After awakening in Charlottetown, we headed downtown to see the sights and nab some lunch. We got to a parking deck - they call them parkades in Canada - and walked around the downtown, although it was somewhat slowed by accounting for road work. We stopped in to exchange some more money at a bank since we were down to about twenty cents of hard Canadian currency.
Charlottetown is a really interesting city - it's not a big city by any means, so it's basically a big small town. Charlottetown's - and Prince Edward Island's - only real historical claim to fame is the Province House, where the Charlottetown Conference, which initially outlined the terms of what would become Canada, was held back in 1864, and where the PEI assembly still meets to this very day. Interestingly, PEI didn't join Canada until some time after, as they didn't quite like the initial terms of confederation. It was initially to discuss a Maritime union, but the province of Canada - present-day Ontario and Québec - invited themselves.
They've kept it up to its Victorian appearance, and it's as architecturally interesting as it is historically interesting. There wasn't a whole lot to see, but we picked the brains of the tour guides there.
Charlottetown is small. For the largest city in the province, any given street feels like it'd be at home in any small town. We walked down near the harbor, avoiding even more construction vehicles, and - most interestingly - walking behind a couple who were getting their marriage pictures taken, only to have a sudden gust of wind blow the marriage certificate out of the best man's hand towards us. (The certificate was retrieved without further incident.)
We walked back towards the middle of town and walked inside St. Paul Anglican Church. We were greeted by an older Newfoundlander on a scooter, with whom we chatted - not as much about the church itself, although the late 1890s structure was built with an intricate wooden ceiling that arched this way and that to resemble an upside-down ship - but about our travels and his travels.
The last vestiges of regret that we had about not going to Newfoundland or the French islands off its eastern coast were assuaged by that fellow, who said that nothing in Newfoundland looked any different than the Maritimes that we've explored for the past week, and that the only reason for going to St-Pierre et Miquelon was to "get your passports stamped" because there's pretty much nothing there.
After thanking him for his time (and ogling at the architecture of the church) we headed back out for lunch, just a few blocks up at Famous Peppers, a local pizza place. With no one there when we ate, we were able to take our time ordering and talking to the owner.
The pizzas were just delicious. We got three nine-inch pizzas: the Doctor, which had olives and tomatoes and a generous helping of feta cheese, the Cardigan, with a little heat to it from its ground beef, pepperoni, and bacon, and the Maple Chicken, which had a maple cream base instead of the usual tomato sauce. I was initially skeptical of this, but it was delicious ... well, the one slice I had was. I think my dad ate the rest of it. It was an interesting flavor - not too sweet, not too overpowering, but just enough to give it a unique flair. The lack of tomato sauce probably did as much for the flavor as the maple cream did, although according to the owner, many customers are willing to pay to get jars of the maple cream sauce.
We ate all but three slices of the Cardigan, which we packed up in a box for later with the promise that we would do what we could to open a Famous Peppers in North Carolina if they ever decide to franchise. The main problem with franchising is that they're sort of confined to Prince Edward Island as their menu is now, as they've made it so that everything that they can get fresh, they do. PEI isn't big, but it has a heck of a lot of farmland, and aside from specialty items such as the black olives, everything that goes into their pizzas is grown on the island.
Oh, and I did I mention the crust was excellent? I don't usually consider myself a crust kind of guy, but the crusts were off the charts.
With stomachs full and a pizza box half-full, we ambled back over to the parking de-excuse me, parkade and rolled on out, getting stuck at an intersection as a repaving team was inching - or is it centimetering? - their way along the cross street. They were causing all kinds of traffic problems because they didn't bother to put up a detour like, y'know, normal people, but we were nonetheless able to avoid them before they took a serious bite out of our time.
We weren't looking to get off the island quite yet; our destination was Prince Edward Island National Park, located along the north shore. We didn't have to pay to get in, as all of their facilities were closed, but that also meant that the park was almost completely deserted.
One of the first bits of the park we got to was Dalvay-by-the-Sea, a famous hotel built in the 1890s and kept up to its original appearance, including the absence of televisions. We didn't go in, but we took a look at it from the outside, which was enough to tell us why the Queen of England stays there during her visits to Prince Edward Island. Also apparently Will and Kate stayed there, but I feel like the only person in America who really doesn't care.
We walked out to the beach, which has some of the strangest beach scenery I've ever seen - it's like they took a slice from the middle of North Carolina, tore a jagged edge off of it, and plopped it down on any beach in the world. The result is downright bizarre - terrain full of rolling hills that just stops suddenly, the red clay visible underneath and spilling out onto the beach.
We went out and touched the Gulf of St. Lawrence, then retreated back to the regular land. With no hills, the beach features a cold wind, steady but not strong. Standing around was a little nippy.
There was little to do in the park aside from look at a few beaches, but they were enjoyable for the same bizarre characteristic of the land dropping off to the sea. We exited the park on the other side and worked our way down back to the Confederation Bridge via rural provincial routes that, aside from the usage of the Metric system and some confusing road sign placement, looked exactly like rural North Carolina. I know I keep mentioning it, but the resemblance is just way too uncanny.
We dumped out in Crapaud and arrived at a small community on the PEI side of the bridge, where we got out to stretch our legs, check the brakes (everything still sounds, looks, smells, and feels good), get an ornament for my mom's Collection, and try the one thing that was on my dad's PEI bucket list - eat Cow's Ice Cream, an institution in these parts. We found one with a gift shop, and got a small postcard that featured a cow dressed up like the Eleventh Doctor getting out of the TARDIS, with the logo above not as "Doctor Who," but "Doctor Moo."
Their gift shop was full of puns and parodies on bits of pop culture, featuring cow parodies of Gangnam Style, Duck Dynasty, Angry Birds, and more. The ice cream was delicious - all locally produced, just like the pizza - but I think I would have enjoyed it more if it had been a warm day. As it was, the chilly air blowing in from the Strait of Northumberland made me in more of a hurry to finish my ice cream than enjoy it.
We then steeled ourselves for the grand drive back over the Confederation Bridge, upon which there was, thankfully, no incident. We ran over a few small potholes to loosen anything stuck in the brake, and put the hammer down to Fredericton.
Other than a short precautionary brake check about eighty miles from Fredericton (everything was still good), we didn't stop, and got to our hotel before 8:00. Fredericton is a pretty old city, which means that the roads are just completely messed up - although they would be a lot easier to navigate if we were expecting half of the crazy things that popped up in our route, like a sudden massive incline in the road where all of the sudden the street went all San Francisco on us with no warning.
If this had been on the highway, we could have coasted, but there was a stoplight right in the middle of this incline. The brakes performed well - not as much as a peep from any of them - but they really should put a warning to gear down before the hill begins. It's a menace to society.
With a long day of driving and exploring behind us, we wanted nothing more than to sit down a while and eat at the hotel, so as to not have to drive anywhere anymore. I'd eaten the remaining slices of pizza - still good cold! - en route to Fredericton to stave off hunger, and I ended up eating nearly all of a burger that had what felt like an entire grocery store as a topping, which, rather predictably, ended up falling apart about halfway through. My parents split a club.
Afterwards, we explored the hotel a little bit, eventually stumbling on a baby grand piano at the end of a long hallway near the back of the building. It was a little out of tune, but I enjoyed getting my fingers back into shape. I played for about an hour and a half, playing previous recital pieces, renditions of 80s music, and improvising.
Tomorrow: We hug the Maine border up to Québec and into Québec City, completing our collection of provinces that can be accessed without ferry or unpaved road.