Springtime in PEI: Province of Endless Imagination

“It’s delightful when your imaginations come true, isn’t it?”
– L.M.  Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

We were able to make a last minute escape to Nova Scotia this past April and since the opportunity was there I wanted to make a couple of stops on the way back home to Ontario.  I was on the fence about making the detour to Prince Edward Island but I am so grateful that we did.

I took a leap and booked a room at Dalvay-by-the Sea.  It’s long been a dream of mine to be a guest at the “White Sands”.  As a child our family watched Road to Avonlea regularly and I know Anne of Green Gables word for word.  We checked it out many years ago but in the middle of August it was fully booked.  My husband and I drove to Dalvay a few years ago as well but it was in April, before their season starts.

I’d shown Isaac a picture of the hotel online and he was most excited about…the chairs.  We crossed the Confederation Bridge and the first thing that stood out for me was how tidy the island is and the pride that people take in their homes and properties.  The yards were neatly manicured and the houses were colourful and well maintained.  After an hour or so of driving, we pulled into Dalvay.  I still couldn’t believe that we were staying here and completely geeked out.

We checked in and were given our key – yes folks, and actual key- to room number 9.  I’d recommend requesting this room if you can. We found a plate of cookies waiting and milk was delivered shortly after.  There were 2 super comfy queen beds, two wing back chairs, coat closet, bathroom, little balcony and stunning views.  They had a pack-n-play set up in the room for Maddie which was helpful.  There were also two bottles of raspberry cordial on the table.  Isaac was a little heavy handed with the bottle, got a little wild and broke a glass. Whoops!  That cordial will get you every time.

We headed to the dining room for dinner.  They had a kids menu and maybe more importantly, ketchup.  The kids enjoyed their grilled cheese and chicken fingers.  They came with a side of fried potato slices.  These had a taste and crunch similar to Miss Vickie’s chips but better somehow.  I had the scallops.  My goodness, these scallops.  We very rarely enjoy fine dining so I treated myself.  I have no words for how delectable it was.  I’ll attach a picture, which won’t do justice.  Admittedly, I was nervous dining with my kids at such an upscale place but they were pretty well behaved and it was so sweet to watch them practice their “fancy manners”.

After dinner we went to the lawn to burn off some energy.  The kids ran and ran.  They pretended to fish, to be on a safari and had jumping races.  They were getting tired and I’d already seen bedtime tick by.  This is where things get equally frustrating and sweet.

Along our journey I had managed to misplace my credit card.  I had assumed it was under my car seat because well, that’s just the kind of person I am.  When we were checking in I still couldn’t put my hands on it but we were able to get checked in and up to our room.  Small panic.  After checking out the room I tore through my car trying to spot it.  Slightly more panic.  Maybe, just maybe it was in our suitcase.  I emptied out our bags.  No luck.  By now I had enlisted my son as our detective and made it a game.  Still nothing.  We were done playing on the lawn, it was now dark and I was dragging the kids out to the car one last time to look.  Leah, who was working the front desk mentioned that she would watch them for a few minutes while I ran out.  Normally I would have said “No, that’s fine” but I was only a few minutes and I was just outside the door.  There were no more nooks or crannies that the card could be hiding in so I had decided to call and cancel the card after the kids were asleep.  Bummer.  As I come back through the doors, I found Leah along with both kids, sitting on the sofa in front of the fire reading an Anne of Green Gables storybook.  My heart almost burst.  My kids, on PEI being introduced to Anne of Green Gables at The White Sands Dalvay-by-the-Sea.  All the moment needed was Gus Pike playing the fiddle outside the door and Simon Tremain stomping through.  We went back up to our room and as I tucked the kids in to bed Isaac spotted it.   There lay the card under the bed, camouflaged as it was the exact same colour as the carpet.  All in all a great end to the day.

For breakfast Maddie wore her fanciest dress and hat, along with her rubber boots of course. The kids were made special pancakes which they devoured.  The coffee was just right.  It’d been quite a while since I’d had a really good cup of coffee so I doubled down, had another and grabbed one for the road.

We checked out and on the advice of the Manager, Joel, we headed to Brackley Beach which, along with Dalvay is located inside PEI National Park.  Despite the wind which didn’t even faze the kids, we played for an hour and then struck out for Green Gables.

We toured the house.  Since the kids don’t totally get the Anne thing we made it into an education on how people lived at the turn of the century.  We discussed things like cooking on a wood stove and life without a refrigerator.  We hiked the trail behind the house.  This was the “Haunted Woods”.  The trail was well maintained and an easy walk for the kids.  Isaac was a little freaked out by the “Haunted” bit but after explaining that it was “enchanted” he decided to grab a stick and become a magician.

Then, just like that our Island escape was over.  On the drive to the bridge we spotted a water park, go carts, toy factory, COWS ice cream shops and so many other places to check out once the summer season starts up.  Traveling during shoulder season means many attractions are still closed but the crowds are non-existent and there wasn’t a tour bus in sight, which is highly prized for us.  I can’t wait to go back to the Island for a longer stay in the summer time.  In the meantime I’ll keep watching the new Anne series and keep an eye out for the White Sands.

Maple Fun at MapleFest!

Wandering around a Maple Syrup festival is about as “Canadian” as, well…a Maple Syrup festival.

We took advantage of one of the first warm and sunny days of the year and ventured out to Maple Fest at McLean Berry Farm in Buckhorn, Ontario.  The sun, nature and exercise are exactly what our family needed after a long winter.  While we have managed to spend more time outdoors this year, I’ll still be pretty happy to give the old man Winter the old heave ho.

We took two cars.  I drove in first and then realized that we were to pay upon entering the lot.  $24/family.  Cash.  I had about $3.80 in cold, hard cash.  Whoops.  Luckily, Ed had the forethought to recognize that we would likely need it and saved the day.  There is a chip truck onsite with an ATM as well as a store with a debit machine so I’m sure we would have been able to pay one way or another.  We were given a scavenger hunt to fill out and were on our way.

We were waiting for a couple of minutes in line for the horse-powered hay wagon but it turned out it was the horse’s break time.  There was a tractor pulling the hay wagon but we decided to hike down to the Sugar Shack and take the horse drawn wagon back at the end.

At the Sugar Shack we found out all about how sap is boiled in the evaporator until it becomes syrup.  We learned that it takes 40 litres of sap to make 1 litre of syrup.  We also discovered that the colour and darkness of the syrup is due to the point in the season when it is collected, not how long it had been boiled like I had thought.  From here we meandered through a trail in the hard woods where we found lots of tapped trees with buckets to check for sap.  Isaac saw it as a personal mission to check them all and since Maddie is his little shadow she followed right behind.  Many of them were at kid height, but thankfully their tall big brother was there to hoist them up to check the buckets high on the trees.  There are posters along the trail telling of the history of Maple Syrup in Canada.   We were wondering how people discovered it in the first place and how they collected the sap.  These signs answered all of our questions.   In typical fashion, we accidentally did the trail backwards.  If you do it properly you will wander through the woods, see the sap and then at the end of the trail will go into the sugar shack to see how to sap is boiled down which makes more sense.

Next up was Maple Syrup Cotton Candy.  Yes, that’s right – Maple Syrup Cotton Candy.  I don’t really care for cotton candy but this was seriously yum!  Behind that building was a little obstacle course and cedar teepee to explore.  It was then time for the Maple Syrup Toffee.  They fill a tray with snow, pour on hot maple sugar on and we roll it up on sticks.  I would recommend staying at the back until the crowd has cleared some as little Maddie was nearly run down by excited 9 year olds which was a little too much for this mom.

We rushed right over to see the snow cannon in action.  During PumpkinFest this is a pumpkin cannon but for Maple Fest, snow it is.  And really, pretty much anything being blasted out of a cannon is endlessly entertaining for kids.

They also had demonstrations of sawing logs, tapping trees and rope making.  They had a large supply of snowshoes to try out but since the snow is on the way out there wasn’t quite enough to test our snowshoe skills.  The boys had fun with sawing the logs.  After sawing off our chunks of cedar we went over to a fire where they were branded with a maple leaf.  All I could hear was my Grandfather’s voice in my head, laughingly saying “My dear, people these days paying good money to saw up a log.  Next they’ll be paying to jump in a puddle.” It was well worth every penny.

We waited in line and took the horse drawn hay wagon back out to the parking area.  It was a wonderful day for our family and has us looking forward to the longer, sunnier and much warmer days ahead including swimming, hiking, road trips and strawberry picking in Buckhorn.

If you are looking to check out MapleFest, next weekend (March 25 & 26) is the final weekend for this year.

Niagara Falls: Just How Do They Light Up The Falls?

The Illumination of Niagara Falls has been amazing visitors for more than a century.  Each time we are there, my husband and I sit in our hotel room, looking out onto the falls and hypothesize how it all works.  Are the lights behind it?  In front?  It is automated?  How many lights?  How did it start? Continue reading “Niagara Falls: Just How Do They Light Up The Falls?”

The Beauty and the Brrrr: 5 Niagara Falls Attractions for Your Family This Winter

My name is Allison and I unintentionally lie to my husband and children every November, without fail.

Allow me to set the scene.  It’s mid-November, the leaves have all fallen off of the trees, the days are shorter and getting greyer by the second.  I grab my giant cup of coffee and proudly announce that this-this is the year I am going to enjoy winter!  We’re going to learn to snowshoe and cross-country ski and enjoy all of the parks that are open around us.  Then, before I know it it’s mid-January and I’m spending my spare moments wrapped in my Snuggie, Continue reading “The Beauty and the Brrrr: 5 Niagara Falls Attractions for Your Family This Winter”

Kids CanLit for Christmas! Explore Canada With Your Little Readers Through These Sweet Books

In the words of everybody’s favourite medical professional, Dr. Seuss

“You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child.”

My mother was an elementary school teacher with a great love for children’s books.  I so fondly recall crawling up on to her lap in the giant, wooden rocking chair while we uncovered the latest adventures of Curious George and Amelia Bedelia.

Lucky for us Canada also has a long list of entertaining and engaging children’s literature to broaden the imagination of our nation’s youngest readers. There is no feeling quite like Continue reading “Kids CanLit for Christmas! Explore Canada With Your Little Readers Through These Sweet Books”

OH CANADA! 7 Reasons For You To Explore The Great White North

Canada is truly free.  That’s not just a word that we throw around, it really is the true north, strong and free!  Canada was actually named the “Most Free Country on Earth” in 2015.  One of the reasons was because 94% of Canadians believe they have the freedom to choose the course of their own lives.  The current Canadian Cabinet members are equally divided between men and women, along with many different cultures because we see the value of each group of citizens being represented. Our previous Governor General, Michaëlle Jean was not only a woman, she was a Haitian refugee. Our Minister of Defense is Sikh.  Many Members of Parliament are immigrants from countries such as Trinidad and Tobago, India, the United States, England and Switzerland. Immigrants are encouraged to share the traditions and stories from their homeland.  This leads to great understanding and compassion along with yummy food and festivals.  There are so many other reasons to list as well including the fact that Continue reading “OH CANADA! 7 Reasons For You To Explore The Great White North”

PUMPKINFEST! Fun on the Farm for the Entire Family!

Buckhorn & Lakefield, Ontario:

PUMPKINFEST!  Two Words:  Pumpkin.  Cannon.

About 40 minutes North-ish of Peterborough, Ontario lies the itsy bitsy village of Buckhorn.  We’ve been to the area several times to eat delectable Chinese food at the Cody Inn, inhale a Kawartha Hoagie at Mainsreet Landing or to Pizza Alloro for the most interesting and mouthwatering pizza I’ve ever had. Continue reading “PUMPKINFEST! Fun on the Farm for the Entire Family!”