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First visit to PEI

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My husband and my two best friends and I are planning our first visit to PEI this June. We're renting a house for a week and we'll be driving up there from Massachusetts. I'd love some recommendations of things not to miss during our week there, as well as restaurant recs. One of us is a vegetarian, but the rest of us are omnivores. We would be interested in knowing about the most picturesque bike trails, the most secluded beaches, the best farmer's markets or produce stands, and what is worth seeing for those of us who are die-hard Anne of Green Gables fans and what we can skip. Also, bookstores on the island, as I love to pick up books on my travels. In fact, if there are any books besides LM Montgomery's books that are set on the Island, I'd love to read one ahead of time or bring it with me one vacation.

We pretty much just want to have a week of a slow pace to enjoy the beauty of PEI. Is there a fancy hotel that offers high tea that we should consider doing? Are there any art enclaves or boutiques for touring and buying? When we travel we prefer to see things off the beaten path, but since it's our first visit, we wouldn't mind doing some touristy things, too.

I'm not sure what part of the island our house is in, but if it's important for feedback, let me know and I'll find out. Thank you!

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    With the demise of Seasons in Thyme, the best restaurant on the island is the Inn at Bay Fortune. We have also liked Café St. Jean in Rusticoville. As you are from Massachusetts, fresh lobster may not be a special treat, but you'll find it everywhere. Stay away from the large places catering to bus tours. There are parish hall lobster suppers all over the island. Check with local people for recommendations.For the kind of afternoon tea you are looking for, I recommend Dalvay by the Sea in Grand Tracadie.

    An invaluable guide to restaurants is Anne Hardy's "Where to Eat in Canada". It's published every year, and we're never without it on our travels.

    For art and handicrafts, try The Dunes at Brackley Beach, which is also a restaurant. There are quite a few shops in the giant tourism welcome centre just as you leave the Confederation Bridge. You might find some worthwhile things there.

    I'm sure that we'll hear from enraged Islanders, but outside of Lucy Maud, I'm not aware of any notable PEI literature, unlike the wonderful output of its neighbouring Atlantic provinces. You might try Johnny Belinda, the play and film written by renowned American playwright Elmer Harris, and set in Souris. There is also a musical based on the play. The Inn at Bay Fortune was formerly Harris' summer home, and later that of the noted actress Colleen Dewhurst.

    For theatre, the Confederation Centre in Charlottetown will have a number of productions throughout the summer. They're usually worth seeing.

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    We were there last year and loved it. One interesting visit was the College of Piping in Summerside. People come from all over the world to study piping,drumming and Celtic dance (people from Scotland send kids to the Maritimes because Scottish culture there is more pure than in Scotland). There are several free min-performances in the afternoon and a big show (ceilidh),for a small admission, in the evening. www.collegeofpiping.com Summerside also has a touristy harborfornt and the big Jubilee Theatre which has stage shows. In Charlottetown one of the best kept secrets is the Culinary Institute of Canada, part of Holland College. It is a few blocks from the waterfront and has very reasonably priced gourmet lunches and dinners prepared and served by culinary students www.hollandcollege.com.

    When you exit the Confederation bridge there is a big tourist center. Be sure and pick up a sack of brochurs and maps and ask questions of the tourguides. If you like ice cream, Cows has stores all over the island. It is great ice cream and they make the waffle cones just before putting the ice cream in them.

    There are tons of museums around the Island and most have book stores with local history publications. PEI is one of the few places in the world with NO railroads, CN pulled up the tracks a few years ago. Many of the railroad stations have been turned into museums,libraries and tourist stores. The railbed has been converted to biking paths. If you like to bike,you can peddle all over the island as that is one of the main activities. And you WILL O.D. on Ann, who is to PEI as Mickey Mouse is to Disney World. And pick up an envelope to save your receipts. Canada has a 15% unified sales tax. Much of it will be refunded to tourists if you follow certain rules and submit your receipts for a refund.

    PS:

    We are looking into renting a house on PEI this summer. Do you have any advice for us seeing as you have recently made a search?

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    Hello and thank you for all of the good suggestions so far. Is there a website I can check ahead of time for schedules for the summer theatre? And as we'll be visiting in early June (which I assume is just before the in-season), will they have even started the performances yet?

    Are dinner reservations necessary for most restaurants? What attire is appropriate for the evening? I usually vacay in the Caribbean where long pants and collared shirts for men are necessary. Is it about the same on PEI?

    Also, for the local church lobster dinners, are vegetarian offerings available? My friend doesn't eat any kind of seafood.

    As for house rental recommendations, I'm sorry that I cannot help you. A friend of mine gave my husband and me the very generous wedding gift of one week at her family's summer home on the island.

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    The Charlottetown Festival at the Confederaton Centre starts in early June. You can check the program on the website at http://www.confederationcentre.com/main.asp

    The other major theatre festival, in Victoria, usually doesn't start until late June, so you may be a bit early.

    For dinner, I would certainly reserve at the Inn at Bay Fortune, and smart casual dress would be appropriate there. Other places are probably more casual, and you may not need reservations, especially in early June.

    I think you maybe out of luck for vegetarian meals at the various lobster suppers, although the Fisherman's Wharf in North Rustico has a 60 foot salad bar. Unfortunately, it's the sort of bus tour place that I would personally avoid. You can always check at other places in advance. You can also get some idea by searching for PEI lobster suppers on the internet.

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    I second not going to the salad bar in North Rustico. Too crowded, and plus the food isn't really worth $20 CAD anyway.

    I would suggest to avoid the Confederation Bridge, and take the ferry from Caribou, Nova Scotia. Nicer views worth the ten extra dollars.

    The entire eastern side of PEI is very quaint and nice white sandy beaches.

    I'm not a fan of Cavendish at all. Too crowded and very overrated. Green Gables, unfortunatley is in Cavendish. You should go to Green Gables if your in PEI.

    I also hear the Isles de Madelline (I'm not sure if thats the name) are beautiful. A ferry ride to the Northeastern point of PEI. Very Quaint, European Feel. These Islands are part of Quebec and totally French Speaking.

    Good luc.

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