Must we look back on vacations and choose our favorite part? As I review a visit to Prince Edward Island in the Maritime Provinces of Canada, many enjoyable subjects fly through the memory, but one stop scores highest.
There was the early-morning breakfast at the Prince Edward Island Preserve Co., a preserves factory where hot biscuits that make perfect use of the company's products are featured in a country breakfast.
As I look back, I can almost smell and taste the mussels steaming on the small boat on a Montague River ride when we learned how the mollusks grow on ropes. Minutes later they are consumed by the dozens. You don't like mussels? You would there.
After potatoes, seafood such as lobster and mussels are the island's leading products. Tourism is in third place, which is not a surprise. The island, beautiful and tranquil, with hundreds of miles of sandy beaches, is accessible by a 75-minute ferry ride or a nine-mile drive across the Concordia Bridge. Each is about $30, in American dollars.
But, the stop that capped everything else on the visit was seeing Green Gables near Cavendish. After many years it was thrilling to get acquainted with red-haired, pigtailed Anne of Green Gables in a way other than reading a book.
Green Gables, which has green gables and shutters, is a wonderful old farmhouse with a white picket fence and red geraniums blooming in the window boxes. It was the home of relatives of Anne of Green Gables author Lucy Maud Montgomery, so it was a natural for her to weave into her fiction. As a child she had stayed at the house with cousins and given such names as “Lovers Lane” and “Haunted Wood” to the places where they played. Her love of the rolling farmland and the changing seasons is clearly expressed in her writing in the eight Anne books. Miss Montgomery was a teacher, but after the death of her grandfather she returned home to help her grandmother and commenced writing.
After Miss Montgomery's death in 1949, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada recognized her national importance and erected a monument and plaque at Green Gables, though she had never lived there. The house and farm were her inspiration. Her very simple home is nearby, but poorly marked and probably overlooked by most visitors to Green Gables.
Parks Canada operates Green Gables, which is visited by 200,000 people each summer. Single admission is $5.75 (Canadian), $14.50 for families (Canadian).
Visitors can walk through the first-floor parlor, Matthew's room, and dairy porch. Anne's room, simply but adequately furnished, is on the second floor along with a sewing room and the rooms of Marillat and the hired hand. Anne's room is furnished with a white wrought-iron single bed. The window treatment is lace curtains and a green pull roller shade. The board games in her room include dominoes.
Green Gables is on the island's Blue Heron drive. For the benefit of tourists, the island is divided into three scenic driving routes that are defined in different colors on the map. The other drives are Lady Slipper, the provincial flower, and Kings Byway. Each can be covered in a day.
Overnight accommodations and loads of souvenirs, from chocolates to calendars and dolls, support the Green Gables tourist attraction.
Visitors can't stay any closer to Anne's house than at Kindred Spirits Country Inn. It's a hillside cluster of housekeeping cottages, located “just over the fence from Anne's house.” Literally, guests walk from their cottage next door to Green Gables.
Green Gables shopping proved that women are never too old for dolls. Back on the bus, one by one, we pulled Anne dolls, in several sizes, from our packages. I bought several for friends who read the books as many years ago as I did. Of course, I saved a doll for myself. She makes me happy and so does thinking about Lucy Maud Montgomery, whose fiction lives on in an old farmhouse with green gables, red geraniums, and a big barn out back.