Monday, September 22, 2008

Oh Canada!

We just returned from a very long weekend in Prince Edward Island in Canada. They were holding their annual shellfish festival which is a big wingding to get people to come in and spend money on mussels, clams and oysters. I am okay with the ploy because PEI is so beautiful. And delicious!

The first picture is of a chef from Flex Mussels demonstrating how to cook mussels. I stuck around for a couple of recipes but found that the standard garlic & wine is better than lemon grass, mango and chili over mussels. Flex Mussels is a good restaurant in a town full of good restaurants. For a province with fewer than 140,000 people and a capitol (Charlottetown) with fewer than 35,000 it is amazing how many great eateries there are. Flex was featured in the most recent issue of the Atlantic Monthly.

The entertainment is local and pretty good. This was the Charlottetown Policeman's Choir, which mostly sings traditional sea shantys. I can't imagine the policemen of any other city performing for a local festival. They poked fun at themselves, had a good time and entertained the crowds.

After a fair amount of shellfish we decided to do a tour of the western county of Prince. This is an even more sparsely populated area of the island dominated by potato fields and lobster boats. It also has a predominantly French flavor. The history of the French and English throughout the Northeastern US and Canada is stormy....starting with the expulsions of the 1700's which frequently led to death in the ocean and families pulled apart by geography. The French who returned to PEI were proud and deeply religious. The commanding Catholic churches built by them (and Protestants too) still dominate the farm lands. This is Our Lady of Mont Carmel.

The cemetery next to the church is beautiful too, with green lawns rolling down to the red water of the Northumberland Strait between PEI & New Brunswick.

We made our way all the way to the North Cape which is as North as you can get and almost as west as you can get on PEI. The distinctive red soil is obvious here. It was sunny and bright but a stiff breeze kept it from being too warm.

It also underscored the appropriateness of the placement of this wind farm. This is actually the Wind Energy Institute. Several governmental agencies have come together to fund the research. There is representation by several other governments including the US. They are testing the largest windmills in North America currently- the Vestas V-90's- which are pretty big! We asked how the local farmers feel about them and apparently there is no objection on aesthetic grounds and they weren't even as noisy as the Canadian flags flapping in the breeze but apparently there is concern over the the size of the transmission lines and the magnetic fields they create- the usual problem people have with big power lines.

PEI is producing 5% of their electricity needs with these windmills. The goal is to reach 15% by 2011. PEI currently has the highest energy rates in Canada because it has no local source. Everything comes through an underwater cable from New Brunswick. So this is an important project to the locals and not just a wacky alternative energy project. I found some articles about Ottawa almost pulling the funding from the project this spring. The institute receives a million each year. Somehow that seems like peanuts compared to trying to repair the damage we have done with other energy sources.... or to the sort of tax breaks my own government gives to American Oil Companies to do exploration.

Penny wise, pound foolish......


Andie said...

I have always wanted to visit PEI! Looks like fun.

Michelle said...

Any oyster shucking contests this year?

LYC said...

You already know what a softspot I have for Canada....and seafood...what's not to like?

SMC said...

We didn't get to see any shucking contests but we did see a lot of shucking. Bad timing on our part.

Slim Chef said...

Thank you for putting my picture on your blog. Please come back to PEI for a visit soon.
Andrew MacEwen
Flex Mussels

Michelle said...

Aw shucks..

SMC said...

Mr Slim Chef-
Once again I am awed by people's ability to track down the tiniest bit of information on themselves. Thank you for visiting my blog and letting me sample your mussels.