Canada 150, Prince Edward Island

Happy 150th birthday, Canada!

On this day, it seems appropriate to offer an excerpt from “The Little Prince” about the conference in Charlottetown that set the stage for Confederation three years later:

Even today, the little island “resting on the waves,” as the Mi’kmaq described it, has a population of fewer than 150,000 people. Yet, for its size, Prince Edward Island has been home to a surprising number of interesting and famous people. There’s William Henry Pope, for instance, who was a colonial secretary and a delegate to the Charlottetown Conference of 1864, at which the talking and negotiating began that led to Confederation. When the Queen Victoria, bearing the delegates from Upper and Lower Canada (present-day Ontario and Quebec), unexpectedly dropped anchor in Charlottetown harbour rather than docking, it was Pope who was hastily dispatched to greet Sir John A., George Cartier and the others. A “suavely correct” gentleman, he was humiliated at having to depart from propriety and row out to their ship in a little “flat-bottomed boat with a barrel of flour in the bow, and two jars of molasses in the stern, and with a lusty fisherman as his only companion.” The next day, Pope, an enthusiastic supporter of confederation, hosted an opulent lunch of oysters, lobsters, and champagne, which helped break the ice, and created a convivial atmosphere for the ultimately successful talks. Another figure from that famous week is Lieutenant Governor George Dundas, the host of the triumphal ball on the eighth of September that concluded the conference. Guests arrived at the Colonial Building, the site of the meetings, at 10.00 p.m., danced until one in the morning, ate, then listened to toasts and speeches until four. Hard to imagine it happening on this sleepy little island where, today, everyone seems to go to bed for the winter not long after Labour Day…

St. Peters Bay is one of the loveliest areas in an island that is all about arresting scenery…At the mouth of the bay is the stunning Greenwich Park, which was added to the national park system in 1998. A boardwalk takes us across inland dunes, some of them spotted with reindeer moss, pale grey-green mats of lichen that look like clumps of old snow. False holly, rose hips, and goldenrod provide flares of colour in the brilliant morning sunlight. As the boardwalk crosses Bowley Pond, glittering like a freshly burnished tiara, I am reminded again that it is not just the constant nearness of the sea that makes P.E.I. so lovely, but the shimmering bays, estuaries, rivers, and ponds that appear magically whenever the ocean is not in view.

Beyond the cattails crowding the far shore of the pond we can see giant crescent-shaped “parabolic dunes,” higher than I recall having seen before. Then there is the soft, pink sand of the beach, sprinkled with marram grass, which is vital in holding the dunes in place. And finally there is the sea, with its ripples lapping lazily at the shore. No wonder Jacques Cartier, in 1534, declared the island “the fairest land ’tis possible to see.”…

On the Island there is really only one star–a princess, in fact. And it seems appropriate, for a picture-perfect province that’s a little detached from reality, that the person in question is a fictional character…Anne of Green Gables…

An incredible total of 250,000 people per year visit Green Gables, almost twice the population of P.E.I. No other tourist site in Canada except Niagara Falls comes close in terms of the number of visitors relative to provincial population. And that’s just Green Gables, let alone the full Anne package…

Along with potatoes and lobsters, it’s clear that it’s this spunky, freckle-faced figment of a vivid imagination that drives the economy…Montgomery’s…works have been translated into seventeen languages and published in over thirty countries. More than fifty million copies of Anne of Green Gables alone have been sold worldwide…it’s hard to imagine the Little Prince without the little princess in pigtails–and, at her side, the queen who gave her birth.

The recipe for this chapter is for “Princely Salad,” and it includes shrimp and sea scallops (lobster can also be added or substituted).

Hey, here is another good read for Canada’s 150th birthday year, available only in Canada. Sales to date are somewhat short of 50 million!

To order a copy, please visit: www.penumbrapress.com.

Autographed copies with a personal message are also available from the author by contacting: terdotcomm@sympatico.ca

 

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About t. a. keenleyside

author of travel/food books and popular fiction
This entry was posted in adult fiction, Anne of Green Gables, biography, Canada 150, Canadian travel, Charlottetown, Confederation, contemporary culture, food literature, Greenwich Park, humour, Parks Canada, Prince Edward Island, recipes, travel books. Bookmark the permalink.

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