Friday, 2 May 2014


Charlottetown waterfront

The only way you can experience a new place is by doing a Julia Roberts — eat, pray, love and do all the things that the locals do…on foot. 

Charlottetown (population 35,000) is no different. It is the urban hub of Prince Edward Island (PEI) in Canada that was formed 15,000 years ago when the glaciers retreated and sea levels rose. 

Here are a few ways to experience Charlottetown — a foodies’ heaven and a fine coastal hangout. 

Have breakfast in a boat
Chef Rober Pendergast — fabulous storyteller too

Nothing in Charlottetown is far from the sea. Take a boat ride to anywhere and nowhere, for the sheer experience of lounging in a boat and gorging on local delicacies surrounded by a blue sea; you also get to meet interesting Charlotte-towners. Chef Robert Pendergast was in-charge of breakfast (blueberry muffins, cherry tea and breakfast sandwiches) on board my boat. The food was great and the ‘stories’, greater. Robert was born in PEI and grew up watching his mother and grandmother cook food in the traditional way. “When my mom slipped those potato dumplings into the boiling soup, she would tell the name of a widow for each dumpling,” he said. Of course when it was Robert’s turn, he fesses up to cheating a few times. “…too many dumplings and not enough widows’ names to go around.” Life at Charlottetown for Robert is what many men around the world dream of — he makes music (he and his brother are also musicians), goes fishing and cooks chowder with oyster fishermen…whenever he wants to; he then translates all those experiences while cooking for and serving his guests. Apparently, he’s the goto-guy for delicious oysters, shellfish and breads in Charlottetown. 

Chomp on seafood: 
PEI fisherman harvest almost 30 types of fish and seafood species. Mussels are found everywhere and inexpensive. You also get the world’s best oysters here. And then there’s the shellfish. Charlottetowners take their shellfish seriously — they even have a shellfish festival in September every year. 

3.Visit the Farmers Market: 
Started in 1984, the Charlottetown Farmers Market (Saturdays between 9 am to 2pm) is a smorgasbord of sights, sounds and smells — homegrown fruits and vegetables, freshly baked breads and pastries from rural bakeries, meat and fish vendors with their fresh haul, homemade desserts, preserves, crafts people….it tickles all your five senses. And while there, according to the PEI Book of everything by Martha Walls, experience the smell of fresh ground coffee from Caledonia House Booth; get certified organic produce from Paul offer’s Booth; a bite of Fox hollow Bakery’s chocolate cake and a taste of Johnny Flynn’s Colville Bay oysters. 

 Eat at a farm-to-table restaurant:
 John Pritchard (r)of Terre Rouge

 Terre Rouge Bistro Marche is one — they do not use any ingredients available beyond a 100-mile radius. This is where you go for some amped up comfort food: delicious charcuterie, hand dipped chocolates, artisanal cheeses and trademark TR Gelato and pastries.

Guzzle beer: 
PEI Brewery Tours is a must if you are an ale lover. You can see and taste for yourself the PEI Brewing Company’s handcrafted ales and lager, brewed on site.

Stroll through Charlottetown:

History comes alive on the cobbled streets of this town. The locals say that in Charlottetown there could be no building higher than the St.Dunstan’s Basilica (built in 1812; 62 mts tall), a beautiful neo-gothic style Roman Catholic Church on Great George Street. The Islanders, it seems, have found a smart way to reign in man’s innate desire to mar pristine skylines by dotting it with skyscrapers. The picturesque town sometimes looks like it’s jumped out of the pages of a Jane Austen novel with its wooden houses, gabled roofs, rolling meadows, blue skies and fluffy white clouds. You will be forgiven for expecting Mr.Darcy to cross your path.

Quaint shops

It's all about olive oil
The brain behind Moonsail Soapworks
Flanking the narrow lanes are unique picture- postcard-kinda shops, like the Moonsail Soapworks. Here you get 16 kinds of handcrafted soaps; around 30,000 soaps are hand cut a year. Customers can pop into the production area at the back of the shop — fragrant and with great music playing in the background; you can see for yourself how the soaps are made before buying one; get the Red Clay bar, made out of the red sand that PEI is famous for. A couple of doors away is The Overman Jewellery and Art, owned by Overman who looks like a champion heavyweight boxer. But he makes really delicate and stunning one-of-a-kind jewellery art — tiny bulbs filled with antique watch parts or a chain made entirely of a special kind of bees wings which are sourced from a bee-farm in Taiwan. In most of these little shops you can see and interact with the artists at work. There’s something charming about the intimate environs of these shops.

8.Confederation Centre of Arts:
This is home to the country’s longest running musical — Anne of Green Gables — since it opened in 1965. Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Montgomery was published in 1908. Each year 250,000 people visit Cavendish the fictitious birthplace of Anne. And the Confederation Centre art gallery is Atlantic Canada’s largest art gallery; there are six exhibition spaces featuring a range of art works. The gallery has a permanent collection of more than 16000 works. 

The Province House:

A walk in Charlottetown is incomplete without a visit to this neo-classical colonial building. In September 1864, 23 political leaders (known as the Fathers of Confederation) from the British colonies got together here for a conference, which led to the creation of Canada in 1867. In the summer months historical vignettes are offered by confederation players — a troupe that plays the roles of Fathers and Ladies of Confederation, in hoop skirts and top coats. 

Peake’s Wharf:

This historic waterfront is where the Fathers of Confederation landed. Today, it is dotted with 20 unique shops — including the world famous and Canada’s leading ice cream, Cows Ice Cream. From July to August the Peake’s Wharfs summer concert series is held here and is touted as a must-experience event for the locals and tourists alike.

Drive to the beach: 
PEI has 1600 kms of shoreline and is known for its beaches and red cliffs. A few minutes’ drive from Charlottetown will take you to some of the most amazing red sand beaches. Without this a trip to Charlottetown will be lacking.

Some more scenes from PEI

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