July 5-7, 2012
As we left Kingston, we passed trough the northern part of Lake Ontario to the Bay of Quinte, a long, narrow bay that leads to Trenton, where we would begin our trip up the Trent Severn Waterway, a 240 mile system of lakes, rivers and locks that would eventually bring us to Georgian Bay north of Lake Huron.
But before reaching Trenton, we made a stop in Picton, a beautiful town of shops, galleries and restaurants at the tip of a narrow bay on the island of Prince Edward County, or simply “The County,” as the locals refer to it, probably to distinguish it from the other Prince Edward Island in the eastern part of Canada. Picton Bay reminded us of places in Ireland, where there are so many long narrow bays with a picturesque town at the top.
The Picton town marina is small, with room for only a handful of boats. The spot they had reserved for us was alongside the wall, with boats very, very close in front and behind. Craig did a great job of “parallel parking,” and with the help of the neighboring boaters catching lines for us, we had no problem sliding in.
The helpful young woman in the marina office gave us a little brochure about Prince Edward County, and we quickly came to the conclusion that this would be a great place rent a car for a day and do some exploring. The problem was, there are no car rental agencies on the island. But we learned that our probable next stop, Belleville, would definitely have rental cars, and is located just across a bridge from The County, so we could easily drive back to explore the island.
Having decided that would be our plan for the next day, we walked into Picton for what was maybe our favorite meal of the trip so far, at a small restaurant called Currah’s Cafe. We both really enjoyed the Canadian wine we had for dinner (yes, there are some very nice wines produced in Canada, and many of them from Prince Edward County) and after dinner decided to walk to the LCBO store (Liquor Control Board of Ontario), the only place you can buy alcohol, except for The Beer Store (one in every town), where you can also buy the favored Canadian beverage.
On the way, we both heard the sound of bagpipes and decided we needed to follow the sounds to find out what was going on. We ended up in the parking lot of the fire station, where we found several pipers and drummers in a circle, playing traditional music. They were the local Legion Pipes and Drums, having their weekly Thursday night practice. We stopped to listen for awhile, engaged in conversation, and long story short, we ended up with a bunch of pipers and drummers back at our boat enjoying wine and beer into the night. The boat next door joined us, and they were interesting folks, too. She is an actress who wrote a one-woman play she has performed around Canada about a young girl’s (hers) experience meeting a famous man – former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau – and the relationship that developed from that.
By the end of the evening we were more convinced than ever that we needed to rent a car the next day and spend more time on this very interesting island. So the next morning, we set off for Belleville and rented a car as soon as we arrived. We got directions back to Prince Edwards, and off we went.
Because we could have the car that afternoon/evening and the next morning until noon, we decided that our first trip should be to the part of the island that had the wineries whose wines we had enjoyed the past few days. The next morning we could enjoy the sights that didn't involve wine. So that afternoon we visited four wineries, three of whose wines we had already sampled in restaurants, and came back with six new bottles and an assurance that others could be purchased at the LCBO.
After the wineries we drove and walked through the Sandbanks Provincial Park, which has huge dunes and great beaches. This park is a real gem.
The next day we came back to the island and despite a little drizzle enjoyed exploring the island’s little towns, galleries, farm markets and locally-produced cheese shops. One part of the drive passed along what the locals call “the most colorful hollyhocks on the planet,” and we couldn’t disagree. The wild daylilies were also blooming in profusion. We thoroughly enjoyed our day and a half “on land!”
After we returned the car by noon, we cruised the short distance to Trenton, where the Trent Severn Waterway begins, and where we met lots of other Loopers. The boats who did the Erie Canal and the boats who did the Canadian canals (like us) reconnect in Trenton before setting off on the Trent Severn.
Next up, starting the fabled Trent Severn Waterway.