Location: Whitby, Ontario, Canada

Born in Malta but in Canada since age 5. Has written three books and presently does several columns about wine and food for various magazines.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

September 21st Day Seven: Last Full Day In Prince Edward Island

Off To PE Distillery
It was early in the morning when PEI Tourism representative Paul Knox picked us up at the Platter House. Tara Jackson was tied up with some work and he replaced her. Enthusiastic and full of excellent suggestions, Paul seem to be a veritable "go-getter" with an seemingly endless set of ideas. We were off to Prince Edward Distillery in Hermanville, not very far from where we were staying.
Owner/Distiller Julie Shore had a disarming smile that wouldn't quit. She greeted us like long lost friends making it difficult not to feel that we knew each other for years. I'm sure the others felt the same way. Julie and her partner Arla (who was away at the time) came up from North Carolina and decided to found a distillery based on potatoes.
They soon were making Potato Vodka and came up with the idea of making a vodka from wild blueberries. The result was that in 2009 their Potato Vodka won the Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and the Blueberry Vodka won the Silver Medal at the United Kingdom International Spirits Challenge.
Julie gave us a tour which revealed a very complicated and impressive looking Column Still and then showed us the aging equipment and explained the process of making highly refined Vodka.
The tour ended with a small sampling of the product. I enjoyed meeting Julie and left feeling good that such people exist such as Ken Mill of Myriad View and Julie Shore of PE Distillery. Good stuff and both great products.
Prince Edward Island Railway
Construction of the Prince Edward Island Railway started in 1871, my guess as part of the plan for P.E.I.'s entrance into Confederation in 1873. On entry into Canada, the railway came under government control and later became part of the Canadian National Railway (CNR). The railway served many purposes and was continually upgraded. Cars, trucks and even airplanes eventually proved the demise of the railway which was "abandoned" in 1989 and dismantled in the early nineties. In 1994 the government purchased the existing land that was used for the railway, making recreational trails and paths along the former rail spots.
Elmira Railway Museum
In 1975 the Elmira Station/Railway Museum was opened. A number of stations in P.E.I. are being restored for posterity though many of the stations and rail way cars have been scrapped. Lynn Morrow, Manager of the Elmira Train Station Museum, mention that there were seven such restoration sites in the Province.
The original train station had five railway spurs, a coal shed, barn, bunkhouse and separate waiting rooms for men and women. Only the wooden station house with its telegraph and separate rooms had been restored.
The restoration had many attractions and artifacts dating back to "railway life' in the 19th and early 20th centuries. A model train ran around a model Prince Edward Island depicting the extent of the PEI Railway. A portion of the actual track was on display as were items such as telegraphs, clothing, utensils etc. People could sit on he platform and wait for a train that would never show up but they would get an idea of how it felt in those days and try to imagine what the railway meant as a form of transport before autos and planes took over. It was a slower time but not necessarily an inferior time.
Known as the "end of the line" Elmira's tracks have become another kind of track but now it's for recreation with some 23 kilometres of hiking, biking and sight seeing trails known as the Confederation Trail. The Elmira Station has become regarded as the gateway to this "Rails to Trails" system with a "Track's End Takeout" restaurant located next to the station present for those travelers needing sustenance after a hard afternoon of biking or hiking.
The station also has a gift shop and restroom facilities but note----be careful---I understand from very good sources that a "witch" has been spotted in that little room -----probably making sure that visitors do not have a "ghost" of a chance in forgetting their Elmira Train Station Museum experience. The train station will be holding it's 100th birthday in 2012. I wish it luck for the next 100 years. Thanks to Lynn Morrow for her great tour and information.
Tuna Capital Of The World
We made our way to the North Lake Harbour, which is known as the Tuna Capital of the World. North Lake is situated in a sheltered inlet in the Northeastern part of Prince Edward Island where tuna boats can seek refuge from the Gulf of St. Lawrence. There were no tuna coming in that day, though the boats were out---no one called in with a catch but this is where the tuna were brought and considering some could be over 1000 lbs in weight, it did not take much to come in with a catch. Tuna are caught with rod and reel and there are limitations to how many can be caught. Paul suggested that we go to lunch and then go back later.
Lunch at Sandstone
Paul took us to the Sandstone Restaurant situated overlooking the water of North Lake.
The restaurant was an amazingly nicely decorated and very clean. The food on other tables looked great. I ordered "Scallops on a Bun" along with a chowder while Roy ordered a "Lobster Sandwich". Paul ordered "Fish and Chips" but when the meal came out it was apparent that the fish being served was the size of one huge fish!!!! Paul could not finish it.
After lunch we contacted North Lake Harbour but no fish were coming in as yet so we decided to move on to the Eastpoint Lighthouse and the Pirate's Galley Cafe!
Eastpoint Lighthouse and Pirate's Galley Cafe
The area around Eastpoint is said to be very difficult to navigate with the "meeting of three tides" (being the Atlantic, Northumberland Strait and Gulf of St. Lawrence) and "three reefs" just off the point. In 1883, the lighthouse was actually moved to a location which was more appropriate after a British War Vessel ran aground following erroneous charts the year prior.
The lighthouse was constructed in 1867 and was 64 feet high (19.5 metres).
Next to the Eastpoint Lighthouse was the Pirate's Galley Cafe which was a restaurant with a twist.
Owned by Don Spear, this restaurant/cafe was famous not only for its food and delicious chowder but also for Don's recanting of old ghost stories. For example there is the tale of the burning ship.
The three masted ship is often seen off the coasts of Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia usually in October in the Northumberland Strait. One account had it that one clear night a person was walking on the shore of Prince Edward Island's Northumberland Strait when he spotted a burning ship of which he could make out its three masts and outline. He watched it for twenty minutes and then it disappeared. On another occasion, some men tried to get to the ship but it vanished completely before they could get to it.
The restaurant's owner went on to tell of pirate history in the area and of how pirates used to wait for shipping to come around the point and then attack. He said that the likes of Blackbeard, Bluebeard and Captain Kidd were familiar with P.E.I.'s waters and some made their homes in the area.
Whether you believe in ghosts and ghost ships or not, these incidents did happen and while explainable in one way or another, they are intriguing.
Basin Head "Singing Sands" Beach and Fisheries Museum
The beach harbours some intriguing "exhibits" one of which was the "Singing Sands" which seem to produce a singing sound as one walked on it. The sound is not fully explainable but is said to be attributed to a reaction of the quartz sand on the feet and on the other sand much like the rim of a glass when rubbed with a wet finger. The Fisheries Museum focused on the fishing industry and its evolvement during the ages. It had exhibits and artifacts as well as video demonstrations concerning P.E.I.'s fishing lifeline.
With that, Paul Knox took us back home to the Platter House where we would spend one more night and then be off to Ontario.
We did have some surprise visits and both were welcome. Ken Mill popped in and while he could not imbibe as he was on duty (on call with the Coast Guard) he did have a coffee and a bite to eat with us. We also had a visit from Melvin Ford who was taking care of Platter House. Nice way to say good-bye.
End Of Day Seven