A Canadian Island Where Hip Meets Historic

An island roughly 30 miles across that dangles into Lake Ontario, Prince Edward County packs into a small space stunning beaches and small towns, wineries and a slew of new restaurants. A mixture of the hip and the historic, it offers a rare look at what makes Canada, Canada. Some may confuse it with Prince Edward Island, 800 miles to the east. If you’re looking for Anne of Green Gables, she’s not here.

You can hit many of the county’s attractions by driving or biking across the island on the two-lane Route 33, known as the Loyalist Parkway. Lined with some 40 archaeological sites and 125 listed heritage buildings, the Parkway is itself a kind of historic artifact. Its path follows that of the first permanent pioneer roadway that the Vermonter Asa Danforth laid down, beginning in 1798, to connect Toronto to the west and Kingston to the east.

Roads and land were needed to make way for several waves of refugees, led by British soldiers loyal to George III, who had arrived, weary and penniless, after the American Revolution. To this day the county is demonstrably proud of its Loyalist past.

The Parkway enters the county in the northwest at Carrying Place, a famous portage and meeting spot for native tribes, centuries before Europeans arrived. As the name implies, this is where canoes were lifted and carried between the Bay of Quinte and Lake Ontario. The French explorer Samuel de Champlain stopped here in 1615, and it was also the site of the Gunshot Treaty of 1787, now marked by a small cairn, where the Mississauga relinquished all land west to and including what would later become Toronto. A canal was dug in the 19th century, severing the slim isthmus and turning the county into an island.

While Sandbanks has been the traditional tourist draw, the rest of the county is almost as pretty, carved by long reaches of water and overlaid by green hills, farm stands and small towns with thriving main streets.

Permanent settlement of the area likely took place only with the arrival of the Loyalists — before that it was a place to be traversed or navigated around, on the way to somewhere else. Most who landed were officers and soldiers from disbanded regiments, with their families. They had lost everything. The British rewarded them with land to be cleared, seed and tools. More arrived in the late 1780s, described by Lord Sydney, the British Home Secretary, who was heavily involved in the scheme to resettle the Loyalists in Canada, as “Sufferers under the ruinous and arbitrary Laws and Constitution of the United States.”

The vestiges of the Loyalists are everywhere: the County claims to be home to the second largest collection of Loyalist architecture in North America, after Williamsburg, Va. Locals proudly describe their family trees, headed by ‘United Empire Loyalists,’ though technically ‘UEL’ is only applicable if one’s family served with the British military during the Revolution. More significantly, some historians trace the rise of modern Canada to the Loyalists, their arrival signifying the shift in development of a country that was to be distinct from both the republic to the south and the British Empire overseas.

These days there is migration from a different direction, with the county serving as the terminus of an eastern flyway for Toronto chefs, mixologists, hoteliers, artists and entrepreneurs. Over the past few years the county has been chaotically, bigheartedly reinvented by youthful outsiders leading a hipster cavalry charge of tourism, central to which are some 50 wineries, cideries and breweries.

Along the main drag in a former bank is the Bloomfield Public House, open less than a year. The fare is anything but pub-like, with dishes like lamb boudin with braised fennel, or the yellow perch, caught locally.

Continuing east on the Parkway is Picton, a town of 4,000, once a thriving port for timber, grain and rumrunning. Much of the land that makes up the present town was originally granted to the Ferguson clan of four Loyalist officers, a sergeant and six privates, as well as a 10-year-old who had been a member of Rogers’ King’s Rangers, a provincial military unit that fought with the British.

In summertime Teslas arrive to cruise the Picton strip among the locals’ F-150s — it feels like a New England seaside town in July. The Marans is a wonderful new restaurant opening onto the street from the Regent which dates from 1918. The owner and chef, Guerin Sykes, serves dishes like a maki roll that incorporates local pork belly. Mr. Sykes owns a farm from which he sources most of the vegetables he uses. He praises the county’s honor system, which allows chefs to quickly grab ingredients from local farms and farm stands. “A list with prices, a calculator to add up the goodies and a jar for change. What a great way to get the freshest ingredients possible while supporting your local farmers” he said.

The town is also home to Picton’s Books and Company, a rambling shop and cafe with a creaking wood floor and sleepy overfed cat that seem to be standard issue to independent bookstores worldwide.

Sahred From Source link Travel

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