Photography

Since our sandcastle building workshop on the weekend, Lucas has been asking for the tools and the time to go back to the beach and put his skills to work. Despite the fact that the weather forecast said no precipitation for the next three hours, once again we arrived at the beach to drizzle that wavered into rain and back into drizzle for most of the morning.

We threw up our hands and said, “Screw it, let’s do it anyway.” Well, I might have used a different term than screw it. I may be just a leeeeeetle bit fed up with the weather. Twelve straight days with rain will do that to you!

I’d been dragging my fancy dollar store kite all over PEI, but I finally pulled it out of the package. I kept a watchful eye out for lightning!

Still raining. Shag it, I'll fly my kite anyway.

I even shared it with the boys!

Kite flying in the rain

Lucas was happy to get back to the beach and start building. The rest of the family played in the sand, too.

Sandcastles

Sandcastles

After a couple of hours, we were thoroughly damp and chilled. It strikes me as more than a little ironic that the folks back home are experiencing record-breaking heat, and we can’t quite make it to 20C. The air and water were both about 17C here. Brrrr!

Beloved and I have a special affection for pioneer villages. We visit Upper Canada village each year, and of course we love the Cumberland Museum. In fact, we were married in the Fanshawe Pioneer Village in London. So, a visit to Orwell Corners in PEI seemed like something we simply had to do. And as we drove over the Island toward Orwell Corner, the clouds started to break once again, showing hints of blue sky and sunshine.

Orwell Corner is an historical museum in the Points East Coastal Drive area of the Island, a fully preserved agricultural village settled in the late 1850s and restored to that time period. It fascinates me that each building rests exactly were it was built, and has not been moved and resettled like Upper Canada Village. Interpreters dressed in period costume chat with visitors, offering insight into village life. We particularly liked the blacksmith, perhaps because not so long ago Tristan said he would like to be a blacksmith when he grew up.

Orwell Corners, PEI

Then we made candles by dipping a wick in alternating buckets of hot melted wax and cold water. The boys said they will save their candles and use them on their next birthday cakes.

Orwell Corners, PEI

My favourite part, though, was the barn. We were poking around the animal stalls when the farmer asked if anyone wanted to feed the chickens. YES! Me, me, pick me!!

Orwell Corners, PEI

We fed the geese, too. And one of the barn cats came out to steal whatever he could catch.

Orwell Corners, PEI

We were charmed by the barn cats!

Orwell Corners, PEI

Orwell Corners, PEI

Although I liked the sheep and friendly piggies, too.

Orwell Corners, PEI

Orwell Corners, PEI

It was also feeding time for the calf.

Orwell Corners, PEI

I swear, I will never be able to ramp back up to city time after spending two weeks learning how to live the laid-back pace on the Island. We spent two hours poking around the dozen or so buildings in the village and chatting with the interpreters. It was small enough that the boys could explore at their own pace, and they spent half the time trying to coax various barn cats to come closer – there were no takers. I think they miss Willie!

Orwell Corner is a lovely place to pass a lazy summer afternoon, and you’ll learn something in the process. That’s a definite win in my books!


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It was a celebrity sighting of the highest order. A whisper rippled up and down the beach as the crowd peered up in wonder.

“Is that what I think it is?”

“Oh my goodness, do you see what I see?”

“Holy crap, THE SUN IS SHINING!”

My mom left a comment on yesterday’s post saying she’d been talking to Mother Nature for us. Apparently not even Mother Nature ignores what Granny has to say!

We were on our way to Brackley Beach for a sandcastle making workshop (how awesome is that?) when we drove past one of the more youthful lighthouses on PEI. This one is a full century newer than the one near us in St Peter’s Harbour, built in 1967 and rebuilt in 1975. This might also be one of my favourite pictures so far this trip.

Covehead Lighthouse, PEI

Covehead Lighthouse, PEI

The Covehead Harbour lighthouse, and Brackley Beach (not to mention Cavendish Beach, and our favourite, Greenwich beach with its dunes and hiking trails) are all within the borders of PEI National Park. To visit them, you need to pay admission fees of $19.60 for a family, or you can buy a seasonal pass for $98. Or if you’re lucky, you did what we did and you order your seasonal pass before June 30 and get it for half price.

The PEI National Park pass has been one of the best investments of the trip. In addition to access to great beaches and hiking trails and a few convenient shortcuts around Cavendish, we’ve had two wonderful afternoons on the beach with their free (with park admission) interpretive programs. Last week, we were charmed by friendly Island native Rilla (is that not the perfect name for someone who works in PEI tourism?) and the Beach Detective program at Greenwich beach. She took us on a little tour of the beach and talked about what washes up on shore, how to identify it, and gave us a great natural history of PEI. (Did you know it used to be a peninsula? Or that there is speculation that with rising sea levels, at some point it will actually be three islands? And that the largest wild mammal is the coyote, which has only been an inhabitant of the Island for the last 15 years or so, having walked across the ice from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick?) We examined different kinds of seaweed, shells, rocks and sea critters – Beloved and I were captivated, and the kids were engaged and interested, too. And look at this awesome piece of driftwood we found – you can see rust marks from where the iron nails used to be, and there’s a wooden dowel or peg that used to fasten two pieces together. I can’t see how it could be anything less than a hundred or so years old, surely part of an old ship. How fun is that?

A photo posted by Danielle Donders (@dani_girl) on

Yesterday, we took advantage of another one of Parks Canada’s free programs: a sandsculpting workshop!

Fun at Brackley Beach, PEI National Park

If you’ve ever wanted to graduate beyond dollar-store pails and shovels, I highly recommend this amazing free workshop. The workshop leader, Maurice Bernard, is a master sandsculptor, a patient teacher and a lovely fellow with whom to chat. He’s also a talented artist. (Funny, now that I think about it, Rilla from the beach detective program at Greenwich also mentioned she’s a Parks Canada employee during the summer and an artist in the off season. Hmmm, my career prospects for PEI are looking better and better all the time – seasonal government, off-season photography.)

We’re also going to have to make a run back to the dollar store, not for pails and shovels but for drywall spacklers, rulers, spatulas and some really big buckets!

Fun at Brackley Beach, PEI National Park

Lucas was engaged in building that castle for, I kid you not, at least three hours. Long after the big boys got restless and moved on, he carefully smoothed, poked, shaped and sculpted. The big boys were more interested in the brute force tools.

“Hey, let’s dig a hole!”

Fun at Brackley Beach, PEI National Park

“Simon, you sit in the hole and we’ll bury you!”

Fun at Brackley Beach, PEI National Park

The merman theme was Maurice’s idea. We laughed!

Fun at Brackley Beach, PEI National Park

For the several hours we were on the beach it drizzled, the clouds broke and the sun shone briefly, and then they closed back up and turned grey once again. Before the drizzle turned to a deluge, we decided to call it a day, and headed to Cavendish to visit Avonlea Village, a stop we’d missed on our trip last year. The boys each took a turn playing the piano in the historic church, and I was reminded once again how badly I want a piano for the house. Simon has been taking lessons, and Tristan has taught himself to play using YouTube videos.

Avonlea Village, PEI

As afternoon wended toward evening, the rain gave way again and we had a genuinely sunny evening. Just in time for Cows ice cream!

Avonlea Village, PEI

As we drove back east toward our cottage, Beloved and I marvelled at the beauty of the countryside. Though we’d driven St Peter’s Road half a dozen times or more since we arrived last week, it had been so relentlessly grey that we were almost overwhelmed by the beauty of the landscape in the warm light of the setting sun.

Though we were worn out from a day full of adventure, I had one more caper in mind. One of the activities I had most been looking forward to was watching the sunset on the beach. I’d imagined that over two weeks, we’d have many opportunities to enjoy both sunsets and, early riser that I am, sunrises on the water. However, with yet more rainy days in the forecast for the week ahead, I was genuinely concerned that this might be our only opportunity, so we drove up the ruddy red road that Tristan and I had walked earlier in the week to the abandoned lighthouse at St Peter’s Harbour. It’s prettier with the moon above it than with drizzle falling all around it!

St Peters lighthouse and moon

We looked out from the dunes…

St Peter's Harbour, PEI

… and stared out to the sea …

St Peter's Harbour, PEI

… but we didn’t walk in the water. The jellyfish were a little out of control. Ick.

St Peter's Harbour, PEI

So, to recap: three beaches, two lighthouses, amazing sandcastles, Cows ice cream, and bit of rain and a few glorious hours of sunshine. I don’t think we could have asked for a better day than that! Now let’s just hope the three days of downpour in the forecast is wrong!

St Peter's Harbour, PEI

And now we know that intermittent drizzle and a high of 19C with a stiff breeze off the water can still give you a perfectly lovely beach day, something you would have never convinced me of back home!


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We’ve had an amazing first week in PEI, but I have to tell you that it’s been a bit of an uphill struggle to be cheerful about the relentlessly awful weather. We’ve been here seven days, and it’s rained for seven days. Every single day, the forecast calls for showers for that day, and the next day or two — but the day three days hence will be partly sunny, and by the fifth day summer returns! And then three days later, it calls for showers for that day, and the next day or two — but the day three days hence will be partly sunny! It reminds me a little bit of the vacation version of this:

Ah well. We have seen a few bright spots, with blue skies breaking out for part of the day in Basin Head and Thunder Cove. I was so surprised to see blue skies when I woke up yesterday that I actually jumped out of bed to take a closer look, and I mean JUMPED out of bed and ran to the window. Blue skies! First actual blue skies since we arrived! Within an hour, I kid you not, it was raining. I mean, you expect a day or two of rain, and maybe a cool day or two, but this is truly relentless. We haven’t even cracked 20C in the last four or five days.

I’m not the only one who has noticed, either. Apparently the police in St John’s NL have issued an ABP for summer, and arrested two local weathermen for “failing to provide the essentials of summer – sunshine, good forecasts and blue skies – and trafficking of rain, drizzle, and fog.”

Leave it to the Newfoundlanders to find the humour in the situation. So, while I think it’s fair to characterize the weather as pretty much miserable, we haven’t let it stop us from getting out. We headed out yesterday in the rain toward Souris to check out the Mermaid’s Tears Sea Glass festival. We love sea glass! On the way, we deked up to the north coast toward Naufrage to have an early lunch at a restaurant I’ve heard mentioned a few times, and it turned out to be one of our new favourite PEI restaurants. The Shipwreck Point Cafe in Naufrage is a perfect place for families – casual, affordable and delicious. And the view would have been breathtaking, if it weren’t raining and glum. I did pause to take a photo of the Naufrage Lighthouse through the wild roses, though. It gives you a good idea of the sort of morning it was.

Naufrage Lighthouse through the wild roses

By the time we zipped down to Souris, the rain had let up again, and we headed down to the Mermaid Tears sea glass festival. It was truly delightful to see some of the ways people have turned beautiful shards and pebbles of sea glass into works of art. We timed our visit perfectly to hear an author reading and book launch by Teri Hall for her new book A Sea Glass Journey: Ebb and Flow. We’d been hearing about this book for most of our visit; the author was interviewed on the local CBC radio afternoon program, and when we arrived at Chef Michael’s FlavourShack, they were just unpacking a fresh crate of them. Turns out the author and Chef Michael are close friends, and he wrote the forward to her book. We even spotted a certain celebrity ex-wife at the reading – if you watch Chef at Home as often as we do, you’ll know who I mean. :) If you love sea glass, it’s a gorgeous book and we were able to get ours autographed by the author and the photographer who contributed to it.

And there was fun for the kids, too, although mine loved just looking at all the sea glass crafts and speculating what we can do with the buckets full we still have at home!

Mermaid's Tears sea glass festival in Souris

Also, second lighthouse of the day. A two-lighthouse day is a good day!

After a few hours of sea glass, we headed back up the Points East Coastal Drive toward home and made a detour to check off one more item on my PEI bucket list: a hike through the famous dune trail and boardwalk at Greenwich in PEI National Park. It was grey and threatening to rain, and the low pressure seemed to be making the mosquitoes even more aggressive than usual, but it was still a spectacular hike of nearly 5 km through wild roses and raspberries and fields of wildflowers I couldn’t identify, a small but dense wood, and then the path opened to the floating boardwalk across Bowley Pond.

PEI National Park at Greenwich

PEI National Park at Greenwich

PEI National Park at Greenwich

While I might have preferred a deep cyan sky with wisps of white clouds for these photos, I do admit that the textured sky does add a different sort of dimension to it. I think this photo sums up my battle with the weather this week just about perfectly:

PEI National Park at Greenwich

At the end of the floating boardwalk, you head up and over the dunes and you can look back for a spectacular view of where you’ve been:

PEI National Park at Greenwich

Or you can head over the dunes to the sea, which is a welcome sight in any weather as far as I’m concerned. You can see Beloved and the boys have gone ahead without me – see the tiny people specs on the beach? I have spent a lot of this vacation running to catch up with them after getting distracted by one photo op or another.

PEI National Park at Greenwich

PEI National Park at Greenwich

We collected a lot of sticks. It doesn’t take a lot to make us happy.

PEI National Park at Greenwich

And then, after you’ve had your fill of beach, you head back up over the dune and do it all over again. First, you stop to dump the sand out of your sneakers and leave it on the dunes where it belongs.

PEI National Park at Greenwich

And you go back to the cottage and play noisy, giggly rounds of Scrabble and Uno, hoping that tomorrow the sun will come out to play… but knowing that any day that has sand and sea and fresh salty air is a good one, even if it’s a little damp and grey. And hey, the weather forecast says the day after tomorrow is supposed to be sunny…


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The sun was elusive again this morning, but on our fifth day of vacation I had run out of patience waiting for the rain to clear off enough for me to go exploring for the landlocked lighthouse I knew was not too far away from our cottage. Tristan is always up for an adventure that includes a walk and I am woefully short on my FitBit goals this week, so off we went into the dull grey morning in search of the lighthouse.

We hadn’t been walking long when we were surrounded by a good old fashioned Scotch mist. The first discovery we made was a little hollow with these two gravestones huddled off to one side. The one marked a death that occurred in 1835, and the other was too worn to read.

Walk to St Peter's Lighthouse

We followed a rutted old red dirt road between two fields of potatoes (you knew you were in PEI, at least!) through vegetation dense enough that it grew up into a canopy at one point. A few turns in the road later and it opened on to a bit of a marsh and there on the far side of the pond was the old abandoned St Peter’s Harbour lighthouse.

Walk to St Peter's Lighthouse

The lighthouse was built in 1865 or 1876, depending on which source you read, and it was decommissioned in 2008. It sits on a big pond, the last remains of the former St Peter’s Harbour. A few wooden pilings mark the old wharf, but the pond and the lighthouse are now landlocked. Decades of drifting sand have accumulated in dunes around the lighthouse, so it’s considerably landward and almost entirely lost in the sandy dunes. This is an interesting account of the lighthouse history.

Walk to St Peter's Lighthouse

Walk to St Peter's Lighthouse

Walk to St Peter's Lighthouse

As we poked around the lighthouse, the mist gave way definitively to rain, but Tristan and I were in explorer mode and the rain bothered neither of us. We could hear and smell the sea crashing nearby, and found it over the crest of the dunes behind the lighthouse.

Walk to St Peter's Lighthouse

The rain continued but the sun nearly burned through the clouds as we walked along the Gulf beach toward St Peter’s Bay. The light was amazing, the sea smelled amazing and the waves provided a symphony of background music.

Walk to St Peter's Lighthouse

We made our way back past the pilings of the old wharf we found on our earlier explorations of the beach, but the tide was flooding across the pilings in sprays with each crashing wave. It was seriously awesome!

Walk to St Peter's Lighthouse

We finished our loop on the bay side of the peninsula, a much shorter walk back than our loop out following the road. The rain gave way to mist, and by the time we made it back to the cottage, we’d walked about four kilometers. I asked Tristan if he’d do the same loop again with me once or twice again before we left for home, and to my delight he said, “I’d do it again right now!”

It’s good to have a buddy when you like to explore. :)


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It’s raining again, as the old Supertramp song goes. But that’s okay! This vacation’s soggy start has been completely redeemed by an absolutely rain-free lovely adventure up around the easternmost tip of the Island yesterday. There was a charming miniature railway ride, there was a picnic, there was a beach, there was climbing on sandstone rocks, there was beach combing and sea glass: all of our favourite things about PEI. THIS is the vacation I have been anticipating!

We started with a loop up the Points East Coastal Drive from St Peter’s Bay, where despite the forecast for a mixture of sun and cloud, we were spattered by an intermittent drizzle. By the time we made it to our first destination, the Elmira Railway Museum, the clouds had given way to (gasp!) patches of blue sky. And SUNSHINE!

East Point and Basin Head-2

Trains haven’t run on PEI since 1972, but back in the day the Elmira station was the easternmost terminus. The 250+ km of rail have been torn up, save for a kilometer or so near the station, and most of that distance has been converted into a bike and walking path called the Confederation Trail, so the Elmira Railway Museum also marks the eastern end of the trail.

We didn’t pay the nominal fee for admission into the museum itself, but after having fun last year on the miniature trains at the Cumberland Museum, I knew the family would be tickled by a ride on the miniature trains. I had no idea that the ride would be as long as it was, or as charming. It’s seriously worth the drive out to Elmira if you are the least bit interested in trains. If you go, get the second train for half price deal.

East Point and Basin Head

As everywhere else on the Island, we found the locals to be charming and chatty and very kind to the littlest travelers.

Speaking of easternmost points, our next stop was just up the coast to the East Point Lighthouse, “where the sun rises and the tides meet.”

East Point and Basin Head-5

It was a perfect spot for a picnic lunch, although I wish I’d noticed the picnic tables built in to the shape of a ship before we settled into this one. Watch for it if you picnic there!

East Point and Basin Head-3

I think I was more excited by the patches of blue sky than the (admittedly impressive) view from the Lighthouse, looking out to where the Gulf of St Lawrence meets the Northumberland Strait, with Nova Scotia off in the distance. (You can see I’m having fun with my fish-eye lens for these photos. It’s great for big panoramas!)

East Point and Basin Head-4

And then, it was off to one of our very favourite places in PEI, Basin Head Provincial Park. Funny, last year when we visited Souris and the kind folks at the FlavourShack recommended it to us, I was a bit iffy on a beach visit because the skies has been cloudy and the breeze cool. We went, and had an amazing time. Now I’m convinced that Basin Head is some sort of meteorological bubble, because again the rest of the Island was gloomy and coolish, but the beach was perfect!

East Point and Basin Head-6

Okay, so the water was f-r-e-e-z-i-n-g and maybe a little more full of jellyfish than we would have liked, but Lucas went all-in and the rest of us waded and we all had a great time.

East Point and Basin Head-11

We explored the sandstone cliffs at the far western edge of the beach this time, as we hadn’t had time to do that last year.

East Point and Basin Head-7

East Point and Basin Head-9

East Point and Basin Head-10

More fun with the distortion from my fish-eye lens. If you look closely at about 1 o’clock on the rounded line of the horizon, you can see the ferry to the Magdalene Islands. I love this photo!

East Point and Basin Head-8

At one point, I handed off the camera to let Beloved have a play with the funny effects of the fish-eye lens.

East Point and Basin Head-14

East Point and Basin Head-13

And when we’d had our fill of a beachy afternoon, we packed up and headed down to Souris for dinner. Of course we stopped by Chef Michael Smith’s FlavourShack while we were there! By lucky coincidence, the same lovely photographer from Chef Michael’s team who took my favourite family portrait from last year happened to be there this time as well, so she took our FlavourShack Family Portrait 2015:

East Point and Basin Head-16

All that plus ice cream, seafood chowder and pockets full of sea glass? Hello PEI of my heart, it’s so lovely to see you again!


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Our vacation theme so far seems to be that old 70s classic, “Raindrops keep falling on my head.” It has rained pretty much consistently since we got here. Yesterday morning was cloudy and grey but temporarily not raining, with rain in the forecast for the afternoon, so we planned a little visit to the picturesque village of Victoria by the Sea for the morning, and capitulated to the idea of two dry hours in the Cineplex for the afternoon.

Of course, by the time we arrived in Victoria by the Sea, it was raining. Still pretty though!

A rainy day in Victoria by the Sea

If you look really close, you can see Simon in the lighthouse window. Here’s a close-up of Lucas in the same spot.

A rainy day in Victoria by the Sea

It has looked like this pretty much since we arrived. Gorgeous, verdant rolling hills and a leaden sky.

A rainy day in Victoria by the Sea

And then you turn around and PEI charms you again, this time with a plaque honouring Prince Edward Island’s BIGGEST TREE.

A rainy day in Victoria by the Sea

I mean, how can you not love a place that gives props to the biggest tree? And you need rain to grow trees, right? Verdant fields look yellow and crusty with no rain, and no potatoes can grow without rain.

We didn’t stay long in Victoria by the Sea. Patience frayed right about here, and we hopped back in the car to double back to Charlottetown for a movie. It was not our finest day on PEI, but we did have a lovely dinner at one of our favourite places. Red’s Corners near Montague might not look like much from the outside, but it is the best family restaurant on the Points East Coastal Drive, in our estimation. And hey, the forecast for today seems considerably less grey. There may even be a peek or two of sun, although it’s not supposed to warm up to much more than 20C. At this point, that sounds like an amazing forecast! BEACH DAY!!!!!


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Photo(s) of the day: evening walk on the beach

20 July 2015 Ottawa to PEI 2015

I knew managing expectations was going to be an issue on this trip. After a year of anticipation, planning, scheming and endless hours of dreaming, this vacation had a lot to live up to. And the Universe has a wicked sense of humour. I shouldn’t therefore be surprised that the weather that was hot and […]

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Photo(s) of the day: Todd’s amazing flying machines

6 July 2015 Photo of the Day

My friend Todd has been feeding a fun hobby with remote controlled helicopters and airplanes over the last couple of years, but we hadn’t had the opportunity to see them in action until yesterday. It was fascinating to see his planes and all the bits of electronics, remotes and batteries that support the works, but […]

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Photo of the day: Granny and Papa Lou

6 July 2015 Mothership Photography

Despite having most of the last five years with a camera stuck to my face, I haven’t yet managed to take a photo of my parents that I love. Until this weekend, that is. We’ve been spending the weekend with my brother and his family, and it’s been crowded, chaotic, silly and wonderful, so it […]

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Photo of the day: Cousins in the tent

4 July 2015 Photo of the Day

Does anything say summertime like a backyard camp out with your cousins? Pretty sure they didn’t all five of them sleep like that all night, but they did make it most of the night out in the tent. Isn’t summer awesome?

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