Captivated by the allure of Prince Edward Island

Captivated by the allure of Prince Edward Island

One visit proved to be the bait for a move across the country

Have you ever read ‘Anne of Green Gables’ by Lucy Maud Montgomery? We did – and the magic of that Isle brought us under its spell.

The Lake of Shining Waters, Balsam Hollow and equally imagination-catching names drew us with undeniable force.

My husband, who also is a romantic at heart, was equally enthralled by the stories of the inhabitants of that island.

The year was 1980 when we decided to visit this enchanted place. We booked a flight, hired someone to look after the children and flew the distance across this vast country.

We arrived in Charlottetown and having rented a car made our way out of the airport and into the streets of that city.

Our eyes could scarcely take in the lovely sights that surrounded us, 200+ year-old houses flanked by tall trees burning with autumn colors, such as we could not remember having ever seen, stood side by side.

If such a house could talk, what incredible stories it would tell. Stories of intrigue and romance and simple stories of the vicar having visited there and having been treated to the best a pantry could hold.

We were unable to find a place to stay for the night, so were told to drive towards Summerside. We drove in circles looking and not finding a vacancy sign at the numerous motels/hotels. We realized we had passed a lovely three-story house several times. There was a ‘Room For Rent’ sign on the lawn. Having decided to perhaps stay in a private home for the night and tomorrow look for a motel, we decided to knock on the door. A friendly man in his 70s came to the door and informed us that “yes, we rent out rooms by the night, why don’t you come in and take a look.”

We had never stayed in a B&B before and were somewhat reluctant, but followed him into a clean, well-kept 160-year-old home. The room had a beautiful quilt on a queen-sized bed and was furnished with pieces dating back 100 years or more. The bathroom, a modern, later addition, was in the hall. We just knew we had come to the right place.

The next morning we were greeted by the man’s wife and his 86-year-old sister and were told that the three of them ran this Bed and Breakfast and intended to do so for as long as they remained healthy.

The Cairns, such was their name, directed us every day for the next three weeks as to where we could go and what we would see.

So began our love affair with this enchanted island.

Everywhere we drove we caught glimpses of the sea, sometimes through the lace of trees decked in brilliant autumn colours.

Gently blowing breezes caused golden fields of ready-to-harvest grain to seemingly flow over rolling hillsides and down toward the azure sea. White farm houses, often with red roofs, dotted the landscape. There were long lanes where the packed dirt took on the color of ripe tomatoes. We were enthralled with the beauty surrounding us.

We visited Green Gables and found it looking just like our imagination had told us, when reading Montgomery’s books. We expected Anne (with an e) to appear on many occasions and tell us that we were “kindred spirits.”

There were villages with names like Breadelbane and Lady Fayne, Kensington and Tignish, and always the tomato coloured earth.

The southern coastline consisted of tall red cliffs that plunged into the sea. The surf splashed up the cliffs washing some of the red sand into the sea, causing the water to take on its colour for 50 or 60 feet before turning into a vibrant blue.

Then we came to the vast expanse of the turbulent Atlantic on the north coast. We now understood why the original name of this island had been Abegweit, meaning “cradled by the sea.”

White dunes, the consistency of fine, white sugar, stretched as far as the eye could see on the north shore. It was here that the wind blew with almost hurricane force, causing us to flee into the warmth of the car. The view was breath-taking.

Walking through the Haunted Woods, so aptly described in Montgomery’s books, we could easily imagine the raven-haired Dianne walking hand-in-hand with Anne and promising her that her fiery red hair will soon turn auburn.

Wherever we met with people, we were warmly welcomed.

After two weeks of allowing the beauty of this place to permeate our very being, we just knew, we wanted to live here for the rest of our lives.

We could see our children growing up and ourselves growing old in this fairyland. We purchased five acres of land near the house where Montgomery had written those fascinating books. We would return to Vancouver Island, sell our house, pack up the dog and cat and the three of our children who were still living at home, and move clear to the opposite coast of Canada.

After three weeks of dreaming about the future, we returned home with compelling stories of why we needed to move there. Our kids heard us and became excited at the thought of moving to this incredible island.

We put our water-front home on the market. We listed it through a friend who was an agent. My husband insisted on asking an exorbitant price for our home, even after our friend told him to “dream on” because no one would pay such a price at this time. He insisted by saying this is how much we want and if we could not sell it for such an amount, we just would not move.

Two months later our house sold for the asked-for price. We were overjoyed. Our dream was about to become reality.

We hired a moving company. They assured us our possessions would arrive on P.E.I. within two months.

The day of our departure was at hand and the five of us, together with the dog and cat, proceeded to the Vancouver airport, boarding our plane. Our great adventure was about to begin.

But that is another story.

Christa Stegemann is a Saltair resident.