Like many Montgomery fans, Eleonora has yet to visit Prince Edward Island, but she is most looking forward to seeing the “Lucy Maud Montgomery House, Green Gables, the red roads of the Island and sandstone beaches.” She looks forward to immersing herself “in nature” and to “visit[ing] the most important places for Lucy Maud Montgomery and Green Gables.”
In her writings, Montgomery conveys the tranquil beauty of Prince Edward Island, and many first-time visitors fear that reality will not live up to the magical descriptions. Anne Christie (New Zealand) expresses this anxiety, and its needlessness:
In 2017 I had the enormous pleasure of visiting PEI. (Sixty years after first reading “Anne”.) I had not been in a hurry to visit because I was afraid that the world of L.M. Montgomery that I had built up in my imagination would come crashing down with disillusionment.
I need not have worried, the power of L.M. Montgomery’s description was such that I immediately felt at home. The world of Anne, Emily, Pat and the Story Girl was, more or less, just as I had pictured. For most of my life I have had the privilege of regarding L.M. Montgomery’s characters as friends.
Emily Moxley (Bend, Oregon) recalls her journey with L.M. Montgomery’s works and her expectations of PEI:
L.M. Montgomery and Prince Edward Island did not enter my life in the usual way; darling Anne was not a friend I discovered until later in my life. Instead, I fell in love with Lucy Maud’s stories, heroines, characters, places and Prince Edward Island by way of Emily of New Moon. The Emily trilogy was a gift from my granny during a visit when I was twelve. “These are books that I have always loved, and I know you will love this Emily, as much as I do,” I remember her saying. I remember looking at these well-loved copies and being thrilled to see a character that not only had my name, but that she was also associated with the moon somehow. I knew I was going to love getting to know Emily and following her journey with the people she loved. I devoured those books and the descriptions of this place called Prince Edward Island, during one hot Arizona summer. I dreamed about this place and its nearness to the sea and the sense of belonging I felt even then, was indescribable. The place that Emily, and later Anne, would call home was a place that sounded so divine that I never thought it could actually be a real place. I longed to see Prince Edward Island, Avonlea, the Haunted Wood, Lover’s Lane, and those red cliffs that were as synonymous with this island as its favorite daughter.
When I was about 28 I rediscovered the world of L.M. Montgomery and specifically, Anne of Green Gables. It was inside my used copy of Anne of Green Gables that I noticed the emerald green stamp on the title page of Green Gables, and then an old postcard of the Green Gables house. It was then I realized that this was actually a place I could visit. I had not thought of the possibility of Prince Edward Island until I rediscovered L.M. Montgomery 16 years after my first experience with Emily of New Moon.
About a year later, my life had gone through some deeply fundamental changes. The life I thought I would be living crumbled in front of my eyes, and I found myself having to not only rebuild a way forward, but, more importantly, myself. I realized that in order to reclaim myself I needed to have an adventure. I decided I did not want to wait any longer or be talked out of something any more. It was then that I began to seriously start to plan a visit to a place that had lived my imagination for so long: Prince Edward Island.
Montgomery’s rich descriptions of Prince Edward Island in Anne of Green Gables sparked an interest in Julie Sellers at a young age. The fascination toward the Island never left Sellers, who, years after her introduction to Montgomery, came to visit the Island for the first time on her honeymoon:
I dreamed of visiting Prince Edward Island from the time I first read Anne of Green Gables in 1987. L.M. Montgomery’s vivid word pictures engraved an image in my own mind of winding red roads full of bends, lush emerald grass, and a sparkling sea of intense blue. At that time, the only resource I had to validate what I’d seen in my mind’s eye was the ancient encyclopedia in the upstairs hallway of the old family farmhouse in Kansas where I was raised. There was one, tiny picture of Green Gables in it, but I filled in the spaces with my own imagination and dreamed of one day visiting the Island and that iconic place.
Years later, my husband and I were planning our wedding when he mentioned seeing an article about PEI in a magazine. He’d heard me talk about Anne and Green Gables so much that he not only saved the article for me, he suggested we honeymoon on the Island as well. I agreed without a second thought, but I insisted he watch the miniseries as a primer before we went. That first trip to PEI was like finding my imagination made reality as I discovered the images I’d cherished for years in their tangible form.
Carolyn Strom Collins (Minnesota, USA) also describes her expectations of PEI and her first introduction to the Island:
My interest in L.M. Montgomery first drew me to PEI—I first visited in 1991 to research my book The Anne of Green Gables Treasury and I have visited almost every year since. It is still the predominant reason for my going there. However, maintaining relationships with the many friends made there over the years, the beauty of the Island as well as its history, and the relaxed way of life there continue to lure me back.
Expectations are always high for a visit to PEI and it never disappoints. Whatever the season, there is always beauty around every “bend in the road.” Just savouring the landscapes, seascapes, farms, and homes is a joy and finding sites related to Montgomery adds even more depth to the excitement of being there.
Flying into the Charlottetown Airport is a treat. Seeing PEI from the air is breathtaking. Driving across the Confederation Bridge is remarkable—the Island slowly emerges from the water and one can anticipate one’s arrival across the nine or so miles. If coming in on the ferry from Nova Scotia, one feels “akin to Anne” as she crossed the Strait to begin her new life in PEI.
Anne Louise Mahoney (Ottawa) describes her long-anticipated trip to PEI and the joy that visiting brought:
When my sisters and I were growing up, Anne Shirley was part of our family. We had our mom's hardcover copies of the first three Anne books (I still have them) and received the others as gifts, and we attended Anne of Green Gables: The Musical and memorized the words to all the songs (my eldest sister later played Miss Stacy at the Charlottetown Festival). I was always glad that the first part of my name was Anne with an “e.”
My parents and I visited PEI for the first time when I was 16: I couldn’t wait to see the red soil of the Island, feel the breezes and get a sense of the land and the people that shaped L.M. Montgomery. I wasn’t disappointed—and PEI is now one of my happy places. Two years after that first trip, I landed a spot in a six-week summer French immersion program at UPEI. Bliss! Exploring the Island with new friends was an unforgettable experience. I knew I’d be back, and I did return several times as an adult. Just a few years ago, a friend was moving to Charlottetown. I offered to drive down with her—I was overdue for an Island visit. Once again, I reveled in that sense of place that is such a part of Montgomery’s writing.
Whether it is your first or fiftieth trip, Prince Edward Island can be discovered and rediscovered through pairing your own experience with the magnetic descriptions in L.M. Montgomery’s work. The prospect of visiting PEI should not evoke concerns that the Island will fall short of Montgomery-crafted expectations; instead, hesitations should be reserved for the possibility that once you visit, you may not want to leave.