Island Adventures; Part I

I'll admit to a smidgen of disappointment. We drove across Confederation Bridge, and my first glimpse of Prince Edward Island was exciting - red shores, colorful coastal town, lighthouses. But, as we progressed further inland, I was overwhelmed by the conviction that I'd really seen it all before. P.E. Island is farming country. Missouri is farming country. There isn't a huge difference between the two. I like farming country, truly I do, but I had been picturing something a bit more...unusual.

Howsomever, I quickly learned that there are SOME differences. For one thing, Prince Edward Island has a thriving music culture. With ties to British and Acadian music traditions, kitchen parties and ceilidhs (pronounced 'kay-lee') are advertised at nearly every town hall. These gatherings have morphed from the traditional, spontaneous jam and dance sessions at the neighbor's house, and cater to tourists by being more organized and more public. I imagine there are some of the traditional ceilidhs still happening...but I will most likely be unable to find one (sniffle). A friendly Mainer had told us about the ceilidhs, and we decide to check one out if the occasion arose. Last night, as we arrived at our rental cottage, I noticed that the Stanley Bridge Hall just down the road was advertising a ceilidh. One thing led to another, and after asking around to glean a bit more information, some hemming, some hawing, and some unpacking, we decided to go. The admission fee was a bit steep, but I suppose folks here have to make a living, too. In my opinion, the show was well worth the money. There was much excellent playing of guitar, violin, and piano, singing of folk songs, and dancing of traditional dances. The Ross family knows how to put on a good show.
English, French, Gaelic, and (I think) some sort of
Native American dialect (Mi'kmaq, maybe).

Everyone is multilingual. Unlike other parts of Canada, most Islanders speak English as a first language, but most people also seem to speak French. All of the signs are written in both French and English, and I had fun trying to decipher a map that was written entirely in French. I'm not very good at French. Some things are in four languages, like this sign next to the statue of the first Bishop of the Diocese of Charlottetown.

We spent some time wandering around Charlottetown. This island seems to make a big chunk of its income from tourism, and so there are a lot of 'tourist traps' wherever you go. We avoided Charlottetown's Peake's Wharf, which seemed to be the biggest tourist area, and instead took in some of the lovely old buildings of Charlottetown. The weather was perfect - warm, sunny, a pleasant breeze - and it was wonderful to get some exercise after so many long hours in the car.

After much gazing at maps, we found our way to a few historic sites. Here we are in front of the Province House, where we learned a bit about Canadian history.

St. Dunstan's Basilica was built in 1913 from the remains of a cathedral that had been damaged by fire earlier that year. Its spires soar high above the town's skyline, and it's one of the most elaborate churches in the Maritimes.

I have an affinity for old churches. The calm, dusky interiors, hallowed by years of worship, hold a special appeal for me.

A group of musicians was practicing for a wedding, and the gentle strains of music floating through the graceful Gothic columns of St. Dunstan's added the perfect touches to an atmosphere of sacred peace. The click of my camera seemed almost sacrilegious. I wanted to simply sit and soak up the beauty and bask in the atmosphere of worship and prayer. But my family was waiting, and I knew I'd regret not having any pictures. So I tiptoed reverently through the time-polished aisles, took my pictures, and soaked in all the splendor that I could before I returned blinkingly to a world of wind, sun, and noise.

It was a good introduction to the Island.

There is an ocean.

There are old things.

I think I might like it here, after all.