Before we begin our Canadian adventure, I have a couple pictures of the area of Maine where lives George Bush—the father, whose wife Barbara passed away recently. The elder Bush family has lived long in Maine, up a few miles from the southern end where my friend (and chauffeur) Ed lives. It was a gorgeous day in Maine (they say it always is, and I haven’t been able to disprove that yet), so we drove up the coast and photographed the house and grounds. Amazing to see how many Secret Service folks are employed “keeping him safe.”
We picked up Nancy from Logan Airport in Boston, then drove north on I-95. Ed noted that while he had lived much of his life in Maine, he’d never been to the very north of the state. I-95 crosses into Canada just past a small town called Houlton. I shouldn’t even mention this, as we came to believe that Houlton is the source of all Stephen King’s fantasies (King lives in Maine). Picking up a list of hotels in Houlton, Nancy asked me to pick one. I chose, of course, the one having the name ‘Scottish’ in it, having absolutely no connection to anything Scots in my life. We drove on and on, past apparently civilized places, and then finally noticed a huge but abandoned set of buildings just off the road. The only occupants of this “Scottish” hotel were racoons, and we decided not to bother them. We drove on—a huge mistake—to the next choice. When the road finally turned to gravel and not a single sign suggested the existence of civilization further down the “road,” we finally acknowledged the debt of King to this heretofore unpublicized part of Maine (he has to keep it a secret, not only for his own needs but for the sake of humanity), and turned around. Passing the point at which we’d entered Houlton, we saw what appeared to be the only hotel/motel within a hundred miles. While we sent Nancy into the pub part to see whether the occupants were human, Ed checked to find that there were no rooms. Of course not. But choosing at least to eat, even if we’d be spending the night in the car (I got dibs on the back seat), we dared to enter and share a table with two older French-Canadian women who also happened to be traveling to Prince Edward Island. They were a kick, and restored our belief in humanity.
Someone pointed out another motel fairly close by, and two rooms were obtained. With the light of morning, we even discovered a restaurant across the street. Anyway, a good start to our next Canadian adventure.
Next stop was Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, but we had to travel over the width of New Brunswick to get there. Like many places through which one travels, New Brunswick probably deserves more time than we paused there, but we had miles (or kilometers) to go. The bridge from New Brunswick across to Prince Edward Island (Confederation Bridge) is eight miles long and leaves you on the southern side of the island. Our goal was a park dedicated to Anne of the Green Gables, which is in Cavendish on the northern side of the island.
Ed and I had watched the recent Netflix series: Anne with an E, which turns out to be simply the latest telling of a story that hit it big in the very early 20th century. The author, Lucy Montgomery, based the novel on Prince Edward Island, which she had experienced in her youth. Her own vision of its heroine--Anne--was formed by a photograph of Evelyn Nesbit, who proved a very interesting figure in the popular culture of early twentieth century America, but the story was set in the last quarter of the previous century. And in Montgomery's native Canada.
After touring the house that is part of the Green Gables Heritage Place in Cavendish, I asked an attendant what the attraction is for the world of tourists. First, it turns out that book became a series, as Montgomery added several other works as well as a seemingly endless set of short stories. Second, it was translated into many languages and, evidently, is still part of the curriculum in Japan. Japanese tourists are much in evidence at the park.
The park itself makes no particular claim on the Anne world. The point simply seems to be that the house featured at the park is representative of those around during the time in which the story takes place. And, in a sense, the popularity of the novels rather demand(ed) a place for fans to go. Canada is, in my opinion, very good about encouraging tourism, and the new visitors center under construction at Green Gables is just more evidence of this. Good for them.
After Green Gables, we drove into PEI's largest city, Charlottetown. This capital of PEI has about the same population as the Longview, WA in which I currently live, but its greater age gives it great charm. With Charlottetown as our base, we explored part of the island. One is never far from the Atlantic Ocean while on the island, and we explored a couple points along the shore.
The Bay of Fundy is world famous for the extent of its tidal ranges. Depending upon location, these are often more than 50 feet, meaning that where ocean water touches a shoreline the water level will vary by those 50+ feet. One consequence of this, it is easy to imagine, is that when a river is flowing into the ocean, sometimes it is going to be lower than the ocean itself. Such a point is at Reversing Falls along the Saint John River in New Brunswick near the US border. We traveled to a site reported to be a good viewpoint and had a fine lunch overlooking the very site we came to see.
Then there was one more adventure, one that curiously took us back into the United States, and then immediately back into Canada. Franklin Delano Roosevelt belonged to a wealthy family that routinely spent summers on the Canadian island of Campobello. In a cooperative venture, the US and Canada have joined to make a heritage site from the Roosevelt family buildings and their grounds. You enter said grounds through a Canadian immigration point, and they ask you what your purpose is. This is quite amusing, because there is absolutely only one thing you can do—visit Campobello, and you know the Roosevelts never had to show their passports. More amusing, when you get inside, you realize everyone on the staff is Canadian, and when you hear one of them give an impassioned narration of the life of Eleanor Roosevelt, you realize just how close Canadian border folk are to our country. Actually, when you realize that in the winter most Canadians move to Arizona or Florida, it rather seems as if we're all just the same people. They even look like us.
Yet another delightful Canadian adventure. Canada's emphasis on tourist attractions is well appreciated by this small group of American travelers. Here's hoping we've given you an idea or two for your own travels.
Written by Michael Broschat, September 2018