September 29 Charlottetown/North Rustica

Good morning from Charlottetown! Didn’t sleep well, so I’m hoping there’s a long smooth bus ride on the agenda.

First up, after the usual breakfast, was a ride into Charlottetown, where we met with Boyd, a local historian who really, really knows a whole lot about the area. While we were standing with Boyd, waiting for the house to open for business, he remarked “You guys are early.” I responded “Tell us about it.” It got a laugh from the group, as Linda is pretty punctilious about punctuality, to say the least. We had come to visit Beaconsfield House, an utterly gorgeous, perfectly-restored Italianate Victorian mansion. Before turning us over to Boyd, another tour guide gave us some background about the residence.. P1010846

It really does make the other houses we’ve looked at look like cottages.Or hovels. It even boasted a flushing water closet! yes! I became obsessed looking at the individually carved door hinges, and the unique doorknobs and latches. I hope the photo of one is clear enough. Here’s a few I took:P1010844 P1010843 P1010845

The first photo is of the door hinge to the double salon. You can see the screws in the hinge. The original builders/owners of the mansion fell on very hard times when the shipbuilding business collapsed, and ended up losing the house and all the furnishings after just a few years living in the house. It eventually became a dorm for student nurses for many years, and finally, in the 70s, was taken over by the historical society and restored. They did an utterly fabulous job–all the gorgeous wallpapers were new but perfect for the setting and time. They had a collection of about 9,000 artifacts that they used to perfectly furnish the huge mansion. Only one little writing desk was from the original furnishings, and it was back in the salon. The original family was dispersed, but some grandchildren of the original owner came back a few years ago to visit what had been, briefly, the ancestral home.

I also got a photo of the perfectly good home that had been moved to make space for the new mansion. It’s just around the corner:P1010849

Then Boyd took us on a walking tour of Charlottetown, and these are a few of the sights we saw:P1010848 P1010853 P1010852 P1010851 P1010850

Boyd was the one who made the remark I wrote yesterday about the townspeople could not afford to replace the old buildings until all the tourists came, who loved all the old buildings, so the townspeople then had to keep them.We also learned about the history of Canada, and the rather haphazard fashion in which it finally became organized as a nation. The Maritimes have always felt shortchanged by the union of the provinces, and there had been some push initially for them to join the United States rather than Canada. As Boyd said, “Canada works in practice, but not in theory.” And it was simply wonderful to stroll around in such a lovely old town, while the weather was just perfect.

After bidding Boyd goodbye, we headed off in the bus to North Rustica, a little fishing village. We started with lunch at a nearby restaurant. During the selection process days earlier, I had chosen the vegetarian option, as I didn’t want to wrestle with a plate of mussels and had already had quite a few turkey sandwiches. It was a good choice. I had clam chowder, and my entree was a dish of brown rice topped with stir-fried veggies. But I enjoyed watching the others work on their mussels. For dessert, our table of five got two plates of four little desserts. Tim and Alice cut them all in half, and we were all able to eat enough sweets to get dizzy. It was fabulous. We had been talking about slipping over to the bakery after eating, but that obviously was no longer necessary.

After lunch, there was time to wander around before our next appointment, and I walked around the wharves and boats, and saw this sign: P1010854 I talked to the young woman inside the seafood market, and she said the name was French Canadian, but didn’t know anything else about it. I wrote my cousins Ray and Linda, and Linda quickly responded that it seemed Doiron was an old name, and had been involved in the Acadian expulsion, and apparently was not a variant of Drouin.

I also visited the Rustica Bay Wool Sweater Company, a lovely shop that carried beautiful knitted goods. They were almost all locally hand knitted or sewn, and warm and beautiful beyond description. Our group made quite a few purchases. I even bought a little knitted dishcloth that resembled the one my grandmother had made for me many, many years ago.

A short drive brought us to a marine museum that seemed to be the work of just one garrulous old tar named Norm.P1010856 There were some great photos and artifacts. But mostly there was Norm, regaling us with amazing stories, as we all got tired of standing, eased into sitting positions, and then began hoping Norm was nearly done. But he wasn’t. I nearly fell asleep somewhere while he was talking about all his Gallant cousins (On the way out of town, I happened to see several tombstones of “Gallants” in the local cemetery.) But Norm was an excellent raconteur, and the guys in the group especially seemed to enjoy his style and stories, and he was an absolute master of his subject matter. There were some interesting bits of psychology in his stories.

When we finally left we made a couple stops along the coast, including one where the beach sand suddenly changed from red to white, which was very interesting. Most of the way the road had a bike path next to it. It would have been a perfect place for bike riding, partly because the highest elevation on the whole island is just 300′ above sea level. Here’s a couple photos of those stops:

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You can see the white sand at the top of the beach of the second photo.

We got back to the hotel, and Linda gave us 15 minutes to get ready, and rejoin the bus if we wanted a ride into town for a couple hours. About ten of us took her up on the offer. Alice and I went to the bank and then stopped at Cows for the best ice cream one would hope for. Apparently, they also have an ice cream parlor in Halifax, so we have that to look forward to. I think the name of the flavor I chose was something like Messie Bessie.

Then we went shopping so Alice could buy stuff, but she didn’t find anything. But I did. oh well. Also saw this beautiful old Catholic basilica:P1010859

We picked up a couple sandwiches from Subway, and caught the 7 PM bus home, to prepare for the very very early start we have tomorrow. Stay tuned. Rain in the forecast.