Corto Does Prince Edward Island
aka A Family Adventure, Oceans, and a Car
This is a day by day journal of our vacation with thumbnails and linked images.
Almost all of the thumbnails link to 320x240 pixel images (same size as my morning post images) that open in a new window.
Be sure to mouse-hover the thumbnails for descriptive comments on the images.
Friday, August 6
The Voyage Away.
Did you know that the speed limit on the highways in Quebec is 90 km/h?
Yeah... me either.
The police garcon parked in that little hidey hole about 50 K from the border to New Brunswick... he knew. If I spoke perfect french... I would have got a warning, I just know it.
But enough about that...
We pulled away from the house at 7:30 and actually made really great time... and I have a little certificate from the Surete du'Quebec to prove it!
We stopped for a "drive by" in Montreal to get a peek at the house Suz did all her little girl stuff in... :D
Just in case there was any question... I can personally attest to the fact that every piss ant little bathroom stop from Ottawa to Canada's east coast has a Tim Horton's.
A short stop on the outskirts of Quebec City and we checked out the waterfall we had forgotten to look for when we drove in on the highway...
We made Grand Falls, NB at exactly six o'clock... except we drove into Atlantic Time... so it was actually seven. We took a tour of downtown Grand Falls... passing the Kozy Bar and the Laid Back Pub, and then boom... we were at the outskirts of town. There's a lot more "outskirts" in Grand Falls than there is actual "town". However, the town that is there, is really nice. It's a giant package of cliches... and the falls in the middle of town is actually very Grand.
There was a sunshower at sunset and the single most intense rainbow I've ever imagined graced the sky. I was totally without camera when we looked across a farmers field to see it poking into a church steeple at the far end... I scrambled for the video camera and snapped a "still" but the location and intensity had changed...
We're at the Pres du Lac Inn... and I'm about 15 minutes from unconscious. Who knew driving all day would tire you out so seriously.
Saturday, August 7
Rolling Backwards, Rolling Breakers, and The Glory Of The Sea.
So the wake-up call concept works a whole lot better if the ringer thing on the phone is actually on.
A late start by an hour... but really the trip from Grand Falls to PEI is a breeze.
The countryside beyond Grand Falls is... simply beautiful. Endless potato and wheat fields, interrupted occasionally by a factory that makes frozen French fries... (and I'm not kidding about this - and, btw, the biggest freaking French fry factory ever is on PEI... this behemoth Cavendish Farms plant.
We drove out of The French Fry Capital (actual zone name) and into desolate, but new, multi lane highway and rain... plenty of rain. It stopped, or we drove out of it, in time to get all goofy at Magnetic Hill. You're car appears to roll "up" a hill when you put it in neutral... and no shit is really does... but it's an optical illusion brought about by the lay of the surrounding landscape. Go look it up... it's cool. And by the by... the instant-theme park that is built around it is no illusion.
You wouldn't believe the signage dedicated to the wildlife in the woods around you, as you drive... It really kicks in while you drive through Quebec, with this big ass sign showing you some dancing deer called Prudence, but then the yellow diamonds start. I'm talking ... charging moose, happy moose, jumping deer, walking deer... You're driving along and you expect that at any moment a heard of moose and deer may storm out of the woods and attack the cars passing on the highway.
Stopping for lunch became an exercise in frustration as we couldn't really find anywhere and ended up just stopping at the side of the highway and chowing down on stuff in our cooler.
We made the Massive Bridge ("confederation bridge") by about 3:30 and headed for Cavendish. I thought New Brunswick was beautiful... but this is unbelievable. You are driving through one endless postcard. Now... the Cavendish Beach zone is very touristy - anywhere that spawns a "ripply's believe it or not" museum is a lost cause... but this is exactly the sort of place that our kids, at their ages, can drink in by the bucket. We've planned to avoid the "theme" park things however, so we'll see.
Out cottage is literally a 10 minute walk from the main entrance to Cavendish Beach and it's a very nice place... clean and comfy and what it lacks in privacy it makes up for in "I have little kids with me... HELP" services. We managed some groceries, out to a pizza dinner and then... then we went to see the ocean.
It has rained here for the last few days and there must be some good stormy action way out to sea, so the surf was wicked angry. Some random guy was telling me that these were the biggest not-accompanied-by-a-storm waves he's seen here in ages. It was overcast, 8:00 pm, and windy as hell... We had shoes, sox, and pants on. Within minutes of seeing the ocean... we were overcome and all four of us had shoes and sox discarded, rolled up pants (that got soaked) and were dancing in the raging waters. :D The boys reaction was everything I could have hoped for... Edward was basically performing Othello calling up a tempest... knee deep when the water rushed in, arms waving at the sky and calling great gothic chants to the wind... and yes... he's six... but he thinks he's like some dark wizard from LOTR... George was beside himself... first of the group to be overtaken by a rogue wave. Once he was wet... well, we all went for it.
We came home, cleaned up, made coffee and snacks and relaxed with a little tv and now? it's like 11:30 and I can hardly keep my eyes open.
Sunday, August 8
Sand, Surf and Salt Water Up Yer Nose
Get up when we wake up... Release the hounds... er... the kids, on the play ground just outside our front door and take another shot at making decent coffee in the coffee maker. We brought 'bucks coffee... but didn't bring a coffee scoop so I've been making coffee fit for very old Italian men sitting in Sicilian sun - aka ridiculously strong.
We packed up a bag and walked to Cavendish beach... we didn't go to the "beach" proper... just the sandy coast down the way a bit from the life guards and the bajillion people. It was a cold wind that blew from the ocean and stirred up breaker style waves but we're made of strong 'nuf stuff to want to play in the water. Somewhere near us a family from Quebec sat down and watched as their tween-age daughters, dressed fully in jeans, shirts AND jackets dove into the water played with the waves. No idea what that was about but whatever. We made ourselves a base camp on a log and had a fabulous day playing in the surf and the sand with the boys.
It's funny how waves work... small wave washes over your feet, so you walk out a bit... larger wave hits your knees so you jump back... small wave again and then WHAM. You'd think George Michael was gonna show up. I'm just say'en... the "wham" wave hit me in the middle of my chest. Now, my right arm was ending in Georges hand... and "middle of my chest" equals center of his face. Um... I have to say, it was quite funny.
George actually exclaimed "this is the best day of my life..." at one point so the weather gods and their evil games can go get stuffed. The sun beat down for our entire beach-y adventure but we did watch a t-storm out to sea look all ominous and freaky. Ocean lightening... cool. Oh, and jelly fish... nobody talks about the jelly fish in their vacation literature. No biggie but we did see plenty of them.
I could feel my mom wishing we'd call her to tell her all was well, so I clicked on the cell for a quick mommy moment.
Our cottage is a duplex... or whatever, two cottages with a common wall. Our neighbors have two little girls and a baby, and while you might think some crack about the baby is coming, that's not it... The dad's name is Kimble, and one of the daughters names is Kimberly. I swear to god, my life is like an endless stream of people named Kim.
The bbq on our porch got a work out making fresh picked baked potatoes, a steak and some hot dogs... and we made another Tim Horton's pilgrimage for dessert. :) I'm still working on the coffee-to-water formula. :D
Our day ended with the boys passing out seconds after being put to bed, and then Z and I watched "School of Rock" on the laptop (dvd).
Monday, August 9
Road Warriors And A Sore Tummy
We've booked a "deep sea fishing" adventure for tomorrow!! :D
Today, however, is less exciting. Rain is in the offing and we are desperate for groceries. Shopping for said groceries anywhere near here is a mistake (tourist prices) and we would like to see Charlottetown... sooooo... Road Trip.
Once again... the drive was pretty much a living post card and we're taking note of the places to stay that don't appear to have an internet presence. I think, if we come back (who am I kidding... we'll come back) we'd stay in a different part of the island, away from Cavendish.
We think we scoped out the lobster restaurant we'll be doing our "one big meal out" at and found our way to a normal urban grocery store. That, and looking around downtown Charlottetown pretty well used up our day. Of course, the kids day is book ended with play in the park out our front door so while amazing adventures surround us... a swing and a slide still hold serious magic for little people.
Remember I mentioned that I carried a pack to the beach yesterday? Edward got a descent scrape on his shins while we were walking home... so at one point I was carrying him as well. Today... I am very much in fear that I have damaged the hernia I had operated a few months ago. Whatever humor there may be in the irony or repetition of the hernia issue in my life... has vaporized in the significant pain that is now in my gut. I just lifted Ed for a hug after a crying jag about something and ... basically have affirmed that I can't lift anything for a while. If I have screwed up my gut again... well... I don't know what... but it's got me feeling really kinda down.
Tuesday, August 10
So Here Is A Tale Of Our Castaways...
Today was a day brought down from the heavens by the god of island vacations himself (his name was Ricco, he wore a diamond...). The sun held fast all day and the temperatures soared. Never the sort to avoid lazy behavior, we sloth'ed about all morning and prepped for our deep sea adventure. Next time someone asks "have you ever been to sea?" we can all say "yes"! We went Deep Sea Fishing with Captain Highliner himself. No shit, it was billed as "A three hour tour" (I checked... none of the other passengers was a professor). There were two other families with us and sun block aplenty as we made for several spots on the fish finder that took us several miles out to sea.
We caught about 27 good sized mackerel between us... (just our family), tossing back a dozen that were too small. It was a mix of cool and gross because I've never actually had to deal with the hook-in-fish-face before. Words cannot do justice to how freaking cool this was for the boys. Ed was a bit woozy at one point but that was brought on by repetition. The fish were cleaned and cut into fillets by the time we made harbor and I'm typing this sitting beside the bbq waiting to get things started. Corn on the 'Q and baked PEI potatoes, salad, and a mess of mackerel to feed our crew. :D
OK, diner is done and, honestly, I was afraid the fish would suck. :D I was very mistaken. Filets, washed,
salt, pepper, butter and lemon, directly on the hot rack of the bbq was absolutely amazing. No seriously... WOW.
Today ended much as it began, taking it slow and enjoying the pace. We walked a new beach at sunset and relaxed with the TV as the night air brought relief from a warm day.
Wednesday, August 11
Lazy Dayz and Pottery
Today was kind of a day off... no plans... no sched. :D
We got up when we woke up and ate muffins and pop tarts and drank coffee and grew long claws so when we hang like sloth's we'll be able to hold on. We swam in a pool... walked a stony beach, chased crabs in the ocean and build sand castles on another beach... We drove around scoping out the lobster dinner zone for tomorrow and looked in on some local artisan shops. A late dinner and after the kids finish kumon (they can never escape kumon! :D) we'll be going out for an ice cream dessert somewhere.
There are two pools on at our "cottage resort"... (we're staying at a place called "Shining Waters") one basically right outside our door and the other is a short walk... there's a play structure literally outside our front door and best of all... a dishwasher. :) I'm getting better at the coffee science (as I sip sip sip).
PEI is awash with ladybugs. I'm not sure if this is a good or bad thing agriculturally, but the kids are sure getting a kick out of it...
Memory moment: we watched "Under A Tuscan Sun" last night, "when I tried to capture lady bugs... I couldn't find a one, so lay down in the grass and fell asleep. When I awoke, they were crawling all over me..."
It's just after dinner and I'm watching a load of little kids goofing around in the red sand and swings... We had chops and chicken from our bbq but I zoomed over to this restaurant near-by and bought a small mountain of french fries to go with! :D
It's about 9:00 now... and the sky has filled with clouds, blown in on the tail of a wind that has been blowing from the land towards the sea all day. I suspect there is wet weather in the works. We're planning to drive clear across the island to the eastern tip tomorrow, hoping to see them bring some tuna in on the fishing boats, play at a rail museum, and - if the weather lets us - swim off a different coast of this little big island.
Note: you can't believe the billi-bob sun tan I'm sporting... my arms have never, to my memory, been this dark... and, of course, it's a tan acquired while wearing a t-shirt.
Thursday, August 12
Squeaky Sand And A Very Big Fish.
Ok... I dunno what we've done to have earned such favor, but Ricco was smiling again. The day dawned bright and beautiful... no hint of rain or cloud. We hit the road at 9:30 and we just got home... it's 10:30. Loooooong day.
Our plan was to drive the coast towards the eastern tip of PEI, look for tuna, trains and lighthouses... find a beach and then kill some lobsters. Our plans came to pass with perfection. We stopped in a very small fishing village called Neufrage... remarkably quaint, to snap some coastline pictures and stretch a bit. Next stop was a fishing village called North Lake. They call themselves the "tuna capital of the world". Our intention was to find out if any fishing boats would be bringing in a tuna, having never seen an actual tuna and being quite certain they weren't shaped like short tins. I walked into the port authority office and was told "oh, there's one on her way in right now... be here with a tuna in about 15 minutes. wohoo... We ate lunch from our cooler while we waited and then... tuna time. It was freaking huge!!! It comes off the boat, onto ice, and a core sample is removed for the buyers to try on-the-spot. They bid on a per-pound price and the deal is done within 10 minutes of the fish leaving the boat. Apparently, a great many of the fresh tuna are purchased by Japanese buyers... Can you say Sushi? From there we headed for Elmira and this rinky dink train museum that offered a miniature train ride... It was cheesy as hell, but the boys got a charge out of it, so go figure. George was attacked by some kind of bug that took a bite out of his leg and left him with a nasty all day, but it was one of those things that only bothers him when he stops being busy with whatever else we were doing.
Next stop was "East Point" ... the eastern most tip of the island and tour of the lighthouse there. GPS has rendered lighthouses almost obsolete but the coast guard keeps 'em up never-the-less. It was close to 2:00 and time for a beach. We went to a place called "Basin Head" and it was freaking amazing. The beaches there are called "The Singing Sands" and this has something to do with the very fine elements composing the gorgeous white sands... and, no fooling, the sand squeaks when you walk on it... Just imagine, relaxing on the beach and everybody that walks by... squeaks! George showed exceptional courage in jumping off this bridge, a good 15 feet in the air, over a cause-way that was the thrill of the many assembled teenagers (Daddy did it too...) and at the beach part, you could walk out for 50 yards, never soaking your fiddly bits, to a sand bar that was marginally above water during low tide. Edward had endless fun there. You could then walk again for ages into the ocean before the water ever threatened to freeze yer bum. We played for hours and had a grand time.
However, time, as is it's habit, got away from us, and we left at like 5:45. The drive to the restaurant we intended to go to was easily 2 hours away, and factoring in a bathroom break and some groceries... we had to change plans. We went into Charlottetown for our lobster dinner. Um... I have to say, I was dramatically under whelmed by the lobster thing. It's fucking gross, difficult to eat and really... I'd trade it for pizza any day of the week. However, it was part of the adventure so we enjoyed ourselves fully and managed to get home to the cottage with about 15 minutes of Big Brother still on the tube. :D
It's an hour or so later... the kids are abed, after baths and stories, and the admiral just crept in for a visit. It's 11:30... and I'm absolutely bagged.
Note: Edward has taken to absently moving his cupped hand to his mouth and blowing a few short blasts at it... like he's mimicking someone testing their breath. He can offer no explanation for this and does not actually appear to realize he's doing it.
Friday, Ausut 13
Sandbars and Ferris wheels.
Our last day in PEI. The day, once again, dawned bright and beautiful. There is a threat of weather looming so the day began with a trip to the ocean, for sand, surf and marvelous little time worn rocks. We tried to fly the "stunt" kite again today but only managed it for a bit. The waves were oodles more fun. It was morning and low tide, so we could walk out through chest high water to find sand bars that lefk your ankles high and dry... We collected red sand in bottles and sorted through our many little rocklettes gathered from a perilously wave rocked pocket carved into the red cliffs adjacent the mile long beach.
This all ended at lunch and the afternoon, when it arrived, brought more wind and cloud cover. We shopped for trinkets, and made our only trip to a "theme" park... "Sand Spit" is a roller coaster, ferris wheel zone. Daredevil Geo rode the cyclone and they both screamed in excitement as bumper cars bumped.
Emptying the fridge by ... well, eating everything, was our dinner, and that makes five nights with copious potatoes. :D
Now the kids are enjoying a little Disney movie piped into the tv on a "cottagers" channel. Alice is arguing with flowers, Cheshire cats, and hookah smoking caterpillars as I type. It's time to pack and sort ourselves for tomorrows car trip and the beginning of the end. Still to come? A day in Fredericton, and then a day in Quebec City. Home is still days away, but PEI is about to become the stuff of stories that begin with remember when.
Oops. No sooner had I stepped into the cottage to put away Geo's kumon, listening to him scoot over the play-ground, than Edward came zooming in to tell us that Geo was hurt. He had fallen off the structure and banged his arm. It's 40 minutes to the nearest medical facility but it's not swelling up so we're playing a waiting game. He sure is hurting though... :( ***
Saturday, August 14
Vacations Are All About Memories
Yeah.... well, today ... the day we leave... rain. :D Thank you Ricco, for a great run of sun and book-ending our trip with rain. Our good fortune is really quite something.
George's arm is strange. I can touch all along the bone of his forearm, and prod the muscle but if he does anything that draws tension from the muscle, major pain. I gave him a half an advil last night... his first attempt ever at swallowing a pill... and, of course, it went poorly. He ended up needing to chew it... ewwww.
I'm packing the car and we're going to go to a hospital on our way out-of-province. :(
See ya later.
3:00 pm... later.
Yeah... hospital on PEI? no... we'd be there all freak'en day.
We're in Sackville, NB... Suz used to go to Uni here (mount allison U) and they have a hospital here that does not sport a 3-4 hour waiting time (I hope... I'm typing as we sit in the waiting area.) Little guy seems ok half the time, and in serious trouble the rest, so we're going to get an x-ray.
It rained solid from the time we pulled away from the cottage... basically until we arrived in Sackville... so "go sackville". :D
tick tick tick
Well now... the arm is fine. It took about 90 minutes but that beats a) it taking five hours and b) it being broken. The doc was worried about a hair line fracture so they called in the "off on Saturday" x-ray tech... and it being Sackville, she was there in 10 minutes... (bwaahahahaha). They even "scanned" the x-rays to a specialist in Moncton to confirm. :D Then, amazingly, they let us "sign for" the x-rays of his arm!!
Back on the road at 4:30 and we made Fredericton about 7:00. We're staying at the "Delta Fredericton" and it's swank-meister-on-crack here! And it's the same damn rate as the crap hotel in Grand Falls!! Big dinner buffet next door, big brother on the tele, and then a big swim ... with some local 20 something's at the hotel pool and a hot tub with a bottle of bubble bath in it.
The hotel has a high speed net connection ... everywhere... room, lobby, etc... and I've finally been able to check email... In PEI we could only hit the net via a dial-up and java free connection at a visitors center, which did nothing for my g-mail account (I'm sorry we didn't connect heather!).
Now it's time to read to the boys and put them to bed... read a bit ourselves and crash. Tomorrow is all about going to Quebec City.
Oh yeah, and the Edward hand-blow thing has been explained. It's a big secret so shhhhh don't tell anyone. Apparently, Edward is thinking ahead. He wants to be in the book of "world records" and he figures if he blows on his hand every few seconds, he will eventually have the driest hand in the world. K, and you cannot really appreciate this until you have a conversation with him about anything and observe the number of times he blows on his hand and the casual way he works it into his movements... we're talking ocd levels, but, as with many things in these years... it will become last weeks thing soon 'nuf.
Sunday, August 15....
Elvis, A Bear and Another Nice Hotel.
Yeah, so staying in a really fancy pants hotel for a night after spending a week in a cottage is a very good idea. Delta uses an MS Windows Media Center system on the TV with an IR keyboard, etc... or you can hook up your laptop to high speed... a'no'charge... sweet.
We woke up and packed ourselves away for an 11 AM start to our Quebec City journey. We kept pace what appeared to be a stuffed black bear for a while, and enjoyed the New Brunswick speed limits while they lasted. Mary Pope Osborn entertained us by narrating two of her Magic Tree House stories and the scenery unfolded in reverse to our journey outward. The ubiquitous Tim Horton's, the motorcycles and the new highways...
And then there's Quebec...
highway speed limit of 90, our autopilot set to 110
and being passed by ... basically everybody with a Quebec plate.
A tour bus with Elvis on it's ass...
Likely it's full of little old ladies in diapers with purses full of quarters
Heading for a casino... and it's passing me.
Arriving in Quebec City something like 8 hours later, with a favorable time change back to Eastern gets us to a beautiful hotel (the Lowes Concord*) around 7 PM.
We're 14 floors above the city, in lovely huge room, again no more expensive than the crap in grand falls... with no internet. (you have to pay extra for that ).
Quebec City is basically stepping stones with their mates somewhere in europe...
There are castle walls, and battlements...
The Walled City and various 1790 architecture
Fancy cabs, btw, look great but dude... they smell.
There were buskers... spitting fire and playing slide guitars,
and as all this wraps around us, the boys are absolutely going mental.
Sing it with me... "Ooooover Stimulaaaaation Time"
It's all good though... we are all of us, drinking in our adventure and making space for new memories.
We had a late dinner on an outdoor terrace, in the Old City.
A family with a crying baby beside us,
the young couple in the corner,
the older couple over there,
the table of five women obviously from three generations in a family,
the cliche gestures, and close talking of people that work there with patrons,
and the manager that could have passed for Al Pachino from somewhere near the middle of Scarface.
We had pasta and shi-shi-poo-poo pizza's, coke and white wine, and then escaped to explore.
It's midnight now and bedtime...
Tomorrow we go to the Parliament to a place called the Hall of Presidents to search out my father-in-law's portrait.
Then some more exploring... and then, a journey home.
* The Concord: when I was 13 and 14, my units took me on ski vacations to Quebec City that included New Years Eve. One year we stayed at the Concord (exact same hotel). My parents went out to a party with friends and I was happy to fend for my self. I will never forget riding the elevator at some point after midnight and it opening on the 6th floor... to total darkness and shredded newspaper piled waist deep. College students gone feral, obviously, had completely 86'ed the floor. TVs and mattresses out the windows... police and dogs... it was hilarious and terrifying.
Monday, August 16
A Time For Getting Home</b>
So... on the one day that we Suz has set aside in her life to make a pilgrimage to the Quebec Legislature Building we have to contend with some punk that is making a movie about Rene Levesque* (it all worked out in the end, but... gah!)
Big security and actors everywhere. When there was a break in the shooting, we were allowed to zoom inside the building. As it turns out, the giant portrait of my FIL is in a section of the Gallery des Presidents that is not readily accessible to the public. When we explained the significance of our visit to the security desk they brought us a private guide to bring us to the painting. Let me take a moment to acknowledge the emotional significance of this moment... Suz has never before been to view the painting. I'm all goosepimply just typing about it.
We walked the narrow, euro-smack streets of the old-city until the kids wore out, snapping pictures and drinking in the beauty of it all.
The road is our mistress again but this time we have a visitor... The "service engine soon" light has come on. I added oil and now we're just hoping to get home in one piece. :D We're somewhere between Quebec City and Montreal as I type and the boys are watching a Harry Potter movie in the back - translation: blessed silence from the back seats!! (headphones).
It's 7:14 PM EST and we just entered Ontario... we're 120 kms from the end of our journey. Fresh cups of Tims and we can taste home.
* Note: Rene Levesque came into power as a Premiere when I was in grade 8 (I think - so like about 30 years ago... ug!). Our class had pre-scheduled a trip to Montreal to visit the Stock Exchange and it just happened to work out that the day were there was the first day of trading after Rene and his rat bastard Party Quebecois was elected... The 1970 FLQ crisis was still fresh in the minds of Canadians. It was insane and goes down in history as the biggest freak-out day of trading in the history of the exchange before computers took over much of the action.
Please let me know if you find any broken links or problems...
Thank you for sharing our adventure.