By: Karen Schaler
One of the Travel Therapy questions I get asked all the time is about what people can do when they’re bored with their life, burned out and craving a change. My prescription that always works for me is taking an authentic learning vacation where you really go for it and do something you’ve never dreamed of doing and that’s exactly what I did recently when I visited picturesque Prince Edward Island, Canada’s smallest province.
Known for its dozens of golf courses, beautiful beaches and for inspiring the setting for the famous Anne of Green Gables novel, Prince Edward Island is a true Canadian gem that’s now offering some new very unique experiences you can do for a learning vacation when you want to enjoy the island like a local.
Since Prince Edward Island is famous worldwide for its delicious fresh seafood I tried some of the new authentic experiences where you actually get to see how some of this prized food is caught and learn the tricks of the trade from local fisherman.
I started out going on Tony MacDonald’s lobster boat during an actual lobster run where you not only learn how to catch the famed Atlantic lobster but you get to take part in everything from getting the lobsters out of the traps, to banding their claws and weighing and selling them. Don’t worry if you don’t visit PEI during lobster season Tony also has a great tuna fishing experience.
Besides loving lobster I also admit I’m a huge fan of Prince Edward Island’s oysters so I jumped at the unique chance to try PEI’s Tong and Shuck experience and went out with oyster fisherman Erskine Lewis of Future Seafoods, to bring in some beauties. Erskine told me when he was first approached about offering this experience he laughed, doubting people would care what he does on the job, a job he has been doing for two decades.
But Erskine says he quickly learned how wrong he was and that people are not only interested, they’re fascinated with the small simple oyster boat he takes out alone almost every day and the age-old technique he uses to get the oysters, calling tonging, where you use a rack to try and scoop up oysters. Be sure to check out the video to see how it’s done and let me tell you it’s a lot harder than it looks! I now have an entirely new appreciation for oysters and I’m spoiled because part of this experience includes eating fresh oysters right out of the water. Pure Heaven!
To learn how to cook like a local I headed over to Annie’s Table, a culinary studio, housed in a beautifully renovated old church where the focus is on using local ingredients from island seafood to the locally grown potatoes that the PEI produces by the truckloads.
Annie Leroux says she has always loved food and with the help of Chef Norman Zeledon she wanted a way to offer a hands on experience to people visiting the island and classes that locals could do year-round. I got to learn how to make several very tasty dishes including how to prepare the oysters and lobsters I had just learned how to catch and also made Potato Latkes for the first time and tried delicious potato chocolate cake (see recipe below). My new goal is to stay on Prince Edward Island long enough to do all twenty-two of Annie’s classes!
While on Prince Edward Island I also got to mark learning how to make pottery off my bucket list thanks to Suzanne Scott at Village Pottery, a popular island favorite that has been producing beautiful pieces of pottery for the last forty years. Art lovers also won’t want to miss the stunning Dunes Studio Gallery and Café that’s beautiful inside and out.
Thirsty? The PEI Brewing Company has just opened an impressive new brewery on the island. I met with the owners, Kevin Murphy and Jeff Squires and found out they’re now offering cool brewery tours teaching you all about the beer making process. You’ll also learn about some local favorites including a wild new PEI beer they’re doing that has lobster in it! Talk about keeping it local and to relax like a local, at the end of the day, I headed over to the Trailside Café where they have great food and drinks and live music.
In addition to PEI’s sensational fresh seafood I also found a thriving culinary scene on the island. Locals say in the last five years talented chefs are staying on the island now, bringing cuisine on the island to an entirely new level. Some of my favorite restaurants featuring local ingredients include the charming Pearl Café, the hip and fun Lot 30, the tasty Terra Rouge and for dessert locally produced COWS Ice-cream that’s made from a family recipe and is rated as one of Canada’s best ice-creams. They also have a factory tour is you want to learn more.
Speaking of Canada’s best, Prince Edward Island has some beautiful beaches you’ll want to explore. For a great place to stay that’s pretty much central to everything I picked historic Charlottetown, the island’s capital that’s known as where Canada was born. I very much enjoyed staying at The Great George boutique hotel that’s a unique collection of 17 historic buildings and 54 beautifully designed suites. I stayed in the Manor House in the modern upstairs suite that had its own patio and pretty garden right out front.
Another surprise I found on PEI is the red fox that has quite a famous history on the island. Back in the day one or two fox pelts could apparently buy a house! That of course isn’t going on anymore but the fox has remained so don’t be surprised if one crosses your path.
For more on Prince Edward Island: http://www.tourismpei.com
For more on Authentic Island Experiences: http://www.tourismpei.com/pei-experiences
For more Travel Therapy Trip ideas: http://www.traveltherapytrips.com
ISLAND VACATION SPECIAL PACKAGES
One of the best ways to experience Prince Edward Island is with one of their new package deals. If you find a package that appeals to you it can save you a lot of money and time planning your trip.
For more: http://www.tourismpei.com/pei-package-offers
For a free vacation guide: http://www.tourismpei.com/guide/index.php3
GETTING TO PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
So how do you get to PEI? You can fly into Charlottetown on Air Canada that has connecting flights throughout the U.S. West Jet offers direct service from Toronto and in the summer, Delta Airlines is also offering direct flights from New York’s JFK.
TRAVEL THERAPY FAVORITE PICKS
WHERE TO STAY ON PEI
The Great George
PEI POTATO CHOCOLATE CAKE RECIPE
Courtesy PEI Potato Board
If you think this photo of the PEI Potato Chocolate Cake looks good you’re right. So here’s the recipe so you can re-create this island desert no matter where you are.
Link to Recipe: CLICK HERE