another hill in the rolling, green landscape that is Prince Edward Island we spot a farm on the left advertising pumpkins and new red potatoes for sale. There is no one around, but a sign lists prices above a box to hold money. Many of the road-side stalls operate on the honor system. September in general is harvest season, so it is not uncommon to see farms selling potatoes, squashes, pumpkins, garden vegetables, apples and other farm fresh produce at bargain prices. The quality is the best and the profit goes directly to the family that grew the food. Turning back to the vehicle, I see the view across the road that I missed when parking at the farm. A beautiful little bay at the bottom of the hill, framed by red sand cliffs, ocean sparkling in the sunlight. It was as beautiful as any I had seen so far on that trip, but there was something about that combination of events that really took my breath away.