That night we camped at Malpeque Bay and worked on the awning project, and in the morning we went to the beach there. This was the first time I went into the water at P.E.I., and was pleasantly surprised by it’s warmth. The water was soothing on my mosquito bites, and when I said so to Step a nearby lady laughed and said that was what she had just said. Malpeque Bay is famous for it’s oysters, but we didn’t have any.
Then we drove to Charlottetown for lunch at a place called the Water-Prince Corner Shop, which isn’t a corner store at all, but a café on the corner of Water and Prince. Reasonably priced, the seafood chowder was still about 10 bucks a bowl (or 10 clams, depending on how confusing you want your slang to be). The menu claimed they made the chowder with the “good stuff”, and I ordered it and they did. It had big chunks of halibut and salmon and lobster and crab—all of my favourites! Step had a scallop burger which was also tasty.
One thing P.E.I does make a big deal about is Anne of Green Gables. I mean, they really go on and on and on about it. The middle of P.E.I. used to be called simply Queen’s County, until they divided a big chunk around Cavendish out and made it “Anne’s Land”. That portion is really touristy with attractions like “Anne’s House”. (She was a fictional character, how can she have had a house?) 2008 was her 100th birthday, so there was even more huzzah than usual. Step and I kind of skirted “Anne’s Land”, but you still see Anne of Green Gables stuff everywhere, including whole stores devoted to her, and people walking around dressed like her.
Anne of Green Gables: the Musical, has been playing at the Confederation Centre for the Arts since 1964, so long it has become the longest running musical in Canadian history. We went in there to get tickets for The Ballad of Stompin’ Tom at the Mackenzie Theatre (known by P.E.I.ers as “The Mack”—I guess since AGG has monopolized the other theatre they needed a second one), and I saw the best Anne of Green Gables thing, ever. It was this guy, Don Harron, selling his book “101 Things You Didn’t Know About Anne of Green Gables—The Musical!” (I mean, they really go on about it), and he was wearing a braided red wig and straw hat! I could feel my eyes doing that cartoon thing where they pop out of your head and boggle around. “I’m getting a picture of that!” I said to Step. I asked Don Harron if I could take his picture and he said “That’s what it’s all about”. I then felt a kinship with Don Harron, in a reductio ad absurdum kind of way, and I felt as long as the locals can be tongue in cheek about it maybe even Anne of Green Gables was okay. Plus, I found out later that Don Harron is Charlie Faquenson! So I met Charlie Farquharson and I didn’t even know it.
Don Harron Charlie Farquharson was also wearing a Cows t-shirt, which is another P.E.I. thing you see all over the place in that part of the country.
Confederation this, Confederation that, Confederation Trail, why Confederation? Because Charlottetown, P.E.I. is where Canada was confederated, that’s why; it’s Canada’s birthplace! So Charlottetown has all sorts of buildings and history that are of National Importance. We only saw them from the outside, because of course we got there after they were closed for the day, but we did read the plaques. The only detail that really stuck in my mind was the Fathers of Confederation all had to sleep on their boats or couch surf before the meeting where they confederated Canada, because all the hotel rooms in P.E.I. had already been booked for a circus.
Charlottetown today is pretty funky, albeit small, with more than one shop that combines local fashions with food service, a comic and games shop, and several bars and live music venues. We had to try The Gahan House, because they brew their own beers, but of the 7 tasters tray Step got, only the stout was good.
The Ballad of Stompin’ Tom is based on Stompin’ Tom’s autobiography, which I have read the first half of. The first half was entitled “Before the Fame” and was about the same length (and as dramatic) as “Gone With the Wind”. Fortunately, Stompin’ Tom is a pretty good writer and his story is interesting. For example, he traveled back and forth across Canada 17 times before his big break came in Timmins. I didn’t not read the second half because the length was daunting; it was because at the time it hadn’t been published yet. Anyway, The Ballad of Stompin’ Tom is a musical based on his story, which was not developed in P.E.I., but is a natural summer production for them. I do not know how they got the license to do it. Stompin’ Tom is old and he’s always been ornery. You can’t blame the guy as he’s had a very hard life, at least before the fame. (Step knows some guys who tried to produce a documentary about him, but the deal bogged down in negotiations). The play was quite enjoyable, and the Mack is a nice cabaret style theatre, where you sit at a table and can have snacks and drinks during the show. We were seated with 3 P.E.I. natives who said they were so sick of seeing Anne of Green Gables: The Musical for the 30th time they came to this, instead. I seized this opportunity to question them about life on P.E.I., especially during the winter months. I kind of got the feeling they didn’t want to admit that winter on P.E.I. is quite pleasant—please don’t crowd up our province! So one of them told me last winter they had had no power for 10 days. As this is a common occurrence in much of rural Canada, because of weather, that didn’t seem so awful to me, as long as you have a wood stove and generator (and you’d be a fool not to).
After the show we went down the street to Baba’s Lounge, which is upstairs from Cedar’s Eatery, as they were having an open mic night. Open mic was what you’d expect if you’ve even ever been to one other open mic, but we did have some really good food which came from downstairs: falafel and minty tabouleh (that’s a parsley salad with bulgar wheat, not a bulgar wheat salad with parsley), and some tasty hommous.
Our friend Mitch is from P.E.I. and he has a Stompn’ Tom tribute act called Stompin’ Mitch. He also has a family cabin on the north coast of P.E.I., and we decided to go there and spend the night in his yard. He would have been okay for us to go in the cabin, but it had not been hooked up for electricity yet this season, nor had the toilet pump been put in. That was fine with us as we are usually more comfortable in the Boogie Bus, anyway. It was a bit of a drive and then it got to be country roads and then country paths and then the trees were scraping us and we were not really sure if it was a road. We saw what we thought was it but went a bit further to be sure, until the overgrown path ended in a sand bank. There wasn’t enough room to turn around so we had to back up. I was driving and it was a stressful situation for me. Step wanted to get out and guide me, but remembering the extreme mosquito and black fly situation of our first night I just wouldn’t allow it, even though we have mosquito head nets and the like. I don’t want Step to get eaten alive—I love him! After much slow maneuvering we came back to the driveway of Mitch’s cabin and then into the yard. I was all like “no one gets out of this van until morning” but Step said he would pee outside instead of into our chemical toilet. Well, about 10 seconds later he came back in and said he would use the toilet after all. I used our most useful bug zapper to kill all flying things that had gotten in the brief moment the doors had been open, and we had a very good night’s sleep.
In the morning the bugs were mostly gone and the yard was beautiful with long grasses and wild flowers. We stood on Mitch’s porch and admired the bay. After coffee, we walked down the country lane to the beach and surprise, surprise, another sandy P.E.I. beach with no one else on it. I’m telling you, that island is filthy with pristine beaches. The lane was charming, too, being overgrown with wild flowers and full of butterflies. We saw that the night before we had cracked the mostly useless decorative piece of red plexiglass on the top of the Boogie Bus, but otherwise had got through the lane unscathed.