The summer quickly draining away, Oliver and I decided to head out for a full day of Island adventures on Saturday; here’s the route we took, a nice loop around the edges of Queens County:
We started the morning with our usual stop at the Charlottetown Farmer’s Market. We then headed west on the Trans-Canada Highway over the causeway to North River, took a right at the traffic lights and then an immediate left out the Kingston Road. We passed by our old house in Kingston — now painted green — and eventually came to the turn-off after Emyvale that takes you down the hill to the left, then up the hill and on to one the Island’s “scenic heritage roads” — my favourite of the bunch, I think.
This network of old unpaved routes is something that no visitor to the Island should miss. They’re all clearly marked on the provincial highway map, and if you’ve got a car with good clearance, and aren’t intimidated by the odd muddy bit, you’ll be rewarded with some of the best rural agricultural scenery you’ll see anywhere.
Our GPS receiver cut out just after the turn off for the Appin Road — the road gets really covered leaves on the trees on either side at the point — but we continued along through the hills near Kelly’s Cross, and eventually emerged onto the Trans-Canada again at Hampton, where we then drove straight on in to the village of Victoria.
In Victoria we stopped at Island Chocolates for an excellent iced mocha coffee (for me) and hot chocolate (for Oliver). We saved room for a couple of their excellent chocolates as well. Victoria is a wonderful village, and Island Chocolates is at its heart; another “must visit” if you’re on the south shore. We rounded out our visit to Victoria with a climb up to the top of the village’s lighthouse — admission by donation, and the stairs are really steep — and a visit to the musty yet somehow endearing bookstore.
Back into the car we cut right across the Island, through Rose Valley, Breadalbane, and South Granville, emerging on the north shore just east of New London. In New London we paid our first visit to the Aubrey Bell Antiques Superdome (aka Gallery 18). Aubrey has taken his small downtown Charlottetown shop and expanded it into a great old barn; in addition to the maps, prints, posters and books he’s been selling all along, he’s added a good cross-section of paintings by Island artists. The barn is surrounded by a large collection of tiny outbuildings; while the Grand Plan is to have these all let our, right now there’s only one in use right now: expatriate Californian potter Karin Melzer has set up business as Bloomster, and is selling an interesting array of her own work.
East from New London we drove through the insanity of Cavendish without stopping and along the north shore through North Rustico, and finally to South Rustico where we stopped to tour the newly-renovated Farmer’s Bank. The building itself is the real highlight: it’s simple, somewhat austere, and built out of Island sandstone; it’s arguably one of the nicest buildings in the province. Inside is a fairly mundane review of north shore Acadian history; there are a couple of interesting artifacts, but it’s not exactly a historical thrill-ride, and there’s nothing of particular interest to kids, so we made a quick tour.
Back into the car, we headed east to Brackley Beach where we spent a couple of hours at The Dunes. We started with an excellent lunch: real iced tea (kudos) followed by crab cakes and salad. Very tasty, and the service was excellent. We then toured the sculpture garden and ponds in the back (Oliver’s shares his grandfather’s appreciation for Buddha sculptures), the stunning new furniture wing, and then took the Joey Tobin staircase for the panoramic view of the bay.
It’s impossible to describe what a fantastic place The Dunes is; it’s an excellent tonic whenever the “country floral” nature of the predominant Island aesthetic gets to you. We enjoyed our lunch and visit so much we took Catherine back for lunch on Sunday.
We rolled down the Brackley Point Road to Charlottetown and were home by 4:30 p.m. It’s easy to forget how much fun and interesting there is on PEI in the summer; I’m glad that we remembered before the snow starts.