Stephanie September 08 2014, 1 Comment

This is Stephanie.
 
 
Before I begin, you should know a few things about her.
 
Steph is from Prince Edward Island.
 
Steph is one of the loveliest human beings I have ever met.

 

And finally, on the second day of my visit to Prince Edward Island, Steph attempted to starve me to death.

 

Let me explain.

 

 

After catching the ferry across from Nova Scotia, we decided to camp on the beach as it was close to where we landed, my mattress still had a hole in it, and rain marred most of our future PEI camping plans. For the next few days we would be staying with Stephanie, who had joined us for the Newfoundland portion of our trip, but had since returned home. We meandered across to Charlottetown to meet up with her and check out some of the 150 years of confederation celebrations that were taking place.

We had a lovely day exploring Charlottetown, watching buskers, and eating local delicacies (fries with the works). On the way home we decided to head to Sea Cow Head to leap from the cliffs into the sea and enjoy the last of the good weather.

It was on the way back from our swim that I began to notice how anxious Stephanie was to portray PEI in the best possible light. This confused me as I had visited PEI with Stephanie and Brendan two years ago and loved every minute of it. I didn't pay her anxiousness much attention at the time, figuring she was simply proud of her province and eager to share it.

 

The next day the weather was foul. It was grey, cold and wet outside. I thought this might mean I'd get a sleep in.

I was wrong.

If Stephanie had seemed anxious the night before, the introduction of rain to the equation had made her particularly tense. At seven thirty that morning, I had a curt knock on the door announcing that I had been in bed far too long. Bleary eyed and confused, I struggled to find my shorts. By the time I had located them and stumbled downstairs, my head still attempting to find the appropriate hole in my shirt, it had apparently reached the time of departure.

I took a longing look at the cereal box, and figuring we'd grab a bite to eat along the way, followed Stephanie to the car.

As Stephanie drove Brendan and I toward the North Cape of the island, both of us still half asleep and confused about our surroundings, she spoke animatedly about Prince Edward Island. Most of this passed over our heads as we slipped in and out of consciousness.

We got out of the car and were greeted by the fertile smell of rotting seaweed and a resounding wet and howling wind. We wandered around the cape and were greeted by the sight of hundreds of Inukshuks, I became fascinated by these statues and vaguely wandered off. 

 

It was around this time that I realised how ravenous I was. Generally, I function pretty well with relatively little food. However, a combination of lack of sleep and food causes me to become an entirely different person. I become petty, mean, and spiteful, I have horrendous emotional swings and am generally unpleasant to be around. My parents call this 'Def-Con 1'. It is something you can expect family to forgive you for, but it is generally best to avoid exposing your friends to this side of you, especially the friends that have given you a chance of a lifetime.

We had, by this time, piled back in the car. Brendan and Stephanie were talking animatedly about the thirty plus seals they had seen, which in my state, I had completely missed while taking hundreds of photos of piles of rocks. We got back on the highway and headed for the other side of the island, Stephanie returning quickly to her Prince Edward Island pitch. I tuned out, focusing all of my energy on not becoming an emotional troll in front of my friends.

"That's the By The River Bakery!" She exclaimed about ten minutes later, my ears perking up instantly. "The best bakery in the whole province." She continued as we zoomed by it.

I slumped back in my chair as the bakery reduced itself to a dot on the horizon. That was just cruel. 

Dunes Studio Gallery & Cafe was next on Steph's grand PEI tour. The Dunes Gallery originally opened as an outlet for local artists, including the owner himself, to sell their works to the public. Now the gallery stands as an architectural wonder, and still serves to showcase local artists, but now the majority of it's visitors come to see the gardens and building itself. 

I, of course, registered none of this. In fact, my simple brain had focused on a single word; cafe.

I raced through the gallery, pausing briefly through sprints at several artworks, so as not to appear rude.

Sprint. Catch my breath. Shipwreck furniture. Sprint. Catch my breath. Floral ceramic glazed pots. Sprint. Catch my breath. Pottery studio. Finally there it was, the cafe. There on it's doors a little sign hung; open at eleven. I check the clock. It's nine thirty. Heartbroken, I head back to the others, and follow them at their much more appropriate pace.

After our attempt to tour the outdoor area of the grounds is flooded, we headed back to the car.

Our next destination was Dalvay-By-The-Sea, an American oil baron's summer cottage he built in 1890s. The mansion and it's grounds now serve as a summer getaway on PEI, offering patrons a window into another world. We'd generously been offered a tour of the grounds, and had decided to stop by. Using the excuse of getting a photo of the car in front of the building, I hunted around under the seats for dropped almonds or the odd crumb.

When I returned to the others, unsuccessful in my quest, I found they had each had a slice of sticky date pudding that the staff at Dalvay had offered them as we waited. There, sitting in front of an empty seat, was another plate of the most heavenly thing I had ever seen.

Everything around me dimmed, all sound ceased. A warm welcoming glow seemed to be radiating from that plate. Without any time passing, I found myself in a seat in front of that slice of happiness. My fork had peeled a piece of the tender cake off. Dripping with caramel sauce, I lifted it to my mouth, I could almost taste the sugary particles around the cake when sound returned.

“Hello. You're here for the tour?” I made the mistake of looking round and making eye contact. A friendly man was looking at me, his hand outstretched. I felt angry tears behind my eyes, I put the fork back down on the plate, and shook his hand, perhaps a little forcefully.

He led us around the grounds, making sure to always have a piece of furniture or human shield between himself and the sour looking Australian who had begun wailing at odd intervals, apparently involuntarily. My stomach, growling angrily, echoed around the wooden corridors, confirming the staff's beliefs that the mansion was haunted.

It was now three o'clock. Steph had, somewhere along the line, realised that her PEI tour was not going as well as she hoped. I had ceased communicating on the corporeal plane, and had instead begun muttering things to myself about angelic cakes and long lost cereal boxes. I believe this is why Stephanie decided on her next location.

I am a big fan of craft beer. I just love beer. I love making it. I love talking about it. I love drinking it. I think in her mind, taking me to the Prince Edward Island Brewing company would win me over, a battle I would once again state had already been won.

 As I walked in, entirely unaware of my surroundings, still entirely absorbed in my stomach, the smell of beer hit my nostrils, and I became intoxicated. There is no other way to put it. The mere smell of the brewery had made me tipsy. What happened next was a bit of a blur. I'm told that I got a little beligerent during the tour after I sipped thimble full of their seasonal citrus IPA. I remember it being delicious, that's about all. Apparently I may have started answering people's questions about the beer brewing process for the horrified guide.

Coming back to myself, I found I was back in the car wearing a PEI brewing singlet and talking animatedly about stout. The others were silent as I rambled, not looking exactly pleased to be the audience of this lecture. I still have no idea how long I had been talking at them.

We pulled in to a barn, and I looked confused.

"This is Barnone!" Said Steph. "You're going to like this one, Jack."

She looked at me sternly. "But, behave. He's opened up today especially for us."

 

Barnone is a microbrewery that opened up earlier this year. It's owner, Don Campbell, was an avid homebrewer who had begun growing hops on his farm. After winning several competitions and continually selling out of his beers at microbrew festivals, he decided he would give professional brewing a go. So, he converted his barn into a brewery, hops growing all around it, and opened up every Thursday to sell his beers to the public.

 

Today, however, was a Tuesday, and we had arrived at the family dinner time. I could smell the delicious baked dinner waft out the door when Don came out to greet us. He talked animatedly about his farm for a while, then offered us a taste of his brews. The others looked at me, as apparently I had declared myself the official Great Canadian Journey beer taster during the PEI Brewing tour.

He handed me a beer, warned me that it was for hop experts only, and stood back watching.

I took a sip. A huge stupid grin appeared on my face. It was like biting into hops. A delicious, full bodied, slap on the back and how's your mother IPA. Don smiled proudly. This man, was not afraid of a little hop.

Not sure if I was weeping because of the heavenly beer, or because I was trying to decide which of my friends I would have to eat first, I was glad when Stephanie suggested it was time to head back home and let Don get back to his dinner.

We all piled back in the car and headed for home, the sun setting on the horizon.

"I'm a little hungry," said Steph.


For the first time in my life, I was at a loss for words.

 

An Editor's Note: The car was filled with snacks, including a loaf of banana bread baked by Stephanie, who was a fantastic guide on our journey! Some details have been exaggerated for the purpose of storytelling. If it makes you feel better, Jack really did get to eat that cake!