"Creating a family vacation which spans generations and fuels "I remember when's", has a lot more to do with time spent together than the location being a major tourist destination."

Early in the year we thought of finding a little place on Prince Edward Island ... a summer cottage where we could spend family time together Bryan, Tammie, Tavis and Tyler.   By the looks of things it was going to be expensive and crowded.  

After searching on the internet for alternatives we came across an ad for a lovely new-looking cottage on Pictou Island owned by Gillian and Paul at  http://vrbo.com/vrbo/3371.htm.   

Picture by Ron Garnett.

It looked wonderful.   Really so wonderful that, even after we booked, we really didn't expect it would be as great as the pictures made it out to be.

We decided to learn more about the island with its 30 or so residents so we read each page connected to www.pictouisland.com including the minutes of the community meetings and "Tips for Tourists".


Upon arrival at Pictou, Nova Scotia, on the mainland, in August, a taste if the island came out to greet us in the form of the island ferry. 

Everybody helped get everything aboard.  From baggage and beer to bikes and bread were passed down from the wharf and piled onto the deck.  When all was loaded and right on time  .... off we went across nine miles of water to discover the six mile by 2 mile island of Pictou.
Friendly faces were on the dock to meet the ferry as we pulled in.  Again helpful hands made short work of unloading groceries and goods.  There are no stores on Pictou Island.

Paul, our host, greeted us warmly and had his truck right there on the dock to load our goods and take us down the one and only road on Pictou to the cottage.   It was beyond what we had expected.  

The view was magnificent.  The ocean lay before us, with the mainland floating on the horizon, framed by trees on the left and right.  Pictures from the web site came to life and a tour of the cottage made us appreciate how much more lay beyond the imagined  ... 



 ... the entry ... the family & dining rooms  ... master bedroom with ensuite   and a fantastic screened porch.
Tavis and Tyler unpacked their backpacks and settled into their bedroom as we unpacked the first load of groceries and made hot dogs for lunch which we ate on the screened porch.
We couldn't dally long over lunch because the sea called (via seashells)  ... 

so we grabbed pails and shovels (so kindly provided with the cottage) and headed across the green lawn to the wooden stairs and down to the shore.  

"Help, Gramma, we're building a sand castle!"   "Look, Grandpa, a jelly fish!"   "This is fun!"  (... and not a tv or video game in sight.)

Once we washed the sand from between our toes, we walked up the windy driveway and waited for Tavis and Tyler's Mom and Dad (Tammie and Bryan) to arrive.  Paul had picked them up from the evening ferry with another load of groceries and "Lady" the dog.
We needn't have worried about salt, pepper or other spices, for in this sparkling clean kitchen Gillian and Paul had an array of flavourings and other staples as well as a full complement of pots, pans, dishes, glassware, cutlery, dish clothes, cleaning supplies and, just in case, an invitation to ask them for anything that might be missing. 

With such gracious accommodations our focus was on family togetherness.  

Tavis and Tyler helped with the tidy-up chores after dinner and then took their Mom and Dad on a tour of the beach. 

It had been a day full of wonderful new experiences.  Our surroundings became still.  Candles (compliments of Gillian and Paul) were lit, a cd (from the wide selection provided by our hosts) played quietly in the back ground and books (enough to satisfy all our tastes) were begun from the well stocked cottage library.  

The only thing left to do before snuggling into bed was to watch the moon rise and weave a golden ribbon across the water as millions of stars sparkled in the clear dark sky.


   So began our family vacation on Pictou Island. 


The following two weeks were FULL  ...   playing on the beach ...

... running, kicking, splashing, discovering starfish, jellyfish and watching how fast clams can dig themselves back into the sand; laughing out loud, screaming with glee .... or just walking in quiet conversation with Grandpa.

 Rabbit watching was a frequent and fascinating sport.

 Tavis was the best at finding clam holes, digging them up,  washing them and then, best of all, getting the clams to squirt Grandpa!

A visit to the community hall and school/library/CAP (Community Access Program) centre made for an wonderful outing.    A walk up the driveway put us on "THE" road.   One road connects the 14 families who live on the island year round.  In winter, after the waterway from island to mainland is jammed with ice, this dirt roadway becomes a landing strip.  Islanders email their grocery lists and wait for the plane to bring their supplies.
The little hall was the sight of a wedding party while we were on the island.  We peeked in the windows and it reminded us of happy times in other small community halls when old and young would dance together or share conversation over a bean supper.    A little further down the road we came to the fire hall and school/library/CAP centre. 
Caitlin, a vivacious islander, welcomed us.  Schooling for Caitlin, along with a handful of other island children, took place, at times, in this building with part time teachers; while her other studies were accomplished through home schooling around the kitchen table.  As a high school student, she now boards over on the mainland during the school year.  Going from a small island where everybody not only knows everyone else but cares about them, to a larger and more impersonal setting has it's challenges, but Caitlin is meeting them face on.  
With a winning smile and bubbly personality, Caitlin showed us what the centre offered:  internet to connect with those at home letting them know we were well and enjoying our stay; a library from which we checked out books by simply saying we would bring them back when we were finished; and a swing/slide set out back.  

There are so many things to discover along the way:  grasshoppers, big friendly dogs, pretty flowers, feathers and neighbours (everybody on the island is considered a neighbour) who call Pictou Island home.

After such an "intensive" outing and telling Mom and Dad all about it  ... well ... it just takes a lot out of a little person ... and taking a snooze seems to be just the right thing to do ...
Tavis brought his plastic army with him and patiently waited for the right time when he and his grandpa could get off to themselves and build army camps. 
 They found the perfect spot between the water and bank.  It took hours of concentrated work to build strategic lines of defense.  

Once the war began it took only minutes to destroy with bombardments from above.  

Only after a peace treaty was negotiated, were outsiders allowed in the war zone to survey the now demolished bases.

Who won?  Not sure.  But did see Tavis doing a victory dance on the rocks.



The girls had time together too.  There are so many questions about life to consider:  Why does the water go back and forth?  Will fish bite my toes?  When I get big, will you get small? 

Important stuff. 

    TIME  ....  

   ...  time to talk

   ...  more importantly ... time to listen

   ...  time to simply enjoy

          being with each other

   ...  and build memories

          to last a lifetime.  


A rainy day brought its own special activities ...
Warm but wet it was an ideal day for Grandpa to teach Tavis magic tricks while Gramma helped Tyler make a necklace from a rock Tyler found on the beach.  Tavis's magic show was a great hit with lots of applause. Tyler presented the necklace to her Mommy and danced for us.  

Cards were played, planes were built (thanks to Paul and Gillian's rainy day chest), videos were watched and learning time was spent together.

The rain left behind the fresh smell of nature.   A walk in the woods seemed like an ideal thing to do  ...  and we could do it without even leaving the property.  Half way between the cottage and Gillian and Paul's home we were greeted by two friendly dogs who were also taking advantage of the cool fresh air.  
 We found our host's wood pile and Grandpa explained how the log splitter worked.   "That's a lot of logs," said Tavis.  Then he called out. "Hey look everybody.  A caterpillar!"   Tyler really likes caterpillars.  Just the day before she had drawn a picture of a caterpillar's cocoon.   Further along in the woods Tyler called out, "Look!  Look what I found.  It's a tinkerbell.   Fairies can make them ring." 

Below the trees we found some pretty yellow fungi.  Some mushrooms (fungi) are poisonous so we didn't touch them ... we just looked at how pretty they were.

We saw lots of pretty flowers and then ... Tavis called out  "I found it.  I found it." 

Tavis had found the "secret" pond Paul had told us about.   Paul said there was a beautiful little pond  but would not tell us how to find it.  "Finding it," he said, "would be an adventure."  Tavis found it!  What a beautiful pond; fringed with bulrushes and a path all the way around.  We chased each other and hid, ran and laughed.
Tavis and his Grandpa found two broken and rusty lobster traps washed up on the beach.   With all the rabbits around, they decided to build a rabbit trap with their finds. The rabbits watched.   The trappers found a good place to set the trap and hung a carrot to lure the unsuspecting bunnies in.  The rabbits watched.   Tavis had many ideas of what he would do with the rabbit when he caught it.  The adults were concerned what might happen if  he caught it.     

The rabbits knew just what they would do.

They would eat the carrot.  

And they did. 

They ate one carrot, two carrots, three carrots .... more.

Sometimes the trap would be down ... but never a rabbit inside.

Even if we didn't catch a rabbit (whew !!) ... it was fun. 

Another time we went fishing.   The experience was a little like rabbit hunting.   We all hopped into the truck that Paul and Gillian had left for our use, and drove a couple of miles to the dock. 
Bryan quickly became "bait master".    As a young man on the other side of the dock was catching one fish after another, Tavis was the only one close to being lucky ... but even his luck ran out when the crab let go before it reached the top of the deck. 
Before darkness set in, we tried our luck off the rocks on "our" beach just below the cottage.  We may not have caught any fish but did capture some good moments on camera. 


Everybody chipped in cheerfully to make meals, clean dishes, clean bodies, read stories, mop floors, ... 

set tables, and for a couple of lovely ladies, there were even foot rubs   ...  a picture perfect vacation.
For a change of pace from "our own" cottage beach, we made up a picnic and headed off  to John McCallum Memorial Park (or the "East End Beach").  It is a nice walk for an adult, but with two children, a picnic and beach toys in tow, we took the truck past other homesteads that inhabit the island.  

The driving speed is about 20mph, slowing down for any pedestrians and dogs.   It gave Tavis and Tyler an chance to experience riding in the back of a pickup truck (with cautions of "never try this at home.").

No crowded beaches here .... just soft sand, water warm enough to lounge in and beach combing walks to find just the right shells, rocks and sea-glass while "awing" over starfish, jellyfish and cranes who moved their massive wings as though in slow motion.  

Tavis made up a game using badminton birds (but not the rackets) and Tyler preformed a water ballet.

We played in the water until the sun went down ... then drove "home" in the afterglow of sunset.

Two weeks went by quickly ... but it seemed the perfect length of time.   Time to relax, rejuvenate and enjoy each other.   

At the end of two weeks the children were looking forward to getting back to their friends.   Heading back to reality is a must for young parents.   We saw them off on the boat, then spent our last night in the cottage reflecting on what a truly wonderful time with family it had been. 
A last stroll along the beach and watching the sunset from the cottage porch seamed to seal the memories. 

"Memories" ... such wonderful things ... moments to share with loved ones over and over again with "... remember when we ... ! "

Our remembrances of family time together on Pictou Island are so vivid ... so cherished ... that we believe this island and  Gillian and Paul, along with their beautiful cottage, specialize in building memories.


Recommend it to others?   Without a doubt!





Post Script:   A few days after leaving the island, we celebrated our granddaughter's 4th birthday.












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