Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Prince Edward Island

I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to P.E.I., also known as the 'Gentle Island'. The weather was wonderful, the residents were pleasant and welcoming, and we again met some talented craftspeople. Although the hour was late when we arrived in Charlottetown, we received a warm greeting by several members of the staff at our hotel, The Islander. We were quickly given key cards to our rooms and our luggage was delivered promptly.

A welcome surprise was the plate of freshly baked, chocolate chip cookies in the lounge. I later learned the cookies were baked by Josh, a young man who also did double duty at the reception desk. Whenever Josh saw the cookie supply was getting low, he would go to the kitchen and bake another double batch. He also generously gave us copies of the recipe.

The next morning we had a short walking tour from the hotel to Province House. We were accompanied by our costumed guide, Rebecca, who in her other life is a student at the University of P.E.I. Even though I'd been to Province House many years ago, I enjoyed our visit and hearing about the rich history of the building, which still is the venue when the provincial legislature meets.

Our touring day was warm and sunny. No one wanted to go swimming at Cavendish Beach but most took off their shoes and at least got their feet wet in the (cold) Atlantic Ocean, and walked on the fine sandy beach. We visited nearby Green Gables, the home of the fictional Anne Shirley and the setting of the famous stories by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

An unscheduled but enjoyable stop was to the P.E.I. Preserve Company, located in the beautiful village of New Glasgow. The company produces a wide variety of preserves on site, using fresh local fruit whenever possible. The beautiful setting is enhanced by twelve acres of gardens and the company has plans to build a respite cottage next year. It was too early for lunch when we visited, but there is a nice looking restaurant attached to the shop.

Another memorable stop today was our visit to Fibre-Isle Fine Yarns. Owners Sylvie Toupin and Jacques Arsenault welcomed us and gave us a guided tour of the mill and explained the numerous blends of fibres which they combine into stunning yarns. The mill equipment is manufactured by nearby Belfast Mini-Mills, and the Toupins said how well it is suited to processing different fibres, especially the bison they use in most of their yarns. Sylvie knit all the beautiful shawls and scarves which were on display in the showroom. I don't know how she had the time to create so many beautiful objects. When she was questioned, I seem to recall she said it's a passion--a feeling which struck a resonance with our group.

Again, we found much yarn which we couldn't live without and left Fibre-Isle with arms full! I came away with several skeins: one was a mix of 70% bamboo, 15% bison and 15% cashmere. Another one was a mix of 65% superwash fine merino, 25% Lyocell cellulose and 10% Canadian bison. All the yarns in the shop were in beautiful colours. Have a good look at their website and perhaps join their mailing list.

The next day we left P.E.I. but not before another memorable visit--this time to Belfast Mini-Mills. I think I can safely say that we were all impressed by the dedication and ingenuity of the family who design the mill equipment, which is exported all over the world. (Some of our group had seen proof of this when they visited the tiny Orcadian island of North Ronaldsay and saw the equipment from this company in operation. ) The mill wasn't just equipment but there was also a large shop with yarn, roving, knitting and woven goods.

Next, off to Cape Breton Island.

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