Canada- America’s Really Cool Attic! Photos and text by Jessica Elsemore
Have you ever ventured to that rickety, dusty, cobweb-ridden third floor on a mission to locate that missing appliance, only to find yourself rummaging through boxes of old photographs, heirloom art, and childhood cock-eyes?
On a recent family trip (grandparents and all) to the Maritimes of Canada, we rediscovered what an adventure awaited us upstairs.
We started our caravan north armed and loaded with diapers, baby food, gifts of Californian wine and local Stonewall Kitchen (www.stonewallkitchen.com) pantry items. And we cannot forget the one saving grace for our first five hour leg of the trip: ELMO!
I was never a huge fan of seeing children glued to the back of the headrests of their parent’s sedans watching the latest Disney blockbuster on the summer vacation destination. (Long gone the days of cramming the kids into the Wagon Queen Family Truckster singing their way to Wally World) But until my dear sister suggested I bring this god-sent little black box and attach it to my headrest, I had no idea how listening to pre-school aged songs would bring muscial silence to my ears and peace to our long ride.
We had a one-night layover in Fredericton NB that resulted is one of the most delicate and decadent crepes to ever touch my tongue. The dripping butter, the cocoa and hazelnut rich Nutella, (www.nutellausa.com) and the sweet and tart strawberries left me wanting just one more bite. For those who have never had the sweet pleasure of experiencing a crepe, they are very thin pancakes usually made of wheat flour. Because of the French influence in Quebec and New Brunswick, you can find many restaurants and stands serving crepes throughout the provinces.
They can be filled with almost anything such as sugar and butter or as rich as lobster and Hollandaise sauce. And thanks to a little franchise called Cora’s, (www.chezcora.com) we had to opportunity to taste several varieties before we reloaded and drove four and half more hours to our next destination; The 3rd generation Harris Family Farm on Prince Edward Island. Prior to 1997, we would have had to load onto a ferry to reach the next providence. But with the building of the Confederation Bridge linking Prince Edward Island to New Brunswick, we were able to continue on driving over the 8-mile stretch surrounded by the serenity of the Northumberland Straight.
We were greeted at the farm with open arms. I’ve heard people say that many Canadians are a very kind, friendly, and welcoming. In regards to the Harris Family that was an understatement. After sitting down to a dinner of grilled pork, steaming lobsters, potato salad, warm buttermilk biscuits, and farm fresh butter, we squeezed into the barn gear to milk the cows. This was no single stall with a few Bessies and a milkmaid. There were rows of cows as far as the eye could see. Each cow chomped away at the hay, as barn kitties weaved without fear between their legs. Mr. Harris gave us each a turn attaching the milking devices to the cows’ utters. Of course we could resist squirting each other.
The following morning we were not awakened by rooster as you would expect, but instead by the smell of ham frying in a pan. I don’t care if you are a vegetarian, a vegan, or even a fruitarian, (Yup that a real thing) nothing is better than a pork product sizzling in the morning…this was obviously followed by eggs, more biscuits, fried potatoes, toast, and plenty of cream for our coffee.
We left the beautiful north western side of O’Leary and reached our final destination in Charlottetown. Our family checked into Canada’s oldest Family operated Inn and a national Historic site. Shaw’s Hotel (www.shawshotel.ca) and cottages are a perfect family destination. We rented a two-bedroom cottage just steps away from the red sands of PEI. The cottages were more like small homes with all the conveniences. Each morning a plastic tub filled with fresh towels and the morning paper, arrived at our doorstep. Every afternoon our kitchen was cleaned, the soot from the fireplace was removed and replaced with crumpled newspaper and kindling just waiting for a match. There were playgrounds for little kids and bike rentals for the young and young-at-heart. Just 15 minutes away, huge suburban grocery stores offered you anything and everything you would need.
The city of Charlottetown is a proud metropolis with universities, flea markets, farmers’ markets, cultural centers, Celtic influenced and English pubs, and a restaurant where my husband claims has the best burger he has ever eaten. Sims Corner Steakhouse and Oyster Bar (www.simscorner.ca) is where we experienced two incredible moments. The best burger we ever ate was consumed, and after a 10 minute lecture on the pleasure of eating oysters, we witnessed my father eat his first, and maybe not his last, oyster in 30 years. We tried four different oysters from the corners of the island; each of them tasting different, similar to the different regions of wine country. Our waitress was kind enough to give us the chef’s business card and informed us that if we write to him, he would send us the recipe. The only difficult ingredient to get would be the all-island beef. I suppose NY beef will have to suffice.
We didn’t make it to the famous Anne of Green Gables Homestead; however we did make it to the famous AGG Chocolate Shop. I would highly recommend the dark chocolate bark with almonds.
We departed the Island the same way we came but not without stopping pick up a few cow chips to eat on the way home (www.peiflavours.ca)
Jessica Dominguez Elsemore www.jelsemorephotography.com