Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

May 27, 2017

© Evan Garland

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PEI by the senses

An MD reminisces about her favourite sights, smells, sounds and food during a family vacation in the Maritimes

If you are looking for a way to stretch your holiday dollar and would like to be treated to some true Maritime Hospitality, look no further than beautiful Prince Edward Island. My husband and I, along with our two teenagers, then 14 and 16, took a weeklong family vacation on this island province last July and it was truly a feast for the senses.

The sights

The colours of PEI seem to be more vibrant than anywhere else. From the rich red soil to the intense green of the ubiquitous potato plants, your eyes will be treated to a colour palette like no other. And it seems like no matter where you are on the island, you’ll always catch a glimpse of the deep blue ocean.

Take an easy hike through Cabot Beach Provincial Park (tourismpei.com/provincial-park/cabot-beach) and you’ll be rewarded with a view from atop red cliffs overlooking the Atlantic. Skip some stones along its red beach, but be warned – that red sand really seems to stay with you.

For more heart-stopping sights, PEI National Park (tourismpei.com/pei-national-park) at Greenwich boasts an extensive trail system and a floating boardwalk that lead to vistas of the spectacular dune system and pristine white sand beaches.

The smells

At the PEI Preserve Company (preservecompany.com), you’ll smell the handmade artisan preserves as soon as you walk in. Our favourite: strawberry with Grand Marnier. Located in New Glasgow, the retail space and restaurant are surrounded by the five-hectare Gardens of Hope. These lovingly attended gardens were created by owners Bruce and Shirley McNaughton as a space for Islanders and visitors to relax. An onsite Respite Cottage is available for weeklong stays to those suffering from life-threatening illnesses. It’s also available to caregivers. The cottage is available year-round, sleeps up to seven and is wheelchair accessible.

Elsewhere on the island, if you’re lucky, you’ll catch whiffs of wild roses carried along a salty ocean breeze. And, of course, there’s nothing like the smell of freshly caught fruit of the sea – lobsters, mussels, clams and oysters – being brought in by proud fishers around the island. But more on that later.

The sounds

At Basin Head Beach in Red Point Provincial Park (tourismpei.com/provincial-park/red-point) you can enjoy the music of the “Singing Sands.” Thought to be a phenomena created by the special shape of the grains of sand and their high silica count, walking barefoot in the sand at varying speeds and pressure produces a music like no other.

For music of a different sort, try one of the island’s many ceilidhs (pronounced “kay-lee”). Loosely translated as “kitchen party,” they’re great examples of island music, dance and yore in the Scottish and Acadian tradition. The King’s Playhouse (kingsplayhouse.com) in Georgetown and the Ross Family Ceilidh (rossfamily.ca) are good bets. Like any great house party, space is limited, so plan to get there at least a half hour before the show to get tickets at the door.

The tastes (aka food!)

PEI is fast becoming a Canadian culinary destination. Everywhere you go, the pride and hard work of its farmers, fishers and chefs is evident in their offerings. One of the hottest meal tickets on the island is The Feast, the evening meal at The Inn at Bay Fortune (innatbayfortune.com). PEI ambassador and celebrity chef Michael Smith, and his artist/musician wife, Chastity, purchased the Inn in 2015 and have lovingly renovated it into a five-star food and accommodation destination. The 19-hectare property includes a certified organic farm and aromatic herb garden, walking trails, fire pits for open-air cooking and extensive flower gardens.

The on-site restaurant produces the nightly meal as well as a gourmet breakfast for overnight guests. Its name, Fireworks, comes from the eight-metre, custom-made, wood-fired brick oven that allows for cooking as smokehouse, open hearth, grill, rotisserie, plancha and wood oven. No dials, buttons or electronics on this baby!


Chef Michael’s Feast
The Feast begins in the early evening with a welcome by staff (Chef Michael, if you’re lucky) and a number of food stations both indoors and out where guests are encouraged to wander, eat and drink, and get to know each other as well as the proud members of Michael’s “Fire Brigade.” These young, enthusiastic chefs have been handpicked from across the country to be part of the Farm-to-Fork experience that is championed at the Inn.

At 7pm, guests are moved inside to the lovely screened-in porch overlooking the sloping gardens and Fortune Bay. The many courses are served family-style at butcher-block tables. Each plate is accompanied by a heartfelt explanation of the produce and process. The whole experience takes three to four hours, but flies by. Don’t be surprised if you feel like you’ve made lifelong friends with your tablemates by the end.

Tickets for the Feast are booked months in advance and priority is given to overnight guests, so consider reserving soon.


Seafood and more
For another unique island experience, consider booking the “Giant Bar Clam Dig” with Perry Gotell from Tranquility Cove Adventures (tcpei.ca). Your afternoon will start with a scenic boat ride to a deserted island where you will be taught by Perry and his crew how to harvest giant clams; snorkels, wetsuits, water socks and rakes are provided. After a satisfying beach cookout with the fruits of your labour, you’ll board the boat again to haul up lobster, crab and mussel lines, and learn about the art of sea farming. A retired fisherman himself, Perry peppers this adventure with Maritime yarns and his PEI humour. Tours are limited to 12 people to ensure you get a personalized experience.

Other favourite food experiences to try: as-fresh-as-you-can-get oysters from Malpeque Oyster Barn (facebook.com/malpequeoysterbarn). Try a dozen large oysters with their house-made mignonette. The young, award-winning shuckers are happy to talk to you about their trade as they prepare your platter. Other offerings include their famous PEI mussels in a homemade broth. Don’t try to get the recipe from your server: it’s a well-guarded secret.

At Rick’s Fish and Chips (ricksfishandchips.com), grab a brown paper bag filled with their signature Cajun-spiced mussels or order a fabulous fish and chips and sit at a picnic table overlooking St. Peter’s Bay. Wash it down with an icy soda or, better yet, a local craft beer.

If you visit PEI in the middle of July, try to get tickets to the Village Feast (villagefeast.ca). A collaboration between local farmers, artisans and volunteers, the Village Feast serves a locally-sourced, gourmet-calibre meal to over 1000 people in an open-air setting in the small town of Souris. Besides funding a number of local children’s charities, the feast has helped Farmers Helping Farmers (farmershelpingfarmers.ca) build nine cookhouses in Kenya, which have served over a million hot meals to school children to date.

At the end of our week in PEI, my family and I were sad to leave this beautiful island where we had feasted on such incredible sights, sounds, scents and food. But as proud Canadians we were pleased and surprised to learn that we have such a world-class tourism destination in our own backyard.

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.

Comments

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  1. On May 16, 2017, Laura Hogan said:
    As an Islander and an Island doctor I can see you were well-informed while planning your vacation! I have to endorse Basin Head, the Fireworks Feast, and particularly the Village Feast - for which I've volunteered since it's inception (this year is the 10th anniversary Feast). Visitors are so welcome here - we love showing off the Island at its best in the summer. Glad you had a great visit!

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