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Our members are logging their daily activities which are then converted to equivalent miles walked and plotted onto our route map to measure our progress of 6000 miles. We plan to visit as many Oxfords as possible in North America, starting in Prince Edward Island in Canada. En route we will visit as many Rotary Clubs as possible. We start with Charlottetown.....

                    WALKING THE OXFORDS OF AMERICA – the story starts here!

This is the first of what I plan to be regular updates on our progress. They may well be more concise than our walk to Togo, given the likely number of them should we make it the whole way, and will certainly concentrate on the places where we have Rotary Clubs to contact. Throughout I will rely heavily on the great resource that is Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

I was delighted when Alan told me he intended to start our stroll in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island: I always thought that, like the rest of the Canadian Maritimes, it would be a lovely laid-back place – and so it proved to be when Anne,Vicky and I went there in the summer of 1999

NB Pic 1 is of a welcoming poster – hence the slant!

So why ‘Prince Edward’ and ‘Charlotte’town? Well Canada loves its historic links
with England (Queen Victoria’s Birthday is still a national holiday!)
and – depending where you are – the emphasis on English rather than French
(albeit that every piece of official information is bi-lingual).

Originally settled by French colonists, the island was part of Acadia.
After the British took over the territory, in 1798 they named the island colony
for Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn (1767–1820), the fourth son of
King George III. He later became father to the future Queen Victoria.
Prince Edward has been called "Father of the Canadian Crown".
The capital of PEI is named after Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, queen
consort of King George III.

The geographically-minded will want to know that PEI is located about
200 kilometres (120 miles) north of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and 600 kilometres
(370 miles) east of Quebec City The main island is 5,620 km2 (2,170 sq mi) in size. The population is only just over 156,000, with 36,000 living in and around Charlottetown. Most importantly (?!) you will want to know that it is the 104th-largest island in the world and Canada's 23rd-largest island……

Canadians are very proud of the fact that Charlottetown was the site of the Charlottetown Conference in 1864, the first gathering of Canadian and Maritime statesmen to debate the proposed Maritime Union and the grander-sounding British North American Union, now known as Canadian Confederation, although PEI itself would not join Confederation until 1873, six years after it was formed in 1867. The city adopted as its motto Cunabula Foederis—"Birthplace of Confederation".

What drew us, Cowells here on that holiday was, firstly, that I had spent a wonderful – though hectic – summer working in Toronto in 1995, further enhancing my love of all things Canadian; and secondly that in May 1997, the Confederation Bridge had opened, connecting PEI to the Canadian mainland in New Brunswick. The world's longest bridge over ice-covered waters (!) it replaced the Marine Atlantic ferry service: more on the bridge in due course (and see pic above).

Google will tell you that ‘the large island is marked by red-sand beaches, lighthouses, and fertile farmland, and is renowned for seafood like lobster and mussels’ – which gives a pretty good idea of the atmosphere. One of the great local success stories is Cows ice-cream www.cows.ca/

With seven locations in PEI (Anne tells me she still remembers the sickly-sweet aroma of Vanilla in the air) it is now sold across Canada. The practicalities of the modern world are not neglected, though: during our three-day stay, I was able to get an eye-test and have two pairs of glasses made – even Specsavers struggle to do that here, twenty years on.

You’ll have seen the tranquil nature of the coastline in the pictures (and I don’t think that Mountie is too troubled by the local crime rate…..).

A great memory is of a conversation I overheard on the dock (it may even have been for my benefit!):

Man to friend working on boat: “Hey, Bill – how’s I goin’?” 

Bill: “Well, it’s goin’” 

Man: “That’s the main thing” (and carries on walking).

Then of course there is Anne of Green Gables, the 1908 novel by Lucy Maud Montgomery (published as L.M. Montgomery). Set in the late 19th century, the novel recounts the adventures of Anne Shirley, an 11-year-old orphan girl, who is mistakenly sent to two middle-aged siblings, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, who had originally intended to adopt a boy to help them on their farm in the fictional town of Avonlea in Prince Edward Island, Canada. The novel recounts how Anne makes her way through life with the Cuthberts, in school, and within the town.

Anne of Green Gables has been translated into at least 36 languages and has sold more than 50 million copies. The Green Gables farmhouse in Cavendish, PEI continues to be a major generator of tourism revenues not least from Japanese visitors: the novelis hugely popular in Japan, where it is known as Red-haired Anne, and where it has been included in the national school curriculum since 1952! Japanese couples travel to Prince Edward Island to have civil wedding ceremonies on the grounds of the Green Gables farm. Some Japanese girls arrive as tourists with red-dyed hair styled in pigtails, to look like Anne.

Well, we had better get on: the Rotary Club of Charlottetown, founded on October 1, 1917, and the 8th Rotary Club chartered in Canada, is waiting for us (we hope!) One of their fund-raising efforts is Rotary Radio Bingo, airing every Tuesday from 7 - 8 PM on CFCY 95.1 FM. Recently, they have donated over Can$50 000 (£29k) to help Islanders from tip to tip navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

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