Tag Archives: Potatoes

A short venture into Canada

Really, I should have expected it. I guess I’d just been taking it for granted up to that point, that people travelling on the American continent were travelling in America. It didn’t occur to me that as soon as I crossed the border, everyone would be swapping stories about their Canadian trips, and repeating names and mentioning places that I hadn’t heard of (or if I had, it was more a “oh, THAT’S how you pronounce it,” reaction). And I felt really guilty. Because my only stop in Canada was a tiny place called Prince Edward Island.

P.E.I is famous for three things: Lobster, potatoes, and Anne of Green Gables. It was the last attraction that was bringing me all the way there, and it was enough of a pull that I was shelling out the 600 odd dollars for the plane there and back, when there was plenty left to see and do in the States. In case you missed the earlier post about Concord, I’ve rather a thing for visiting literary related places, and P.E.I can feel at times like one big museum dedicated to the author of Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maude Montgomery.


My lobster dinner. Check that off the bucket list.

If you’re unfamiliar with the books (and if so I pity you and the deprivation you must have suffered in your childhood), they’re about a red-haired orphan girl called Anne, who’s fiercely independent and very imaginative. She’s sent to live with an elderly couple on P.E.I, and grows up on their farm, making friends pretty much wherever she goes. They’re endearing stories, often amusing as Anne usually gets into mischief without meaning to, but they also deal with themes like loss, and fairness, and hardship, and grief.

Green Gables.

Lucy Maude grew up on the Island, and much of the book’s setting comes from the places where she lived. I got to see Lover’s Lane, and the Haunted Woods, and you can visit the Lake of Shining Waters, and obviously Green Gables itself.
It was a real house, owned by real people, but Montgomery used it as the setting for Matthew and Marilla’s farmhouse, and so that is how it is now set up. When I was looking in Anne’s room, there was a lady in there with her granddaughter. And they were pointing things out in the room, like the dress with the puffed sleeves, and the broken slate, and Anne’s old bag, and they were both so delighted in everything, and I understood all over again the power that books can have. When I first took down Anne of Green Gables from the shelf in my grandmother’s house, who would have thought it would bring me all the way to P.E.I itself?

Anne’s room at Green Gables.

My last evening on the island (after having visited the potato museum, and eaten lobster) I went and saw Anne of Green Gables – the Musical. There is more than one musical based on Anne of Green Gables. Just so you know. It was possibly one of the most cliched musicals I have ever sat through (they have a song just about eating ice-cream), but it was also terribly moving. It included almost all my favourite parts (Anne dyeing her hair green, Dianna getting drunk on currant wine, and Anne breaking the slate over Gilbert’s slate) and although there was no near drowning in the river as Anne pretended to be Ophelia, it was so well acted that I forgave them.
The worst bit, or the best, depending on how you look at it, was that right at the end (spoilers ahead if you haven’t read the books),  right before Matthew dies, he sings this song to Anne about how she should never change. That in itself was heartbreaking, but then he does die, and following that, Marilla sings a song called “The Words” about how she could never express how much she loved him (and Anne) and how she misses him. It sounded as if the actress was in tears. I certainly was. And so was most of the audience, judging from the faces in the toilets after the show. And I loved it. Because it just goes to show that a simple story about an ordinary girl, who is anything but ordinary, can affect generations of readers.
And there’s something pretty special about that.