Monday, July 15, 2013

Kate Miller 31: Green Gables and Charlottetown

31. Green Gables and Charlottetown (May 2013)
            Kate was excited and apprehensive about visiting the famed Green Gables. It had held a sacred spot in her imagination for so long that she was wary of introducing actual fact into her idyllic image. They drove along the red roads, past sedate farms and an occasional tea room to Cavendish—also known in P.E.I. tour books as “Anne Country.” Kate saw the nearly empty parking lot by the Green Gables homestead and was grateful that they came before the real tourist rush. And she was still thankful, even when it meant that Green Gables itself was closed, and visitors could only walk around the grounds and see things from the outside.
            This turned out to be exactly what Kate wanted. She wandered around the barn and the house. She looked at the flower garden and across a little stream to the “Haunted Wood”, which had enough dead and scraggly trees to indeed look haunted! It gave her a little thrill to think that, though some of the plants and trees had grown and died off since the time that L. M. Montgomery had written her Anne stories, the contour of the land was the same, the buildings and the pasture were the same, and the roads still led to the same places.
a fun way home
            The group followed a walking tour from Green Gables, through the Haunted Wood, and to the site of the house where Montgomery lived with her grandparents. The path to the house (which had been torn down after the Montgomerys were annoyed with too many visitors) was still there and covered with gnarled and twisted tree trunks. Kate imagined walking home that way—no driveway, no garage, not even space for a carriage. Just a path to skip along and duck through and then, all of a sudden, your home!
            They didn’t complete the entire walking tour (it being rather long for the children, who were already requesting rides.) But on the way back, Kate and Mister strolled a short way down Lover’s Lane. Kate could tell that it would be a beautiful leafy pathway through the woods, but there were few leaves out, and it only seemed slightly more romantic than the Haunted Wood.
hitching rides
            When they spent a day in Charlottetown, Kate realized that there was a whole Anne of Green Gables subculture that she never suspected. There were Anne of Green Gables Souvenir stores and a chain of Anne of Green Gables Chocolates shops. Kate was excited to see the Anne of Green Gables Musical, or Anne and Gilbert, another musical—but they were only playing over the summer months, and the first performances were starting the week after they left the island. There were Anne of Green Gables outfits for sale in all sizes. But when Kate actually looked at them, she laughed to herself: How ironic that these are the little girl dresses that Anne hated in the books, instead of the long skirted, lacy bloused things she had when she was older!
            At the chocolate shop, there were straw hats with red braids attached so that anyone could look like Anne! They tried some of the famous “cow chips”, which were potato chips dipped in milk chocolate. (Surprisingly addictive, Kate thought, and then laughed when she saw the very phrase printed on a package.) And in spite of their chocolate treats, they still had room to sample the world-famous Cows ice cream. It was thick and creamy, and everything that ice cream ought to be. And Kate found out later, when they were able to tour the Cows Creamery Factory in Charlottetown that the ice cream had a much lower percentage of air whipped into it, which makes it denser, like gelato. Yummmm
at the Cows Creamery tour
            At the end of the day, Kate reflected that, growing up, Anne had been personal friend, playmate, and role-model. Here in Prince Edward Island, she had all sort of different identities. She was a name brand, a spokeswoman for women’s rights, a symbol of freedom, a business, and only rarely did the little girl with the spunky, talkative personality come through. It was as if someone had taken a dear friend and plastered their name all over various candies, posters, recipe books, clothes, and foods. But Kate still loved seeing the sites and (even more) the land of the island, so as to know all the better where her friend and the author had lived and dreamed for themselves. 

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