Ottawa to PEI

If you’re a long-time blog reader, you know that as a family, we have been stalking Chef Michael Smith for about four years now. We’ve long been fans of “the world’s tallest freestanding chef” and have been visiting his Flavour Shack in Souris every year that we visit Prince Edward Island. For my birthday in 2015, we even sprang for a night out with the family at his amazing FireWorks restaurant in the Inn at Bay Fortune – although the Chef was not in attendance that evening.

You might even remember that last winter, I got to meet Chef Michael when he was in Ottawa on business, and I managed to convince him to Face-Time with Beloved and the kids. I’m not kidding, we’re serious fans!

So when the stars aligned for our 2017 visit and we found out that Chef Michael’s annual charity event, the Village Feast, not only coincided with our visit for the first time ever, but would take place practically walking distance from our cottage, there was no way we could *not* go.

To our delight, right there as soon as we walked in was the man himself, offering oysters for sale to raise funds for the various charities that the Feast supports. And didn’t we just walk right up and say hello, as if we hadn’t been stalking the man for more than four years? I asked him if he remembered FaceTiming with the kids last year, and he was delighted (or so it seemed) to be meeting them face to face.

Here’s a memorable photo: that moment when your family meets your culinary boyfriend:

The Village Feast with Chef Michael Smith

The Feast itself was amazing. We had salmon cakes and fresh greens, steak cooked to perfection, PEI potatoes mashed with gravy, a Kenyan curried bean dish called Githeri, and strawberry shortcake for dessert. Especially considering it was food cooked for a thousand people, it was the best meal we had on PEI.

We were just finishing dessert when I noticed a familiar face in the crowd. Loretta from Chef Michael’s Flavour Shack has taken our family portrait each year that we’ve visited PEI, by sheer coincidence of her being at work in the Flavour Shack every time we’ve visited. I walked over to say hello and asked if she remembered us, and not only did she remember us, but she was happy to take a “Village Feast” version of our annual PEI family portrait.

The Village Feast with Chef Michael Smith

On our way out, we stopped for a quick final chat with Chef Michael. I was amazed at how accessible he was – if this event were back in Ottawa, he’d be thronged with people trying to say hello or get a selfie. There was plenty of that going on – he signed my new Village Feast souvenir hat, which we needed in the blazing afternoon sun! – but it was a steady stream of folks instead of a big crowd. Most of the people just wanted to greet him as one greets a neighbour in the local grocery store, not an internationally recognized celebrity with his own TV shows. It was charming, and typical of the small-town vibe on PEI.

Lucas and I each tried oysters. Chef Michael carefully instructed Lucas on how to hold and eat the oyster, and I was just a little bit relieved when Lucas didn’t promptly spit it back out.

The Village Feast with Chef Michael Smith

Isn’t that awesome? He is as kind and magnetic in person as he is on TV – a perfectly Canadian celebrity. :)

A few days later, we saw via this local newspaper that the Feast had surpassed expectations, raising more than $100,000 for charity. It was one of many great moments from our trip to PEI this year.

Feast news


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Lighthouses are an iconic part of the PEI experience. In 2016, we even drove from one tip of the island to the other to earn our “tip to tip” lighthouse certificate! This trip, we visited no fewer than seven lighthouses in our adventures exploring PEI. They are as varied as they are beautiful, but after visiting the same places year after year, I felt like I should shake things up a bit with my photos.

There’s the “lighthouse peeking over the dunes” shot for some classic PEI flavour. This is Covehead Lighthouse, in PEI national park.

Covehead Lighthouse PEI

There’s the landlocked lighthouse. This is the New London Lighthouse, which we found while exploring near French River. I’ll have more photos from that adventure another day. We didn’t get too close, but it looks like the lighthouse keeper’s cottage is still attached to this one. How much fun would it be to live in a lighthouse? New London, by the way, is the birthplace of Lucy Maud Montgomery. One can imagine that the author of the beloved Anne of Green Gables stories gazed often upon this lighthouse!

Cape Tryon Lighthouse PEI

And speaking of iconic (did you say “cliche”?) shots, you can’t go wrong with some lobster traps in the foreground and a lighthouse in the background. This is the Souris lighthouse, and if you like seaglass, you simply must visit the wonderful seaglass exhibit inside the lighthouse.

Souris Lighthouse and lobster traps

This year, we paid our first visit to PEI’s oldest lighthouse at Point Prim. I thought a black and white treatment worked, and really like the addition of the silhouetted person walking into the lighthouse.

Point Prim Lighthouse, PEI

By the time we got to the last day of our trip, I had taken a LOT of pictures, of the boys and of lighthouses and of the boys with lighthouses. We started to get a little silly. I noticed that Lucas was just about the right size to make this forced perspective shot work.

Lucas and the Souris Lighthouse

About two seconds later, Tristan nearly gave me a heart attack by leaping from one boulder to another nearby, and a new idea was born. With a little bit of planning, a big leap and lot of luck, this shot worked out just about perfectly.

Tristan leaping over Souris Lighthouse

Lighthouses are awesome! Do you have a favourite? Which of these shots do you like best?


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We’ve just returned from our annual vacation in Prince Edward Island, and I have a *cough* few photos to share.

This might be my new favourite photo of the boys, taken in Souris.

Boys in Souris

I might have thought, years ago, that vacationing with teenagers would have been a very different experience. We’ve just spent the most part of 10 days together in close quarters, though, and it was great. The boys tolerate our ideas of “adventures” (“let’s drive across the island so I can take a picture from a scenic lookout!”) as long as they’re liberally paired with stops for ice cream and the occasional used book store or comic book shop. And when we’re “home” in the cottage, they have liberal device and screen time – it’s their vacation too, after all.

Stay tuned and I’ll share some of our favourite PEI adventures from this year over the next couple of weeks.


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Back in 2014 when we visited PEI for the first time, one of our favourite stops was Chef Michael Smith’s Flavour Shack on Souris Beach. We met a passel of lovely women who all seemed to work for Chef Michael in some form or another, and one of them was a photographer named Loretta. She was kind enough to use my camera to take a family portrait of us at the Flavour Shack – and it was also them who encouraged us to visit Basin Head for the first time.

In 2015, of COURSE we stopped by the Flavour Shack again, and we happened to find our friend Loretta there and willing to take an updated family portrait for us. The only small disappointment was that in a few visits, we never managed to see Chef Michael himself.

This year, our cottage was just outside of Souris, so we passed by the Flavour Shack each time we set off on an adventure elsewhere on the Island, and each time we drove past, we craned our necks to see if anyone standing six inches taller than the rest of the crowd happened to be in the Flavour Shack. (The “world’s tallest freestanding chef” is rather easy to pick out of a crowd!) Alas, no luck. But we did, on the very last day of our PEI adventure, stop by for a visit to the Flavour Shack. And to our delight, Miss Loretta was there! And to our dismay, she told us that we had JUST MISSED Chef Michael, who had been in the Flavour Shack that very morning with his family.

We did, however, manage to caputre this terrific treasure: our third annual PEI Flavour Shack family portrait!

Flavour Shack family portrait 2016

It’s fun to see the changes. Here’s 2015:

Family portrait

And 2014:

Flavour Shack family portrait previous

I guess we’ll just have to keep going back to PEI to get our family photos updated every year!


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Only time for a quick photo today. This is from Basin Head – of course.

“Joy is to fun what the deep sea is to a puddle. It’s a feeling inside that can hardly be contained.” ~ Terry Pratchett

“Joy is to fun what the deep sea is to a puddle. It’s a feeling inside that can hardly be contained.”  ~ Terry Pratchett

I love this quote and how well it goes with this photo. It’s from Hat Full of Sky, a wonderful Terry Pratchett novel featuring the debut of the Nac Mac Feegles. You should read it! And, you should dance joyfully in the sea, whenever you can.


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Basin Head beach was our first favourite place on Prince Edward Island. Clearly, lots of other people agree with us: Basin Head was recently named by Chatelaine as one of Canada’s Best Beaches. One of the main reasons I chose our current cottage is because it’s perfectly situated on the same coastal area as Basin Head, just outside of Souris.

Yesterday, we went on a free Eco-Tour (yes, FREE!) of Basin Head, courtesy of the PEI Wildlife Federation, and it made us fall in love with our old favourite all over again. If you get a chance to attend one of these tours, I highly recommend it!

We started off at the Basin Head Fisheries Museum and learned some local history about the Mi’kmaq who lived here for 2,000 years, then the French, British, Scottish and Irish settlers who came in the 1700s and 1800s. We learned a little bit about the history of the fishing industry, and then about some of the reasons why Basin Head is a provincially and federally protected area, including a strain of Irish Moss that doesn’t grow anywhere else in the world.

Then we moved to the beach. Oh how I love this beach!

Basin Head Eco Tour

But seriously, it’s 10 am on a perfect July day in mid-tourism season and there is NOBODY except us on the beach. How is that even possible? We had the crashing waves and the quirky singing sands (to me, they sound more like a seal bark than a song!) all to ourselves.

Basin Head Eco Tour

Have you been to Basin Head? Did you know that on the other side of the dunes is a stunning meadow full of moss and lichens that looks like an Alpine meadow and will take your breath away?

Basin Head Eco Tour

Basin Head Eco Tour

Basin Head Eco Tour

These pictures do not even come close to doing it justice. There are four kinds of moss growing, the only one of which I remember is Reindeer moss. (Ha, wonder why I remembered that one?) But you have to be careful where you step, because you will kill the moss if you walk on it, and you also need to step carefully around the tall fronds of Marram grass that help anchor the dunes and keep the sand from eroding away.

The boys may have found the first part of the tour a little heavy on the talking, even if they did seem to be mostly paying attention and engaged with the tour (they were the youngest participants by far in our group.) But Lucas especially loved the next part of the tour when we moved to the river and the tour guides dragged a net for a few meters to bring some of the sea life up close for us to interact with.

Basin Head Eco Tour

I was astonished by the sheer number of critters and creatures they caught in the net. Rock crabs, Green crabs, a hermit crab, sand shrimp, flounder, hake, and a whole bunch of others that I’ll never remember. Only the kids seemed to be particularly interested in getting up close and getting their hands wet!

Basin Head Eco Tour

One fish in particular they seemed pleased to have caught: a pipe fish is a relative of the seahorse (it looks like a straightened-out version) and like the seahorse, the male tends to the babies until they hatch. Lucas held the flounder and the pipe fish, as well as a few others, but declined the crab angrily waving his claws.

Basin Head Eco Tour

This is how you create a marine biologist or an environmental scientists, right here. What a great morning out!

Basin Head Eco Tour

This sealed the deal for me. Basin Head is my forever favourite beach!


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Tip to tip: To the other side of PEI and back

19 July 2016 Ottawa to PEI 2016

Did you know that if you visit both the East Point lighthouse and the North Cape lighthouse on Prince Edward Island, you earn a “tip to tip” certificate? I wasn’t entirely sure that a certificate alone would be enough to induce the boys into agreeing to the 2.5 hour drive across the province, but I […]

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A perfectly unambitious day in PEI

17 July 2016 Ottawa to PEI 2016

I have a spreadsheet of things we can do while we’re on PEI, with events and ideas and links that I’ve collected over a couple of years of relentless PEI research. It’s a little bit hard to admit that I’m the sort of person who has a spreadsheet to plan her vacation, but then again, […]

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Photos of the day: Back to the Beach in Prince Edward Island

15 July 2016 Ottawa to PEI 2016

We’ve returned for our third annual trip to Prince Edward Island. This year, we’ve chosen a cottage with direct beach access and water views from almost every room in the cottage – quite an improvement from our cottage last year, where “water views” meant a postage-stamp-sized glimpse through some trees and a walk most of […]

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Planning for PEI 2016: Why we love the Points East Coastal Drive region

10 January 2016 Ottawa to PEI 2016

Yay! It’s time to start thinking about our next summer vacation on Prince Edward Island! This will be our third trip to PEI. In 2014, we spent a week near Murray Harbour, and in 2015 we spent a generally wet and rainy but still happy two weeks near St Peters Bay. We’ve criss-crossed and explored […]

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