The shape of Prince Edward Island divides the land massinto three counties: King, Queen and Prince. The tourist folks divide these same three areas into scenic driving tours. Last time we were here we spent three days doing them all, but today on our only unscheduled day we took the one around the North Cape. There was no specific sight that made us glad we spent the day this way. Rather it was the panorama of lush farms with the sea in the background, rich potato fields and just a few more lighthouses that gave an impression of how nice life can be in Prince Edward Island - in the summer at least.
Most of the homes are large and well tended. They are surrounded by flower beds and miles and miles of grass. The average islander must spend long hours every week keeping the huge lawns around their homes mowed and tidy. Since grass grows so well here, farmers get two or three hay crops from their land a summer and if they aren't sitting on their lawn mowers, they are sitting on their tractors cutting and baling the hay.
The primary agricultural crop is the potato. We just had to stop at the potato museum and learn more than we ever wanted to know about this starchy vegetable. We didn't realize that they are so full of vitamin C that they kept sailors healthy on long sea voyages. Naturally potatoes grow all sorts of misshapen nodules and over the years breeders have worked for the uniformity and simple shape that modern shoppers seem to prefer. There was a huge exhibit on all the blights, insect infestations, and other disease that turn those spuds black and disgusting looking inside. It made us think of those poor starving Irish. On the island there are a few huge processing factories that prepare the spuds for market, french fries in particular. The smell made us hungry as we drove by.
Another must-see on the North Cape is the bottle houses, built by a man named Arsenault with too much time on his hands. Over the years he used 12,000 bottles to build a house, and similar amounts to build a chapel and bar. All the buildings have had to be rebuilt by younger family members in the early 1990's due to damage from movement caused by the spring thaw. The original buildings had no concrete foundations. When he wasn't building bottle houses, he must have been busy procreating. We stopped at a picturesque cemetery overlooking the sea and nearly every headstone, and there were many, was named Arsenault. We also passed numerous streets named Arsenault. Must make life complicated for the mailman.
We were a bit surprised to see some real swimming beaches staffed by lifeguards. When I have gotten into the water in Maine it sucked the life force right out of me, but here there were actually people in the water - some of the palest people I have ever seen in my life. We've read that PEI is in the middle of the Gulf Stream and has the warmest waters north of North Carolina. I waded in up to my ankles. So far so good.
We love the lighthouses. Every cape has one. Some are abandoned; the one on the west coast has been turned into a B & B with a swimming beach. There was one for sale through Century 21. We were tempted...