On a recent trip to the East Coast, I found myself at loose ends while Dave attended a conference, so I hopped in the car and headed out on my own to explore PEI and then the Cabot Trail. Some people I met thought I was very ‘brave,’ I didn’t think so, and others said how much they wish they could do the same. Let me assure you that with a little planning and the right attitude; anyone can have a great time, travelling the road, solo.
Walk the beach, hike a trail, climb a lighthouse or stop at a lookout and take a picture. When you’re solo, you can appreciate the beauty of your surroundings and stay as long as it takes to feel relaxed and at peace with yourself.
When my cooking class was cancelled, I was at a loss as to what to do for dinner until I remembered chatting with another passenger on the ferry. She told me that Chef Michael Smith was offering up a ‘Feast’ at the Inn at Bay Fortune. Without hesitation, I called to see if they had room for one more and fortunately they did.
Instead of sitting by myself at a table, I was welcomed and then invited to join in ‘Oyster Hour’. From six until seven, guests wandered among five stations located throughout the property. We got to nibble on not only oysters but also savoury delights like black garlic and citrus lamb sausage. We were encouraged to explore the farm, the gardens, and the kitchens while getting to know our fellow diners, the culinary team and the story behind the Fireworks concept.
When the call came for dinner, we were all seated at two long harvest tables in front of the open kitchen. I had a couple from Calgary on my right, another couple from Vaughan on my left and next to them two friends from Maine. What followed was a sumptuous six course meal, narrated by the chefs and their serving team.
Three hours later I headed back to Montague replete with the full moon guiding my way. I can’t think of a better way to have celebrated the summer solstice – solo but not alone.
I booked a tour with Captain Mark’s out of Pleasant Bay to go whale watching. As we scrambled to get into our ‘ugly suits’ before boarding our zodiac, there was already a high degree of camaraderie amongst the passengers as we helped each other deal with the zippers and straps. As a team, we scanned the horizon spotting the elusive Minke whales at 1 o’clock then 6 o’clock but far away. We started off slow, but our efforts paid off, eventually discovering a pod of six including a junior. We also spotted a pair of bald eagles and some grey seals. Not bad for a group who hadn’t known each before that day but came together to create a memorable experience.
Closer to home, this past weekend, instead of doing the laundry or pulling weeds, I walked our neighbourhood as part of my city’s annual garden tour. I arrived home, almost five hours later, tired but also enervated, brimming with ideas and happy to have made a few new friends along the way. I’ll be attending a few Brampton Horticultural Society meetings this winter when the snow is falling, and my garden is asleep as I’m certain this will be a perfect way to keep the winter at bay while spending time with kindred spirits.
When you’re seated at a table, you can feel isolated but sit at the bar and you’re sure to meet an interesting person or two. At the Claddagh Oyster House in Charlottetown, I met another lady who every year travels to Moncton to spend Father’s Day with her family and then drives to PEI to eat here. Not only did she solidify my choice of restaurant, but we also turned out to have a lot in common and spent the evening swapping stories before heading out our separate ways, in search of new adventures.
On a Friday night, locals and tourists alike gather at the Red Shoe Pub for a ceilidh, and I had no intention of missing the party. When I arrived at 7:30, the restaurant was packed but there was a seat at the bar, and I headed straight for it. I soon found myself sitting beside the fiddle player Kenneth MacKenzie’s father while one of the Rankin sisters’ sons pulled me a Kitchen Party pint.
When you stay at a B&B, your hosts not only make you feel at home but also part of the community. Willingly and with great enthusiasm, most love to share the local news and suggest things you can do that aren’t typically written up in any tourist guide. I also find the communal breakfast a very comfortable way to meet new people and learn about other places to discover. Here are three I can recommend from my trip.
Dewars in Montague, PEI is Brenda and Ed’s second B&B and they’ve honed their skills to perfection. Having spent many years working overseas, they know how to make their guests feel at home. Brenda’s breakfasts are not only beautiful, they’re also tasty and filling! I stayed in the Garden Room which gave me access to the deck and the grounds that my hosts are painstakingly restoring to their former glory. The ideal spot to enjoy a morning cup of java or a bit of solitude at the end of a busy day.
Four Mile Beach Inn, Cape Breton Established in 1898, I’d characterize this B&B as quaint and a little bit quirky. It’s the ideal jumping off point to explore the pristine wilderness and rugged coastline. White’s Point is less than 20 minutes down the road, and the trail is suitable for hikers of any level. Janet had me in stitches with a tale of Gordie Sampson – favoured local son and Grammy award-winning songwriter. It was his tune, Jesus Take the Wheel, that catapulted Carrie Underwood to fame.
The story goes that he called his 97 year-old mother to tell her that he was having lunch in Keith Urban’s kitchen. He wanted to know if she could guess who was making him a sandwich? When she said no, Gordie quickly informed her that it was none other than Nicole Kidman. Nonplussed, Mom wanted to know if he was planning to bring her home? A great story on its own, but imagine my delight when attending the TMAC Awards later that week, I was treated to a live performance by the same Gordie Sampson. What a shame I didn’t get a chance to ask him, what kind of a sandwich?
Laurel’s B&B – Stay in this converted farmhouse with two bright and cheery bedrooms. If you overindulge at the Red Shoe Pub, the one local cab driver will have you home in minutes for under $10. Breakfast was delicious and delightful when Laurel joined us to tell us her story and share some local lore. Ask her to tell you how a vegetarian soprano ended up with a cattle farmer and moving to Mabou and if you’re lucky, you’ll get to meet ‘Mary Margaret’ before she begins her daily chores.
Ask questions and then really listen. You’ll be surprised at how many people will strike up a conversation and what you may learn. And lastly,
So what’s stopping you? Get out there and discover the joy of travelling on your own!
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