Friday, February 24, 2006

Harbor and History in Charlottetown PEI: Maritime Travels 3 Out Of 12

Who can resist a harbortown? Not me, that's for sure, even though the last time I went sailing, as I recall, involved a capsized boat full of inexperienced summer campers in the middle of an icy Torch Lake in northern Michigan. Oh, no ~ there was one sunny day on my brother's cat on Lake Chautauqua ~ but even that was 20 years ago. Nevertheless, there's nothing like a city with a harbor and boats, boats, boats. And Charlottetown, the capital of Prince Edward Edward, is just about perfect in my book.

Charlottetown itself is a relaxed and funky 19th century city, with shops ands restaurants dotting the harborfront. (Our easy favorite:
Fishbones Oyster Bar and Seafood Grill, a few blocks up from the harbor on a pedestrains-only historic street ~ ahhhh. . . . . that lobster bisque.) It's a bit quiet, though. After dinner and a little relaxation time back at the motel, I urged my lovely daughter back outside for a walk down to the docks a few blocks away.

"There will be music!" I said. "Lots of people! It'll be so fun!"

NOT A SOUL. 9:00 p.m. on a summer Saturday night.

Okay, so that might explain why the young cashier in the drugstore the next morning said she couldn't wait to move to Toronto. And when the nightlife doesn't meet even my meagre expectations, you know things are really slow.

We spent part of Sunday on one of the historical tours narrated from
Founders' Hall by charming college students in costume. PEI bills itself as the Home of the Confederation and, in fact, the first conference on the topic of Canadian unity took place there, with important delegates arriving from across Canada and partying merrilying into the wee hours of the mornings in the autumn of 1864. But the Islanders themselves weren't much interested in the idea until an economic crisis several years later left them with little choice. It seems that at the original conference, the delegates mostly had fun in the pubs and ballrooms of the booming little capital.

We saw Charlottetown's early homes and more recently built basilica, learned about the constant threat of fire in a city built of wood, and heard about PEI's early successes in shipbuilding and agriculture. I would love to return just for the tour that tells the story of the Acadians and their plight at the hands of the British. For us that Sunday afternoon, however, the road north to Green Gables was calling.
Postscript: The French Acadians of the Maritimes, brutally evacuated by the English crown, eventually became the Cajuns of Louisiana. The lovely daughter, having gone from a graduation trip in the home of the former to college in the home of the latter, went to her first Mardi Gras parade last night!


Globetrotter said...

Interesting tidbit about the Cajuns.The British crown really cooked up some interesting gumbo in the states without intending to do so. Then again wasn't it the French that sent whores and robbers to New Orleans to help contribute to populating the New city?

Your capsized boat situation sounds frightening. Was that a blog entry I missed?

Great pictures and interesting history. Love the red roof on that building! So paintable!

Paul said...

I guess PEI hasn't caught on to the thriving music scenes that have developed in Halifax and even Newfoundland. Perhaps a few concerts by the Great Big Sea would stir things up.

emmapeelDallas said...

I enjoyed this very much, and especially the beautiful photos. Also, reading this: "We saw Charlottetown's early homes and more recently built basilica, learned about the constant threat of fire in a city built of wood..." made me think of Chicago, where I lived, happily, for 16 years. After the Great Chicago fire (1871) Chicago rebuilt almost entirely with brick.