Friday 31 August 2012--I am bound today for les Îles de la Madeleine, the Magdalen Islands, in the middle of the Gulf of St Lawrence.
I must ferry from Caribou, Nova Scotia, just a few miles from Pictou, to Wood Islands, Prince Edward Island; and then from Souris, PEI to the Magdalens.
There are no reservations for the ferry to PEI, unless you book a round trip. Fare is payable only when leaving the island. I'm planning to leave via
the bridge, so I'm getting a free ride today. This is the reverse of the way most island ferries work. I'm sure there's a logical reason for it, but
I don't know what it is. In any case, I need to be in Souris by 1:00 to make my onward connection, so I show up shortly after 8:00 for the 9:30 sailing
and hope for the best. I get on all right, but it's good I came early--there's a long line left waiting at the pier for the 11:15. It might be
possible to take that one and still be on time at Souris, but I'm glad I don't have to try.
The crossing itself is slightly less than an hour, and the drive to Souris is another hour. I used the wait at Caribou to look over some tourist literature, and discovered that there are two small distilleries in eastern PEI. One, the Myriad View, is in Rollo Bay, not far from Souris. I stop in and learn that they've been here since 2006, and have just recently released a whisky. I sample that and their rum, and buy a bottle of each. They also make vodka, gin, and "Strait Shine", essentially unaged rum bottled at 50%. There is as well Strait Lightning, evidently the same spirit bottled at 75%. Yikes. ("Strait" is a reference to the Northumberland Strait, which separates PEI from Nova Scotia.)
The crossing to Cap-aux-Meules takes five hours. I stand on an outside deck until we've passed the East Point Light, then duck inside for a snooze in a lounge chair. After, I wander around the boat, and find the cool lounge, where Madelinot products are served, tucked away in a corner. Order a panini and a beer, Terre Ferme ("solid earth" or "firm ground") from À l’abri de la Tempête, the brewery in the Magdalens. It's a beautiful beer, more or less an IPA, although they don't call it that. The brewery wasn't there when I visited years ago, and truth be told, discovering bottles of the stuff in Quebec City a few years back was a major nudge toward returning. I drank O'Keefe back then.
The sky clouds over as we glide past Île d'Entrée and on into Cap-aux-Meules. My guesthouse is a couple of miles outside town, in fact across the bridge on the next island, Île du Havre-aux-Maisons. It's a handsome building, a former customs house sitting right on La Petite Baie, and the room is nice, but I'm disappointed to learn that the in-house restaurant has been closed for months. Might have updated that on the website. I knew I was arriving a bit late to go exploring, and was counting on staying in.
Drive into Cap-aux-Meules. This is the commercial center of the Magdalens, but I didn't spend any time here when last I came, and I don't really remember it at all. The restaurants I see are all very crowded, as you would expect at 8:00 on a Friday night. I'm not prepared to deal...spotted a large Mexican restaurant outside town, back near the bridge, and I go there. It seems to be very new, and it is quite empty, although there are signs of impending nightlife. I don't want to see it. I eat, have a glass of wine, and retreat to my room. It's been an awkward start.