Prince Edward Island: In Search of Green Gables

[shareaholic app=”share_buttons” id=”20872686″]

When my family decided to go on a cruise in July as our summer vacation, I know there was but one reason my mom chose our particular route from Montreal to Boston: to see the place of Anne Shirley’s origins.

Anne played a role in both of our childhoods—I hardly know a woman alive today who wasn’t affected by Anne—and we wanted to see the romantic Prince Edward Island which enchanted her and ignited words in her soul. SVV went off with his parents and they did their own thing, while the rest of our group took a duck tour of the island. But the three of us Anne devotees—my mom, Ginny and I—set off in search of Green Gables. After stepping off the boat, we found a driver who would give us the full island tour for $30 a piece; another couple from Michigan rounded out our crew. We were off in search of the north coast and Anne’s homestead!

As you might imagine given its prime location on the Gulf of St. Lawrence and near the Atlantic Ocean, PEI’s biggest industry is shellfish harvesting, including lobsters, oysters and mussels. Our first stop was to a mussel farm to see how they “grow” the mussels in mesh sacks attached to water columns and harvest them after 12 to 24 months. (Like when I went to the oyster farm in Tasmania, I opted not to do any sampling! Too slimy for this girl.)

Next, we moved along and past the exact spot where Kate and Will had picnicked the day before. I secretly hoped we might “run into” the Royals again, but during our sailing day between Quebec City and Charlottestown, it seems they got ahead of us by a day.

Or maybe we did see them after all…

Still, we visited the inn at Dalvay by the Sea where the whole soiree went down—Will and Kate even raced by dragonboat while here!—met the owner (who made his fortune on buying Tim Hortons that were going out of business) and dreamed about coming back to PEI for a longer stint and staying there, too.

PEI is very rugged with the charm of New England and a sense of peaceful quiet I’ve never quite experienced before. I imagine I might go crazy living there with as little as there is to do, but I could definitely deal with coming here every summer for vacation!

Surprisingly, the part of the whole tour which was overrated was none other than Green Gables. As we excitedly neared Cavendish, the very spot where Anne came to live with the Cuthberts, the terrain changed drastically—from grassy knolls to strip malls and an amusement park with a Ferris wheel. What a disappointment!

Pretty much all of Cavendish has been built up around Anne. There are straw hats with fire engine red pigtail braids attached, and the provincial license plate once bore Anne’s likeness.

We got to Green Gables and entered the small museum, which was interesting enough, only to find that Green Gables wasn’t even a real place. The home was owned by Lucy Maud Montgomery’s aunt and uncle and did inspire the setting for the series (Lucy even wrote many of the books in the series from the house); however, Green Gables was only fictional. The whole movie wasn’t even filmed here (though select scenes from it took place out on the trails surrounding the house)!

Still, people will take the opportunity to make a buck when they can, so the whole farmhouse was turned into a replica of Anne’s home. It is what it is, but I wouldn’t necessarily go out of my way to visit if you happen to be passing through PEI.

From there, we headed back to Charlottestown to conclude our tour where we found my dad and Tom mingling with some new friends.

The five of us grabbed some seafood and local libations before boarding the ship again and heading down the Atlantic coast to our next stop.

 

COMMENTS
  • August 31, 2011

    Your Dad is so cute in the photo. Thanks for the heads up!

    • September 1, 2011
      Kristin

      Thank you! I find him quite hilarious =)

  • August 31, 2011

    I wrote about PEI today too! And I wrote about NOT going to anne of green gables stuff because of the FICTIONAL element…

    • September 1, 2011
      Kristin

      If my bitch of an Internet connection ever lets me, you know, LOG ONTO other people’s blogs, I will hastily read it =) I’m having major blog withdrawal not getting to read my favorites (e.g. YOU) for two weeks now!

  • August 31, 2011

    PEI has been on My List for ages, this is not helping. 😉

    xox

  • August 31, 2011

    Lovely post about PEI, Kristin! Anne’s become a big industry on PEI, and i have to say that I’m undecided about it. I don’t mind as much as some people do (it’s really nice in one sense to see people being proud of an author and a fictional character who sprang from their shores), but I also don’t love the commercial area around Cavendish now. We never go up there when we’re on the Island every year – it’s basically PEI’s version of the boardwalk at Atlantic City. 😉

    HOWEVER, I maintain that all the charm the Island possessed in the early 20th century when LMM was writing the Anne series is as alive as ever. I’m biased of course, since my great-grandparents were Islanders, but still. My offer stands to show you around my corner of the Island (southeast) whenever you want! 🙂

    • September 1, 2011
      Kristin

      I always associate PEI with you! I thought it was lovely, a great place for summer vacation, but I don’t think I’ll be returning to Cavendish next time I’m there. Shame–Cavendish is such a lovely name for such a touristy place!

  • August 31, 2011

    Also – did you eat at Gahan’s brewery or just have one of their beers at another place? It’s become one of our (me, my husband, and my dad) favorite breweries and is wildly popular on the Island, as well. Our local provincial liquor store (about 37 miles from Charlottetown) regularly sells out! My dad has some in the fridge at the lake house, which I’m looking forward to enjoying this weekend. 🙂

    • September 1, 2011
      Kristin

      We didn’t, no! We went to some little corner restaurant right near the port but not on that main strip at the waterfront where Kelly Ripa filmed a segment recently! No idea of the name =)

  • August 31, 2011

    One of my dream trips—but yeah the whole commercialization of it makes me *ick*.

    • September 1, 2011
      Kristin

      Ditto. My big suggestion would be to visit PEI and NOT go anywhere near Cavendish! The rest of the island is lovely.

  • August 31, 2011

    Oh, Anne of Green Gables, how I love thee! I love this!

  • August 31, 2011

    How disappointing! I loved those books as a kid, though I have to confess I dropped off about the time she started having kids. We had a similar experience when I was a kid and we went to see the Laura Ingalls Wilder house. It just felt lame.

    I like the look of PEI, though. It looks dreary and cool in a fuzzy sweater kind of way.

    • September 1, 2011
      Kristin

      I often drop off reading series I love when the heroine morphs from child herself to child-bearing. It’s true.

  • August 31, 2011

    A cruise through New England & Canada is on my list of things to do. We live so close to all that (relatively speaking) that it seems silly I haven’t seen any of it.

    • September 1, 2011
      Kristin

      You should start with weekend trips here and there to Rhode Island, Boston, Martha’s Vineyard, etc. when you and the husband are bored and need to get out of town and slowly work your way up the Northeast coast. There are so many gems there, and that’s one of the main reasons I’m excited to be close(r) to the East Coast: hassle-free weekend trips to New England!

  • August 31, 2011

    This post has made me decide to reread the series all over again.

    • September 1, 2011
      Kristin

      I was thinking of doing the same! Wonder if they have them in the Semester at Sea library…hrm…

  • September 1, 2011

    What a disappointment.

    • September 1, 2011
      Kristin

      Yep. Still, a beautiful island nonetheless!

  • September 1, 2011

    I don’t think it’s my kinda town, but I definitely think one could REALLY relax there.

  • September 1, 2011

    Isn’t it always like that when visiting a place made famous in books/film? On my first trip to Europe I remember being sorely disappointed on the Sound of Music tour in Austria. Finding out that much of the film was shot in Hollywood, not Austria (even the dancing scene with Ralph and Lisl) was a total bummer! But alas, the truth hurts, doesn’t it? 😉

  • September 1, 2011

    This is news to me as I’d never thought of Green Gables as anything but a place of fiction. Oh, but how I loved the Anne series.
    Btw, I love,love those sandals of yours. Be warned – I covet them!!! 😀

    • September 2, 2011
      Kristin

      Well, see you’re right: It IS fiction, which is why it’s so disappointing–they’ve created a real place based on a fictional place, and it’s a total letdown when you find out what sequence that actually occurred!

  • September 1, 2011

    i took a missions trip one summer in the 80’s just so i could go to PEI. Thanks for your post – I will have to use my experience as a blog story one day. Long story short – we had 2 vans, ferry was the only way to the island at the time, one van got across – but the van I was on did not. It was dark by the time we got there and all I got to see was the parking lot of Two Brothers Lobster before we had to get back to the ferry. Sheer exhaustion, good company, and a crazy case of laughter was the only thing that got me over missing Green Gables. Thanks for letting me know not to bother! I can not wait to hear about Semester at Sea! Love your blog.

    • September 2, 2011
      Kristin

      Thank you, Dawn! That’s crazy to think that someplace that has become so commercialized and such a summer destination was only accessible via ferry not that long ago! We went to Martha’s Vineyard after PEI and heard similar tales. I can’t imagine living someplace where there’s only one way in and out!

  • September 2, 2011
    Ginny Risner

    Where the hell are the “hair and makeup” people when you need them? Great memory! Thanks Kristin.
    Love, Ginny

    • September 2, 2011
      Kristin

      Clearly, they were off tending to Kate’s perfect coif, while we were made to suffer in the humidity sans help.

  • September 2, 2011
    Jess

    Definitely good to know re Cavendish being such a tourist trap (bummer since the name of the town just sounds like it should be so gorgeous and old-timey). Am planning to visit PEI finally later this year and cannot wait, so will make sure to steer clear of that area and the Anne industry, and just enjoy the rest!

    • September 2, 2011
      Kristin

      The name does sound lovely and romantic, doesn’t it? You will have a great time in PEI, but yes, I would avoid Cavendish unless you really have exhausted everything else to do on the island =)

  • September 2, 2011

    I found everything you say about Cavendish to be true. It’s really sad when places become like that. I did quite enjoy going to Green Gables, however, and I’d still think it worth a visit – even if to see the inspiration and what it became in the books. However I don’t think I’d avoid the Cavendish area altogether – it has some gorgeous beaches in the area. And I stayed in a village about 5 mins from Cavendish and it was another world – sleepy fishing village with a beautiful long beach, staying in a B&B looking over a cliff. My advice would be just don’t stay in Cavendish!

    • September 2, 2011
      Kristin

      Yes, you are quite right–everywhere else around Cavendish, except perhaps in a one-mile radius immediately surrounding Green Gables is very pretty! I just wouldn’t make a special trip out there just to see Green Gables if I were to do it again.

  • September 2, 2011

    okay, so yeah, Gilbert Blythe was irresistible when I was in high school. I would love to visit PEI, but I think I’d find the commercialization pretty fake. Good time to avoid Cavendish.

Leave a Comment

GET MY POSTS DELIVERED DIRECTLY TO YOUR INBOX
+ Sign up and receive your free copy of my eBook