Prince Edward Island isn’t as green in winter as it is in summer. In fact, it is rather snowy and a bit bleak. But that doesn’t mean there is nothing to do at this time of year. When I was on PEI for work recently, I decided to take a day off and meet some of the locals. I ran across Experience PEI, and asked the owners if they could organize a day for me to meet some of the locals.
Bill and Mary of Experience PEI most certainly lived up to their website’s claim of offering introduce guests to the neighbours. I started the day by carving a candle, made from coloured was and PEI sand at the Victoria Playhouse. The carving was fun, but hearing all of Ben Smith’s stories was even better. After a delightful lunch at the Maplethorpe B&B in Bedeque (best and freshest bacon in town!), we went ice fishing, or more accurately spearing. One spears small smelt with a small three-pronged spear. Apparently this is only done on PEI. It’s a lot of fun, and requires more skills than just sitting there waiting for a fish to bite a hook. Again, our guide and owner of the fish shack had many tales to tell. We finished the day with a delicious mussel and lobster dinner at the Briarcliffe Inn.
I learnt more about the island in one day than I could otherwise have in weeks. These trips are highly recommended.
I generally don’t like hotels, as they are too predictable. Most rooms have exactly the same features: they all have a bed, a tv, a bathroom, and a window. They are even laid out nearly identically. A hotel may have a pool or a spa, but there’s little to put them apart, and you’d never know if you were in Kuala Lumpur or Halifax.
Bring in the Great George Inn in Charlottetown, PEI. The Inn consists actually of 15 buildings on one block of Great George street. The inn has regular rooms, but also small apartments, right up to the Perkins suite, an opulent two-floor residence. What makes this Inn different? The little things:
- No two rooms are the same. For example, one room has an old fashioned bathtub on legs right in the middle of the room. Each room is beautifully finished and decorated.
- A free breakfast served in easy chairs in the lobby.
- Truly friendly and caring staff. They send all their frontline staff to a tourism training program. It shows.
- Staff even scraped my car’s windows in the morning!
- They don’t only offer daily rooms, but also long-term rentals. A great way to bring in additional customers in the low season.
Even though the Inn has quite a few rooms, it retains a small Inn character. Boutique hotels in other cities can’t go wrong by emulating their example.
Vodka was traditionally often made from potatoes, but nowadays, most vodka is made from grains. In Canada, all vodka is made from grains. PEI is already famous for its potatoes, so it seemed obvious to two women on the island to create a high-end potato vodka, distilled from island potatoes. The result: Prince Edward vodka. They are currently building the still, but hope to be in production later this year.
The vodka will make a perfect PEI-gift, probably better appreciated than a bag of PEI potatoes. it’s a good example of a product that complements a tourism product.
The onslaught of PEI communication just doesn’t stop. And that is a good thing, if you want to keep PEI on the top of my mind. Just now I received another email, with a chance to win a trip to PEI if I submit a great vacation story (doesn’t even have to be to PEI!). The contest is done in Flash, and actually quite tasteful. It’s actually a sweepstakes: the entries are not judged, they choose a random entry.
The PEI guide arrived today (10 days). The guide itself is as the one from New Brunswick, it has all info, but also a lot of ads. However, the guide did come with a map (yeah!) and also a personalized coverletter with a summary of what one can expect in PEI. They also promised another planner under separate cover. Like their immediate email, a nice touch. So far, in the past 10 days, I have received a total of three communications (a confirmation email, an e-newsletter, and the guide). A good way to keep my attention focus on the Gentle Island!
CondÃ© Nast traveler has once again listed Vancouver Island among its top ten islands in the world. Meanwhile, Smartertraveler has listed Points East Coastal Drive on Prince Edward Island as one of its five favorite hidden affordable beach destinations.
While Canada may not be top of mind for beaches or islands for most, the international press thinks they’re up there with the best of tropical islands and beaches.
Yesterday the first two guides arrived: New Brunswick and Newfoundland. I was happily surprised about the speed: one week.
Good: Newfoundland came with an excellent map. Bad: New Brunswick didn’t. So I will have a harder time figuring out where to go in new Brunswick I wasn’t able to select a map for New Brunswick, so no surprise there was no map.
Excellent: the format of the Newfoundland guide. Small, booklet style, thick. It looks like a travel guide more than a traditional vacation guide. Some ads, but tastefully hidden among the editorial and listings. The format surprised me the minute I picked it up. Better yet: the contents: some ideas what to do in 5 days – itineraries, experiences. And very nicely laid out.
Not as good: the New Brunswick guide has all the info, but laid out as a traditional vacation guide with lots of ads. Harder to separate the editorial from the ads.
Good: Today PEI sent me an e-newsletter. Nice touch, useful content. Let’s hope the vacation guide follows soon.
Quebec is not the only province getting big on cycling. PEI has its own cross-province cycling trail: Confederation trail. It runs 350km, from tip to tip of the island. The trail is PEI’s part of the Trans Canada trail. Another great cycling destination.