Having been back in the glorious States for less than a week, I still have on my mind all the differences between America (Indiana) and Canada (PEI). In addition to the exchange rate, which used to be in our favor (Alas, no more…), there are a number of things to know that might make a trip to Prince Edward Island a bit easier (in no particular order.)

1. You can cross INTO PEI on the Confederation Bridge for free. Getting off will cost you $43.50. The Ferry is the other option. (We didn’t take it, so I’m not sure of the cost.)

Downtown Charlottetown

2. There are only two cities in PEI: Summerside and Charlottetown, both in the center of the island–about 30 minutes apart. Gas is cheaper in either of these locations by about 2 cents a liter. Also, you can find large grocery stores (Sobeys), American Restaurants (McDonalds, Burger King, etc.), and Large Department stores (Old Navy, Walmart, etc.).

3. Speaking of gas, it impressed me that in the entire three weeks we were there, gas only changed in price once–and then by 2 cents a liter. Not like here, where it varies 30 cents/gallon driving across town. (It did, however, annoy me that none of the pumps had the little switch allowing you to prop the gas on, so you had to hold the nozzle the entire time…Yes, we’re spoiled.)

4. Speaking of cities, a frustration we found is that the majority of small towns are not listed on the GPS, so it is difficult to type in an address when the town the address is in does not exist (according to the GPS).

5. Additionally, the highways labelled on the map have different names when you are driving around, (i.e. Highway 11 may be Allen Road–and four others along the way) so pay careful attention to the maps provided by visitor centers–you can USUALLY figure it out. Also, you can occasionally (at times when the road is listed) search by intersection.

6. Though the GPS may be utterly useless in many respects, it is helpful for those of us with cars and brains not experienced in calculating kilometers. Letting the GPS be your speedometer is very helpful.

7. Also, you will never (unless you are speeding) go over 60 mph anywhere on the island (90 kms). Many places are about 35 (50). And the speed may go from 50 km to 90 and back to 50 in a matter of a half mile.

8. The temperature may also go from 50 to 90 degrees (Fahrenheit) in a day as well.

9. In the area of dining, you have the options of grocery stores, “Lobster Suppers” (usually consisting of seafood chowder, lobster, mussels, potatoes, rolls, and lemon meringue pie), restaurants (only the cities offer the typical American names), home baking, and fruit/vegetable stands. All are good (though restaurants are pricier than their American varieties.)

Cavendish Beach

10. Beaches: There are certain ones that are open to everyone and ones where you have to get a “beach pass” to drive the road to get to them. Our lodging had free beach passes you could pick up. Otherwise, the attendants usually leave around 6/6:30, so if you’re going out to watch the sunset, the guards have left the station, and you can go anywhere you want.

11. Mosquitoes are horrible, and many of the beaches have poison ivy, so spray well and watch where you explore.

12. For entertainment, pick up a magazine called The Buzz, or find it online at http://www.buzzon.com. Ceilidhs are offered somewhere on the island every day of the week. All have a charge to get in (usually $8-15 for adults and $3-10 for kids depending on age) and feature a variety of musical styles. Avonlea Village has one of the regular evening groups play throughout the day (included with price of admission), and the Preserve Company in New Glasgow offers a “free” lunchtime Ceilidh, where you’d either have to buy lunch or stand outside to listen.

13. Beach trails are marked by a starfish or a picture of a beach and Green Gables trails are marked by a picture of Green Gables. Roads stating “No Exit: Impasse” lead to the beach, but you probably have to park on a dirt road or in the grass.

14. If you charge something to your credit card, in addition to the exchange rate, you will be charged a “Foreign Transaction Fee.” In some cases, this is an additional 10%. Taxes on purchased items are also well over our Indiana 7%.

15. It’s called a Washroom, not a restroom or bathroom.

16. Trash comes in 3 varieties: Waste, Compost, and Recycle. Occasionally, there will be pictures to help you determine what goes where.

One farm view

17. Additionally, there are 4 main regions of PEI. Top to bottom takes about an hour and a half to get to, side to side takes between 3 and 4. Charlottetown and Summerside are about 30 minutes apart and mostly in the middle.

18. There’s a line from Anne and Gilbert: The Musical which states, “And if you think your farm, it has the finest view, you’re Island, you’re Island through and through.” Driving around, it’s easy to see why each farm thinks their view’s the best. Anywhere you go will be a treat.

Hope this helps those planning a visit. It’s well worth it!

Gilbert and Moody sword fighting

Our pass for Avonlea Village was good for two days, so today (8/6/11), we decided to use our other day. I thought it might be boring going to the same things, but it was an even better experience the second time. One thing I knew, but hadn’t registered, is that there are different actors that come and go, so every day is unique. For today’s cast, Gertie Pye was absent, Moody Spurgeon McPherson was added, the former Josie was playing Diana, and there was a new Josie Pye. The principal actors remained the same, but there is a different dynamic when different people come in, and the girls especially loved Moody (largely because he provided another boy to keep Gilbert company, and the two ran all over town, sword fighting and tormenting the girls of the cast.) Additionally, the script is altered by the addition and subtraction of other characters. Another fun change was the addition of men’s swimwear to the fashion show with Gilbert and Moody modeling 1900’s swimwear.

Square Dance with the cast

The girls also participated in hair braiding with Anne and Diana, and I was reminded again how versatile these actors have to be to be able to perform all over town (ad-libbing both dialogue and activities), sing, dance, and relate well with children. It’s a tall order for them. We also learned that Gilbert (in addition to playing guitar, trumpet, singing, and playing with children) is getting ready for medical school (like the “real” Gilbert Blythe), so this may be his last summer as Gilbert. It was an amazing afternoon.

Then, in the evening, we attended a Ceilidh. Almost every piece of literature promoting PEI recommends this as a necessary part of the island experience, and after attending, I would agree. There are Ceilidh’s every night of the week somewhere on the island, so it’s very easy to attend. At first we thought some of them were free because the price wasn’t posted, but that isn’t the case. The only free one I’m aware of is at the Preserve Company for the lunchtime hour.

The girls with Richard Wood "backstage"

When we knew they all cost, we decided to ask the group at Avonlea Village (which is made up of a few Ceilidh groups) which one would be the best. The bass player recommended Richard Wood, as he’s “the best fiddler on the island.” It was indeed an unforgettable evening. After the show, his girlfriend suggested we go meet him, so we took the girls whom he gave autographs. That was definitely one of the most memorable experiences they have had here.