“Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive – it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? There’d be no scope for imagination then, would there?” ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
If you’ve been following our story over the last few years, you will know that one of my bucket list items was to travel to “30 countries by 30“. Our goal has pushed us to experience the most amazing things all over the world: we’ve hot air ballooned in Turkey, explored the pyramids in Egypt, enjoyed an anniversary upgrade in Malta, devoured the delicious food in Japan, and glimpsed the Northern Lights in Norway.
You get it, I travel a lot. But, have you ever wondered which holiday was my favourite? The answer might surprise you…
Let me take you back a few years to my first trip to the US and Canada.
People make the place
In 2010, the Americas did not register on my radar as a place to visit. Honestly, I had no real desire to go there. Why would I go to North America when so many other destinations in the world could offer me ancient history, unique culture and a diverse people?
But, it was during my two weeks in the US and Canada in May 2011 that I first learned that no matter where you travel in the world, you will always have a unique and wonderful experience if you travel with the right people.
“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.” ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
I went with some of the most inspirational and awesome kindred spirits I know – my mum, my nana, and my aunt.
But the best bit was: I got to travel with them to my favourite childhood storybook location, a place I could have sworn I imagined and never thought I would be lucky enough to visit – Prince Edward Island!
But first, New York, New York!
Our two week adventure started with a celebratory glass of champagne on our Qantas flight from Australia to the United States. We were celebrating because our first destination was New York, where we were lucky enough to spend our first five nights in a self-contained apartment in Manhattan! Together, we spent the days exploring the teeming metropolis around us.
“It’s been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.” ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
I knew I would love New York. Awesome, big, mind-blowing, trendy, diverse and “must-do” are the words that come to mind when I think of New York.
We had fun learning a little about the neighbourhoods and the sites on a City Sights bus tour;
treated ourselves to some nice meals and cocktails at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station, Basso 56 and the historic Algonquin Hotel; sampled some delicious food on a food tour through the Lower East Side, China Town and Little Italy;
marvelled at the bright lights in Times Square;
went on a tour of New York City’s famous graffiti (I don’t know if mum liked that one);
checked out the stores in Soho and did a little shopping on 5th Ave;
and saw the Statue of Liberty from a ferry;
The Anne of Green Gables pilgrimage to PEI
“It’s delightful when your imaginations come true, isn’t it?” ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
After an exciting few days in New York, we flew via Toronto to the tiny airstrip that was the Charlottetown airport on Prince Edward Island (PEI), off New Brunswick and Nova Scotia on the east coast of Canada.
From taxi driver that drove us to our bed and breakfast, we learned that the relaxed, beachside town of Charlottetown was the birthplace of modern Canada, and that we were extremely lucky to be arriving when we did as lobster season had just opened. “Ten lobsters for $20, down on the docks!” we were told.
We stayed at the Elmwood Heritage Inn in Charlottetown, a short walk from the main street and historic town centre. It was a cute wooden house with plenty of room, and our hosts were a delightful couple who attended our every need and made the most scrumptious breakfast!
The very next day, we picked up our hire car (a black Dodge) and drove across the island to visit Green Gables.
The house was exactly like I had pictured it as a small girl. And, the inside was laid out just like it would have been in the early 1900s.
We took our time to wander through Green Gables and then strolled through the beautiful green farmland and woodland, recounting the adventures of 11-year-old orphan girl Anne Shirley, who was mistakenly sent to live with the Cuthberts on this (fictional) farm in Prince Edward Island in the 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.
“Look at that sea, girls–all silver and shadow and vision of things not seen. We couldn’t enjoy its loveliness any more if we had millions of dollars and ropes of diamonds.” ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
I’m not sure about loveliness, but there was certainly something unique about the shadowy waves as they battered the red-sand beach coastline, under the silver sky.
PEI is known for its usually beautiful beaches and eleven lighthouses that scatter the coastline. One of the lighthouses was the first to hear the May Day calls on that fateful night the Titanic hit the iceberg.
It’s also renowned for its seafood, notably lobster and mussels, which were readily available at restaurants across the town. On a recommendation from our B&B host, we enjoyed a feast of delicious seafood at the delightful Water Prince Corner Shop. The front of the corner store features a large tank full of live lobsters, layered like bricks and ready to be cooked. They are cooked in less than 24 hours and are complimented by a starter of fresh mussels – one of the largest bowls of mussels I’ve seen. The Water Prince Corner Shop has been credited for having the best fresh lobster in PEI, but you’d have to ask the others about that! I was too busy enjoying the yummy salmon in the unique casual continence store setting.
Family ties in Chicago, Illinois
The year before our trip, Nana was contacted by a long-lost cousin located in Chicago. The US-based cousins had traced back their family tree and discovered that a whole branch of the family (us) was still located on the other side of the world in Australia.
So, we visited our long-lost cousins in their home town of Chicago. Jen and her family treated us so well – with cake and generosity – and showed us around the city of Chicago.
We visited the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) located in Chicago’s Grant Park and saw Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks and Grant Wood’s American Gothic.
And, like all other tourists, we laughed at our reflections in the The Bean – one of many unique works of art scatted throughout the city.
I’m not sure what I was expecting, but Chicago seemed to be a peaceful city; from the sky scrapers in the business district to the tree-lined streets in the suburbs, there was a very “at home” feeling in Chicago. I liked it.
I was also surprised at the vast size (58,000 km2) and large waves that rolled in off Lake Michigan. It stretched out from under the city skyscrapers, eventually connected with three other US states (Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin) beyond the horizon.
But it couldn’t be a Jacqui holiday without at least one travel fail! This time it was a missed flight as we were departing Chicago. Luckily it was fixed in a few hours and we were on our way back to Australia the very next day.
To this day, my holiday to the US and Prince Edward Island with my mum, my nana and my aunt is still one of my favourite experiences. x
“Life is worth living as long as there’s a laugh in it.” ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
Looking for more travel inspiration?
Check out my recommendation on what to do in:
Amsterdam, Bali, Berlin, Brisbane, Bristol, Budapest, Cambridge, Canberra, Cappadocia, Chamonix, Copenhagen, Dubrovnik, Istanbul, Kotor, Kyoto, London, Lyon, Madrid, New York City, Paris, Riga, Scotland, Tokyo and Washington D.C.